Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap

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?

Almost there...

Almost there…

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.

Pre-race dinner...

Pre-race dinner…

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

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap-4

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.

Feeling strong!

Feeling strong!

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.

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap-9

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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.22.06

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…

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.20.33

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap-5

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap-8

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