North London Half Marathon

This was the start of the re-runs of races from last year where Mr Smith was injured and could not run them how he wanted.  Just 3 weeks after Brighton Half find out how Mr Smith got on…

Waking up in the morning, heading down for a quick swim to loosen up and heading out of the hotel Mr Smith was greeted with a drizzle and a damp pavement, which did not bode well for a good run.  The next challenge was getting on the tube.  The first tube of the day on the Central Line and it was as bad if not worse than a work day.  It was cosy to say the least!

However, no issues with getting to Wembley and walking down Wembley way to the stadium the nerves/excitement started to kick in.  It was a chilly morning, but luckily it was not drizzling and the surface was dry.

Bags dropped off and preparing for the run there was a last minute dash in to the Novotel for an emergency toilet stop, wise move.  This did mean that Mr Smith was not quite in the position he wanted to be and found himself next to the 2hr pace runner.  The ideal would have been just behind the 1:45, but that is not a problem as this was not an ‘A’ race.

Before the start Mr Smith reminded himself of the targets, smash last years time of 1:58, but try and beat the Brighton Half PB.  The plan was to try and average about 5:18 pace, which would comfortably be a new PB.

After the traditional shuffling forward and last minute adjustments made, Mr Smith was waiting for the start under a bridge.  No GPS signal, oh heck was the thought.  Not far to the start line and hopefully it would pick him a signal quickly.

Then they were off.  The horn went and the run was off.  Moving round the corner and up the slope.  A nice uphill start!

The great news was that the opening section of the race was nice and wide so no issues with people getting in the way and Mr Smith got in to his rhythm nice and early.

Checking the heart rate showed some odd signs with it spiking very early up to the 180’s but despite 2 attempts to reset it the display was still showing too high.  Was there a problem with it or was it the gel I took just before the start?  As the heart rate settled down after about 15 minutes it must have been the gel.  Lesson learned, have it a bit earlier before the start.

The first few miles of the course are undulating with a few nasty drags but long descents as well.  The running felt very comfy and Mr Smith was amazed by the km splits being put in and going through 5k a minute ahead of the schedule and at 10km nearly 3 minutes up with the clock reading 51:12 at the 10km point.

There was a lovely section of newly surfaced road which was great to run on and then it was off to Saracens.  A few surface changes on the way in to the ground and a nice run round on the track around the pitch.  It brought back good memories of finishing last year, but then it was time to head for home.  The half way point done, a couple more surface changes and some 90 degree turns, but then it was basically a reverse of the route for most of the way.

On the way out of the ground it was great to see a friend running in the other direction and a great big hi as he passed.

The form remained good and still clocking good KM splits.  The thoughts were to ease back a bit, but somehow the legs kept going at the same pace.  The more gentle rolls around this part of the route were fine, but Mr Smith new that the finish was going to be tough and turning the corner up to the 10 mile mark it started.  The turn is blind and then you see the hill.  It is a bit of a beast and everyone Mr Smith spoke to post race mentioned it.  It is definitely a stinger and the first of several.

There is only one thing to do though, battle through it.  What goes up has to go down.

The saving grace was that it was 3 miles to the finish so not too far and by this point Mr Smith was really appreciating the cheers from the crowds.  The big advantage of having your name on your top, people do cheer you on.  This was needed and any time the encouragement came Mr Smith interacted with the crowd, saying thanks, giving high 5’s and encouraging them to cheer more.

So the hills were over and it was time to turn in to Wembley Way.  The time was looking really good but the wall was arriving.  There had been a chance of a time under 1:45, but by now the legs were struggling and there was nothing left in the tank.  Although you can see the stadium straight in front of you Mr Smith new that it was a bit further than it looked to the finish with a run around the outside and under the stadium.

This last km was a killer.  It did identify the fitness levels, 20km good, but beyond that it was tough.

Running under the stadium and out in to it was a great feeling, very impressive and a little increase in pace to get to the finish line and stop the watch.

Knowing that it was going to be good Mr Smith looked at the time, wow!  1:46:08!  Last year was 1:58:01 and Brighton 1:53:16.  A 6.3% improvement in 3 weeks.

The great news was that the ankle did not give any grief during the run.

Much thanks goes out to the coach who has been helping Mr Smith, Tom Craggs of Running With Us.  Definitely could not have been done without him.  The target for the year us a 1:45 half and although close to it there is a bit of relief that there is still a bit to aim at with 2 ‘A’ target races coming up in Hackney and Copenhagen.

The words from Tom before the event were to enjoy it and Mr Smith certainly did and not just because of the time.  The whole event just felt good, tough but good.  More engaged with the crowds and other runners and just generally soaking it all up.  Thoroughly enjoyed running happy!

The post race analysis shows that the GPS read an extra 400m, but that is more the watch than the course.  The official pace was 5:02 per km, a big step up.  Although the GPS was wrong and therefore odds are the KM splits are going to be slightly out, the consistency of pace was great.  Excluding the first KM (GPS did not pick up immediately and they are nearly always the slowest) the pace was within 22 seconds on every KM, a maximum of 5:08 and minimum of 4:46.  The aim is to be consistent and also to run negative splits.

Again, with the potential for these to be slightly out this was pretty good with the following 5k splits:

  • 5k – 25:29
  • 10k – 24:43
  • 15k – 24:26
  • 20k – 24:55

Nearly managed the negative 5k splits, but the 10k splits were 50:12 and 49:20.  Both of which I would have been happy with 6 months ago for a 10k, let alone a half.

The next step is to be able to do the same but to power through to the line and get the last 5k quicker still and get sub 1:45.  Bring on Hackney!

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