Great Bristol Half Marathon

As part of my build up to the Chester Marathon in three weeks time I entered the Great Bristol Half Marathon so I could see where my fitness is at and give me an idea of what sort of pace I should be aiming for.  My last Half Marathon was the Ramathon back in June where I finished in 71.00, but today was I hoping for sub 70 mins, if not a touch quicker but easier said than done.

I was accepted for an elite entry and was 'seeded' 9th out of 9 elites, but knowing my current form and peeking at everyone elses recent race results I thought somewhere between 5th and 7th was on, assuming there were no other non-elites that could run faster.  As it later turned out I think only 6 or 7 elites actually started.

I tried not to set off like a lunatic and I was in around 12th after the first few hundred metres before quickly settling into 10th.  After the first km two groups of four had formed, the first group pulling away into a decent lead of about 30 metres, followed by the second group then a further 20 metres or so behind was me and another runner.  I went through the first km in 3.12 which was a little on the fast side but at least my pace was not ridiculous.

Start - In my usual navy blue vest. 

After about 1.5k the gap between myself and the group of four ahead had stabilised and I was about 20 metres behind.  At this stage I was thinking - "typical!" yet again I'm running by myself and not having the benefit of others around me!  However, over the next couple of km I started to reel in the group ahead and by about 4.5k the group of four now became a group of five.

I could have taken a breather and made sure I established myself in this group first but to be honest I just moved through and ended up leading it shortly after, working alongside another runner so I was now oscillating between 5th and 6th.  By the four mile mark the group had started to split, mainly because of me working my way through and pushing on.  I wouldn't say that I was feeling great at this stage as I never do but at this point I didn't feel in any particular trouble either.

Between miles 4-8 I was ahead of what was left of my group and I was now a firm 5th, albeit I had a runner just a stride or so behind me.  During this period of the race one of the leading group of four started to fall away but I noticed that I was also starting to catch the leaders.  At its peak the leaders were about 100 metres ahead of me, but by mile 8 this had reduced to about 40 metres.  However, at the eighth mile one of the leading three had decided enough was enough and injected some pace and started to pull away.  It was also around this point that I had caught fourth, but the runner just behind me was still there.  To be honest it was starting to bug me a little that I was doing all the work but I was just trying to concentrate on my own race, even if I was occasionally getting my heels clipped.

Between miles 8 & 9 I took a quick breather by just running alongside the runner I had just caught but after a couple of hundred metres I tried to push on once more.  Yet again though, the runner that was just behind from mile four was still stuck to me.

Quite quickly after I caught 2nd and 3rd and it was now at this point I was thinking, wow, this was not part of the plan being at the sharp end of the race!  Again I took a little breather for about 30 seconds but I just sort of organically passed these runners as we came to an overpass to climb up and being good on the hills I moved clear.  I was also thinking that not only could I get a prize by being in the top 5, but I might also have a chance at a podium (and a cash prize) at a major event.

Whilst I was now second I still could not shake off the runner behind me, even if we were pulling clear of the two we had just overtaken.  I really needed the guy behind me to share the work as I was starting to tire and I knew my splits were fading from around 3.16-3.18m/km to about 3.24-3.26m/km.  Not a massive slow down in what was a very twisty and surprisingly hilly section, but enough to concern me that it might be enough to allow those I had just passed to close the gap.

At around 10.5 - 11 miles we entered a small grassy square and it was the first time I could take a quick glance to see what was going on behind.  I could see fourth was about 50 metres behind me (and was actually the guy who I had overtaken to move into fourth some miles back) and the other two runners I had overtaken relatively recently had faded considerably.  I knew therefore that a podium position was far from guaranteed and if I was honest the guy who was sticking like a limpet to me I was almost resigned to being out sprinted, having done 100% of the work to this point.

Coming to about 11.5 miles we had one of the Great Run lead cyclists come alongside us (in fact he had been alongside at the point I had moved into a podium position) and he said we were about 100 metres ahead of fourth.  I was now thinking, ok 3rd really is on, surely I cant lose this amount of distance in the last couple of miles even if I was now going into the red zone.  It was at this point that the guy just behind me cut a slight corner by going on the pavement and for the first time was ahead of me so I eased back behind him but we pretty much just ended up to a jog so I knew it was back down to me to take the lead.  However, as it happened he started to fall away from me - at last!  I think a very strong 3.12 19th km made the difference albeit I didn't realise that I had increased the pace and in fairness some of the extra speed was probably terrain related.

I just had a mile or so to the finish and make my 2nd place stick.  A quick glance back though made me realise the podium position was still quite precarious as the guy in fourth had closed to the gap to about 60 metres.  I dug deep and it was with about 500 metres to go when I realised I was going to come 2nd!  I crossed the line in 69.31.

About to be 2nd.

Just 30 seconds to go.

Feeling the pace.

Finish line in sight.

I was then surrounded by Great Run staff to do some media photos and was then told to go to the stage for prize giving shortly after!  To say I was over the moon was an understatement!

Media - The guy who stuck to me for much of the race ended up fourth so it was a good idea to continue doing the work.

Now at the stage about to go on the podium - whilst fiddling with my watch to look at my splits!

Having received my silver medal grinning like a Cheshire Cat!  Now with a 2nd place sticker on my chest!

My second place medal - engraved on the back and also £100 cash prize.

Overall I was amazed that I came 2nd in an event such as this.  I got a massive PB to boot and the only slight disappointment was that I was on for about 69 mins with a few km to go but I simply couldn't hold the pace any longer and was effectively working by myself which made it that little bit harder.  Having said all this I have no regrets tactically having come through the field even if I had worked possibly a touch too hard in the middle part of the course.  None the less the time and result gives me confidence that I'm in decent shape for three weeks time, so roll on Chester...

On the BBC News... extracts from the page.  This made my day!


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