Thursday, 17 November 2011

Can a slow race be a good race?

It's been a few days since I ran the Poppy Half, my 4th half marathon. It was one where I had hoped to FINALLY break the 2 hour mark after coming so close in Dublin. I had all kinds of grand plans!

However, I went into the race knowing it wasn't my time to break any records. A bad cold with only four weeks until the race left me unprepared. It took a while for me to ramp back up again and I struggled with any kind of speed the week of the half. So while disappointed, I heeded the advice of the wise Twitter running crew. I ran the Poppy Half for enjoyment....not to try and break my PB.

I have to admit that (like before any race!) a teeny weeny part of me thought some miracle might happen. That on Sunday I'd surprise myself and break 2:00 without even trying. But of course, there were no miracles. On a beautifully sunny Autumn day, I ran the Poppy Half in 2:11:57. Not horrible considering I was unprepared, but a good 10 minutes off my personal best.

My simple race strategy was to find a steady, comfortable pace and stick to it. If I felt good at the end I would try to speed up a bit. I never felt miserable during the race, but it was up and down. There were stretches where I felt quite good, followed by ones where I felt tired, like I was dragging. I was still hoping that I could really push it the final lap, but it just wasn't in me. I just tried to stay consistent  and mustered a little sprint the final few yards.

So a slow race for me....but in some ways a good one. Why, you ask? It was a great learning experience, and I realized 3 big things:

1. Getting enough training makes a real difference. I guess this seems pretty obvious but this race really illustrated it for me. Comparing Dublin and Poppy, and the number of miles I ran 4 weeks before each race (not counting the taper week):

Looking at the simple numbers, it's not surprising that I ran Dublin much faster. My running volume for Poppy was about 43% less.

2. The speed wasn't there that day, but it's in there. No one likes to run a race 10 minutes slower than the last one, no matter what the reason. Especially me. But after the Poppy Half I really thought, wow. Compared to my run today, I must have been going SO MUCH faster to get that PB in Dublin. Ten minutes is a big difference, right? Feeling as I did on Sunday put my other race in perspective, and made me all the more proud of my PB. I CAN go faster. I HAVE gone faster. I WILL go faster!!

3. I love running. Maybe I'm stating the obvious again. But there was a time in my life when I never thought I'd run a half marathon at all...and now I'm running them for enjoyment! Looking forward to the half, planning to just have fun as I raced, running with less-than-ideal preparation. The Poppy Half reminded me how much running is now a part of my life and--despite the bad days--how much I love it. Why else would you be happy to run 13 miles for fun? :)

Now it's my 'rest' week. I'm getting a few runs in to prepare for another race on Sunday, the Old Deer Park 10K in Richmond. I decided to enter just a few weeks ago since a friend of mine was doing it. The offer of going to brunch afterwards was too tempting!

So the Poppy Half a week before and still trying to get up to speed, I expect this 10K will be a slow one. Nowhere near my 10K PB. But at least I know I'll have a great time and learn about myself as a runner in the process. And that can only be a good thing, right?


  1. I think you ran very well and sensibly given feeling ill before the race. far better to run and enjoy it than to push for what you are capable of on a good day and end up injuring yourself. It's hard through when you build towards a race and train and focus on it. But you can only ever run how you feel on that day.
    Sometimes all the preparation, mileage and great training can be undone by something unexpected. the important thing is that you finished with a smile, learnt about how you run and what works for you. And there's always another race.
    Good luck getting that sub 2 hour half. I know how hard you work to get there and how amazing you will feel when you do it. And you will.

  2. @thescribbler

    Thanks! I hope I get to that sub-2:00 one day....sometimes it just feels like it's taking forever to get there!

  3. I've also begun to realise that doing the miles in preparation makes alot of diference if chasing a time. But planning just to enjoy the run regardless is also good for us - the HM I enjoyed running most was 30mins slower then my best!
    Good luck for your 10K. Have fun!

  4. @Rachel

    Hey Rachel...I really thought that because I had a pretty solid running base (from my Dublin Half training), the layoff wouldn't effect me. But now I know the weeks running up to the race are probably the most important!

  5. Hi, know what you mean! I think the loving running bit is the most important. It much be awful to lose that precious gift. Keep on loving it! :-}