A half to remember...
On Sunday 17th October 2021 I took on the Cambridge half marathon. This race attracts 10,000 people each year and is probably one of the most popular half marathons in the UK.
For those of you who do not know, Cambridge is a beautiful city, home to one of the most famous universities in the country and a hub for all things science.
Cambridge, for me, is a place I could live, it is full of history from the Iron age to Roman ruling and through to medieval times , there are beautiful buildings, and english countryside scenery.
I had no problems signing up to this race when my friend Richard asked me if I fancied it. For a start, I had not seen Richard in ages so it would be good to catch up, but because I like Cambridge so much, it would be a chance to run in a city that I was very fond of.
Unfortunately Richard never made it to the event, he had to pull out due to catching covid and I know he was totally gutted about not being there. Life really is a bitch sometimes.
Now to let you in on a little secret, I happened to know that Cambridge city is as flat as a pancake, and therefore a very good place to run a PB.
I set my last half marathon PB over a year ago in Leicester, which was a rather un-exciting 1hr 52mins. Back then I was very happy with the time because I was not very fit and was just building my fitiness up for the Milton Keynes marathon.
Running the Cambridge half would give me a good excuse to have a go at bettering my PB and give me a good benchmark of how I am as a runner after a good years of training and racing behind me.
The Cambridge Half Marathon is set at Midsummer Common in the heart of the city, and as you might expect for such a large event, there is a massive set up in place.
There is a large baggage area, food and drink stools, merchandise and more. There is also are large stage with a DJ and a lycra-clad fitness bod waiting to get you warmed up.
The route itself takes you through the main city locations of interest, such as Queens Green, Kings College, Queens College, Corpus Christi College, Fitzwilliam Musem, Cambridge Distillery, Orchard Tea Garden, St Mary & St Michael Church, Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, Bridge of Sighs and Jesus College. That is quite some sight seeing tour!
The course is all tarmac, a few cobbled streets and one very small gravel section through Kings College.
There is plenty of people to cheer you on around the course from start to finish and there are bands playing along the course to give you a good boost when you are feeling tired.
This definitely helped me at a couple of points in the race where I was starting to feel the pace a bit.
The race was set off in waves, for covid reasons and so that everyone could get away much cleaner.
I watched the elites set off first as there was a bit of time before my wave was due to start, these elites really are on another planet, the first guy back would finish the race in 1hr 6mins, which is something I just cannot fathom.
I myself was hoping to get somewhere between 1hr 45mins to 1hr 50mins, I knew I could beat my previous PB, but I was not sure really by how much.
As I lined up I took the decision that I would do my best just to relax and try to get into the run gradually. I had warmed up for longer than I would normally do so that my muscles were nice and loose from the get go.
When the gun went off, my plan to relax went out the window, I set off in a frenzie to complete the first mile in 7mins 41sec, which would be my second fastest split of the day.
I was trying to keep pace with the people around me and hoping that once I found my rythmn I would settle to a nice stride pattern and hopefully start to become more efficent.
The first 4 miles ticked by quickly, all my splits were under 8mins and I was chuffed that I was comfortably keeping up the pace. Mile 5's split was even better at 7mins 35sec and I thought this is going well. At the 10k mark I was still under 8min miles but I was starting to feel the pace a bit, so I backed off just slightly by 10secs per mile just to give myself a breather and get a gel into my system. (The link to the gels I used is below)
The next 5 miles were all around 8-8:06min miles, and then as we approached mile 12 I decided to push a bit harder. Mile 12 split was 7mins 52secs and mile 13 split was 7mins 41secs.
My finishing time was 1hr 43mins 25secs, smashing my previous PB by 9mins. To say I was pleased was an understatement, although I was knackered. I really felt that run and it was the first time I had DOMS following a 13 mile run in a long time.
In the grand scheme of things, my finishing time is nothing special, but for me that PB showed how far I had come in 1 year. Knocking 9mins off a PB was pretty special, I am not a fast runner and I know that to better my new PB I would have to train more specifically for half marathons, but that's not something I am intertested in doing.
I am an ultra marathon runner and that's where my heart is in this sport, I find more enjoyment exploring the countryside running ridiculously long distances, and basically going on mini adventures.
I may go back and do another half marathon just for fun, and one day I may go back and try to break my PB, but for now I am content. It's time to get back to the ultra training and look forwards to my next adventure.
Until next time...
Train hard - Race hard - Have fun!