What Was I Thinking?
On Sunday, I ran a half marathon. It wasn’t in the plan. I had a nice mental race calendar going on, with the highlight being a fabulously well organized, beautiful but brutal coast path run (http://www.mudcrew.co.uk). I’ve been looking forward to it for 12 months. For some reason, I toyed with the idea of entering a half the week before. After careful deliberation and a “why not?”, I secured my bib number in the nick of time.
In The Zone?
When I am set to race, I’m usually pumped right up. I don’t sleep well the night before because I am riddled with excitement and nerves, with the usual “Will I do ok? Will I get the time I want?” revolving round in my head.
With this half marathon, I didn’t feel so enthusiastic. Over breakfast, I commented that I had “a feeling” about it which, lets face it, isn’t a good starting point. I had doubts for a number of reasons. First of all, it wasn’t in the plan. Spontaneity is good but the race that mattered to me most was a week later. I think I was apprehensive about jeopardising it. The adrenaline wasn’t working it’s usual magic and the difference was apparent.
Secondly, it’s advertised as a fast, flat course. Fine. I have done loads of hill reps and heaven only knows how many steps I’ve run up and down over the past months to build up my resilience. A flat course should be a walk in the park. This wasn’t helpful for my mindset though. I put considerable pressure in myself before the race started, believing I should be able to sustain sub 9:00 min miles at least for the duration of the course. To be fair, I’m capable, I have the pace but telling myself that wasn’t the best motivator. This is Cornwall, there are no other fast, flat runs. I felt I had to go for broke.
The First Half (of the half)
The first 3 or 4 miles pace-wise were fine. I was sub 7:30, 7:45, and 8:45, yet for some reason my brain wouldn’t connect with my body. The mental messages going through my mind were unhelpful, and by mile 4, my legs felt like they were made of metal – heavy, dense, and an effort to pick up. Good old maladaptive thoughts prevailed, you know the usual stuff, “I can’t do this,” “this is awful,” “I will never do this in under 2 hours.” Usually, such doubts are quickly squashed by getting caught up in the event, the atmosphere, and knowing I have what it takes to complete the course.
By mile 6 I was crying. Running and weeping. Ridiculous. Even the brass band in the middle of the trail didn’t perk me up. Some lovely runners offered encouragement and it was a case of taking it mile by mile. Sometimes, 0.3 of a mile at a time. I must have walked for part of every mile; something else that wasn’t in the plan.
Red Rag To a Bull…
Things changed a bit around mile 9 to 10. Sure, there’s only about 5k to go, that was a good reframe for me. The thing that drove me on and made me think, “THAT definitely isn’t happening” is seeing a runner with headphones. If there is one thing I don’t like, it’s cheating. As soon as I saw her wearing them, I decided in an instant I was going to come in ahead of her. It felt good to have something to spurn me on. I tried to claw back some time, knowing the sub 2 goal was long gone. I wish I had seen her at mile 5.
Ifs, Buts and Maybes
Looking back, obviously it wasn’t my best race. I didn’t enjoy the experience but I’m hoping it was a poor rehearsal for the race yet to happen. I don’t feel rubbish though. If I had my phone on me, I probably would have made a call and asked to be picked up. A DNF would have been worse under the circumstances. Afterwards, I was sure there was no way I would want do that half marathon again. Thanks but no thanks. That feeling didn’t last as long as my achey legs. Indian Queens, I think we have unfinished business, I might be back next year. I have a score to settle.
Happy running, Penny.