700 metres to go and I can see the finish. Head down. Motor forward.
I had come into the race with the requisite number of excuses. Injury interrupted training. Strep throat yesterday. Tired legs Thursday. The only person that had cut me a break was my daughter Esme who had slept all night through. It was only the sound of rain and wind that if anything entered my sleep. As a result I came into the race hopeful if not confident.
The Dublin 2016 half marathon. I had not run a competitive race since the Oldcastle 5k in July, two and a half months ago. So there were lots of unknowns in the air. The plan was to do 4.05s to begin, graduate into 4.00 and then push it out. If I got home in one piece I’d be happy, anywhere close to 1 hr 25 I’d be delighted.
Waiting at the start, inevitably a few minutes late with the rain now pelting down it would have been easy to see people beginning to groan. I couldn’t have been happier. The day was warm and despite the rain and the wind the conditions were perfect. What was more, I was back running.
1 – 5 k: The first 5 k went smoothly with an average pace of 3.58. It was a little a faster than planned but with a decent wind at our backs and a good section down-hill it didn’t feel overly fast and in fact I felt more than comfortable.
6 – 10 k: The next 5 k was around the 4.01 mark as my pace stabilised, I got in a banana and some water. At 6 k I did feel I had to work a little keep close to the 4 minute kilometre pace but after a few kilometres effort it normalised.
11 – 15 k: With a few k downhill and the half-way mark passed I could feel myself still felling okay. I was working but not blowing hard so began to make strides averaging 3.54 a k. What was also encouraging was the I was gaining. I would pick a group ahead that seemed to be running well and slowly close the gap and then when I’d reach them, I’d actually find myself pushing ahead meaning the whole final half of the race I felt myself going forward as others drifted back even when we hit the most exposed part of the whole race down by the football fields.
16 – 20 k: Averaging about 3.53 at this stage I was starting to feel the burn but already inside of me I knew I could hang in at this as the final few kilometres counted down.
21 k home: A 3 40 last k. With a little over a 1,000 metres to go I gritted down and dug deep. Mixing up my 5 k PB with my half-marathon somehow I had thought I was a 1hr 23min 47 second man for the half and when I came within 3 k I thought the record was on. With 700 metre to go and the clock quickly becoming visible I felt I had it. All I needed to do was to put the hammer down with every second of pain home, another second off the PB.
I judged it to perfection, 1 hr 23 min 37 seconds. Exactly how I would have wanted to run the race and a time I was delighted with. Though on the way home I realised I was some 15 seconds outside of it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Happy out for the evening and back to the training board tomorrow. We might continue daring to dream but there is a lot of ifs, buts and maybes to come before marathon Sunday.
A 2 k warm-up and a 1 k warm-down. And in-between 13.1 miles in 1 hr 23 minutes 37 seconds.