Sub-1:50 half marathon: Week 12

And so it begins – the final countdown. This time next week I will have hopefully completed the Waltham Forest Half Marathon, I will be back in the neighbouring borough, my beloved Haringey, and I will be sitting in a restaurant or pub somewhere allowing my body to recover with the aid of a good steak and a pint of Doombar.

It’s strange to think that in a week’s time my days will no longer be ruled by the training plan on my bedroom wall and the mornings will be my own again. It’s strange to think that my Sunday afternoon’s won’t be spent filling y’all in on my week’s sneaker activity. It’s strange to think that my regular-clothes:running-clothes ratio may revert from the current 50:50 to a slightly less weird 80:20. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll want to do with those extra hours in the morning, or what I’ll think about during quiet moments in the evenings… Can runners develop Stockholm Syndrome-type relationships with their training regimes? If so, I’m surely at risk.

Then again, I went out to the pub on Friday for the first time in what felt like forever and it was definitely a pastime I could get into again.

I am now officially tapering, having cut back my running over the last few days. My last tough session was Wednesday, my Friday long run was shortened, and my Saturday parkrun was slow. My training this forthcoming week is even less intense. It’s also just less: 3 sessions, not 4, and each run is just a few miles at target race pace. You might think that I am spending my newly acquired spare time going out on jollies and adventures, but alas I am not. In a diehard attempt at damage limitation to ensure I turn up on the start line with no bugs or niggles I am staying indoors and washing my hands a lot. I’ve also been forced to weigh up the pros and cons of my daily commute: do I risk my normal cycle ride to work, alongside maniacal delivery drivers that insist on steering me into the potholes of Cambridge Heath Road, or do I cough up for a week of tube journeys, surrounded by the germ-ridden general populous of London? (The tube has won this one, as I figured a cold would be easier to run with than a broken leg.)

In 7 days time I will have just a couple of hours to demonstrate what my body has learned and practiced in the last 13 weeks. That’s a pretty big task and one that I would love to be distracted from – until Sunday morning arrives at least. I admit it is strange that someone who claims to want to be distracted from an upcoming race is spending so much time thinking (and writing) about it. But that is unfortunately the trouble with tapers (and blogs) – at the point in your training when you would most like to be busy and distracted you are forced to sit still, stay indoors, twiddle your thumbs and think about the task ahead. Sigh…

Here is a list of things that I am currently worrying about:

  1. I won’t run my target time
    This is probably the most common worry to plague a runner during their taper.
  2. I won’t get to the start line on time
    This is also a pretty common worry, but a worthwhile one. After all, public transport has a habit of letting us down when we need it most.
  3. The weather
    Again, a very common concern, but given the temperamental and quite frankly arctic conditions in the UK at the moment I think this concern is valid. I’m not sure I’m tough enough to run in my usual race gear (club vest and 3/4 length leggings), but I don’t want the sun to make a cameo appearance if I trot out in my full length tights and long sleeved top either.
  4. I will get lost on the course
    This is a very real possibility. Read about Lewis Birchon’s adventure en route in 2011, or for even more disturbing reading, check out the Runners’ World reviews from 2010. I did not know this when I signed up…
  5. I will get run over while crossing one of the many roads/roundabouts/dual carriageways
    Again a very real possibility. The email newsletters from the race organisers have told us to “be careful”.
  6. Bored teenagers pretending to be marshals
    After my last encounter with Chingford’s teenagers had me being followed by a Ford Fiesta full of hormonal perverts I have lost faith in the borough’s support of recreational running. I genuinely fear being sent the wrong way for the amusement of bored youths.
  7. My knees will hurt
    I fear my tight abductors and playful left IT band start playing up again despite foam rolling, sports massaging and stretching. Every twinge and ache sends me into a nervous panic at the moment.

I wish I could tell you that I am rising above these worries and busying myself. I have, after all, a to-do list as long as my arm (both bikes need a spring clean, road bike’s headset needs cleaning/adjusting, bookshelves need organising, research needs doing, upcoming seminar needs planning, article needs writing…). But I’m not. Instead I am checking bus timetables, calculating split times, studying the course map, and researching the risks involved in pre-race ibuprofen consumption. I’m focused, I’m fidgety and I’m getting fed up.

Monday: Rest
I stopped my weekly strength sessions this week as part of my damage limitation strategy.

Tuesday: 4 x race pace miles, 2 minutes rest
This session was good. Really good in fact. My miles are still a little fast – closer to 8:00/mile than my target 8:15 – but I assume that when I’m trying to run 13.1 of them in succession my legs will be a little bit more co-operative when I try to reign the pace in…

Wednesday: 3 x (0.8 miles @ HMP, 0.2 miles @ 10K)
This sucked. I wanted to run 4 reps, but I felt like a bag of crap and my pacing sucked. I was tired from Tuesdays session and cycle commute and couldn’t hold my pace up the hills in the park. I basically ran 3 miles at 8:00/mile again and went home feeling rather defeated.

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Long run (10 miles with last mile at race pace)
As Friday was a Bank Holiday, my girlfriend joined me on this last long run. I’ve been cramming in the miles for the last 12 weeks and taken my long runs up to 14 miles, but the GF only started training a few weeks ago and so this is her longest run so far. We hit the hills of Hampstead Heath as I gave my new, white Nike Lunarglide’s a baptism of fire along the muddy paths. The run was nice and slow, just as it should be, with an impromptu final mile at race pace (8:00/mile again dammit). That last mile felt really great, striding out after a week of training that has felt really quite slow.


The new shoes are being worn in before next week’s race. I had hoped to try a new racing shoe, but as the day approached quickly I chickened out and replaced my worn out pink Lunarglides with the white and lime green version (very SS13, don’t you think?). I’ve been running in these shoes for a year and a half now and love how the dynamic support system supports my flipper-flat feet without making them feel like they’re imprisoned in some kind of gait-altering torture device (read: Asics Kayano).

In the evening I went to the V&A’s late night bicycle extravaganza, Eat, Ride, Sleep, Repeat. I saw some incredible BMX dudes doing their fast-spinny thing with attitude, was mesmerized by my introduction to synchronised cycling courtesy of Ill-Studio (beats courtesy of Boys Noize and Erol Alkan), and learned about Giuliano Calore, a man who cycled up and down some of Europe’s steepest mountain roads without using his hands, and one time while also playing 4 different musical instruments in turn.


My life seems much richer for this experience.
Not kidding.
Anyone fancy joining me on their fixie? I wanna have a go at this synchronised cycling shit…

art-cycle-girlsApparently synchronized cycling used to be an Olympic sport and is still very popular in Germany and China. I am now a little bit obsessed with learning more about this sport.

Saturday: My last parkrun
This last parkrun was at target race pace and it felt really good and relaxed. Here’s hoping that at least some of the half marathon feels as relaxed as those 3.1 miles did! I’m feeling confident that I will hold target pace for the first half of the race at least. After all – I have raced 10Ks faster – but beyond that 6 miles is ‘the unknown’… I’ve heard that the unknown hurts a whole bunch.

Sunday: Rest
I took the tube to work and battled the urge to eat my week’s supply of dinner.


4 thoughts on “Sub-1:50 half marathon: Week 12

  1. I think you’ll find that you run faster on the half marathon than you run in training. Whether its the adrenaline, competing with other runners or having folk cheer you on it does seem to improve times a bit.


    1. I sure hope you’re right, David! I’m not sure how many supporters we’ll get on the dual carriageways, but I’m looking forward to the adrenaline and the competition. I’ll get a race report up as soon as energy returns to me post-race.


  2. I agree with David. And the first part of the race is downhill too so you will probably dip below 8min/mile. That’s not necessarily a problem as long as gravity is causing the speed. I agree with you about the getting lost thing: the challenge of wayfinding is definitely my least favourite aspect of this run.


    1. Race pack arrived this morning – got yours? Yet another map and instructions that it is the runner’s responsibility to know the way! Who knows, maybe we’ll get a taste for orienteering…


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