Back in February, I ran the half marathon held in the town in which I now live. So I thought I really ought to go and run the half marathon held in the town in which I grew up. Today was the day of the Folkestone half-marathon.
As I recently admitted in a Women’s Running article, my half-marathon PB is a shameful 10 years old this year. And it’s not even that good: 1:47:53. I know I can run faster than that. My 5K PB is 21:45 and my 10K PB – from an off-road race – is 46:20. I decided 2010 was the year to get a new half-marathon PB, and where better than my home town?
So I carefully planned my target pace, did various training runs at and below it, worked out all my splits and then…realised my Garmin Forerunner wasn’t working. (Again). Fellow Garmin-owners will know what it’s like: once you get used to the endless stream of detailed feedback whilst you’re running, it’s almost paralysing to consider trying for a PB without it. And, once you’re used to getting home and downloading all the data, thinking about having nothing to pore over post-race is enough to make you cry.
I pressed the buttons, I touched the bezel, I shook it, I plugged it in. My husband hit it against the wall. To no avail: I was going to be running blind. Or without data, which is kind of the same thing. I borrowed my husband’s stopwatch so I’d at least know, y’know, how long I’d been going. Back to the old skool!
The Folkestone 1/2 is a great course: out and back along the pan-flat and traffic free seafront, with only a (very steep) hill in the first and final mile to contend with. But, seafronts being what they are, the course can be windy. I woke up and looked out of the window at my Dad’s house to see every tree and bush in his garden gusting and bending in the wind. And it was pretty cold.
As we walked to the start, I whinged to my husband “why am I doing this again?” and he quite rightly said “for Henry”. My 7-week-old nephew was going to be out there on the course somewhere cheering me on, and a cool new baby nephew needs a cool Auntie so I had to at least try and get a PB, right?
It really was rather cold and windy as I lined up somewhere vaguely near the start (and wished the race was chip timed). After a brief welcome by the race director, we were sent on our merry way. The course starts on the Leas and winds its way around Folkestone for a mile or so before heading down the Road of Remembrance. Now, I don’t know how steep this thing is but I’ve weaved my way up it many a time in my younger days, heading up to civilisation (?) from the dodgy nightclubs down on the beachfront, so I knew it was steep. However, on the outward leg we were going down it, so I pitched myself forward and made the most of gravity, passing a good few people and telling my knees to hush up.
I passed mile 1 and looked at my old skool watch. 7:25. Ah…my target pace was 8:05/mile. Oh well. There was no mile marker for mile 2 so I ran as I felt, which was really quite good actually thanks. I could tell I was running fast (raggedy breath and slight spots in the vision is always a bit of a giveaway) but I had no way of knowing how fast. I was expecting the mile 3 marker around 24 minutes so when I passed it before 23 minutes had elapsed I was a little surprised. I saw my husband and the dog as the race went through the lovely Coastal Park, and then we were heading out towards Sandgate.
Once we hit the seafront, the blustery wind became a full-on headwind. I feared for my peaked cap, I tell you! My eyes were streaming from the wind. At least, I thought, it will be a tail-wind on the way back (although things rarely seem to work that way).
At miles 4 and 5, I was still well under pace and doing GCSE-level mental arithmetic. I was averaging 7:50minute/miling and on for a sub 1:45 finish. Nice!
By mile 6, we were heading into Hythe and the supporters were out in force with little kids reaching their hands out for high (low?) fives, adults clapping and all the marshals smiling and encouraging us. I went through mile 6 in a fraction under 47 minutes and the lead runner came past me, heading back towards Folkestone. Before too long, the first few women came through and I let them know how many women were in front of them. I always do this on out and back courses, and never really know whether it’s helpful or annoying. But today the 4th lady looked really grateful (and happy!) when I held up four fingers as she ran past so I shall continue to do it!
The half-way point was signposted, which I thought was a nice touch. I went through it in 50:something and saw my sister, brother-in-law and nephew which gave me a real boost. As I ran past I said “My watch is broken so I’ve no idea how fast I’m running”. My B-I-L very sweetly replied “really fast!” and then they told me I was 15th woman at that point. I was flabbergasted but decided not to worry if I was overtaken by any female runners, but to concentrate on holding my pace if I could. It was incredibly irritating to not be able to monitor my pace as I ran, though. Doing a quick bit of number-crunching at every mile marker doesn’t really do it for you once you’ve owned a (functioning) Garmin.
I ran off, doing some comedy “Auntie-running” (I come from a long and prestigious line of silly Aunties). A bloke ran past me and asked “are you OK?” The route turned away from the seafront briefly and ran through a couple of residential streets before popping us back out on the seafront to head for home. Hooray!
Erm, the headwind hadn’t really turned into a tailwind for some reason. Defying the laws of physics, it was now kind of from the side, despite the fact we’d turned 180*. Still, a change is as good as a rest.
I saw my sis, B-I-L and nephew (who was being held aloft in an attempt at “cheering”) and realised I was nearly at mile 9. Yay! My legs were feeling very heavy, my hips were hurting and there was something funny going on in the region of my right hamstring. “Drop It Likes It’s Hot” by Snoop came on my iPod and I realised it was exactly the right tempo for my sub-8m/m pace. So I played it on repeat for about 20 minutes. Yeah, I kind of never want to hear that song again now. Sorry, Snoop.
I went through 10 miles in just under 79 minutes, and calculated that I’d dropped off my initial pace a bit (at some point – we’ll never know when) but that, if I could hold this pace, I’d still get a PB and possibly even sub-1:45. Unfortunately, at 10 miles, a horrible stitch hit me (what is the point of stitch, anyway?) and I ran on in a kind of bent-over, crippled style for a bit. I then realised it probably wasn’t going to go away so I had better just straighten up and run through it. I think it went in the end, I’m not sure.
Mile 11. 1:27:something. Nearly there. I walked through a water stop and two chaps passed me. I started running again, caught them and passed them. The route went back up into the Coastal Park via a horrible sharp little ramp which gave the legs a rude awakening after 10 miles of flat, and I saw my husband and dog again. “Well done,” he said, “keep this pace and you’ll be mumblemumblesomething!” I thought he said “sub 1:50” and I thought, erm, and the rest! Turns out he said “top 15” (women).
Mile 12 is just before the cruel climb up the Road of Remembrance. I worked out I had just over 9 minutes to get a PB. But, honestly, that hill is steep. I started to run up it and then realised I’d probably be faster to walk. So I did. I actually overtook one guy, and no-one came past me. At the top, with about 1/2 a mile to go, I realised I had to get a move on. My legs were like jelly and of course we were back into the headwind again. I really wanted to just fall down in the road and just lie there.
Finally, there was the 13 mile marker and then shortly afterwards the finish line. Hooray! The race clock said 1:45:00 and I wondered if I could scrape under 1:45:30…. but my legs just wouldn’t go any faster. I crossed the line in 1:45:33 (watch time) and promptly had to lie down very quickly.
(If the dog looks guilty, so he should. He kept us awake half the night stamping around, whining and sniffing loudly because he’d seen a cat somewhere around the place several hours earlier. Gah!)
Results aren’t online yet but it’s safe to say I finally have a new half-marathon PB, and we think I was 15th lady. Hooray!
ETA: results are out. Top 10 in my age category!
19/133 female finishers
10/61 female senior age group
154/503 in race
Thanks to Folkestone Rotary for a great race.
Did you run the Folkestone half marathon today? How did you get on?