Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Manchester City Half-Marathon

On Sunday, November 4th, I tried to salvage what's left o my Chicago Marathon fitness into a half-marathon PR. I'd run 1:40:12 at a half on a cool March day on as close to a perfectly flat course as one can get in this part of the world. While I was hoping to go 1:38:30 (7:30/mile pace), anything under 1:40 would have sufficed. The Manchester course is very hilly overall, rising from the end of mile 1 to mile 5.5, with major hills at miles 2-3 and 7-8.5. The poor marathoners had to run with us halfers for one loop, then bear right for another 13+ miles, as we bore left on Elm Street for a screaming quarter-mile straightaway.

Since I was not sure about my fitness and I had a healthy respect for the hills, I went out conservatively (which is to say pretty darned slow). For the first 5 miles, my splits ranged between 7:44 and 7:59. I covered mile 6 in 7:20, using the downhill to make up a little time, but by then I knew that 1:38:30 was not happening. I saw a guy right in front of me at around mile 5 pull up with what might have been a ruptured achilles tendon. I stopped to see if he was okay, and he said he was. Don't think he ran another step, and I hope he's okay.

The biggest hill on the course started just as we hit the 10K mark, and continued until just shy of the 8 mile mark. I kept my head up and back straight as I passed runners up the steepest climb, nonetheless logging my slowest mile of the day, 8:26. Knowing the course, I decided to attack after that, unconcerned with the modest hills which remained. The next five mile splits were 7:36, 7:27, 7:19, 7:24 and 7:36. Once I crested the last hill, I had plenty of gas left in the tank, and I ran mile 13 in 6:35. As the race gods would have it, the last major downhill was offset by a strong headwind, but I didn't care.

As I pushed towards the final 400 meters, I thought that maybe, just maybe, 1:39:xx was still possible, and I ran as hard as I could. My Garmin Forerunner 305 recorded a peak pace of under 4:30 per mile, which was probably off, but I'm sure I was running around or under 5:00/mile pace in that last stretch. Sadly, I was all alone, with no one within 20 seconds of me in front or behind. Gun time (no starting mat) was 1:40:13. I came up with 1:40:03, since I started about 5 seconds back and didn't press the stop button for about 5 seconds after crossing the finish line. Between the water stations, the Achilles guy and a shoe tongue adjustment at around mile 10, there went my sub-1:40. Oh well . . . I'll run another half in late winter/early spring and atone.

Funniest moment of the race (and possibly of any race I've run) was the ear-piercing, blood-curdling shriek as a male runner opened a port-o-potty door at around mile 2, only to find a female runner taking care of business. She was in such a rush, she didn't latch the door. :-)

Looking back, I wish I'd been a bit more aggressive on the hills, especially early, and I plan to do hill repeats at least once every 10-14 days during my winter mileage base maintenance. I also hope to make 40-mile weeks my norm, building up to a 60-mile peak during the next marathon training cycle.

Truth is, I hope I never feel like I had a perfect race, or I may walk away feeling too satisfied and leave running behind.

No comments: