Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Dunfermline Half Marathon

Well, it didn't quite feel like I was picking them up and laying them down today.

The weather was good. Sunny. Little wind. Temps in the low 60s. After a rainy, windy week here in Scotland, it was something to be thankful for.

There were 662 runners for the Dunfermline Half Marathon. It was the first time that I've done this race, and my second half-marathon ever.

With the runners line up, there was quite a bit of speech giving before the start. As we sweated a bit in the sun, most appeared eager to just start the race. What was interesting in what the speakers said was the repeated reference to the "current economic situation". The race was fortunate, I think one of the speakers said, to go ahead in these conditions. The withdrawl of sponsors had caused another upcoming half marathon, the Dundee Half, to be cancelled.

So, I was thinking to myself, it's interesting how the economic situation has permeated our everyday life. Who would have thought a few years ago that there would be references to the bad economy in the opening remarks before a race?

The race began and ended in a Dunfermline park, and was comprised of a loop that was done twice. After the start, I felt like I was trapped behind slower runners. I wanted to pace myself during the run, hoping to break 1:35 overall.

I passed people in the park, and eventually got to those who were running more my pace. I didn't want to go out too hard - I wanted to run a good pace, but comfortably.

My first mile was 6:42. Too fast. I deliberatly slowed up a bit. I wanted to run a bit over 7 mins per mile.

At mile two I was at 14:11 total. This was better, if not a trifle slow. The course wound through the town center of Dunfermline.

Mile three was 21:26. This was about right. There was a bit of up-and-down on the route.

Mile four: 28:55. OK, now I was slowing. The sun was out. I thought about an acquaintance who had a tough time in the London Marathon recently. It was hot, and she suffered. Here, I was ok, but would likely have to take on water.

Somewhere between miles four and five I took water. I always feel a twinge of guilt drinking just a bit of water from a bottle and leaving it at the side of the road. At home, I routinely save plastic bottles - it seems a shame to pitch something that is perfectly useful.

I don't remember my split at mile 5. The route was descending a bit, and I made a mental note that this would be good for the second lap. I was looking forward to miles 6 and 7, where my wife and children, with some friends, would be waiting to see me.

Mile 6 was at 43 mins something. This was slight slower than my mile 6 split in the previous half marathon I did 2 months earlier (the Alloa Half; I was 42 ish then). So, I was starting to think that beating my previous time might not be on the cards today.

Still, I felt good. I stopped keeping track of my split times after mile 6. Near mile 7 I started having twinges in my right illiotibial band, a problem that appears when I run beyond what I am apparently ready for, but it wasn't significant. I was hoping that the longer runs I'd done in the aftermath of the Alloa race would pay dividends in this respect. There I'd had significant pain after mile 11.

Mile 8 was a challenge. It seemed to be largely uphill. I just wanted to get it in the bag.

9 was better - the route levelled out. I thought it would be good to start picking people off, but I didn't feel quite that strong.

I was starting to get in my own world a bit as I looked for the mile 10 marker. Never saw it. The song "Hallelujah" kept playing in my head. I tried for something different, as the song wasn't really energising me, but I couldn't make anything stick. "All I've really learned from love, was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you...". Well, this was the mental song for today, no point in fighting it.

In the only full marathon I have done, the New York, 12 years ago, Alana Morrisette's "Thank You" seemed to power me through the miles. 3:54 there, in case you are wondering.

Somewhere after 10 I saw the familiar thin legs of an acquaintance from the local running club in my town. I'm not actually a member of this club, but I've run with them a good bit last fall and winter. I speeded up and confirmed that it was my acquaintance, and we chatted for a bit. He informed me that I'd passed 10 already.

I passed him temporarily. I was ok. My knee was fine, so the longer runs may well have helped.

After mile 11 I started flagging. 12 was a real challenge. The slight climbs through the town were really difficult - my legs seemed to have nothing left. My acquaintance had passed me, but he was still in view.

I was shattered when I re-entered the park. I just wanted to see the finish line. Finally, I rounded the last turn. I could feel someone on my tail, so I went all out. He didn't pass me.

1:37:17. A slight disappointment. This put me in 133rd place in a field of 662. So, from a percentile view, this was a bit better than my usual races (which are often hill races).

But, this was all I had. How can I run double this distance? I felt like I had nothing after mile 12.

Is qualifying a realistic goal?

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