The Royal Parks Half Marathon was the final run of a three races in three weeks succession of events. Following PBs at the Berlin Marathon and the Lincoln Half Marathon it would be a dream to run three consecutive PBs, but the question was could my body cope? You have to go after your dreams as otherwise that's where they will stay, ideas and notions never fulfilled; and with this in mind I approached the race with the slightly dangerous strategy of 'PB or bust'. If I ran hard all the way I could get a PB, if I blew up I thought at least it would be a beautiful race to have to take the last few miles steady in...
The unpredictable nature of London transport meant race day was an early start and saw me checking out of my hotel bleary eyed at just after 6:30am. London is never empty, but I imagine the streets were as close as they get to being deserted. I arrived at the Hyde Park race start for 7:30am and time soon lapsed as hundreds of runners descended on the park. Stood on the start line the crisp cold autumnal morning was starting to lift as the sun's warmth beat the battle of the London skyline. It was perfect running conditions and confirmed my PB or bust strategy was to be employed. I felt emotional as the countdown to 'go' was given. I was running alone and suddenly felt nostalgic and sad not to be sharing this experience with my usual running buddy, who had to miss out through injury, or even my recently emigrated running companion. As I crossed the start line I turned my emotion to determination and began my attack.
The first six or so miles of the route winds out of the collection of Royal Parks and take in some traditional London sights, such as Buckingham Palace. I was running strong and fast at this point, well on track for a PB. The route then heads back into the parks with the remaining miles set in glorious tree lined avenues which make you almost forget you are in London at all. My quads started to complain a little at half way, soreness setting in with each step. I tried to keep my pace constant though, setting myself a target of getting to 10 miles running sub 8 min/mile pace.
I was 9 miles in when I breached my goal, running an 8.06 minute mile. The struggle was getting stronger. From mile ten onwards I hurt a lot, with the pain really just being acute into my quads. I could have taken my foot off the gas at this point, accepted not getting a PB and enjoyed the last 3 miles. But I didn't. Instead I gritted my teeth and dug in.
The supporters on the last few miles drew some strength within me and as I hit the final mile a PB was still finely in the balance. I loved the countdown markers on the course which really spurred me on. 800m to go I kicked, 400m to go I forced my legs more, 200m to go I glanced at my watch and ran as hard as I could. The result; a PB of 1:45:44.
The PB or bust strategy is not something I would try again! I was close to busting at ten miles, and my quads definitely feel bust now! But chasing that PB gave me a focus when I was feeling a little lost without my friends around me. If I had ran a mediocre, comfortable race then there would have been part of me thinking what was the point in actually running? I guess I felt I had to be selfish with no one to focus on but me.
The Royal Parks Half Marathon is a beautiful race, there is a clear and justified reason as to why it's so popular! I have been caught in its spell now and will be back to run again. As for next weekend, no races - I really mean that!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...