OK. So, I completed the Birmingham Half pretty much within the time I expected. This meant that I finished my thirteen miles in a respectable time: 01:33.24.
I finished in 271st place overall, but 50th in my age group. My 10k time was 42.30.
So, I should be happy, but I really wanted it to be a bit closer to 1hr 30. And feel I could have done a little better considering all the crowd support.
I like to think it comes down to a few school boy errors:
- I didn’t arrive early enough. This, I blame on public transport. On race day, it seemed as if the local infrastructure couldn’t cope; so, when my train rolled in, there was no room for me and my fellow Stourbridge runners on it. Instead, we had to jump in a car and drive. Needless to say, this added time – it really doubles the travel time and then some – but perhaps I should have anticipated this in hindsight. In the end we were lucky; the roads were quiet (possibly because everyone was on the train!)
- Not getting to line early enough was my next mistake though. I was in the Orange Wave, and I hadn’t realised how many people would be joining me – or how many people would be there by mistake. It was a real struggle trying to squeeze through the crowd, which meant that I couldn’t get to the pace-marker in time.
- I didn’t order my new Garmin Forerunner early enough. Consequently, it wasn’t delivered in time for race day, and I was reliant on the pace marker for my time.
- I know this one sounds a bit strange, but I tied my laces too tight. I’m not being a baby when I say that this really hurt my feet! More than this though, it messed with my head. I was constantly conscious of wanting to stop and loosen them. The battle between wanting to feel comfortable and not wanting to lose time made the race more of a psychological challenge than it should have been.
- Finally, like Goldilocks, I ate too much porridge! I ended up feeling bloated and wanting a good sleep. Missing my pre-run caffeine shot compounded the problem. I hadn’t expected to experience this with a race starting time of 1.30pm – but next time I will definitely take time to factor in what and when I eat on race day.
Looking back, I think I trained relatively well. I was totally done in at the end of the race – but I hung in there and bolted up the final hill to cross the line. In hindsight, I think I might have felt stronger had I added in more speed sessions during training, maybe even upping my overall mileage; I think both of these may have improved my endurance and helped the race feel that bit easier. Although, saying that, I am open to the view that a variety in running – such as cross-country, trail running, track and hill running – will possibly see big gains with regards to improving running times. But overall, my thinking is this may work for somebody who has 3+ years of good running under their belt, but the general social runner or newbie would be better getting their heads around monitoring training load and incorporating some basic strength and conditioning within their running program to significantly reduce risk of injuries.
If I could give any advice to any new runner, it would be to really appreciate the concept of training load. This is the biggest known cause of injury – not the type of running shoes, not diet or hydration, not using compression stockings, not stretching enough. These factors are much less important factors than training load. There’s a great article by Tom Goom, specialist running physiotherapist, on the concept of monitoring. I appreciate it’s a bit of handful, but being more aware of monitoring this could really change how you reduce your risk of injuries going forward. You can find the article here: http://www.running-physio.com/athlete-monitoring/
I feel training for and running in the Birmingham Half Marathon been a successful experiment. Putting into practice the ideas I preach to my lovely clients day in day out about just doing the basics, has helped me to see things from the other side and evaluate my professional viewpoint further.
Overall, I am very happy. I gave it my all on the day and pretty much got the time I wanted. Will I do it again? Time will tell…