Sunday, October 09, 2016

Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon 2016

London, England. Sunday 09-October-2016.

Having stopped work I was no longer cycling to work so I'd thought I'd try this running malarkey.

I thought "How hard can it be to run a marathon. Tens of thousands of people do it every year. I could do that!" Mary wisely counseled to try running a half marathon and see how that goes.

I have friends who used an app to get from Couch to 5k over several months. I went for my first run in February and did 2 miles. Two days later, for my second run, I did 5k. Feeling smug I then did ten more 5k runs over the next six weeks.

Encouraged I decided I would give the half marathon a go. I googled and found the Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, signed up and downloaded the training plan. Kept quiet about it for a couple of months until I had done some longer distances and decided that I might actually be able to do it. Only then did I go public. Raising money for Prostate Cancer UK via my fund raising page:

Some people are motivated by pursuit of pleasure, some by avoidance of pain; you're a stick person or a carrot person. Some people relish a challenge, that's for gung-ho "pursuit of pleasure" types. To me "Challenge" means pain, discomfort, danger. Why would anyone actively seek out a "Challenge"? I am the "avoidance of pain" type. In this case the pain of public shame and humiliation if I failed to to complete the course. That is why I waited until late August when I was up to 12.9km before admitting to FaceBook about my half marathon and fear provided the spur for training.

I followed the training plan in spirit rather than to the letter. Two runs per week, one short, one long. Every couple of weeks extending the long run by another circuit of Wandsworth Common. Each additional circuit adds another 2.7km including the little dimple round the duck pond that is Bolingbroke Stock Pond. By the end I was going six times round the common. In total I did 49 training runs over 8 months totalling 360km.

In all those runs my speed did not improve, although my stamina did. My pace in September was no faster than it was at the start back in February. This consistency enabled me to predict a race time of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds. The plot of time vs distance is a pretty good straight line.

The training runs I did in Italy were generally shorter and harder work. The country lanes were like an M C Escher staircase - they were uphill all the way round. How is that even possible?

The Royals Parks Foundation offered a training workshop which I found very useful. Sessions on nutrition and hydration, and pacing followed by a yoga class. It was there I learned about the existance of pace runners - being as this is my first ever charity run I was unaware of this support. Given my pace consistency this was greatly reassuring - I would find the 2:15 guy and stick with him. On the day that is exactly what I did.

Off we went and I plodded round with Mr 2:15. He had dozens of followers at the start. By the end we were down to a handful although I'm not sure if they ran ahead or dropped behind - I'm guessing the latter.

Running down Serpentine Road with Wellington Arch in the background.

Down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace with Admiralty Arch behind me.

Still smiling.

This is me at the 8.5 mile mark passing the Prostate Cancer UK cheering station and feeling fine.

Crossing the finishing line.

Map My Ride gave my time as 02:14:52 which matches the official chip time. So close to my predicted time that I laughed out loud and felt very smug indeed.

Looking at the splits I am a human metronome, less than a minute between average and actual all the way through except the first. The only reason the first one is fast is because I had to catch up to the 2:15 pace runner who had worked his way forward in the queue while we were waiting to start.


They don't publish the age-related positions so I cannot tell how I did against my peers. Not that it matters, my only plan was to cross the finish line before they started to dismantle it. I ran all the way and felt absolutely fine at the end. All the training clearly paid off. No after effects to speak of.


What I have learned is that I don't enjoy running. I just don't get it, cannot see the attraction. It's like being a hamster in a cage. Part of it, I think, is that I do not get a runners' rush or endorphin high. For the first five minutes after a run my breathing and heart rate subside to normal. Then I spontaneously combust and for the next five minutes sweat pours out of every pore, salt water stings my eyes. After that I feel calm which I have attributed to relief that the run is over. Certainly doesn't feel like a natural high and if that is it then it is so imperceptible as to not be worth the effort.

All that is irrelevant as it was about raising money for Prostate Cancer UK via my fund raising page: Please join my generous friends and sponsor me.

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