Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Newry Half Marathon - Part 3

Well, 4 weeks after the disaster that was the Belfast Marathon, I found myself lining up at the start of the Newry Half Marathon. This was my third successive year at the event and this year I was aiming for a sub 1-50 time. In 2009, this was my first ever Half Marathon and I considered myself at the time, nothing more than a fun runner. I completed in 2-20, which I was very pleased with. By 2010, I was taking my running a bit more seriously, having completed a full marathon and achieved Half Marathon PB of 2-01. My goals in 2010, were to get under 2-20 (very achievable) and then to finish in under 2 hours (achievable). So, when I crossed the line in 1-54, I was over the moon.
Already in 2011, I had achieved a Half Marathon PB of 1-49 at Larne, so was quietly confident of beating last year's time and then all being well getting under 1-50. A number of Dromore AC runners were lining up this year and before the gun, Mary, Janette and I did a 10 minute warm up around the leisure centre. The marathon runners set off at 9.00am and then there was the inevitable hanging about as we weren't due off until 9.30am. The weather was a little overcast, a temperature of around 13 degrees and a light wind - almost perfect running conditions. The forecast was for sunshine later but hopefully it wouldn't get too hot.
I started near the back alongside 2 fellow Dromore AC runners - Janette and Gordon and as the entrants only numbered around 2000, crossed the start chip mat fairly quickly. I wanted to set off at a steady pace and build up my speed after half way.
After a mile and half we were out on the Newry Canal tow path and as is always the case during the early stages of a race, I found myself struggling to pass some of the slower runners but we soon exited the tow path and headed out onto the open road. A flat stretch of around 2 miles lay ahead and by now I was hitting a steady pace and hitting 8 and half minute miles. The village of Jerrettspass was in the distance which meant we were close to half way and the dreaded uphill climb to mile 7. I was on target as I started to climb and climb a bit more, although the hill seems to get slightly easier with each passing year. The great thing as you reach the highest point is that you know the last 6 miles are either downhill or very flat.
It was all tow path now and with each passing mile I upped my pace just very slightly and was feeling confident as I passed more and more runners. The sun made an appearance at mile 11 and at this stage I knew running at 10 min mile pace would get me in under 1-50. With under a mile to go as you come off the tow path, you cross over a main road into the city centre and this can be tricky even with marshalls and PSNI directing the traffic. Last year, as I was pushing on and came to this junction, the PSNI seemed oblivious to the runners and decided to let traffic through, my momentum carried me forward causing me to almost collide with a car. I was furious and showed my anger by shouting a few expletives at a startled PSNI officer. In 2011, however the runners were given priority and I crossed the road without incident and as I passed the Canal Court Hotel, I could see the finish line in the distance, the crowds were out in force and cheering loudly. I looked up at the clock and I could see the time was inching towards 1-49, so finding I still had something left in the tank, I sprinted towards the line and crossed in 1-49-31. This wasn't my chip time so I was confident that my final time may even get me under 1-49. Other runners from Dromore AC, came in shortly after me including Janette and Gordon. The high point for the club, though was the fact that Julie T was the first woman home in the Half.

Lou's 30 year old Garfield modelling my number and medal
My final time? Well, it was another PB, 1-48-26.This knocked 6 mins off last year's time, so as I you can imagine I was very happy indeed. The knee was perfectly fine and all those bad memories from the marathon had been erased.

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