Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Test Of Endurance

Now here's a first. Well for me anyway. L's an old hand at these but I best not use a phrase like that in front of her. Today is my first half marathon and unfortunately I can’t say it’ll also be my last because I’ve got another one next week. It’s supposed to be just a training run for the bigger picture, that being the Kilomathon, which is even longer and is now only two weeks away.

We've driven all the way over to the back of the beyond, well Sleaford, at the back end of the coldest February for centuries (or so some of the papers would have you believe) and to top it all it's raining.

Oh well, this is what you get for trying to arrange a low key entry into the world of distance running. I say low key because I'm expecting there to only be about 30 entries but L disagrees. She says this race will be on everybody’s London training plan. London being that populist marathon thing they do down south. She's right. I'm wrong. There are hundreds here.

Another problem is it's not at all dog friendly. The start is within the grounds of RAF Cranwell and dogs aren’t even allowed on the RAF's sports field. There are all sorts of dire military style threats posted up on signs. To make it worse they then take the run in and out of the far side of the base, not the side where we have been forced to park the car. This makes even taking the dogs a walk to watch L run the last mile out on the road impossible.

The start is on grass, not a preferred option of mine. I stand well back from the idiots at the front but still I find that the pace seems quite quick. 7.07 for the first mile confirms it, I was looking for an 8.00. In fact, it’s so quick that two chaps near me stop dead in protest. I ease off too. One mile done, twelve and a bit to go, how hard can it be?

The early promised hill is just a slight incline. So far so good but then there’s a stretch of around two miles that takes you across cross country. This unsettles me and aggravates the ankles but at least it slows my pace. Then when that’s over and we’re on to Viking Way, a Roman road which is now part of a cycle trail, I settle into a good 7.30 pace.

The six mile point arrives; this is where I usually stop. Today I can’t.

I slot in behind two lads who seem to be going at about the right pace and this has the added bonus that they shelter me from the wind. Then we take a sharp left onto a busy road, where we have to run in single file. Somehow at this point, the two of them manoeuvre me to the front and now I'm pace setting for them. How did that happen? When I slow slightly on a small incline one of them even has the nerve to criticize me for slowing down.

I'm sure he then lifts the pace and sure enough the next mile, mile 10, is done in 6.50. Ouch. I tell him off. We slow to 7.15s. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that at around this point my right knee starts to go, a mile later the left one’s comes out in sympathy.

There are three drinks stations and I have a small drink at each, I’ve never done that before. Though I can't drink and run, I have to slow to a walk, causing one of the chaps who has been stalking me to almost run into the back of me. Serves him right. There’s also a jelly baby stop, never done that before either. It's a day of firsts. Very welcome, although chewing and breathing is something else I need to practice.

At mile 11, my new friend the stalker and I, hear music and rustling... an ipod wearing guy in full waterproofs, gloves and a bobble hat catches us... and passes us. Oh the shame.

At 12 miles I feel surprisingly good and I go for home, outwitting Mr Stalker. I lose him and pass a few others as well. I come home in 1 hour 38 minutes which is 2 minutes under budget. Success.

L had already warned me that she'd be a while... so I grab a free massage, get changed, exercise the dogs (briefly) and grab a coffee... then I go back to see her finish.

In the evening, having not seen the kids for a week, we take them out for a meal. Well Son has a prior engagement, so we bung him the money for a takeaway and take Daughter for a Chinese. I thought perhaps the hardest test of the day was the half marathon, I was wrong. The sheer size of the Chinese meal we order tests my powers of endurance to far greater levels.

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