When you first enter the running world it doesn’t take long for you to start hearing some common phrases –
You quickly realize that these are every runner’s goals. For the first few years, I wasn’t fussed. For me, it was enough that I had found something I loved, something that gave me endorphins, made me feel healthy and opened up a whole world I never knew existed. But as I ticked off the half-marathons and marathons I started to dream. I wondered if any of those goals were achievable.
This was the realistic goal. In 2013 I ran a 2:02:22 half-marathon. The race wasn’t perfect, I stood still in a queue mid race for what felt like a few minutes, and always wondered whether that could have been my sub-2, but it wasn’t meant to be (you can read about it here). Since then, I haven’t run any fast half-marathons. I just haven’t had the drive to push for a PR.
Fast forward to 2016. The year I broke the sub-2 hour half-marathon time. I would have been absolutely happy with a 1:59:59 time, but I confidently crossed the finish line in 1:57:44.
Where did it happen?
I’m fortunate enough to be a Rock’n’Roll Ambassador which means I get a Global Tour Pass that enables me to race at any event. I’m not here to paint a pretty picture of every race, but to give you my honest opinion.
As with the Nashville RNR race, the expo was huge, but such a well oiled machine. We picked up our bibs and race t-shirts before having a stroll round all the stalls (trying hard not to buy anything). I hadn’t been open about my desire for a sub-2 half the next day. I didn’t want the pressure and I didn’t really know whether I was capable of it.
Darren and I were both in corral 6 so it didn’t take too long to get across the start line. The first 6 miles takes you on a sight-seeing tour of the city. There are some hills, but they are manageable. It was warm on race day, overcast but warm, in the mid-70s. But, that wasn’t really the problem. The main issue was the humidity. It was insane, I’ve never experienced anything like it. Breathing felt hard. I worried so much about Darren who was also running as he has asthma. If I was struggling to breathe, he was definitely going to be. I had to really calm myself down at some points to avoid having a panic attack. I know what you’re thinking, I should have slowed down. But, I wanted to finish. I was drenched in sweat by mile 4, praying that there would be a breeze when we got down to the river. But, no, the weather wasn’t on my side. The air was just thick and I could tell no one was really enjoying it.
I don’t have any course pictures because I was too focused on maintaining my pace. I saw Darren around the 7 mile mark. He had stopped to take his inhaler. I slowed down to see if he was OK, but he encouraged me to keep going (I’ve never been in front of him in a race). I felt bad, but I knew I couldn’t stop (Darren wouldn’t let me stop for him). What I didn’t know is Darren stayed around 20ft behind me until Mile 11. He says I pulled him through because he really was struggling. At Mile 11 he caught up with me and we ran together. I slowed my pace down to keep running with him. He said to me, we have to finish this race together, we might not get a chance again. At that point, I knew I still had the time to get the sub-2, even with a slightly more relaxed pace. But, in that moment, I knew that the experience and memory of getting to cross the finish line holding hands with Darren was one that would be far more valuable than a PR (soppy I know). So we kept going, encouraging each other along the way. Darren kept asking me how long we had, I tried my best not to pressure him, but knowing in the back of my mind we could still do it if we just powered through. And we did, we crossed the finish line together. I was so happy – it felt like a huge achievement.
One of my favorite things about Rock’n’Roll races are the medals, they are just so good! The design is always tied to the city where the race is held and it’s a nice chunky heavy medal.
My journey to a sub-2 half marathon wasn’t a quick one, but when it came, boy did it feel good. Speed doesn’t come over night, and in my opinion, a lot of it is about mental strength and confidence. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any speed work in the run up to this race. I put my success down to strength training and my commitment to the Kayla Itsines #bbg guide. I became stronger and was no longer fighting injury. Over time, I just got faster as a result. I also wanted to run faster, I wanted to test myself; I had the running experience, now it was just a case of putting my mind to it and making it happen.
Next goal: sub-1:55