The trouble with pouring your heart and soul into your half marathon training and not falling over or catching Corona in the days before is that you find yourself on the start line an absolute bag of nerves with no excuses for failure. There’s no “well, I would have done better if I had trained properly, but I was concentrating on my triathlon/5k/birdwatching”, no “well, I would have done better if I was healthy and uninjured”. There’s no consolation in lapping people on the couch. I went to the start line with two goals: sub 2:45 (a second fastest half) or sub 2:35 (breaking my PB the day before its sixth birthday). As much as it should all be about enjoying the race and doing your best, I knew I’d be bitterly disappointed if I took longer than 2:45.
Everything was perfect about the conditions except for one thing: the wind. I couldn’t decide whether I was annoyed about this or slightly relieved that the race would be harder than what I faced in 2016, so I wouldn’t feel so bad if I didn’t meet my goal. But other than that, it was a glorious sunny day and a perfect 10 degrees, and even better, a perfect 9am start. Whatever happened, I’d be finished by lunchtime!
I found Kate at the start and told her in the nicest possible way that I intended to ignore her for the duration of the race. The previous day we’d accidentally engaged in racing each other at parkrun which was quite foolish on my part because she is generally faster than me and this resulted me putting in considerably more effort than one should the day before a half. (Also in me getting my best time of the year). I had a feeling that if I tried keeping up with her again I’d knacker myself in the first 10k and earn the Tequila of Shame for the slowest second half in history. I was quite relieved when she shot off out of sight at the start line thus not giving me the option of trying to race her again.
The first 5k was hard work because it was straight into the wind with some medium sized hills on the way. But the views were beautiful, the sun was shining off the sea, I felt strong and the memories of 2016 came flooding back (and not the memories of 2018, which I’ve blotted out). My 5k split was a few seconds faster than 2016, which I felt was an improvement because there was no weather in 2016. It was a great relief when we reached the turnaround point on the clifftop, slightly closer than in previous years, and ran back towards the town. My pace improved a little and we headed into the town. The route now goes up to the top of The Level and round the paths in the park, which I liked as I don’t think I’ve visited The Level since I split up with awful ex boyfriend and every time I go back to Brighton to do a race I think of the miserable person I was back then and wished I could tell her that one day I’d be running there, having the time off my life, instead of crying into my Grubbs burger after yet another row.
There was nearly an Incident at 10k as a dozy woman decided to inexplicably run right into me at the water station, but I think she came off worse due to weighing about half as much as I do. I did waste a bit of breath on saying a bad word and gently reminding her to look where she was going though. My 10k split was also a few seconds faster than 2016.
The next bit was pretty uneventful except for a couple of diversions up side streets to add a bit of distance which I felt killed my momentum far more than they needed to. There was a brief moment of panic when I thought I was being overtaken by the 2:45 pacer but it turned out to be the 2:30 pacer, who I should have never been in front of in the first place. (Cheating again). Just before 10 miles, Kate overtook me, which confused me immensely as she’d definitely been ahead of me before, but she was kind enough to explain that she’d required a toilet stop.
At this point my watch was giving me a projected finish time of 2:32ish and my 10 mile split was a few seconds slower than my 2016 time. I knew that I slowed a lot in the last 5k in 2016 but I also knew that I was getting tired and that there was that wind to face. I prayed that maybe it had dropped in the last hour and it wouldn’t be so bad and as I turned the corner away from the dreaded power station I held my breath and then groaned as the sledgehammer of a full force tornado did its best to blow me all the way to Worthing. In that second I knew it was game over, there would be no PB today. But on the other hand, plan B, sub 2:45 was still very much on: all I had to do is cover 5k in 42 minutes. I switched the run/walk timer on my watch on (60/60) and dropped from an average pace of 7:20 per km to 8:30. I tried not to feel disheartened as I watched the estimated finish time creep up and up. I was somehow gaining on Kate, who was possibly in danger of being swept up in the wind like a kite and fluttering out to sea, and as I caught up with her I felt I had to apologise for the fact that I appeared to be racing her despite this really not being my intention (and being that annoying run/walker who keeps overtaking you and then walking). At that moment, I didn’t care who I did and didn’t keep up with so long as it wasn’t the 2:45 pacer.
Finally I reached the final straight and switched the run/walk timer off again and ran the final 1.1km at a mediocre pace. I would like to have aimed for sub 2:40 but at that point there was too much air in my face and nothing left in the bag. Kate very kindly slowed down enough to let me catch up and we crossed the line together in 2:40:58.
So I didn’t get the PB I hoped for but despite this I was really pleased with my time. For the last six years I’ve kept looking at my 2016 performance thinking I would never be able to run that well again, like the time belonged to someone else and that I would never really recover from the injury that befell me five months later. After this weekend I am certain that I have fought my way back and that I can do it again. It might not be yet, but I think it will be this year. I just have to be careful not to fall over before it happens.