The Big Half is an iconic run, 13.1 miles through some of the most iconic London landmarks and a it previews the Virgin Money London Marathon route in reverse.
As you probably already know it was a very very windy day. So windy that all of the planned festival zone had to be cancelled and the organisers were giving advice on wrapping up and being sensible about what clothing you race in, and making sure you stay warm pre-race.
It’s never too cold for short shorts is it?
So there I am in a vest and short shorts, excited that for once I won’t be racing in scorching hot conditions. I have trained through the cold winter, wind, rain and hills and the thought of some this on Raceday was actually quite refreshing (does that make me a little insane?)
From the start the plan was to play it safe, and keep it consistent throughout the race.
The only problem with that was due to tunnels and high buildings at Canary Wharf my GPS was completely screwed by mile 3 and reported that I had managed a sub 5 min mile. As much as I wanted this to be true I knew I hadn’t sped up and so I had to rely on only the stopwatch function and manually working out my split times and estimated finish times in my head as I ran. Not easy when you are trying to hold down a 6:45/mile pace at the same time.
In parts the wind did slow me down, at one point It forced my back leg to go across and kick my other leg (like a classic school boy trip up) but after a modest stumble I recovered and battled through.
I had an upbeat music playlist blasting through my AfterShokz headphones and that kept me feeling pumped the whole way round.
For several miles in the race I could see a 1:30 pacer, who started behind me and appeared to be going faster than the pace I was estimating for a sub1:30. I let him run on a little bit but as he got over 300/400m ahead I realised I needed to dig deep and start fighting to make sure I didn’t slip off the pace to much.
I pushed hard from mile 9 to mile 12 and felt myself getting stronger and stronger as the finish got nearer. I overtook the 1:30 pacer with strength in my legs and pushed to ensure I could build a decent gap.
Pacing a good half marathon:
My first 10k was 42:05 and my second 10k was only 14 seconds slower, I was super happy with that!
I’ve never previously been that steady with pacing but it’s been something I’ve worked on a lot in training during progression runs and intervals. To be far more disciplined and consistent, and for my body to start naturally recognising the varied pace changes without relying only on a watch.
With the final mile insight I had flashbacks of the 2018 race and I left it to late to kick on and put the hammer down. So with that in mind I charged towards the final corner and as I turned to see the finish line a few hundred meters away I somehow dug deep to find a big sprint finish.
I was delighted to bring home a new PB of 1:28:39 and realised that there could be some significant improvement on that later in the year if I can keep progressing in training as I have recently.
Given the windy conditions and my inability to pace accurately using my watch I genuinely feel a 1:27 would be possible. As such I am laying down my ambition to run a 1:25 half marathon in the next 6-12 months with more mileage in the legs and increased effort on sessions too.
Thanks massively to New Balance and Pro:Direct Running for the opportunity to race the Virgin Money Big Half, it was a treat and a pleasure! I wore the New Balance VMLM 2019 race vest & shorts, with one of my favourite cushioned shoes on the market… the NB Fresh Foam 1080‘s. Well worth considering if you’re going the distance and want lightweight, responsive cushioning to reduce your risk of injury during training those long runs.
On race day I had a small bowl of porridge 2 hours before the race, then a 500ml Maurten Drink Mix 160 as I waited on the start line 15 minutes before it began. As I hit Tower Bridge on mile 7 I had a Maurten Gel 100 and that is all I needed to get me through the race. I didn’t take on any water during the race as I didn’t feel like I needed it and I just wanted to to focus on my pace.
Next up is Manchester Marathon and London Marathon in April.