Well this was to be the A Race, the one I had been targeting for the last few months. I had stepped up my expectations and set a target of 90min to finish the Half Marathon.
Now before I go on I have to say that I had stepped up a bit in speed at training in the last 6-8 weeks leading up to the race. I had pushed myself to run with the A groupers at our Tuesday run sessions and managed to just hang on to them.
The thought of running a 90 min half marathon only presented itself after a successful run at the South West Rocks Half Marathon, and four weeks out from the event I was now looking to run the distance in 10 min less than I had previously been planning for.
This seemed to me like a near on impossible task. I knew I had got quicker, I know I could do it in 94 minutes but those elusive four minutes meant maintaining a pace of around 4:15/km throughout the ENTIRE race! I must have checked and recheck the pace a million times on the pace calculator in the weeks leading up to the Gold Coast and just couldn’t quite get my head around it.
I feel that I am lucky enough to generally believe in my ability and feel that if I have put in the work I should be able to reap the rewards. I had certainly felt that I had done enough during training but the big thing I think I was missing at this point was having a coach. Having someone who can stand in your corner and say to you in those final weeks, yes you have put the effort in, you’ve done everything you needed to do and your good to go. A plan for tapering (or not) would have been a confidence booster as I really wasn’t sure what to do in the last week before the race. Andrew from Retro had been amazing in providing me with support and advice throughout my training. If I had my time again I would get him on board as a coach to develop me a specific plan for the race (which would for me mainly be about having that confidence on race day).
So off we went to the Gold Coast. Mark had been a great support to me leading into the race and we had planned to run more or less together so that he could pace me in the race. He and PT had been my long run companions on Saturday mornings for the past few months and I was excited to be running the big race with them both.
I had been extremely nervous over the preceding few days and felt a lot of pressure on myself to reach my target. So it was a relief to idle away the last day before the race laying by the pool and eating sushi. Mark and I had an early night while PT went off to the AFL and we were only woken sporadically throughout the night by a screaming child and what sounded like someone throwing furniture around, just what you want the night before a race.
The alarm sounded at some ungodly hour and we got ready eating our pre-race breaky and sucking down some power aid before making our way to the tram station. PT’s daughter had made us some protein balls and while the boys scoffed theirs down I was very excited to see mine still there when we got back after the race, it was a very nice treat to come back to.
The tram was jam packed with people, including two highly intoxicated young men who thought it might be fun to jump on and stir up a bunch of runners. I looked around and there was my friend Sharon from Urunga, of all the people to end up next to!! I was so excited to see her as I knew she was off to do her first marathon, what a stroke of luck!
Reaching the venue we did all the usual stuff, grabbed our singlets to get into the Griffith tent post-race and then fought our way to the start line. Here is where the nerves really kicked in. We were right up the front of the pack, about 10,000 people behind us, it had all come down to this.
The gun went and we were off. I wanted to go out hard for the first 4km so planned to not even look at my watch until I reached the 4km mark, unfortunately I suddenly saw the 6km sign appear in front of me, that’s it I thought, I’ve gone out too hard for too long. And right there the mental battle began.
Now let me tell you that when you start mentally struggling with 15km to go it makes for a long race. I knew Mark was a bit behind me as he hadn’t lost his head and ran off to fast, unlink mwah! I slowed the pace down a fraction and kept on keeping on. I felt like I was trapped in my own head for the remainder of the race, I couldn’t get into the vibe, couldn’t even tell you if there was a crowd or what the atmosphere was like. I saw the lead runner come past at 37min, he was flying, they are truly amazing to watch!
Next I reached the 10km mark at 42:17 I knew I was on track but that didn’t do much to save my mind. I had had my second gel at the 9km mark to try and boost my spirits but I was struggling. I reached the turn around and thought to myself, god help me I have to run all that distance AGAIN!
I struggled on. At around the 16km mark the first group of 1:30 pace runners past me and Mark caught up with me. Mark ran with me telling me that all was ok, I still had a few minutes to play with as we had started ahead of the 1:30 pacers and just to hang on and stay with him.
I tried to hang on but I was hurting. I slowly dropped back and by the 16km mark the second group of 1:30 pacers had caught me. I got sucked into the group and was right behind Ryan Hall with that stupid blue balloon hitting me in the head! Ryan was casually chatting to the bloke next to him and I hated them for being so fit, so fast, being able to treat it like a leisurely stroll when I was dying!
We reached the water station at 17km and I went in and grabbed a drink; and lost the group. Mark was further up in the distance, and I thought it was all over. Strange the games your mind plays with you, telling you to stop, give up, just walk, you’ve blown it; WHY! If you’re still able to move there is still a chance (not that I was thinking that at the time mind you!).
Mark dropped back as he could see I was struggling.
“This is it.” he informed me as we ran past the 18km mark. “You have to give it everything you have now or you won’t make the 90min. You’ve trained hard, you can do it, you just have to want it.”
I battled on and Mark stayed with me. We went past the water station at 19km and I thought, no this is it, I’m going to give it everything I have, it was the only point in the whole race that I had overcome the negativity, and I gunned it!
I got to the final 250m and was just 100% focused on seeing that finish line; nothing else in the world around me existed except for that. I did the last km and a bit in 4:05/km and collapsed over the finish line, into the arms of a gentleman who promptly tried to put me in a wheelchair!! I wasn’t having a bar of that! Mark finished just behind me and we waited to see PT cross the finish line.
We’d done it. We had all raced and achieved more than we thought we possibly could. My final time was 1:30:38, just snuck under before the clock turned to 1:31, oh the difference that makes! I was the 76th female and 21st in my age group an achievement I am very proud of.
I can absolutely say that it is the least enjoyable race that I have ever done. There was not a single ounce of fun to be had. It was the hardest I had ever run and to be honest I’m not sure I really want to repeat the experience. Though people tell me it’s like child birth and you forget the pain and just want to do it all again, we will see. It was such a stark contrast to the race the month before, which I had enjoyed and loved every minute of, and to think that four minutes made all that difference.
I am hoping that somewhere there is a happy balance between being fast and being able to enjoy the EXPERIENCE of the race; getting the vibe, soaking up the atmosphere, encouraging the other runners, ENJOYING yourself, and the mental focus required to push your body beyond what you think it can do.