So here we are, 1 month on from the Lisburn Half, it's the middle of July and the sun is blazing down...unfortunately not in Cookstown, Co Tyrone where the rain is lashing and the wind is howling.
It was all very quiet at the start area, with most runners sheltering in cars or in the changing rooms. The chance of a decent warm-up was remote but 5 minutes before the start, I braved the elements and managed a few strides.
Although,the race was chipped, the start was a bit of a lottery as the organisers didn't have a chip mat, so everyone jostled to get as close to the "start" as possible. The horn sounded and we were off, I gave myself a few strides before I set my Nike+ off. I had programmed a time of 1hr 50mins, knowing I should get under this quite easily.
As always,it took a mile or so for the runners to sort themselves out but soon I was hitting a steady pace and avoiding the stragglers. If anything,it was the rain and wind that was causing me the most problems. Thankfully, I was wearing contacts, so could see clearly in front of me but that didn't stop raindrops falling across my face and soaking me right through and this was before halfway!!
The bulk of the route was country roads and there was little in the way of human support. We got some strange looks from cows and sheep who were probably wondering why so many 2 legged creatures were running around in the wind and rain. Bizarre sight at halfway when a herd of sheep and a couple of donkeys came bounding over to the edge of a field as we all passed by. Such distractions were welcome as by this point the conditions were getting worse, huge puddles were forming across the roads and feet were beginning to squelch. Despite this, I hit halfway at around 55 mins, so was on target for a sub 1-50 time.
Miles 9 - 11, were quite tough as there's a steady climb along a dual carriageway into Cookstown town centre but at least here there's a small crowd and the claps and cheers lift the spirit. As you leave the town centre, there's reprieve as the route goes slightly downhill and you know there's less than 2 miles to go. These 2 miles seemed to go on forever but head down, I knew a PB was within grasp. The entrance to the sports arena was in sight but there was still the steep climb to the finish to overcome. As I glanced up, I could see the clock ticking towards 1-47, so I pushed on and crossed the line in 1-46-55. FANTASTIC, a PB and I had knocked 5 mins off last year's time.
I was actually quite shocked that I had run so well in the dreadful conditions, maybe I should run all my races in the pouring rain!! I'll have to add "Happy When It Rains" - Jesus & Mary Chain and "Only Happy When It Rains" - Garbage to my next playlist.
So, that's 4 Half Marathon's in 2011 and all under 1-50, times got quicker as the year progressed, so who knows a sub 1-45 could be on the cards in 2012.
Next up, the Laganside 10k.