The Half Marathon is an interesting distance. I always say to people it’s a good distance because it’s less than a marathon so you don’t need to devote serious hours to train yet it’s long enough to keep you honest, that is you can’t rock up on the day and expect to smash it out.
So early on this year, when I laid out my running calendar, I signed up to the SMH Half Marathon which is always around mid-end of May. I must admit, even though I’ve waned a bit on the half marathon distance, the SMH Half, does hold sentimental value to me as it is basically the first race I’ve run. It completely destroyed me at the time, but yet I do feel some connection to it. Prior to this year, I’ve done it 3 times.
- 2011 – 2:15:43
- 2012 – 1:47:41
- 2013 – 1:38:39
However this year was different. My physio said I had achilles tendinopathy and it was something that I could still run on but yet would take 3 months to fully heal. So after testing my achilles leading up to the weekend, I was still going back and forth in my mind as to whether I should run. Basically it was a tad sore (2 – 4 on a scale of 10) when I run but the pain does go away after a while (perhaps after the first 2km).
I guess in the end, I think the lure of completing the same race 4 times in a row swayed me to run it. However I didn’t really have any expectations regarding how I would go. In terms of a goal, I thought I’d go for a PB which meant anything south of 1:38:50 which meant splits of around 4:40 min/km. Ultimately, I would’ve taken 1:45 given my lead up really.
The starting line
Another positive with the race, is the fact that it’s in my home town Sydney. So I don’t have to travel away from home to reach the starting line. Even though the race started at 6:45am, I woke up at 5:30am, ate a banana and a clif mountain bar, I left my home at 5:45am and arrived in my starting area at about 6:25am. I was in the blue group, basically for sub 1:45 runners and I quickly found some other NRG runners (Randy, Chris, Seth, Ash). In the overall scheme of things, it wasn’t a massive turn out for NRG as there was the Northface 50/100 and Great Ocean Road Full/Half Marathon on the same weekend.
Pat Carroll was in the cherry picker again giving instructions and re-iterating how nobody had beaten his record (61:11) in 20 years. I do find it a nice touch how he constantly reminds everybody about that fact. Olympian swimmer Stephanie Rice was in the cherry picker alongside Pat and she had a quick word, then promptly fired the gun. I wished everybody good luck and I was off.
I’ve done this race 3 times already, so I do know the course quite well. It basically starts with a downhill 2km through Macquarie St, around Circular Quay then around the Rocks. I started out at around < 4:20 min/km splits because of it was downhill and knew that I had to slow down soon after that. I checked my heart rate and it was around the 170bpm mark. Now from my tempo training, I know that I can keep my HR between 170-180bpm and not blow up, at least for 20 odd kms.
I think at about 5km, I saw a fellow NRGer Venn. Now as always NRGers, are pretty hard core runners and Venn is no different. Amongst his accomplishments this year is completing Six Foot and also he’s trying to log a run everyday this year. As I type this, he still has that streak going 🙂 He’s also one of those guys who runs at a moderate pace for club runs, then can go much much faster on race day. I said hi to him and told him to not wait around for him. He asked me if I had seen Randy, and I said “yes, he’s up ahead somewhere” and Venn promptly zoomed off. I didn’t see him again till the last km.
The course goes along Hickson Rd then out around Pyrmont. This is also when you can see how far back you are, as the runners ahead of you are already running back towards town. At Pyrmont, the course loops up around Refinery Dr and this is where there are some slight inclines and before you know it, you’re running back along Pirramma Rd.
Now at around this time, I’m into my 4:20-4:30 pace and it’s manageable. But all I’m thinking is there’s a hill somewhere around here, where is it… I know every year, the hill makes me slow down a lot and basically takes a couple of minutes off my finishing time.
And it hits me, at the KMs 15 – 17, there’s those hills again. Basically it starts when the course loops up from Hickson Rd via Pottinger St, up Kent St then on to the Cahill Expressway. I think I’m actually ok at running up hills, it’s just the recovery time afterwards. I tend to take too long to get my breath back and kind of go back to plodding along. I tried pretty hard not to that, but whilst looking at my Garmin during those KMs, I was only averaging a tad under 5min/km.
Doing the maths
When running in races, when I get close to a PB, I start running the numbers in my head. I think to myself at about 17KM, if I manage to plod along at 5 min/km I’ll just nudge my PB. So that puts my mind at ease. Running down Macquarie St, I heard someone yell out my name. I turn and see a fellow NRGer Ross. He’s in his bike gear and I was very surprised to see him. I ask about his injury as he’s doing Comrades pretty soon (yes I know another Hardcore NRG runner). I just keep on trucking.
The Fake Finish
This is the funniest part of the race. If you haven’t run it before, at the end of the race you run past the finish line 3 times. There’s a saying I think in running which says the hardest thing to do is to run past your home, which is why people instruct you to run away from home and then run back home, as opposed to just do loops around your home. Anyway, this course makes you do it THREE times, right at the death.
So you go around the FINISH line when you come back around Hyde Park. Head out to the Lady Macquarie’s Chair then back towards Hyde Park via Art Gallery Rd. But you go PAST the FINISH line again, do a bit of College St and up again to the FINISH line. This is also when I see Mr Venn again, I scream about something that probably seemed like abuse to him.
I continue along to the finish line, raising my arms, screaming something to Pat Carroll and attempting a jump over the line with my arms extended. For the last 3 races I’ve done, basically I’ve attempted to get a good photo of my jumping over the finishing line with my arms extended. Unfortunately, it didn’t work again this time 😦
Job done. I stop my garmin, it reads 1:35:30. A PB of over 3 minutes. I head over to the NRG meeting spot and am very thankful that Matt has setup his accelerade drinks again as well as the other goodies (croissants, juice, etc) provided by the NRG folk. I trade a few war stories and head back home with my medal around my neck. On the train ride back, I think to myself with a few tweaks, especially around those hills, I could’ve gotten my time down below < 95 minutes, but then I snap myself out of it, and I just tell myself to be content with completing the race for a 4th year in a row and taking 45 minutes off the first time I ran the damn thing! Till next year! Congrats to all Finishers!
Here are my splits
Here’s the my official time
My finishing video look at the left of screen 🙂