After about 12 weeks of training, the last 1/3 of which was hampered by a stupid niggling injury, I ran in the Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon and finished it!
About 6 weeks into my initial training (as previously blogged) I switched training programs, and a few weeks into the new program I was stupid and didn’t stretch/warm up for long enough before doing some hill run reps, and pulled my right calf muscle, which was niggling ever since that leading right up to, and during, the half marathon.
The excitement leading up to the half marathon was quite amazing. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be nervous or anxious or really what to expect, but the nerves never really kicked in, and the only real concern I had in the few days before and morning of the half marathon was actually getting to it on time, using public transport. The Harbour Bridge, and much of the city, is essentially closed for the morning of the running festival, and so public transport is the only way to get to a number of places, especially from the part of Sydney in which we live, and when I showed up at the train station at about 5am (the race started at 6:20am) there was no train listed for the time that I’d confirmed online the night before.
A couple of other runners were at the train station, and then a voice came over the PA system to inform us that there was no train in the next little while, and that a bus would be able to take us from our station to the next station down, which would have a train. We all went to the bus station, but there was almost no life there at all, and the now 6 of us runners decided to get into taxis down to the next station.
We made it to the train station, and onto the train, with only a couple of minutes to spare, and all breathed a sigh of relief. We had to transfer trains, and walked straight onto another train and arrived at Milson’s Point Station – the station right at the starting line – with about 40 or so minutes to spare.
The excitement of having to run to catch the train meant I was in need of some water, which they provided at the starting area, so I got some of that into me, and then started mentally preparing for the race, as well as taking a picture or two.
As promised, the race started at 6:20am, with former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath firing the starter’s gun (and also running in the event!), and about 10 minutes after the start group ‘C’, of which I was a part, started moving towards the start line. Oddly enough (to me) people were running before the start line. Our number bibs had integrated timing chips, so each runner gets an official time as well as a ‘net’ time, the latter of which starts when you cross the start line, so you don’t have the 10 minutes or so that it takes you to actually get to the start line counted against you.
I put in a nice even pace for the first few kms, taking in the scenery and the experience of getting to run across the internationally recognised Sydney Harbour Bridge, and then through the streets of Sydney, often feeling quite strange and expecting to have to look for traffic!
The drinks stations were very interesting – hundreds, no, probably thousands, of cups of water and/or Powerade to keep all us runners hydrated. At the first drinks station I made the rookie mistake of thinking it’d be a good idea to try some Powerade for the first time since starting training for this race. The Powerade was after the water in the drinks station, and so I’d finished my water, then started slurping down my Powerade which was way too sugary for my liking, and I ended up with it on my fingers and in my throat and had to hold out until the next drink station – probably 3 or 4 kms down the track – to wash my hands and rinse out my mouth.
Through the first 14 kms I was maintaining a pace of about 7 mins/km, which is what I was aiming for, but as the race wore on the right calf muscle was starting to hurt more and more, and my right hip, due to my adjusted running style to relieve the calf muscle, was starting to ache as well.
At about the 16km mark there started to be a few climbs – less than the climbs we’d already gone through – but climbs none-the-less, and my right leg was really giving me grief up them, so I decided that, if I was going to be able to finish this race, I needed to walk up the hills. So in the last 5 or 6 kms of the race I walked up the hills to rest the right leg, and it seemed to work well. I kept a goodish pace still walking, and picked up running again for about the last km or so, and crossed the finish line with an average pace of about 7:40/km, which I was happy with given how my leg was feeling.
Post-race I had to catch the train home, and there seemed to be more stairs than ever getting to the train station, and then within the train station, and the legs by this stage were quite tired. Still, I managed to get the right trains to our closest station, got in the car and drove home, and spent much of the next two days very slowly going up and down our stairs at home as required. Luckily I’d organised ahead of time to take the Monday off afterwards, and I really needed to.
All-in-all it was an amazing event, and I can’t wait to do another half marathon – this time possibly in Canberra next April. This first one initially I was aiming at completing it in 2:15, but I’d kissed this goal goodbye when the calf injury really set my training back. I’ll re-institute this goal for the Canberra half marathon, and will look at getting that figure to below 2hrs possibly for the Sydney half marathon next year.
I’ve realised since this event that I really need to lose a few pounds before starting training for the next half marathon, and also to develop a deeper training base – long, slow runs – before I’ll be able to realise my goal of the sub-2 hour half marathon, but I love running, so don’t see this as a bad thing in any way.