Completing a half-marathon would be no easy task but after the success of my previous race, the ’10km Mersey Tunnel run’ between Liverpool and The Wirral I couldn’t contain my excitement to get going with the next one. So the next day after the tunnel run I signed up to what would be my longest race yet, the ‘Wirral Way Trail Half Marathon’.
I figured it’s a little bit further than what I’ve completed before but the natural progression of my training gave me the confidence to enter. Plus on the back of my new 10km PB I was excited!
For those that have entered any sort of organised race you’ll know what I’m referring to. The anticipation the night before, the final organising of your running gear, what you’re going to wear, your last few meals, how you might do etc. Not to mention the crowd that’s there to cheer you and the many others on as you try to pass the finish line.
I signed up at the end of September and somehow reverted back to my usual training routine of hitting the gym and working on my upper and lower body. Yet the running seemed to escape my attention and before I knew it December was here, with the race less than a month away!
Was I ready? No. Was I about to move-in to my very first house? Yes. Was I distracted? Big time!
I think what took the pressure off this whole situation was that I genuinely wasn’t bothered about what time I’d end up with. This would be the ‘foundation race’ that I’d hopefully manage to complete running a distance of 13.1 miles, which in itself is a huge achievement.
So about 3 weeks before the race I finally got going. I started running outside in the very cold, wet weather and made some progress, but it was around this time that I discovered something new that was going to really ramp up my training and it couldn’t have come at a better time!
I was browsing on Facebook at the gym whilst resting between sets and discovered an app called Aaptiv. Someone had described it as the most fun they’d had on a treadmill ever so I was curious to find out more.
Before I knew it I’d downloaded the app and started the trial. It’s like Spotify but in Gym Classes/PT form in which you can select what type of exercise you’re doing i.e. Treadmill, Indoor Cycling, Ab Work etc and allow a real-life Personal Trainer to coach you through your workout whilst you listen to their motivational music.
It’s like having thousands of gym classes on your phone to use whenever you like! The ones I focused on were the Treadmill workouts. I got to dramatically mix-up my training, from hillwork, to intervals to mixed sessions and with a motivated trainer guiding you along the way it was as if I was in a real-life gym class with specifically chosen music to keep me motivated. It really was the most fun I think I’ve ever had on a treadmill.
The app played a significant role in helping me get me from ‘fairly fit’ to ‘ready for the half-marathon’ and even now that this half-marathon has finished, I know I’ll still be using it to get me ready for the next one in March.
The morning of the race came and it was a very early start for me. I plan to start getting up at 6am every morning and going for that early run however as I hadn’t started that yet, it wasn’t the easiest of wake-ups!
I got ready and drove down to a very icy park in the pitch black hoping to get started as quickly as possible. There were the usual nerves mirrored with excitement, anticipation and going to the toilet a lot!
The most I’d ever ran before was 11 miles so I knew the final two miles of the race would be unfamiliar territory, yet I felt calm at the prospect. Probably because my only goal was to finish the race and so I could set myself a very slow pace if needed.
Which is exactly what I did for the first few miles. There was no ‘set’ pace. I just ran slowly without exerting myself too much. After all I knew I had a long way to go. Yet the slow pace I was setting was still allowing me to pass others, even though I kept stressing to myself in my head that this was not about anyone else and if they pass you they pass you, no big deal. It was important to run for me and not my ego!
I felt that I was running strongly and passing some very fit runners along the way. I was waiting for the moment they were going to re-take me but it didn’t really come. Perhaps I’d underestimated my own fitness? I was also waiting for that first stitch to come but it never did. I knew the running would get harder as I worked through the miles and at the eleventh mile I started to feel my legs get a lot heavier.
I had a feeling this would be the case but what was I going to do? I knew my average pace was going to take me well below the two hour mark (a rough benchmark I’d hoped to achieve) so I didn’t want to undo all the progress I’d made in the earlier miles of the race.
It’s in these tougher moments that you realise what you’re made of. You wish you’d done more to prepare. You wish you’d worked harder on your legs at the gym or ran over more hills, or focused more on your speed etc but it comes down to how mentally fit you are too. What your mindset is telling you. Thankfully mine was saying to keep my head down and keep on going no matter what.
So that’s what I did. I kept going and even managed a sprint finish! My time came in at 1 hour 42 minutes and 19 seconds, and I finished 66th out of 411 runners.
I’ll be the first to say I was very pleased with my result, it was the next milestone to achieve and I did that in the first 7 days of 2018, but I will not sit back and congratulate myself too much. I know it’s still early days and there’s a lot more running and a lot more training to come this year.
The next race is the Liverpool Half-Marathon on March 25th and the target is around the 1 hour 30 minute mark. For this to be achieved I cannot skip any training day and will need to seriously ramp up my fitness to get anywhere near that.
Before I sign-off I also wanted to say a big thank you to the team from SKINS. I’ve been training throughout the Winter using their compression, wind-proof tights and it’s made the whole experience so much better for me, as well as aided in my muscle recovery. It was also the first time I’d worn any sort of compression tights during a race and I know they helped me keep going.
I also want to thank Fitbit who’ve supplied me with their fitness trackers to help me keep on top of my stats. They’ve helped me to identify my areas of improvement and the tracker has never let me down.
So here’s to a big 2018. The year that I hope will be filled with proud moments for all of us!