Better late than never, a quick rundown of my first ever half marathon.
Last weekend I took the opportunity of a quiet Sunday morning at my sister-in-law’s to push myself on my first test of the year, a 22km circuit I planned out along the canals surrounding Stockton Heath, near Warrington in Cheshire. Having never run this distance in one go before, I wanted to see how I got on before signing up for any proper races later this year.
Starting from my sister-in-law’s house, I took some country roads about 4km west to the village of Walton. From there I turned back to take on about 10km along the Bridgewater Canal. The views across the canal to the east were absolutely stunning, with the sun rising in the distance and some rare blue sky spurring me on. The footing however was less than helpful. When plotting the route from the Ordinance Survey app I’d mistakenly assumed the canal towpaths would be paved (I’ve clearly be spoiled by Nottingham’s great waterway running routes!). On the day though I was met with a combination of gravel, mud, grass and a whole heap of puddles! This definitely slowed me down but I was able to stick to my 10 minute mile target fairly consistently; wasn’t trying to push it too hard first time out at this distance.
Once I hit around 15km it was time to turn back. By this point I was feeling pretty good with plenty still in the tank, though was a little bit fed up of the muddy puddles and the intermittent rain wasn’t helping either. Lucky for me the next couple of kilometres took me along the Transpenine Way, an old railway line that was slightly better underfoot and marginally less waterlogged! There way a slight downward gradient towards the end of this section which enable me to pick up the pace a bit as well.
The final 4km or so was a more or less dead straight and dead flat slog along the Manchester Ship Canal. Some might’ve described this last part as mindnumbingly boring and it kind of was, but after 18-ish kilometres of mud a flat pavement was welcome relief. I could put my feet down, get my knees up and push it. I picked up the pace here and was able to knock a few seconds off my time. Before long I was crossing the metaphorical finish line at the 22km mark, and noted (according to my watch/Strava) a half marathon time of 2:08:39. Pretty good for a first attempt I’d say.
When it comes to the real thing I’ll be aiming for a sub two hour finish. That feels achievable having done 2 hours 8 minutes by myself in training. The crowds, atmosphere and associated adrenaline should push me along a bit. I just have to actually pick a race or two and get myself signed up. Watch this space.
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