Helensburgh Half Marathon

DSC_2435Things have been rather busy the last while, and the only subject I’m feeling keen to write about is running! Normal service should resume soon. But in the meantime, this morning we had an early start to head off to Helensburgh for the Helensburgh Amateur Athletics Club organised half marathon.

I should say up front that I had mixed feelings about the event. I was mainly entering it to ensure I completed my running club’s championship criteria – As I’d left things rather late (and am leaving marathons to next year), my choice was limited by the time I got around to choosing. Helensburgh and Glasgow half marathons. Mainly though I didn’t really get around to doing the necessary training, so my goal went from pushing my PB too far (which I figured I’d leave for Glasgow in early September) to simply getting around in one piece. In fact, I didn’t get much running done this week at all other than the Monday club session: I wasn’t feeling 100% in the middle of the week either.

So we got to Helensburgh with enough time for a couple of quick trips to the facilities, and I got a very short warmup in. Just before everybody started gathering for the start, the sun seemed to appear from nowhere, and I started worrying whether I should have put some sunblock on. I needn’t have bothered. After the start, the sun disappeared. And it then wasn’t very long until the rain started. And didn’t really stop for the duration. A short sharp shower would have been quite nice, but this just kept on coming!

Despite my talk about ‘just getting around’, I figured I’d try for a 1:45 time. My previous PB in Glasgow last year was 1:52:38, but since then I’ve joined a running club and seen my times tumble. It was what you might call a ‘soft PB’. So figured it was reasonable to aim for something, and see how I went. Mindful of my friend Sharon’s supportive text last night about taking it steady and overtaking towards the end being a lot more fun, I settled in to a comfortable 7:45/mile pace, and figured I’d keep at it. I was pleased that my pacing meant I was able to catch up and pass a good few runners. The rain saps a lot out of you, but despite that I found myself feeling pretty good all the way around. Passing runners was good fun, but it didn’t last – a group soon formed towards the end section in Helensburgh where we were all passing each other over and over again.

I’d picked up a water bottle along the way, and hung on to it. No bins and my hatred of littering meant I couldn’t lose it in good conscience. So when Frances suddenly appeared on the other side of the road, she snapped this rather amusing picture of me throwing it in her direction so she could find a bin. Some gratitude for her efforts on my part! My excuse was I’d not seen her (my glasses were soaked!), and somehow finding a bin had become quite a focus for me! An DSC_2357amusing action shot will no doubt ensure I don’t forget my rudeness either!

The 3-4 miles through Helensburgh’s back streets were tough. Long and straight streets with very little going on. Returning to the front and seeing the 12 mile marker was therefore a huge relief, and I felt good enough to pick the pace up a bit more, and start picking off the group I’d settled with. Of course, they weren’t letting it just happen, so a great race ensued. Best of all (for me!) I managed to keep at it. Rounding the final corner to see the finish line was a huge relief, but one of the other runners had something left in him and passed me. I congratulated him briefly… Normally I’m a bit hopeless at sprint finishes…

But somehow I ‘dug deep’ and found a chunk of energy. Thoughts of hill sessions in the gloomy winter flashed past me: I’d been in worse pain and had less energy than I had then, so figured what-the-hell… So my very first sprint finish! DSC_2432 And, it seems, I won!. Wow. Chuffed to bits.

My fellow running club members had some great performances. With an out-and-back course, it meant we could see our front-runners doing extremely well. Not had the official results yet, but looks like some superb performances were put in and some great results throughout the field.

My watch time gave me a time of 1:41:27, but there’s a bit more in that given I didn’t stop my watch for a while (too exhausted from the sprint!). My official time was 01:41:23, so a PB of 11 minutes was *waaay* beyond my expectations given my minimal preparation, and given how good I actually felt at the end, plus a bit more training, I’m starting to feel quite really confident of pushing below 1:40 in Glasgow next month, especially if it’s a bit dryer 🙂

Certainly a great end to a great event. Whilst the weather was far from helpful, the course is superb, and the organisers and their wonderful marshalls deserve a special Thank You! In dryer conditions it’d be really quite something. The views over the lochs and *reasonably* flat course were all great. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a great result.

Now, if only I’d remember to put some plasters on…

Some additional items:

* Picture highlights courtesy of Frances. Complete set.

* Fellow club runner Ian’s writeup.

* Fellow club runner Norman’s writeup

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