It was fitting, heading into week 10, that the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon should be taking place last weekend. I will be away for the half marathon set out in the training schedule, and I figured I should really get some experience under my belt. It was a last-minute decision; but following a successful 12-mile Sunday run, I was feeling confident.
I was feeling far less confident in the weeks before. So far, training has been great. I’ve been steadily improving, cutting significant minutes and then seconds off my shorter runs and really pushing beyond my expectations in terms of the distance I could do. But as the distance and hours spent on the road began to build, so too did the lactic acid and it began feeling like my legs were trapped in cement blocks from the hips down. Progress was a distant memory, I was regressing, struggling over shorter distances and beginning to doubt myself. Maybe this is as good as I would get, running somewhere between six and 10 miles. A far cry from the 26+ miles I’ve been planning to do. I began to question whether I would make the October deadline and all the elation and endorphins that had been driving me on over the first six weeks were slowly disappearing.
So, when I crossed the finish line at the Phoenix Park last Sunday, I was beyond delighted. And probably a little relieved too. I needed the half to go well, needed that confidence boost, perhaps, to push me on and into the next half. When I say I never thought I would ever run a half marathon, it’s no exaggeration. I genuinely believed I wasn’t made for running.
I was nervous setting out that morning. Had I eaten enough? Had I gotten enough sleep? Would I get to the start line on time? Would I be blown away by the high winds and rain that had been forecast?
Well, I got there with plenty of time to spare. I had a stretch and watched everyone else warming up, taking mental notes on what to try in the future. I watched as the crowds filed in and tried to calm my nerves. As I lined up, I was between the two-hour and 2:15 markers. With a 2:07 12-mile under my belt I figured the 2:15 markers would catch up on me and I would settle in behind them.
As I set off, everything felt good. The first six to seven miles were comfortable. I was happy with my pace and surprised, too, at maintaining it consistently over the distance, given the desire at times like this to try and keep up with other runners or to run with the crowd. As we ran through the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, I was looking over my shoulder for the 2:15 markers, still with a view to letting them lead the way. I didn’t see them again.
As we headed into the Phoenix Park, about an hour in, I felt strong, not too tired, but the hills loomed large in my mind’s eye. Tough buggers to cross in the latter half of the race and no friend to my knees (I’ll be working on my hill technique). So, I pushed as much as I could, but I’ll admit, I walked these hills in places. The legs said no, and I listened, and I’m glad I did. Across the flats in the last half they were happy out, and with the finish line in sight there was still energy enough for a final mad dash to the line. Relief, disbelief and joy, all at once.
A bonus to the success of this outing was the feeling afterwards. I was tired, certainly, but otherwise the body seemed to be holding up alright. However, in the week before the half, I had noticed a pain around my hip flexor and, in the week since that great day in the Park, that has become a problem. I’m not sure how much of a problem but we will soon find out. The physio appointment is booked and I’m hoping it’s a quick fix because I’m still on a runner’s high from the half marathon and I’m ready to push through and take on the next half.