11 weeks into an advanced half marathon training program and I was ready for a race….yes there is still 5 weeks to go but when you dedicate all your running time to training, either solo or with a friend there comes a point when you need a bit of competition….and that ladies and gentlemen was the reason the Lliswerry 8 road race was booked!
I knew that I would be going stir crazy by this point in the training plan so I solved that problem by booking a race. This race was recommended by my local club and for good reason! A supposed “local race” turned out to be a field of 796 strong runners, bringing in the best from across the south west and Wales.
Having been a bit “chesty” the week before I was a bit dubious about how I would get on, but had decided on Thursday that I wouldn’t care about time and that the purpose of this race was to get my competitive juices flowing. I also wanted to be “put in my place” and to sit back and absorb all of the great runners around me, i’m a bit like a sponge when it comes to absorbing knowledge and when i’m surrounding by great runners that lights my spark so to speak!!
Thankfully, the morning of the race arrived and I was feeling slightly better….so alongside by training and recent “efforts” i’d been putting in, I thought that a goal of 48 minutes would be good to keep in the back of my mind. However I also decided that today was the day that I wouldn’t be a slave to my watch and that considering most of my training has been done on “feel”, the race would be no different.
The gun went and I positioned myself about 5/6 rows back from the front, the idea of this was to a) stop me from going out to fast and b) give me a chance to see how I felt…the last thing I wanted was to bomb off, my tight chest to kick in and then having to pull out.
Luckily, this was a smart move and I slowly started to feel my way into the race, gradually moving up past people, listening to their breathing and realising I was working nowhere near as hard as they were. This “breathed” confidence in me (excuse the pun) and I pushed on. Hearing my watch beep for the first mile was the first time I got in tune with “technology” and for a split second I glanced to see what i’d done. Determined not to react like I normally would if I saw a “too quick” or “too slow” split, I mentally prepared myself and to my surprise I went through at 5.54.
From there I didn’t look back, the next time I thought about my watch was when I heard a beep but after conquering that mental battle at mile one of “not caring” what it said….the rest of the mile splits didn’t worry me and mile two was a similar time…5.55. Mental toughness is something I think runners learn after time and cannot be taught straight away….we are stubborn creatures of habit and modern day marketing teaches us to “showboat” and “show off”, so to break this mould was oddly satisfying! Especially seeming as every runner I passed must of checked their watch at least twice as I got closer and past them. At that stage I thought to myself “what are you checking it that much for?” and then I realised that was me not so long ago!
The mental toughness continued when we hit the turn around and headed back into the wind, clocking a third mile of 6.14. Determined not to “stress” and “react” to my 20 second loss on time in that mile and more so think logically, I simply told myself “you ran into the wind and you worked hard but am still in control, trust yourself”. This mentality paid dividends as the 4th mile clocked back under 6 minutes and at that stage I was beginning to over take around 5/6 runners a mile. They had clearly worked hard running into the wind and it had taken it out of them somewhat.
Miles 5,6 & 7 passed and still I felt strong. At the 10k mark I had hit a new PB of 37.13 and at that stage we hit the head wind again, but I was feeling so “in control” that I put the hammer down and put the effort in for the last 1.8 miles. Passing more and more runners I got to the final mile with breathing space in front and behind, allowing me to enjoy the race and conclude that this had been my most successful race to date.
Finishing with a chip time of 47.20, averaging 5.55 minute mile pace, I concluded that the success of the day wasn’t the time or the 25th place, but the feeling that I have conquered the “addiction” of checking the watch. Running by feel is the way forward for me and I hope to encourage other runners to get more “in tune” with their running and not be sucked into all this marketing that tells us we need x,y&z to make us the best. Besides, who wants to be the person with all the gear and no idea?
You can check out my race vlog and lowdown on the performance on my YouTube channel here.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope to keep this blog more up to date this year!