Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Ealing Half Marathon - Race Report

Ealing Half Marathon - September 2019

Finishing Ealing Half Marathon

 I ran this race for the first time in 2018, shortly after moving back to London for work. I still have wonderful memories of that run: grinning from ear to ear on a downhill stretch shortly after halfway, grabbing a jelly baby from an enthusiastic supporter at the roadside, sprinting over the finish line and sharing my joy at a new PB with a stranger waiting for her own relative to finish. No great surprise then that by January I'd already signed myself up to run it all over again.

Not longer after I'd signed up however, I'd also decided to enter Amsterdam Half and race that as a serious PB attempt thanks to the flat and potentially fast course. Suddenly I wasn't quite so sure where Ealing Half was going to sit in my priorities and training plan seeing as Amsterdam would be just three weeks later.

As it turned out, Ealing ended up being my first proper chance to race a half marathon after post-marathon injuries and loss of fitness. I went into it with hopes of a course PB (sub 1:40:50), and having had a good training block so far perhaps even a half marathon PB if things really went well. I was mindful that I didn't want to tire myself too much before Amsterdam, but was feeling fairly fit.

Race kit for half marathon
A change of kit this year, wearing my Harrow AC vest instead of Cherwell Runners

With heavy rain and potential thunderstorms forecast I avoided arriving at the race village too early and thankfully I had Dylan along to support me so I didn't even have to worry about bag drop queues! A brief warm up and then I headed down to the start area with about ten or fifteen minutes to wait for the 9am start. As we gathered behind the start line the rain began - a lovely, cooling shower if you want to put a positive spin on it! Happily it didn't actually last very long at all and the weather for the race was nowhere near as bad as predicted.

It took me nearly a minute to cross the start line - not an issue at all thanks to the chip timing - but the first half a mile felt very crowded. It did thin out quite quickly as we got onto wider roads, but there were a lot of corners early on and too many people trying to run tightly to the inside of the turns which meant even if you were trying to take a "racing line" in order to keep up momentum, the whole pack of people tended to slow right down.

My first three miles all felt really comfortable, just a tiny bit slower than PB pace, and then I made the most of a mainly downhill fourth mile for a faster one. I knew the course had some hills, but I think I'd somehow forgotten quite what they were like! I don't mind a few short, steep hills but some of these were longer inclines which I don't love quite so much. Although I was keeping up a decent pace, by mile six I was just starting to feel perhaps it wasn't as comfortable as it could have been. I passed the halfway mat and was still on for a course PB but by this point I was already starting to lose interest in that target and instead distracted myself by looking out for other people I knew on the sections of course with runners going in both directions. 

As I climbed, slowly, up another hill I made the conscious decision that I really wasn't going to push for a particular time anymore. At this point I was still feeling alright in my running and could have pushed harder but I thought it would definitely cost me in recovery time afterwards and I didn't want that to impact my training for Amsterdam. The course continued to wind its way through the roads and parks of Ealing and there was great support from the marshals and spectators out along the roads. 

In the final four or five miles though I was really starting to tire and struggle. The fact that I hadn't rested or tapered at all coming into this race was showing as my legs got heavier and heavier. The support and encouragement between runners was excellent though with plenty of people sharing water and someone who kindly told me that there would be no more inclines!

Sprint finish at Ealing Half marathon

I was delighted to reach the last mile and I actually rather enjoyed the last section of the course as we looped round the park. Despite my legs having felt really tired, I managed to pick up the pace right at the end and there really was no stopping me once I had the finish line in my sights - forget distance runner, I turned full-on 100m sprinter once my feet hit the finishing straight! All in all I'd only finished 20 seconds over the time I ran a year ago so I was pretty pleased with my time considering how tired I'd felt at times during the race.

Another race done, more lessons learned and I can be grateful for that. I always knew I was going into this race a bit tired due to a normal week of training in the days leading up to it, but it's definitely made me take note of just how crucial that taper and rest is.

Sprinting to race finish


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