After a disastrous attempt at Inverness Half Marathon in 2013, coming in at 2 hours 14 minutes with feet covered in blisters, I knew this could not go much worse this year. I was cautiously optimistic of having a good race though, as training has been going well, my parkrun times are coming down and I am feeling generally fit and healthy at the moment. This was until I stupidly ran parkrun too fast on Saturday morning and felt a muscle in my right calf tighten up and start to hurt. This was with me all of Saturday and left me hoping over night rest would help it and not see it stiffen up.
I had been planning for a wee while now to go for sub-2 hours. If I could do it, it would be the first time since 2012 that I have managed this and also the first time that I have done the same race twice and actually improved the second time. When I woke up in the morning, I dreaded getting up as that meant finding out how sore my calf was. Thankfully, when I did move I found it wasn’t too bad. A wee bit sore and stiff, but much better than the night before. I knew this meant I could run, but with Milan Marathon only 4 weeks away I was doubting my 2 hour HM.
Early doors (8am), four of us piled into Stu’s wee Panda who was not named Jim. (I mean really… who would name a car Jim? Hmm…) We headed to Inverness and arrived with loads of time to spare so proceeded to pick up our numbers and chill out for a while in the sports hall. Shortly before time, we went back to the car and I was persuaded to wear minimal clothing (basically loads of winter kit, but no jacket). I was soon to regret this, as standing in the start area the wind picked up and the rain started. Great!
Still undecided about my target pace and still feeling the calf slightly tight and sore, I started with Naomi and Rachel who were not pushing for a fast time today. Rachel has the D33 ultra next week and Naomi ran a blisteringly fast PB in Paris Half Marathon last week (not to mention also completing her 100th parkrun the day before). Off we went and almost straight away as I was getting caught up with the crowd I left them. I slowed and waited a little for them and was told by Rachel to go for it. I still wasn’t sure, but picked up the pace slightly to see how it felt. Turning the corner onto the bridge I got chatting to Fiona from parkrun who is in training for the London Marathon (and can be sponsored here). After a bit I decided that this pace felt fine. We went through the 1 mile marker and I checked my split and was happy with a 9:06. Slightly faster still felt comfortable, so I headed off and left Fiona to later find herself running a pb.
The next few miles had me running just whatever was comfortable. Each mile came in at between 8:30 and 9 minute mile pace which is quite a bit quicker than a 2 hour HM. I therefore told myself that I need to slow it down a little or else I would probably crash in the second half, but the few small hills that were there were comfortable, the calf pain/tightness had gone and I was passing people without too much of a problem so I kept pushing on for a while longer. I also saw a guy dressed in normal day to day non-running trainers, jacket and short who sprinted past everyone. I thought he’s going to suffer. Sure enough, along the road he’s at the side and holding his foot going “Argh, argh.” This was fine until he sprinted past again, and then stopped once more later on. I never did see him again, but would be very surprised if he finished.
Miles 6 and 7 went really well and by this time I was playing a game of “here’s where I suffered last year.” Not the best game in the world, but it passed the time and saw me hit my two quickest miles of the race so far; 8:18 and 8:16. Just before the 8 mile marker, the route takes us down a narrow street past this super-enthusiastic family with drums, symbols and jelly babies which were tantalisingly out of reach.
As I passed the 8 mile marker I realised that my legs were now tiring. Having ran 8 miles non-stop though and well on course for my 2 hours I made a deal with myself to try for one more steady mile. Sooner than I realised, we were on to the 9 mile marker and my Garmin read that I just ran an 8:24. Very happy with this and the tired legs feeling had passed, so I pushed on to do an 8:33 and then 8:05.
Mile 11 to 12, was probably my toughest mentally in the race. I had to tell myself that in only 2 miles I will have completed the complete race without one single walk break and kept reminding myself that I was still on course for my sub-2 hour half marathon that I had dreamed about.
The final mile in this race is a particularly tough one. It feels such a long way down the length of the river, round the park and through the back with a lap of the track. There was one guy kept darting past a group of runners, realising he was too fast and couldn’t run at that speed then slowed down. He was quite annoying so I sped up a little and left him behind. As I turned the corner I heard Stu shouting for me. This gave me a huge boost and I picked up my pace. Had to dodge some people who decided the just wanted to chat and pushed up the side of the park with Stu running alongside. As I crossed the road, I realised I could not keep this up and slowed a little bit. Round the fence, in the back and onto the track I felt I had a little more to give. As the two inside lanes were full, I opted for the third lane and pushed on as hard as I could. I hear my name being shouted from the crowd (I later discovered that this was Phil from parkrun). I saw the clock at this point and although it was a little blurry I could see it was 1:52. I stopped my Garmin as I went over the line at 1:51 and could not believe it.
A fantastic race overall. Brilliant organisation, good value for money, very good medals and T-Shirts, police presence on route and road closures/partial closures. The atmosphere in the hall and the start/finish areas was brilliant. Conditions on the day were perfect after the first mile. Right temperature, dry and no dazzling sunshine.
Chip Position: 725/1711
Gender Position: 579 of 1255
Category Position: 328 of 685
Overall Position: 750/1711
Chip Time: 01:51:14
Gun Time: 01:52:52