This morning I ran the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon.
It’s a great course, with all the hardest ‘coastal’ parts in the first eight miles- it takes you along gravelly off road paths and sections of beach where your feet sink into a mixture of shingle and sludge, and over grassy playing fields. Then, knowing the technically hardest part is behind you, there is a glorious long, very straight ‘home straight’ along the seafront promenade where you can pick up speed again. Except it’s not the home straight. At around eleven miles, exactly as you are starting to push for the finish, it tests your mettle by taking you past the finish line and and out along the seafront in the opposite direction to loop back round.
I finished in a dubious 1:39:39 – a full five minutes slower than the same course at the same point in my training last year.
There are some explanations for this. First, the race conditions were worse. The wind was far stronger than I remember last year and the playing fields were so sodden they might as well have been ploughed – last year we were in the middle of a drought. I prepared better last year, timed my breakfast better, was better hydrated.
Most importantly, on the day of this race last year I was on the best running form of my life. At eight miles I was remonstrating with myself for running far too fast, without succeeding in slowing myself down. “Martines, it’s too early for this kind of speed, you’ll never keep it up til the finish…” I did. I was chasing a six foot beanpole called Mark (he had his name written across his t-shirt shoulders where my gaze was fixed in focus). At about eleven miles I overtook him, at which point there was no way I was slowing down, in case he whipped out some sort of sprint finish, where the length of his legs would be a definite advantage. I flew over the finish line – the sixth woman to cross it – and struggled to breathe properly or stop coughing for quite a while afterwards. That felt like glory. I want it back.
So – are those good enough reasons to explain away five minutes? All of these factors could justify a couple of minutes, maybe even three, but five minutes can lead to only one conclusion: more training required.
If I’m honest, when was the last time I went to bed with truly aching legs? And woke up with the ache still there, accompanied by a sort of grim satisfaction at going off to exercise them some more? I’ve been paying lip service to my training plan this year, and if I want a PB in the London Marathon (which I do), that stops now. Bring on the next 8 weeks of training. Bring back my glory….
You ain’t seen nothing yet.