As I write this on a chilly November afternoon, it's hard to think back to how warm the summer was here in NI and how difficult it made running a Half Marathon.
I squeezed 2 more Half Marathon's into my summer schedule and the first of these was Lisburn Half on 19th June and despite an early evening start, it was very, very warm.
Lisburn is a race that lulls you into a false sense of security with the first 5 miles or so being fairly flat however this all changes as you head out into the countryside where undulating is the best way to describe the rest of the course.
I was hoping for a time of close to 1:45 but even before the gun sound I knew that this was probably going to be out of my reach. Stupidly, from the start I tried to hit my goal pace (sub 8 min miles) and whilst this felt fine for the first few miles, I began to slow towards half-way. I dug deep and around mile 8, I was cheered on by my wife, Louise and her friend Laurie, this lifted my spirits and my pace, particularly as the next half mile or so was downhill. The heat was getting to me and my water bottle was almost empty by the time I got to mile 10, but I kept pace with a Newry City runner and she pulled me through with a mile to go. Unfortunately, though there is still one hill to get over and with around half a mile left, it's the last thing you need. With sweat trickling down my face, I tried to pick up the pace but there was nothing left in the tank but I was still very happy with a finishing time of 1:48:29...maybe one day I will get sub 1:45 at Lisburn.
Mid-race and I already look like I've slowed to a walk!!
Cookstown Half Marathon
This year the Cookstown Half was part of the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) (http://www.2013wpfg.com/) which were being held in NI. I was involved in the Games, to the extent that Volunteer Now who I work for, were responsible for recruiting all the volunteers. I had the pleasure of attending a couple of the volunteer events as the Games mascot Emergency Eddie!
In terms of the race itself, it took place on 4th Aug and usually the weather in NI at this point would be fairly changeable with a fair risk of rain, not this year though, it was another very warm day. The course had also been changed, which I was a little disappointed about as I had grown to like the 'old' course and this year's course certainly had it's fair share of hills!
It was a much bigger event this year thanks to the WPFG and there was a very international field with runners from all corners of the world and one or two from NI.
I always err on the side of caution when facing a new course but I got into a good pace early on and was hopeful of maintaining it over the 13.1 miles. The course did have an out and back element to it, so this gave you a fair idea of what to face in the second half BUT this meant you knew that there was going to be some tough climbs to face over the last few miles. I can hope cope with the up-hills but down-hills do me no favours and have been no friend to my knees over the years. Still, I stuck with it, taking on more water than I usually would and trying to maintain some sort of even pace. The last few miles were tough and even the crowds in the town centre weren't inspiring me and it was all up-hill to the finish and despite the feeling that I had slowed considerably over the second half, I managed to cross the line in 1:46:35.
The pain is evident as I cross the line!!