Sunday 28 June 2015

Juneathon day 28/30 - Race Report: Hitchin hard half marathon

I was a bit worried about today's Hitchin hard half marathon - half marathons seem to present the perfect balance of distance vs time vs effort to irritate my ITBS. Both bouts have been brought on by halves, both by the same half in fact - the Royal Parks Half, and both times I've been disillusioned and off running for at least six months afterwards.

Today's course was very different to those. Far fewer people, significantly more climbing and descending, and the 28th day of my Juneathon run streak (as explained earlier, actually the 30th day running in a row).

Mrs was running it too (her race report is here) - a big challenge and milestone for her as she continues her recovery from ankle surgery. To think that just 5 months ago she couldn't walk, and is now toeing the line at a hilly half. Much love and respect for that.

The route, a rough lollypop shape

We were off at 9:30, a couple of repetitions of a hill in the grounds of The Priory, and then out onto the open road. The roads were not closed to traffic so we had to keep an eye and an ear out for cars (no headphones allowed!), but it didn't cause any trouble - the roads were very quiet.

My race plan was to finish strong, I wasn't particularly concerned about time but two hours is a nice benchmark. I set off at a measured pace, cadence high, breathing easily. I walked the particularly steep hills, probably about five walking periods during the race.

Like always, most people started too fast and put too much effort in up the hills. For the first quarter I let people run away, I was fairly near the back but I knew I'd see them again. The middle half I saw the same faces. They'd run past me as I hiked up hill, then I'd set off at the top and overtake them easily as I was fresher. Repeat (several times!).

You can clearly see an increase in pace starting from about 1:30 - and the sprint finish!

The day was humid but stayed mainly dry until the last quarter. I decided to start seeing what I had in the tank and was easily able to draw people in and overtake. The light drizzle turned to rain in the last few km, I pushed harder. I overtook many more people in the last quarter than I was expecting to - a sign of good pacing control at the start, saving myself by walking the hills, and having some gas in the tank.

There's a long shallow uphill to get back to the grounds of the Priory, that part I found quite sapping, but pushed on. For the last km I was wondering if I might make it under two hours - it was going to be tight. The finish was on a grassy downhill, so I pushed hard, overtook a few people (including blowing past two guys who were in the middle of a sprint to the line!) and stopped my watch.

It doesn't look too bad seen on the graph - felt a lot lumpier at the time...

My watch read 2:00:13! I'll have to wait for the official result, but I doubt it'll disagree by as much as the 14 seconds I'd need to get under 2 hours. I'm very happy with my performance, and the race. Mrs ran well too, coming in well in the bracket she was aiming for. After a nice cup of tea, and unexpected chat with my friend Bob who it turns out is part of the race organising team, it was back to the in-laws for buckets of tea and a massive fry-up - perfect!

Looks like I'll have to come back next year for the sub-2!

My Juneathon totals: 28 runs for 241.25km in 25:27:55

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