Last Sunday was the Ealing half marathon in West London, an event I signed up for before we even moved to the UK. Half marathons around Perth tend to be in the April to September period, so with our move planned for May and eventuating in June, I knew I wouldn't be running any Australian events this year. It was nice having this run to focus on over the last few months, and I am now pleased to have participated in my first UK running event.
This was my third half marathon race, but due to an unexpectedly long training run in August, the fourth time I have covered 13.1 miles (21.1km). I approached this event quite differently to my first two half marathons. In the first, I just wanted to finish, never having run the distance before. Finishing in around 2 hours 6 minutes was a secondary goal, and one I managed in line with my training pace leading up to the event. In the second race, I was really preoccupied with time. I wanted to finish in under 2 hours, and that desire played on my mind in the lead up and went some way to reducing my enjoyment on the day. It still smarts a little to be unable to know my accurate time for that run, due to chip timing not being employed at the start line. I finished in around 2 hours...whether it was a bit under or a bit over the 2 hour mark I will never know.
This time, my goal was to run and enjoy it. Part of me hoped I might manage a sub-2 hour time on the day, motivated by atmosphere and a week of rest beforehand, but the rest of me know my time would likely be around 2 hours 5 minutes.
The day was gorgeous - cool when I left home at 5.45am (!) but sunny and warm by the time the race started. In typical London fashion, warmth came with humidity so a temperature of 20'C felt higher and several runners struggled with the heat. I felt like I had an advantage, with my Australian background! However, even for me, it did feel hot and the race was slightly harder in that context.
|Autumn colours - deceptive on a warm day!|
Given my relaxed mindset for the event, I was surprised to find the run as tough as I did. I attribute this to the course being a series of twists and turns, out and back stretches, and small loops around the leafy surburb of Ealing. It was a lovely course, and plenty of locals were out to offer support, but I didn't zone out the way I can do on long straight runs. Turning a corner every mile or so is perhaps not my preferred style of running. There were also a few more hills than I had expected from the course map, although they were not too steep or too long.
This was the first race I've run with pacers, and I was really pleased by that feature. There was a 2 hour pacer and a 2 hour 10 minutes pacer, so I started with the 2 hour group and hoped to keep the pacer in mind for at least the first half of the race. I have a tendency to go out too fast in organised running events, and found it really helpful to have a visual guide to reduce that. It also allowed me to test out running without my GPS and just a stop watch for guidance. I really did want to move away from the time / pace preoccupation of my last half marathon!
I was able to keep close to the 2 hour pacer until around 7 miles, and was grateful to be told at 10 miles that I was only a few minutes behind him. The supporters and marshals for this race really were fantastic, and in addition to that 10 mile guidance, I was very grateful to the marshal who said I had just 1.5 miles left as I approached the end. I didn't see any mile markers after mile 10, and given I didn't have GPS, I was worried mile 11 was taking forever to come! Hearing I was past it and into the home stretch was great.
I finished, to my amusement, in the exact same time as my first half marathon. Quite literally to the second - 2 hours 5 minutes and 51 seconds. It is a little slower than I might have hoped, but a time I'm content with. (Irrational as it may be, I'd have been quite unhappy should I have come in even a second slower!)
The finishing pack included a Clif bar (vegan) and a gorgeous medal, as well as water and fruit. There was no event t-shirt but for a London running event, the entry costs were good value and I would recommend the run to others. Given the twisting course, it probably won't go down as one of my favourite routes, but I'm glad to have run it.
The second sad news is that one of the half marathon runners died on Wednesday, after he collapsed not far from the finish line with a cardiac arrest. As a healthy 33-year-old, it must be devastating for his family and my thoughts are with them as well as the family and friends of Alice.
Have you participated in any enjoyable activities lately?