A few weeks ago I signed up to run this year's Springbank Half Marathon here in London and this past weekend was race day. One of our readers, Chris, had asked me if I was going to race it and if I would like to try and go sub-1:30 with him. Why not, let's give it a shot! I had about a month or so to train at that point and it was one of my goals for the year to get under the 1:30 mark.
A few days before the race, Chris emailed me and said that he didn't think 1:30 was going to happen for him and that he understood if I wanted to just run on my own…that wasn't going to happen, we were at least starting this race together! By the way, this was going to be his first Half ever!
The race was Sunday morning at 8:00 down at Springbank Park, which is only about 10 minutes away from home. The weather couldn't have been any better…after having temperatures into the 100's on Friday, the humidity broke on the weekend and it was a beautiful sunny mid-50's morning…PERFECT.
I met up with Chris 15 minutes before race time and we chatted a bit about nerves and what to expect. I had been putting in some really strong runs lately, but the longest distance I had run since my Half Ironman was only 10 miles, so I was a little concerned about that last 5K. In order to go under 1:30, I would need to run a pace of 4:15/km (6:48/mile)…Chris was prepared to run around 4:30/km (7:12/mile) and I decided that would be a perfect pace to start out at.
The crowd was gathering at the start line so we went to go find our spot, working our way through the crowd towards the front. I went to sync my watch to the satellite, but it was a no go (didn't sync until we were 800m in!)…the gun went off though, so it was go time! Chris and I took off and carved our way through traffic, going a little too quick in the 4:20/km range (7:00/mile). Once we were a kilometre or so into the race things began to thin out a bit and we were able to settle into a better pace, closer to the goal pace of 4:30. We cruised around the first loop before heading out into the park system, and we ran down the hill and saw Michelle and Rhoda cheering us on.
Chris and I chatted a little bit, making sure we were both feeling good and that the pace was manageable. We ended up running together for the first 7km, which works out to be a third of the race, and then it was time for me to kick it into gear if I wanted to get under the 1:30 mark. We were running around a 4:35/km pace, so I had some work to do!
I kicked it into high gear right away and started ripping off some quick miles…I settled into my pace in the low 4:00's. I was now passing lots of people and my confidence was building. Around 10K I came out of the park for a short stretch through some neighbourhood streets and saw some friends out with their dog cheering runners on…it was a nice bit of support seeing friendly faces. Then it was back into the park for the turnaround, and shortly after that I saw Chris again going the other way. He was looking good at that point and we high-fived and continued on our ways.
The back stretch of this race is a bit more uphill than the out, but I run the course almost daily during the week so there were no surprises. I powered up the hills where I needed to and used the descents to my advantage. I was feeling great and was really flying. I was still passing people and was running really strong…the runners I passed were all commenting on how good I was looking which was nice to hear. I was at 10 miles and my overall pace was down to 4:17, so I knew I had a real shot to go under 1:30. I only needed to trim another 2 seconds off my average pace.
Heading into the final 5K stretch I turned it up one more notch…I was now running 6:30 miles. I ate my last Honey Stinger chew and washed it down with a splash of water and set off to cover the last 5K as quick as I could. Michelle and Rhoda were near the water station and caught me mid-gulp. The last two kilometres of the race are all uphill, and this stretch is affectionately known around here as "That Dam Hill" as there is a dam right beside it on the river, and there is plenty of cursing from runners. I gave the hill a good kick and it barely slowed me at all. I have never felt so strong at this point and throughout a Half as I did today…I really think that running the first 7K with Chris set me up for a strong race.
I made the final turn and had just one kilometre to go. I could see a handful of runners ahead of me and wanted to pass them all, so I really dropped the hammer. I covered that last kilometre in 3:52 and passed them all…Michelle snapped the above picture of me just before the finish line and you can see the strain of that final push. I saw the clock ahead showing 1:29:xx and I knew I had done it…I crossed the line and my official time was 1:29:16. A new PR and sub-1:30!
I grabbed some water and a banana and then waited with Michelle and Rhoda for Chris to finish. It didn't take long and we saw him come down the final stretch…I decided to go out and run the last bit with him and cheer him across the line for his first half marathon. He finished in a little over 1:40, a great showing for sure…way to go Chris!
It was a great day to race and we made the most of it…PR's for both of us! The weather couldn't have been any better, I got to run with a new running buddy and we had some great support out on the course. We even got to bring some wee bugs home as souvenirs…here's how I looked after crossing the line, and Chris' forehead looked about the same way too…
Thanks for all the great pictures Michelle! Some of your best work