Sunday 29th July:
In 2011, I ran this very race in torrential rain and in the weeks leading up to the 2012 race, the weather was a mixture of rain, rain and more rain. Thankfully,on the day itself, it was clear skies, a hint of sunshine and a temperature around 16 degrees.
My training since the Lisburn Half had all gone to plan, no niggles and an average pace of around 8 minute miles. As this was going to be my 3rd Cookstown Half, I felt pretty confident that I could run a good time - I knew where all the climbs were and I knew of the flatter parts of the course, where I could pick the pace up.
There was a small but select field of Dromore AC runners including Nigel and Tina and I had one eye on Tina as her recent Half Marathon times were around the 1-43 mark and this is what I was aiming for. My goal was at least a course PB with a pace just under 8 minute miles.
The start was crowded and without a chip mat to indicate the exact start line, I made sure I positioned myself fairly close to the front. And we were off and for a change I hit a good pace early on and managed to avoid clipping heels and dodging slower runners as has been the case during most of my races. I hit 2 miles in around 15 minutes, slightly quicker than I was aiming for but the pace seemed fine, so I didn't panic and kept this sort of pace over the next few miles. Soon after, I passed Tina, which came as a bit of a shock as I knew she had been running really well over the last few months; this meant either Tina was having a bad race or I was running well.
After a few climbs, I knew mile 6 was a flatter part of the course and an opportunity to quicken up. At half-way, my time was close to 52 minutes which meant at this pace a sub 1-45 finish was on the cards. Up to this point, the weather had been kind and the rain had stayed away but at mile 8 the heavens opened - and no word of a lie, as the rain lashed, the song on my iPod was "Only Happy When it Rains" by Garbage!!
The last 5 miles take you from country lanes onto dual carriageways, into the town centre and a few more climbs. Crowds in the town spurred you on however traffic control was poor to the say the least with one or two runners having to dodge cars being directed out of side roads. Thankfully, I avoided any trouble and was soon heading out of town towards the 11 mile marker and barring any accidents I was all set to smash my 2011 time of 1-47. The last mile is a strange one as the first half is flat and you can really knuckle down and quicken up but then there's the right turn back to the finish line and it's uphill all the way. For a fraction of a second as I entered the last mile I thought maybe sub 1-40 was a possibility but the last half a mile did for me and I crossed the line around the 1-43 mark. I was thrilled to bits as I had knocked 5 minutes off last year's time and this was a Half PB by about 2 minutes. I'm not sure what it is about this Half, it's certainly not the easiest but it brings out the best in me. My official time was 1-42-48 and if I'm being pedantic, I could knock a few seconds off that, as there was no chip mat at the start! Who knows, in 2013, could I get under 1-40?
Next up, my first 10k race of 2012...and please note this entry makes no mention of Judith...