Shakespeare Half - Bloody Hell!

An early Sunday wake up at 7am for the journey down to the Stratford Half Marathon beckoned. The weather was warm, but not as hot as predicted, probably around 14 degrees but quite muggy with a gentle breeze about. I was anxious to carbo load and to make sure I was as well hydrated as possible but I perhaps went overboard with this and kept needing the toilet. Luckily about 15 minutes before the start I hopped into the McDonalds just a few minutes away, but even still by the time we started I could have done with going again.

Being a fairly large half marathon there were around 3,300 runners (inc. marathon) packed onto the road next to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Even though I was at the start with over 10 minutes to go I couldn't get anywhere near the front so eventually ended up a few rows further back (about 300 runners ahead of me). I wasn't so bothered about this as it meant that I couldn't run too fast to begin with, plus with my first experience of chip timing anyway my time starts from the point I crossed the line.

The crowds at the start were superb. In fact they were great all of the way round the course with many residents sitting in their deckchairs at the front. There were even some children who had made their own banners waving them as the runners passed. The early part of the course involved a short 1 mile loop around the town centre, but it was clear at this early stage that I was being overly slowed down by those in front of me so had to make a few manoeuvres to get around people. Thankfully things settled down after the first half mile.

I had pretty much decided before the race that I would aim for 1:25 which is 3hr pace for the marathon and means that I have to average 6.30 min miles. Even being slowed by those in front I me I was surprised to go through the first mile in about 6.13. I then tried to settle down into a rhythm but it was more difficult than it seemed. It was difficult not to go faster as I was running well within myself but at the same time I was trying to suppress the urge. When I did the next mile in around 6.10 I decided to try and keep this sort of pace going.

After 2 miles we came to the first water station and I wasn't going to bother with anything at this stage, but all the others did so I thought that I may as well. I didn't really drink much (half a mouthful), but its more difficult than it seems to drink water whilst running at pace. What was also surprisingly difficult is how hard it is to grab the water bottles!

I was slowly moving through the field and found someone who was running at the same sort of pace as me so just tagged on. After about 4 miles there were 3-4 of us. What I noticed on the course was that in a 10k when you overtake someone you will either stay ahead for the rest of the race or if you've gone too fast then you'll be caught later on and passed. In the half marathon you often had a sort of yo-yo effect where people may get 10 metres ahead of you or more, but then you'd then catch that up a little later, then they would get slightly ahead again etc.

At this stage the course was not flat, but the undulations did not have any real effect. I went through 6 miles in around 37.30 (1min 30 ahead of schedule) which was quicker than I had planned. Before the race I was going to increase the pace a bit at this stage, but since I was well ahead of where I wanted to be I decided just to keep going as I was. Even at this point I was feeling pretty good (but managed to drop the bottle at the water station, though luckily one of the other runners I was with offered me his). After 7 miles I thought well just 10k to do. Just after this at around 8 miles we hit the one significant hill of the race which to be honest wasn't that bad. One of the other runners increased their pace a bit and I decided to tag along as the other runners I was with were slowing a bit. By this stage everyone was well spaced out, perhaps a runner or two every 20-30 metres apart.

At 8-10 miles I was beginning to feel quite tired but was still able to keep the same sort of pace going. I know I went through 10 miles in around 62.00 meaning that I was three minutes ahead of schedule and running at around 1:22 pace. What was pleasing was that if I could go through 10 miles in 62.00 then in a 10 mile race I must surely be capable of achieving one of the runners holy grail's of running sub 60 minutes.

After 10 miles we headed onto the 'Greenway' which is a hardbound dirt track that used to be a railway line. It was at this stage that my legs were starting to become very heavy and at 11 miles it was a real struggle. In the last couple of miles I lost two positions and probably around 45 seconds. Just before the finish there was no-one ahead or behind me so just tried to see whether I could hand on and run sub 1:23. There was a large crowd at the finish and I gave it all I had got (which wasn't much) and managed to cross the line in 1:22:37 (12th/1709).

After finishing I could barely stand up and wasn't able to walk in a straight line for the next couple of minutes which seemed to concern the marshall's a bit, but I knew I was ok. I then got a nice medal, a banana and a bottle of water. It was then that I noticed the blood on the palm of my right hand. I just thought that perhaps my hand had caught something. Then I saw a similar large patch on my left hand. Then I noticed it was on my race number and all over the top of my vest. It was at this point I realised that the blood must have come from my nipples. How embarrassing! It would have been patently obvious to anyone looking in my direction. I then made a hasty retreat back to the car (walking through the town centre on the way) having folded the bottom part of the vest (which was still blood free) over the top part to form a sort of crop top. It wasn't very fetching, but at least it covered most of the blood stain!

Photo (without race number) just doesn't do it justice!

Overall, I was really pleased with my performance and I learnt a lot in the process. I clearly have the leg speed, but need to work more on my stamina. It shows that I am more than capable to run a half marathon, and with a bit of proper training I reckon sub 1.20 is doable. At the same time it also showed me that I'm miles off (no pun intended) from being able to run a full marathon. I think I need to work on my water intake a bit as well.

I felt that for the first 7 or so miles I was running at about 85%, but although I had intended to increase my pace and upped my effort I found that I was running at 100% between 7-10.5 miles just to maintain the same speed. At a result at 10.5 miles to the finish I had to slow down as I had nothing left in the tank. It surprised me a bit how quickly I began to feel tired. In terms of my race position I gained a lot of positions in the first two miles before things settled down a bit, then picked off quite a few people until mile 6. From mile 6 -10 I was gradually catching and overtaking a few (8 ish) people but at this stage most people were running the same pace as myself. From mile 10-F I overtook one person but two others passed me.

Today was never going to be about running a super fast time, but more about learning the distance. I can now go away knowing what I need to do in the future to work towards my ultimate goal of completing the MdS in 2009.

I'm going to have a rest tomorrow and will probably only do some light jogging for the remainder of the week as my legs are really tired. I then have the Silverstone 10k on Tue 8th May. I have nothing officially planned beyond that though am likely to work towards the Milton Keynes half on 22nd July.

As always I'll post some pics if there are any of me once they are available.


  1. Well done on your half marathon- what a fantastic time!
    The nipple bleeding sounds a bit painful though!!

  2. Didnt feel anything at the time, but am now making up for it. Bloomin excruciating!


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