My strategy for the East Kilbride half-marathon, my third ever, was to go out slow.
My first mile was 7:09. The temperature was cool, and the skies overcast. It was a perfect day for racing. I chatted with a woman who's sister studied where I teach. It felt like I was just jogging, really, but I wanted to stick to my strategy. If I ran 7:15s or better for the race, I'd set a personal best time and break 1:35.
Mile two was slightly downhill, and came in at 13:54. However, I felt that the speed-up was due to the terrain, and not intrinsic.
3 was 21:12. I tried to keep the mental arithmetic of my time straight - on my goal pace, I should have hit mile 3 at 21:45. As long as I was under this, I would achieve my goal time.
Mile 4 was 28:20. The race route was made up of two loops. I wanted to stay in an easy pace for the first half of the race, and then see where I was.
5 was 35:32, but had a steady climb. 6 was 43:02.
I missed the sign for mile 7. Mile 8 seemed to feel very long, and I was thinking that I must, unfortunately, be tiring.
Then I saw the mile mark - 9! 1:03:21. I was feeling a little soreness in my knee, but was fine. I put my head down and concentrated on trying to catch the runner ahead of me. Once I'd real in him or her, I'd go for the next person.
As I passed on guy I asked him how it was going. "Terrible" he said, and he seemed to be struggling.
I didn't check my times at 10 or 11. At 12 I was 1:21:24. All I had to do is run the last 1.1 miles in less than 8:36 and I'd break 1:35. I tried to pick up the pace, although I was tired. However, in this race, unlike my previous two half-marathons, I wasn't shattered in the last miles.
I passed an incredibly thin guy who was stopped and bent over. He passed me and then stopped again. I passed him, and headed into the stadium. As I rounded the turn toward the finish on the track, I could see the clock 1:33:42... 43.. I sprinted, and finished at 1:33:47.
So, I'd beat my previous best time by almost 2 minutes. The conditions were great, and the course was relatively flat, so I don't know how much I can credit the strategy of going out slow... but I did feel much better in the final miles.