“No such thing as a perfect race” – a friend said that to me before Sunday and it’s true. It doesn’t matter how much things line up for you, there’s always something that doesn’t go according to plan.
In my case, things were not exactly lining up as I’d hoped. I had a cold. Nothing major but enough that my lungs felt like they were under a lot of pressure when I was running uphill. I live in somewhere seemingly untouched by Autumn. That’s code for it’s still hot.
The plan was to go under two hours. Which I thought was possibly a bit ambitious. My previous best race time was in Melbourne in October and it was 2:14 if you pay attention to my Garmin and 2:16 if you pay attention to my race chip. I’d just done a 2:04 on a training run but it was pretty much all I had, so I was nervous. I was nervous to try and I was nervous to fail.
Fun fact. Things that look flat on an elevation map are often NOT FLAT AT ALL. So while I felt like a lung was going to explode on Friday running uphill, I consoled myself with the fact that it was flat and I wouldn’t need to run uphill. This is why races never go according to plan.
Anyway, after tackling first hill and picking my way through some of the initial congestion and trying not to think about how hot it was, I hit the wall at 3 kilometres. Who does that?! The answer is no one. No one hits a wall at 3km. I’ve hit the wall at 18kms. I’ve hit the wall at 25kms, I’ve hit the wall at 17kms. I’ve never hit the wall at 3kms. As I was running along I was convinced that I just couldn’t do it. I was too sick. Too out of shape. I couldn’t even run 50 more metres, how could I do 3kms six more times. That’s INSANE. And even when I thought about dropping back the pace to a nice easy one I couldn’t even fathom being able to finish.
I stopped listening to my brain at that part because obviously that was going to be no help at all. I focused on my technique on being more efficient. It’s hard to describe but it feels like slowing down but moving my feet faster. Which makes no sense. But that’s what it feels like. Reduced effort, faster feet. The crowd thinned out a bit, and I’d managed to get myself back to around a 5:35 pace and I told myself that I had to find somewhere in that pace that was comfortable. Somehow, I found it and held on to it. It edged away from me a few times but I just kept telling myself to keep turning my feet over and somehow I made it back to that comfort zone.
I was so proud of that time, but I think what I’m even more proud of is overcoming that wall. It was so unexpected for it to happen so early or even at all in a half marathon distance that I am really familiar with. But it did happen and I did get through it.
When I was originally designing my training last year my goal was to take 5 minutes off my Melbourne time every time I ran a half marathon distance. I guess it’s time to move those goal posts.