Friday, July 13, 2012

Newry to Lisburn in 2 weeks...

Since achieving my sub 4 hour marathon in Belfast, I have run 2 Half Marathon's, firstly in Newry and then in Lisburn. I had 4 weeks from the marathon, in which to recover and prepare for Newry Half. I did absolutely nothing in the week following the marathon and most of the muscle aches and pains had disappeared within a few days. There was no discomfort in my troublesome right knee, however, I had shooting pains in my left knee and found myself hobbling around for a few days. Rest, was the order of the day, yet by the time I resumed running, the left knee was still quite painful. A strap was bought and worn during the next few gentle sessions at Dromore AC and on some of my longer weekend runs. The strap seemed to be working and in the week leading up to Newry Half, all pain in the left knee had disappeared. The marathon had obviously had more of an effect than I first thought but I was glad that there seemed to be no lasting damage.

Despite my knee problems, I felt the training I had put in over the last few weeks had gone well but my major concern was the weather as the days leading up to the Half were very, very hot. Thankfully, living in Ireland, a lengthy spell of warm weather is very rare and come the day of the race, it was dull, overcast and raining.
This was my 4th Newry Half and I was feeling quietly confident of running a good race and perhaps getting a PB and a sub 1-45 time. The torrential rain that had accompanied me on the drive up had petered out by the time I lined up (with both knees strapped) shortly before 9.30am. There was light drizzle and a temperature of around 12 degrees when the gun sounded - almost ideal running conditions. I knew that if I was to achieve a PB, I had to run at 8 min mile pace and at mile 1, my pace was around the 8-15 mark. This was fine as it always takes me 2 or 3 miles to really get into a rhythm and to weave my way through the pack. As we made our way out of town on to the tow-path, my pace was steady and unlike previous years I wasn't stumbling over too many heels as I'd made more of an effort this year not to start too far back. The road leading up to Jerretspass is flat and straight and here I ran on the shoulder of an older runner who seemed to be running at my goal pace. Now, if I could stay with this guy for the next few miles, up and over the steep hill at half-way and then push on along the tow-path, maybe that PB was achievable. The climb at half-way doesn't get any easier over time but whereas some people resorted to walking, I attacked, shortened my stride and pushed hard. I relaxed on the way down, trying not to get too carried away and run too quickly. With the hill behind me and the temperature still on the cool side, I knew there was only 4-5 miles of flat tow-path to go and now was the time to quicken my pace, if only just slightly. My choice of songs on my iPod was as ever motivating me and this being Jubilee weekend, my playlist included "God Save the Queen" - Sex Pistols and "Stuff the Jubilee" - Carter USM. It's always a good sign that with a couple of miles to go, that very few people seem to be passing you and that you seem to be gaining on those in front of you. Don't do anything silly, I kept telling myself with 2 miles to go, the pace was spot on and all I had to do was keep this pace going and I would finish in under 1-45. Off the tow-path, through Merchants Quay and Buttercrane Shopping Centre was in sight...I was tired and damp but managed one last burst as the finishing arch got ever closer. The clock showed 1-45 and a few seconds but I knew my official chip-time would be quicker but by how much? The finish area was full of exhausted but happy runners, the volunteers were doing a great job placing medals over heads, handing out water and the all important Mars bars. I was very very pleased with how the run had gone, feeling it was probably the best Half I had run and both knees survived!! Official results were published the next day......1-44-17. Brilliant, a Half PB, a course PB by 4 minutes and sub 1-45. What of my next Half in Lisburn...only 2 weeks away?

With no aches and pains in the days following Newry Half, I was back out running the following weekend and spent the next 2 weeks just keeping the legs ticking over. Things went a bit awry at a club session on Thursday 14th June when on a wet and windy night, I slipped on the wet grass and landed awkwardly with my right arm thudding into my ribs. However, although my ribs were quite sore for a few days, my running wasn't affected and I was able to line up at the start of Lisburn Half on 20th June.
Dromore AC was as ever well represented in the Half, with the usual suspects jostling for a good start position - Aine, Mary, Nigel, Janette, Tina and first time Half Marathoner, Judith.
I missed the call to the start and ended up lining up right at the back with no Dromore AC runners anywhere to be seen. At least, there was no chance of me setting off too fast. My goal? Just to have a good run and at least better last year's time of 1-49. The evening was a warm one with clear blue skies and bright sunshine, which isn't ideal for running a hilly course. The klaxon sounded and we were off, I crossed the chip mat in under a minute and hit the first mile in around 8 minutes. I was taking things steady as we headed out of the city centre, passing one or two Dromore runners on the way. A left turn took us down some reasonably flat country roads and by this point I had moved through the pack and was getting a clear sight of the road ahead. 4 miles into the race and the sweat was pouring off me, thankfully I was wearing a cap and had my trusty water bottle with me. The run to half-way is a tedious climb along a dual carriageway and for some reason the organisers have chip mat at 6 miles rather than at 6.5 miles but I passed this point in just under 50 minutes so knew I was still hitting close to 8 minute miles. The next few miles take you out into the country and those dreaded hills but I find that I enjoy the challenge of a climb and as such was able to pass quite a few other runners. The temperature had cooled slightly by the time we hit Ballynahinch Road and this is where you can really stretch your legs and pick the pace up. I was beginning to think, that maybe, just maybe I could get under 1-45...but I'd forgotten about the next mile or so through the industrial estate and the final stiff climb. Although my pace wasn't slowing, I was finding it hard to pick up the pace and to get a sub 1-45 time, I was going to have to run the last km in 4 minutes...I can't even do that when running a quick 10k race. I had to stay focused and just run the best I could for the next 5 minutes. Left towards the finish line and the noise of the crowd was getting louder and this spurred me to spint the last 50m or so and cross the line in around 1-46. My first reaction was one of jubilation as although, I hadn't got under 1-45, I felt I had run really well and above all else, had enjoyed it.
Post-race and it was a chance to catch up with fellow Dromore runners and find out how their races went. The majority of the runners having finished somewhere between 1-40 and 1-50. One of the last Dromore runners to cross the line was Judith and her time of 2-15 was brilliant, in light of her recent heart problems.
It took a day or so before official results were published and my finishing time was 1-45-56 and this meant out over 1000 runners,I finished in the top 350.
I've now got just over a month to prepare for Cookstown Half and I aim to mix my training up with longer weekend runs,some speed work at club and even a bit of hill work.

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