Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

The past month has been something of a whirlwind for me. At the end of last month’s blog I had just ran the Bath half marathon thirty seconds quicker than I had ever covered the distance before and the time had qualified me to race against the world’s best in Copenhagen three weeks later. While I was happy with the time, I knew I had a lot more left to give and the time didn’t truly reflect the degree of effort I had been putting into training. With that in mind, I was determined that I would go to Copenhagen in the best shape possible.

Sitting down with the coach before the race, he wanted me to go out in 29.30 pace for the first 10k. Bearing in mind that I had never broken 30minutes for 10k I was sceptical that 4.42per mile pace was realistic or sustainable for the 13miles. In the weekly tempos I had never been going quicker than 4.50 pace and even then, it was normally alternating 5.10 / 4.50 pace for the six miles. How did Andy, my coach, think it was possible for me to run so much quicker. Granted the track sessions had been going well and I was well used to 68sec per lap pace but even still, I doubted I could hold 70/71sec pace for an hour.

In line with my coach’s optimistic outlook, my confidence was high going into the race. I had spent the previous two weeks with an Irish squad in the Algarve, Portugal. A change of scenery can sometimes do wonders for that extra boost you need in training. Unfortunately, with the race coming up, I was at a different stage of my training cycle than most of the guys and so I had to do the track sessions on my own. Again, in the past I’ve found that track sessions by yourself, while tough at the time, make you that much stronger in the mind. The first session was 10 x 1k in 2.50 off 100m jog. You know you’re feeling fit when you finish the session, bang on the times and realise that you averaged out at 35seconds recovery. Yes, I was getting into good shape and with the race just around the corner I was getting excited.

Copenhagen was being marketed as a flat, fast course and with the weather forecast to be mild with a minimal breeze, it really was the perfect setting for a half marathon route. Combine that with the company of the best runners in the world and I knew there was a decent time there if I ran the right race. On the start line, a Swedish runner tapped me on the shoulder and in European English asked me what time I was going for. Hopefully low 62 something I replied optimistically. I’m aiming to get to 10k in 29.30, whatabout you? Oh I’d be happy with 63, he replied. It was left like that.

A half marathon is quite a long way, especially when you hit the 6mile mark and realise you haven’t even reached halfway yet. The race went out relatively slowly at 4.48 pace. The next 2 miles were the same and having gone through 5k in 14.54 I realised that I needed to start shifting. I’ve come to realise that there’s nothing to be gained by surging in half marathons and so I steadily tried to pick up the pace. I looked around for company and on my shoulder was the same Swedish guy. We didn’t say anything to each other but instinctively we knew we both wanted the same thing. At the next km marker, he took over the pace. We were down at 4.42 pace now. For the next 8km or so, we kept like this, swapping every km but still not saying a word. For someone who wanted 63mins he was going well above pace. We caught a large group around the 8mile mark and he decided to sit in. Feeling good, I decided that I wasn’t going to hang around. I went straight to the front pushing on again. This time a Japanese and Spanish guy went with me. We were down at 4.37 pace and starting to roll now, although everything still felt strangely comfortable, controlled. The two guys were able to hold on for the next mile or so then drifted back. My last 3miles were spent just picking off people averaging 4.38 pace. I finished in a new NI record of 62.09. With my first 10k split at 29.47, followed up by a second 10k of 29.15, and a ten mile split of 47.12 I had smashed my previous pbs. Undoubtedly, I was happy with the result. It’s a massive pb for me and a more respectable time for a full time runner. That said, I finished strong with plenty more running in my legs. I doubt I could have held the pace for another 13miles but if you had told me to keep going till 20miles I’m confident that I would have been able to do so. It all bodes well for the marathon in Zurich. Oh and the Swedish runner finished in a new Swedish record just outside 63minutes. I sadly didn’t get an opportunity to talk to him after the race but there is no way I would have ran as fast as I did without his help, and I hope he feels the same.

The next 5 weeks I’ll be in Mount Laguna, California training with a world class Australian training group all gearing towards the 10k race in Stanford at the start of May. My plane actually leaves in two hours so I’d better get a move on! So until next time, keep the head down, train hard and hopefully come the races in the summer you’ll be ready. Also, good luck to all competing in the various marathons this weekend, both English and Irish athletes. Hopefully I’ll see a good few of you on the roads around Zurich!!

From Resus to Rio

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