(With apologies to the late Ed Hillary.)
On Sunday I ran my first ever half marathon as part of the Christchurch SBS Marathon. Before then the longest I’d ever run was about 15 kilometres and that was a fairly casual affair. One of my workmates is a bit of an athlete and has run both the SBS and the Buller half marathons previously and after three years taking part in the Waikari Fun Run and Walk I figured it might be time to get a little more serious.
I wouldn’t class myself as an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I was a fat, asthmatic kid who studiously managed to avoid doing PE all the way through high school. It wasn’t till I was about 18 that I discovered cycling (both road and off-road) and spent a few years racing club events in both disciplines – never with any huge success but with a fair degree of resolve.
Being in my late thirties, and eternally petrified of regressing to my youthful physique, I tend to do a fair bit of physical stuff. Most mornings I either knock of a couple of km in the pool or go for a bit of a run – but a full blown 21.1km was something completely new for me. I’ve always remembered the words quoted by Rowan Simpson;
The half marathon is 16km of hope followed by 5km of truth
I had no idea what sort of time to aim for – I’m a pretty competitive sort of guy, but then again am not in any way, shape or form a runner. I kind of figured anything under 2 hours, and with no walking, would do me fine. At the back of my mind a sub 1:40 would make me happy and a 1:30 pretty ecstatic.
I had a pretty poor build up to the race – after a week spent in Denver (some call it altitude training – I just call it jet lag) I came back home with the intention of making the last two weeks before the race count. Unfortunately those two weeks included 3 separate trips away and the four days before the actual race out of action with the flu.
Race day thus dawned with me coughing and spluttering and the weather forecast promising wind chill of –9 degrees Celsius and sleet.
As it happened, despite a brief hail storm just before the start, and other than some bitterly cold winds, the weather for the race was pretty reasonable.
I seem unable to do any sort of physical activity on a full stomach so my strategy was to eat well the night before the race, and then go into the event having taken on no solids or liquids – I know it sounds like a bizarre way of doing things but it seems to work for me. The unknown was how I’d feel in terms of energy nearing the end of the event.
I managed to get a good start, putting myself near the front to avoid the inevitable trip-ups – and had a fantastic pair of pace-setters (thanks to Aubrey Begley #1123 and Ruby Morgan (yes – of *that* Morgan dynasty) #2224), for 8km and 12km respectively. I felt really good for the first 10km or so, and less-so, but still ok, for the next 8km.
About the 18km mark I started to fade – the flu was taking its toll and I was also rapidly running out of energy. I managed to keep it together and other than being passed by a few people, kept going through to the end.
My final time upon crossing the line was 1:32:29 which, considering the build-up, the weather and my novice status, I was really stoked with. Of the 2300-odd bodies doing the half I managed to break into the top 200.
So I’ll be back again for sure – I’m mulling over whether to try for a sub 1:30 or just to dive in and go for a full marathon – I’ll ruminate over that in the next few months I guess.