Yes, I did it! Following months of having no specific running goals I signed up for the Cambridge Half Marathon just one week before the actual event. What’s more, I managed to start the race, finish it AND set a new personal best. So why wasn’t I jumping for joy as I crossed the finish line?
The sun was shining; the wind almost absent – conditions were perfect as we head out to Cambridge early Sunday morning for the Cambridge Half Marathon. Okay, apart from the fact that we left well after 9 and the race would start at 10 a.m. – and I still had to pick up my running bib.
So while the weather conditions were perfect, I felt far from confident about this race. I felt weak, bloated, tired. We had done a trip to Auckland the day before and my lower back was sore. We had had dinner at an amazing Lebanese restaurant (the first good Middle-Eastern restaurant we found in this country) and I had eaten way too much hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel and tabouleh. In other words, the usual before I run a race, making up a thousand excuses as to why I wouldn’t be able to run a good time.
One thing was sure, though: The previous Thursday I had done a last run to test the waters – two times 3 kilometers in my aimed half marathon pace, with 1 kilometer rest in between. I could hardly keep a pace of 4:30 min/km, and I was actually hoping to run the half faster than that. So on the day itself I tried to keep my expectations low, telling Ahmed he could expect me anywhere between 1:30 and 1:35 hours.
Race Day: Cambridge Half Marathon
As the gun shot I forgot about all those worries and took off – a little too fast. I ran the first kilometer in 4:19 minutes and knew it was not smart to start off so fast. I had resolved to keep a conservative pace the first half, because I could always increase the pace in the last 10 km if it went extremely well.
The following kilometers were ranging between 4:25 and 4:29 minutes – still quite fast but more in the direction I was hoping to do the race in. I felt strong and it went smooth; the kilometers passed quickly.
The tenth kilometer was a heavy one: We had been running up- and downhill for several kilometers, and the steep incline during this one made it impossible to keep my pace. My watch showed 4:43 minutes. I groaned.
After that, I could pick up the pace again – thanks in part to some downhill stretches – but from the fourteenth kilometer I exceeded the 4:30 min/km pace again for several kilometers in a row. Again, this was also because of some hills, but it became painstakingly clear to me that this was not the dream race I had hoped it would be. I simply did not have the reserve to conquer these hills with elegance.
The eighteenth kilometer brought some alleviation (in other words, downhill running), reining in the damage of the previous part. As I turned the last corner before the finish I saw the time on the clock: 1:34:50… 1:34:51… 1:34:52… I HAVE to finish within 1:35, I urged myself. I reached for the last sliver of energy and sprinted to the finish line, reading 1:34:59 as I crossed. Yes, I had done it, but boy had it been heavy.
A New PB?
My time of 1:34:59 translates to an average pace of 4:29 min/km. Not bad at all, but nothing compared to the 4:07 min/km I did during the 12-km Round The Bridges run in November last year, or the sub-20 minute 5 km East Riverside race a couple of weeks before. Yes, I ran a new PB (my previous PB was from 2013 with a time of 1:36:12), but I wondered how I could ever get back to last year’s level. And I still wonder what it was that made me so strong last year. Was it the warmer weather? The iron pills I had been taking? Did I do more serious interval and slow, long distance runs in that time?
This race has definitely sparked my interest in the half-marathon distance again. I am already thinking of other halves I may do later this year. Perhaps with a little more training…