So, three and half weeks after the Belfast Marathon, I was lining up at the Newry Half Marathon with a number of other Dromore AC runners. I was still on a bit of a high from the marathon and physically felt in good shape, so was confident of running a good race. I wanted to do well as this my 5th Newry Half in a row,
I didn't have a fixed goal (sub 1:45?)but as long as I ran a good race and enjoyed it, I would be happy. The gun sounded on an overcast morning and we were off, one small lap around the leisure centre and then onto the tow-path. 8 minute miles were the order of the day but I felt I covered the first few miles a little too quick. I hit a comfortable pace fairly early and managed to avoid too many traffic problems out on the tow-path, which can get quite congested whilst runners sort themselves out. By default, I found myself amongst the 1:45 pacer group (led by a Newry AC runner) and generally I don't really pay the pacers too much attention but I stayed with the group for a couple of miles and it really kept me focussed. Off the tow-path and it's a flat road out to Jerrettspass and here I moved away from the 1:45 group, not by much but enough that I was able to slightly quicken my pace.
It was here that things started getting a little difficult as the sun had come out and it was beginning to get rather warm. Thankfully, I was always carry a water bottle with me, so was able to take regular sips and keep myself hydrated. The heat was having an impact on a number of runners including Tina (Dromore AC) who had to make a quick costume change from behind an outbuilding and remove her long sleeved running top from beneath her club vest!
In another couple of miles, the dreaded steep hill would loom large and as I started the climb, I passed Tina and I could also see in the distance another Dromore AC runner (Janette). I caught Janette on the downhill run and as I passed, I gave her a shout of encouragement. My favourite part of the race is getting back on the tow-path as it gives you a real chance to stretch your legs and slowly increase your pace. I was feeling good and the heat wasn't really having an impact and the other positive was I was passing more and more runners as the miles ticked by. I was on target for sub 1:45 but what was this? The Newry AC runner from the 1:45 pacer group passed me with 3 miles to go but he seemed to have lost his group. Was he running quicker than 1:45? Was I slowing? No matter, I kept on his heels for the next 10 minutes and with a couple of miles to go, he stopped to check on his group and as I passed he gave me a huge shout of encouragement. This was just what I needed and with the beat of "Sunchyme" by Dario G on my iPod, I found a little extra and really pushed on to the finish.
This year, the finish was to moved to the centre of Newry along the High Street (including speed humps!) and there was a large crowd to cheer you on and I could see the clock ticking towards 1:45 as I crossed the line. Having picked up my medal, I waited to cheer Tina and Janette across the line and we then shared our race stories. They both thought it tough especially in the heat but I was pleased with my race and confident I had got another course PB. My time was confirmed as 1:44:04 and yes it was a course PB and I have to say a huge thank-you to the Newry AC pacer who certainly helped me through those last few miles.
Now, to look forward to Larne and Lisburn in June...