Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Reflections on the Brighton Half, or How I'm feeling after missing the sub-2 mark--AGAIN!

@rowenanews called me a "small ball of fury" this morning. When I told Hubs he laughed and said, "Sounds like she knows you well!"

My disappointment on Sunday was replaced by fury yesterday, when the Brighton Half officially acknowledged the distance error and made time adjustments. I know many fellow runners were happy but I wanted to scream when I saw my adjusted time of 2:00:24.

This was my 6th half and my 4th where I was trying to run a sub-2. If the distance had been correct I would have known how close I was to the 2 hour mark. I would have pushed even harder to the end. But I chose to trust the mile markers and when I hit 11 miles I believed I had missed the sub-2 already. And I know it made a difference to how I ran the last part of the race.

2:00:24 would have been a PB for me, but I just don't....can't....WON'T....think of it as one. I can't help thinking about how things might have played out differently if the distance had been marked correctly. True, maybe I still would have just missed it. But I FEEL like I'll never know. For me, this will always be a 2:03:21 for a 13.42 race.

I admit, my fury is probably down to the fact that my time was so close to a sub-2 AND because I've been pursuing it for so long. Would I be as upset if I had run a poor race and my time was no where near 2 hours anyway? Or if I had blown away the sub-2 mark even at the longer distance? Or if it had been my first half? Probably not. But for me, the circumstances of Brighton Half ended up as perfect storm for anger, frustration and disappointment.

The morning after my fury has dissipated. Stepping back and looking at the race (without considering the distance mistake), here are my thoughts:

  • It was a tough race for me. In general, the race just felt tough. I didn't have as much energy as I thought I would, and my legs didn't feel that fresh. Around mile 7 my legs really started to tighten up, and I didn't feel like I had enough left to push it for the final 3 miles. I actually felt much better running the Southern California Half when I was tired and jet-lagged! We have good days and bad days...and for some reason it wasn't my best.
  • I need to re-think my race strategy. My plan for this race was to stick as close to 9:09 pace as possible from the start, and then push the pace if I could starting at mile 10. But my legs really struggled and I wonder if this plan is counter to how I usually run best. Slow start, pick up in the middle, strong finish. Perhaps I should be starting underpace the first 3-4 miles, build up, and end up faster than goal pace the final 3 miles. Thoughts on this appreciated.
  • I have to work on my mental toughness. I did get flustered when the mile markers started to go wrong. I had been keeping pace better than I had in other races....so I just couldn't understand how I was actually behind when I hit the race mile markers. Instead of pushing through and fighting harder, I think I let it affect me more than it should have.
  • I am nearly there. I've never been THIS close to a sub-2 (my PB is 2:01:43), and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed to have missed it again. Wouldn't you be? I've tried 4 times and I've been working hard, and yet somehow it still eludes me! BUT after this race I should have no doubts in my mind that I can run fast enough.

So I've learned a lot from this race. I'm going to put the Brighton Half behind me and dive back into my training. Lots to work on and more hard work needed because I just can't give up now. Not ever.

And of course I'm already itching for my next race, if only as a release for any residual anger. If you are racing and see a small ball of fury go by.....IT WILL BE ME!

I know we all say it, but the Twitter Running Family is amazing. Thank you for sharing in my anger and frustration, letting me wallow and whinge, and reminding me to stay positive!



  1. Hayley - you definitely have the determination to crack this sub-2, and your analysis is objective and healthy... Physically and mentally you are so close it is only a matter of time before you nail it. For what it's worth, I would suggest training for a significantly faster goal (e.g. 1:50 to 1:55, i.e. 8:30 to 8:45 pace), and you will then hit the sub-2 comfortably, with plenty of margin to accommodate errors in race logistics... In this case an adjusted sub-2 might have lacked a little something...?

    Anyway I've helped several people break 2 hours, with a combination of training plan and coaching tips - I'm sure you have all those resources at your disposal, but feel free to contact me if you're interested in additional input!

    1. Thanks for your comments! Sounds like a good approach, to train for a faster goal to make sure I get there. Will definitely reach out if I have any questions.

      BTW, I'm not Hayley...but thank you anyway!

  2. I think what Robert said above is spot on. You WILL get there. I know what's hardest about this is the what-ifs. I've had those too and they are hard to let go but you have to.

    They say even splits are best when running a half or full but you know you're body best. I also like to pick it up at the end. If you decide to go with that route, try incorporating some fast finish long runs (where you finish at faster than your goal pace). I'll try and find some links and send them over to you. There are articles by Matt & Mario on Competitor that are really good.

    Go Dim! You've got even more fire now and I can't wait to see you streaking across the line in a small (but fast) ball of fury. :)

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I know I will get there...sometimes it just feels like I'm not improving as much as I should! And definitely not as fast as I want to!

      I've been trying to finish most of my long runs strong (recommended in that book, Run Faster) but not necessarily trying to hit faster than HM goal pace. I will definitely give it a try and see if it's a race option for me!

      Really appreciate all the support! :)

  3. Personally I always trust my Garmin and not the mile markers as they are often wrong. You'll definitely get that sub 2hr HM and you could fit one in as part of your marathon build up which by the way is only 13 weeks away - eek!

    1. That's interesting, John! Brighton Half was the first time I've ever noticed such a big discrepancy!

      Yep, next half is definitely part of the marathon training plan. Are you SURE it's just 13 weeks away? Yikes! :)

  4. Like the idea of being a little ball of fury! Sounds a very useful thing to have! You will do it, you know you will. For some reason it's taking longer than it should - but what are you going to do when you've cracked it? You're doing great, remember you're after a marathon here, that's your main goal, not a fast half. Good luck! :-)

    1. LOL thanks, Sue. I guess a marathon is the goal...I just can't help trying to break that mark after working at it for so long!

      When I've cracked it I'm sure I will find some other obsession! :)

  5. sorry to hear you didnt hit your goal, but a refocus on training is whats needed, I know I have mentioned it before but training for a fast 5k will speed you up for a faster 13.1m run, interval repeats of 200 or 400m fast to get your legs turning over quicker and building your vo2 max will help no end.It may sound like madness but the faster you are over the shorter distances the quicker you will be over the longer ones, you will still do 40+ miles a week but incorperate a 5k trainng routine

    Hope this helps, its never easy to break pbs, let along it be a long course but a little help ou will get there easily

    1. It makes sense, will definitely try to pull in shorter, faster, interval sessions back into my training!

      And perhaps doing parkruns on Saturday might help?

      Have to admit, running at faster paces does scare me a little bit. It feels very unnatural to me as a plodder. A completely new challenge!

    2. Parkruns will definately help, as will fast intervals, you cant get quicker if your legs dont get used to turning over quicker.And dont worry if your not fast, the intervals are as fast as YOU could do them, I used to drive to a local football pitch and sprint the length then jog the width at least ten times, give it a go and see how you feel after a few weeks, I guarantee them long runs will be easier :-)

  6. I know how you felt at the end of the half when you knew you were past your target time, there was no motivation to give one last push. I've been in that scenario before.
    I would be very angry with the organisers too.
    On the positive note you know u made some improvements although it doesn't feel like the 2:24 is actually yours.
    You will ge there!

  7. Hey you. You know I feel your pain but also value your efforts so much more than a time number so won't fix on that here. I think a bit of track work can help - the book 4months to a 4 hour marathon has good track sessions for speed. Also I am a fine of a negative split, so starting slower, conserving and having a big push at the end. Good luck.

  8. hey Lovely
    I feel your pain xx but dont worry just think you are saving that a amazing time for the big one, the marathon x I have been trying for a sub 4 marathon for a long time now and came out of my last one with a 4hr 16 secs
    My garmin had switched itself off 16 miles in so i had no idea of my pace and was no longer in control of the race. So many things go through your head, 'oh i shouldn't have gone for that one water stop,...... if only i had pushed a little bit harder on that last mile' etc
    But you know in your head you are capable of a sub 2 hour now so im sure you can do it! you must have spent 24 seconds weaving at the beginning
    best of luck
    Alice x