On Sunday 20th September I found myself lining up for what would be my fourth English Half Marathon.
Since attending the event in 2012 I have posted the following times:
2012 – 2:02.46
2013 – 1:47.53
2014 – 1:48.34
Since 2013 I had been chasing the ever elusive sub 1:45.00 half marathon. I’d been close on numerous occasions in various races but somehow it seemed to fall through my grasp time and time again. It was usually in the last three miles that the wheels came off my half marathon and the goal was lost.
With that being said I was confident that this year was the year. I knew the course and I knew where I could push on so this year I was going to give it a right good bash. Signing up on New Year’s Eve last year (before the price rise) seemed like a good idea at the time. But then, a few months later, an email arrived informing me that there was a new course for 2015. Thinking about it negatively at the time I was fairly gutted. The fear of the unknown threw me somewhat. Gone was the start and finish in Victoria Park instead opting for a start on Winmarleigh Street and a finish through the golden gates of the town hall. The more I started to look at the course the more I thought that it might actually benefit me. Gone was the bit I hated around seven mile where you ventured off road for a bit. Also gone was the drag from mile 12 where you hit the park before venturing on to the running track for the finish.
As per the previous year I’d given the Park Royal in Stretton my custom. It had been an amazing stay the year before so it seemed right not to change it. One thing I did change though was getting there a little earlier and, rather than eating at the hotel restaurant, I scoured the area for the nearest takeaway/restaurant. A quick scan on google and I found the nearest takeaway was 3 miles down the road. So I took a leisurely stroll down London Road which covered the three miles throughout and ended up at the Stretton Fryer. Probably not the healthiest thing to be eating the night before a race but I ended up bagging myself a fishcake and chips and eating it on the return leg back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel I went through my hip stretches while taking in the horror of The X Factor. That show seems to get worse with every passing year. This year just seems to be incredibly more staged than any other. But I was merely passing time until Match of the Day and my inevitable date with the sandman.
I woke at 6am and felt fairly refreshed. Luckily the restaurant had said that I could grab breakfast earlier than the 7:30 opening time so I could grab a taxi at 7:45. Not being sure of where the baggage drop was I wanted to get down a little earlier than usual to make sure I found everything. Yet again The Park Royal was brilliant so there’s every possibility that I’ll be booking in there again in 2016.
The baggage drop, as it turned out, was just opposite where the finish line would be. There was a minimum size of bag that they’d accept this year and there’s every possibility that this rule was brought in after I rocked up with my massive case last year. One thing I’ve finally learnt this year is how to pack light.
The half hour pre-race consisted mainly of a trip to the loo and the usual warm ups before heading over to the start area. My plan was to position myself around where the 1:40.00 pacer would be and follow him for as long as possible. But, he was nowhere to be seen and, as the time drew nearer to the start, I found myself being ushered further and further forward to the 1:30.00 start area.
9am soon came and we set off. Same as the previous year both the half marathon and 10k set off at the same time and would run together for around two miles before the groups split and were sent off in different directions.
The first mile meandered around the town centre a little before making our way past Victoria Park and picking up the course as per previous years. Just after mile two the groups split and the half marathon lot headed over to the left while the 10k group went off to the right.
By mile three I was looking fairly good and found myself hitting 23 minutes. It was around this point that the 1:40.00 pacer passed me. My plan was to hang as close to him as possible until mile eight and see how I was going from there.
I hit seven miles at 54 minutes and, rather than slowing down as I usually did around this point, I found myself keeping up the pace.
As predicted I’d managed to keep the pacer in sight until just after mile eight before he dropped the hammer a little and started to widen the gap. I was fairly comfortable at this point with the pace I was doing and I was confident that if I kept this pace up then I’d have a really good race.
Hitting mile 10 at 1:18 saw me heading back towards Warrington town centre and passing Victoria Park again at mile 11 in 1:26. The route zig-zagged around the town centre before passing Warrington Central Railway Station and heading towards The Halliwell Jones Stadium (home of Rugby League’s Warrington Wolves). I was surprised when we were then directed into the stadium to run past the pitch and then through the corridors of the stadium before heading back out and through the town centre.
There was less than a mile to go now and I was checking my watch a lot more. I knew I was going well but it was going to be touch and go whether sub 1:45.00 was on or not. I gutted it out through the town centre and picked the pace up a bit. It wasn’t long before Winmarleigh Street was in sight again and the gates to the finish came in to view.
Rounding the corner towards the gates and the sprint to the finish was on.
I crossed the line and checked my watch to see 1:44.02. I knew I was slow to switch my watch on whilst crossing the start line so I thought it may be a little out. But it was pretty clear that I’d definitely done sub 1:45.
I was chuffed to bits. On checking the results later it turned out I’d done 1:44.00 on the nose. I’d also managed to put over two minutes into the pushy guy from last year. Remember him? If not check out the blog post from the English Half Marathon last year.
It was time to chill out a little before getting sorted again for the 12:30 start of the Livewire Mile. As part of the events some music acts were playing in the event village and I managed to catch a band whom I really enjoyed called Last Race Home. It’s worth checking them out if you’re into a folky/acoustic vibe with a Mancunian twang. You can find them at this link.
It wasn’t long before it was 12:30 and the Livewire Mile was soon underway. Some of the younger kids were fairly rapid around that course while I managed to put in a gentle 7:32.15.
As part of the event I’d pre-signed up for both the Half Marathon and Livewire mile and as such I was entitled to also pick up a X2 medal in recognition of attempting both distances. So it meant that I ended up going home with three medals. It’s all about the bling.
Confidence is up and I’m pleased as punch that I’ve finally dipped under 1:45 for the half marathon. The course change was brilliant and most runners seemed to enjoy it and the event itself was well organised as always a big thanks from me to the event organisers for making everything easy for us runners to just rock up and run. You can find more about The English Half Marathon here.
All being well a sub 3:45 is on for Dublin but I’m still just taking each race as it comes. Next up for me is The Cumbrian Run on 4th October.
I’m still fundraising for Cure Rett at this link.
You can find me on Facebook at this link.
And you can tweet me @SteveNaive1980