Larne hasn't always had the best of reputations - it used to be a town you would drive through to get onto the coast road; the graffiti "Welcome to Loyalist Larne" put a lot of people off but having run my 3rd Half Marathon through the town, I can safely say it's worth a visit. The people are very welcoming and friendly and the views across the Irish Sea and up to the Glens of Antrim are fantastic.
Sat March 24th:
This was my 3rd Larne Half and I was confident that I could achieve a course PB - my previous times were 2-01 (2010) and 1-49 (2011). My training had been going to plan, I was running twice a week with Dromore AC, a gentle Saturday run and a LSR on a Sunday. I was hopeful of a Half PB but with a weather forcast predicting bright sunshine and a temperature in the high teens, I didn't want to take anything for granted, particularly as most of my training had been done in temperatures no higher than 5 degrees.
Well, unfortunately the forecasters got it right and on the day the weather was gorgeous; if anything too nice for a Half Marathon. I arrived at registration in plenty of time as I wanted to get a closer look at the route as this year the first couple of miles was run through the town centre before heading out into the country.
Time to mentally prepare and get all my kit sorted - chip fastened, number pinned, vaseline applied, Nike+ programmed and belt attached. I headed out to the promenade for a warm-up where I met fellow Dromore runners, Aine and Mary. If I could run close to these two, I knew a time of around 1-45 was achievable.
I arrived at the start line in plenty of time as I wanted to get close to the back - a ploy I regularly use as it means I avoid setting off too quickly. The gun sounded at 11am and within a minute or so I had crossed the start line and was soon weaving in and out of some of the slower runners. After a mile or so, I was comfortable with my pace and knew that if was to get close to a 1-45 finish, I had to hit each mile in around 8 minutes. The couple of miles through the town centre weren't the best, quite a lot of bunching and a couple of side streets were very narrow, which caused my pace to slow. I was pleased to get out onto the main coast road and pick my pace up again. The only drawback being a lack of shade and with the sun beating down, it was very warm indeed - thankfully I had my water bottle with me and if all else failed I knew there were numerous water stations along the route.
Around mile 5, I spotted Tina (another Dromore runner) a little way ahead of me and I thought if I could keep pace with her, a PB was on the cards. Off the main coast road there's a steady climb of around a mile which isn't too much of a problem on a typical March day but today was a different matter, the heat was really beginning to have an effect and the climb seemed never ending. Thankfully, as with any climb, you have to at some point come back down and it was as we were heading back to the coast road that I overtook Tina. The last 5 miles are flat and usually I can pick my pace up a little and get into a really good rhythm but today faced with a head-wind and the heat, I couldn't find an extra gear. I was still hitting each mile around the 8 minute mark but I knew that I had find a little more to get that PB. I wasn't slowing as I headed onto the promenade but that final burst, the sprint finish just wasn't there but as I crossed the line and saw the clock at 1-47, there was a glimmer of hope that my chip-time would get me in around 1-46.
I gratefully accepted a bottle of water and as I began to stretch I saw Tina cross the line, soon followed by another Dromore runner - Julia. We headed off to the leisure centre where Larne AC laid on sandwiches, tea and biscuits and massage tables. Suitably refreshed we caught up with other Dromore runners and we shared our race stories and the one thing we all agreed on - it was too bloody hot!!
Finishing times were pinned up within the hour and I was pleased to see that my chip-time was 1-46-23 and I had run a negative split. Even though I didn't get under 1-45, this was a course PB by 3 mins and a Half PB by 30 secs, so I was very pleased.
So how does this Larne Half compare with the previous 2? Well, Larne AC do a fantastic job, it's the best organised Half in NI and the sandwiches at the end are a real bonus. The only negative thing, the run through the town centre didn't add anything, personally I preferred the previous route.
I'll be back in 2013 and hopefully, I'll get under 1-45. Note to self though - must remember to tape up my nipples for all future Half Marathon's!!