A year since my first half-marathon, and this was my first time doing a half-marathon for the second time. I’m still a complete noob at this whole running thing, but certain truths are apparent, and one is that it’s hard to fight the 5K vibe. That is, how you feel after that distance won’t be how you feel for the whole time, but you can often tell by then roughly what your body will allow you to do over the next 110-ish minutes.
On this occasion that was a good thing. After a couple of miles my body had gone through its tedious systems check and my gait had worked through the 70-year-old-rickets-sufferer phase into something like a running gait. And I felt…wait, no, it can’t be…yes, I felt “comfortable”. Running has never been comfortable for me – at least not since I ran 20 yards across the road to get to a kebab van in England after being out with friends.
But there I was, coming up to the three-mile mark and rocking an 8:15 pace that, whilst potentially not sustainable, felt uncannily like the pace my body wanted to run if only I’d let it do its thing and stop looking at my GPS watch. So I did as I was being told.
And those (phantom) injuries were…um…no, they were definitely NOT there. Thank God for that. Except whoops, that’s my pork rope. No…gone again. This is ridiculous, I’m supposed to be listening to my body and respecting and acting on what it tells me, but either my body is schizophrenic or it’s a lying fool and I don’t wish to listen to it in either case.
One of the best features of the Cayman Half-Marathon is the water stops. Most of them are manned by complete lunatics with far more energy than they have a right to, and they make all of us quicker as we pass them. This year one of the stops was a massive spinning class, one had a live band, and there was the guy screaming rapid-fire encouragements into a megaphone. I have to say, the megaphone guy needs to move. I remember him from last year and both times he was at around mile 2 or 3. Two miles into a half-marathon when I’m still trying to settle into my pace, I don’t need any encouragements to “keep it up”, and I need no convincing that I “can do it” – they need to move him to mile 10 by which time I could always do with someone screaming something at me. At a water stop late in the race I was handed water by a belly dancer, which was weird – maybe she could swap with megaphone guy.
Another was run by the local rugby club, with several of Jude’s friends dressed up as elves handing out drinks. I made sure to suck in my stomach, don my mask of supreme confidence and speed up a tad as I passed them – I wouldn’t want Jude getting stick at school because his Dad looked rubbish, and I just about resisted shouting “I’M KICKING YOUR DAD’S BUTT!” at one of them.
During the daytime, the route is probably fantastic as it takes you around South Sound within yards of the Caribbean Sea. In the half-hour after the event’s 5am start time however, the aesthetics are limited. The ones who really benefit from it are the walkers and marathoners, the latter of whom need all the distraction they can get as they start their second loop. It is an out-and-back course, and the end of the “out” involves a cone in the middle of a disused road surrounded by the hilarious bedlam of relay changeovers. My pace had been good and I wanted to take a tight U-turn and really push off for the return portion. I was just about to do that when I thought “No, remember your marathon training…don’t risk your knees”, and slowed down”. Two days later I found out that this made my event photo look kinda lame for that section, but my knees said nothing to me as I made the turn so it was worth it.
Getting into mile 7 and 8 I was keenly aware that this was where I more or less gave up in Ocean City, so I waited for my body to make that suggestion again. Only this time whilst I was prepared to at least listen to whatever complaint my body had, based on the previous 7 miles and the 5K vibe, I was probably going to tell it to be quiet and do as it was told.
By this point, although my pace-per-mile calculations were becoming fuzzy, it seemed that I should definitely be thinking sub-1:50, and potentially in the vicinity of my 1:48:35 PB. But my Nike GPS watch’s “Actual pace” reading is hopelessly inaccurate, so while I believed it’s 8:15 overall reading (PB territory), I couldn’t tell whether I was slowing down so as to just miss it, or still hitting the right pace.
At the eight mile water stop there was ‘Sir Turtle’ – a big fluffy green mascot character by the side of the road who (which?) I obviously had to violently high-five.
By the 10th and 11th miles I knew the PB was on, although mile 11 was my slowest of the race at 8:18, and I knew I had to push to make sure of doing the job.
I love the finishing stretch at this race. Having come through the small business area of town, you turn left onto the coast road for the last 100 yards. Marshalls relay your name back to the dude with the mic, who announces you (if there aren’t too many finishing at the same time), to the waiting crowd. I even got a comment from the announcer about my big-grinned, tongue-stuck-out approach.
I was ecstatic and did what I hadn’t done after any previous half-marathon – punching the air, and hard enough that if the air had a face it would have suffered a serious nose bleed. Partly I was delighted about the time: a PB I didn’t expect, and with the confidence that I could have shaved another minute off it over the first few miles if I’d needed to. I was also mightily relieved at getting to the end without a flare-up from either Achilles, or knees, or back; and without my perpetually whiny hamstrings putting in for a transfer.
In the massage tent 30 minutes later, I asked the ladies to work on my pork ropes. The lady on my right leg declared herself well pleased after about three minutes: “It’s good, not much tightness there AT ALL! Great!” There was a pause, and left-leg-Lindsay said, “Yeah…give me a couple of minutes…there’s um…moooore tightness here”. Twas ever thus…
But even before I’d reached the front of the queue for the massage tent my thoughts were on Tuesday and the next day of marathon training; I was actually looking forward to it. Me. Looking forward to a 35-mile reverse-taper week followed by a couple more 40-mile weeks. Looking. Forward. To. It. That’s so weird and un-me-ish it’s almost frightening.