I was already signed up for the Big Half marathon, due to be held in March 2019, when my London Marathon place was confirmed, but I thought it would be a great idea to try and work up to half-marathon distance before the New Year, so that I can go into my spring training plan with confidence. When I heard that some Walthamstow parkrun friends had signed up for the Hertfordshire Half marathon, I jumped at the chance – there’s nothing like an upcoming race to make sure you stick to your training!
With only 8 weeks of training before the race I was pretty worried about being under prepared. Luckily I was already in decent 10km shape, so it was just a question of pushing my fortnightly long runs out past 13km, 16km and up to 19km two weeks before the race.
Race day came around on a chilly November Sunday morning, with the picturesque Knebworth House estate shrouded in mist as we arrived. After trying to stay warm for an hour before the start, I completely misjudged when to join the portaloo queue, and ended up hearing the starting gun fire as I sprinted back past bag drop, missing any chance for a decent leg stretch. We were off!
I soon realised that while the beautiful rolling Hertfordshire countryside we ambled around may be lovely to look at, it is considerably hillier than East London! I do most of my training runs along the Lea Valley canal which is completely flat so it was a bit of a shock to be running up some serious gradient within the first kilometer – I started to wonder if I had made a mistake! The sun came out and the crowds carried me along at a pace slightly faster than in training, but I was feeling strong so decided to push on. There was a several mile long undulating out-and-back section of road which was quite fun to watch the speedy runners storm by before spotting my friends who were all ahead of me and doing well.
At one point we came out onto a stunning open stretch of countryside, with the green fields rolling down from us on either side, and I couldn’t help but run with a huge smile on my face. I had found my flow and was actually really enjoying the run! That feeling was quite short-lived unfortunately, as just before mile 10 we rounded a corner to see the road bank so sharply uphill, it may as well have been a mountain. After a good 1hr 45min of hard running, my legs were defeated and I had to walk most of the hill. To add insult to injury, there was one more killer hill left, this one at 12.5 miles, back on the Knebworth House estate just as you thought you had nearly made it round. This hill proved too much for my tired legs, and again I had to walk to the summit. After that mammoth effort, all that was left was to run the final few hundred metres to the finish line with what remained of my energy. I had finished my first half marathon! I checked my watch and I had made it round in 2hrs 28min, at a pretty consistent pace of 7min/km, slightly faster than my training pace. A great result for such a tough course!
I grabbed all the goodies I could from the finish line, including flapjacks, protein bars and even a 1kg bag of Epsom bath salts!
Looking back at the race, I think I can take a lot of positives out of it towards my marathon training. My shoes and clothes all felt great, no blisters or anything. My legs were a bit stiff the next day, but no knee or hip twinges which is always a worry when I push things harder than in training. I’m delighted to have the half marathon distance under my belt at this stage in training, and I can now ease off a little, to work on really consolidating my 10km to 10mile performance until the end of the year.
I can’t wait to try and beat my PB at the Big Half next year!
Read all about my London Marathon 2019 training here!
Previous post: Finding the right training plan – London Marathon 2019