Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Great Bentley Half Marathon

On Sunday 8th February, I competed in one of my “A” races for the year, the Great Bentley Half Marathon. A favourite event in the spring running calendar, particularly for those with an upcoming Marathon in April or May, the race has great PB potential, run on quiet country roads around this village situated roughly halfway between Colchester and Clacton. 
Great Bentley lays claim to the largest village green in the UK. So we all parked on it.

This was my third visit to the fixture. In 2013, I ran although I was unwell – no doubt a bad idea, and the constant sleet throughout didn’t help much either – and I only just broke 2hrs. Last year was much better, and I was only just outside my 1hr40 target, on a very cold and very windy day. This time around, conditions were just about perfect – a bit chilly but nothing much to worry about, or to get in the way of a decent time.


Going for a PB

I hadn’t run a half for a while –  this would be my first proper attempt to “race” the distance since Stowmarket Half back in March of last year (1hr38) – and I was keen to see how I’d progressed. Since then, I’d only run a couple more: a struggle around Southend on a ridiculously hot summer’s day and pacing duties around Ipswich in October. I had run my best two halves at Stowmarket – it was where I set my PB of 1hr34 in 2013, so I’d managed sub 1hr40 there twice – but I knew that if everything came together at Great Bentley, I had every chance of getting under 1hr30 for the first time, and knocking a big chunk off my PB in the process.

The confidence came from my two recent 10 mile races at the back end of last year, which I blogged about in my last post. The plan for Sunday was to go off at a similar pace to those, and then try to hang on for the last 3.1miles. I was looking therefore to keep an average up of around 6m45 per mile.

How the race unfolded

I started off way too quick – no change there then. This is a common failing I need to sort out – although to be fair, it’s working well in the 5km races I’ve done recently. Just not such a good idea when it’s over 4 times the distance. At the end of mile one I felt great, but I knew 6m17 was way too quick, as was 6m33 for mile 2. I settled down after this and concentrated on getting into a comfortable rhythm, with the aim of keeping each mile below 6m45.

All went well for the new few miles - in fact, as I went through the 6 mile marker I realised I was on for a 10km PB, although I’m not sure sprinting 0.2miles to ensure I got one was the brightest thing I’ve ever done in a race, and it certainly confused the runners I sped past (who soon overtook again once I’d settled back down!) 

I like this. It messes with my head a bit. But I like it.
I managed to keep on target pretty well up until miles 11 and 12, when I crept slightly over 6m45, but still below 7min mile pace. Fortunately I had enough left to push on for the last mile and a bit. Knowing the whole course is completely flat allows you to concentrate almost exclusively on rhythm and form, without worrying about any hard parts of the course up ahead, and I suppose it then becomes a mental battle to maintain what will be – if you’re going for a PB – a demanding pace.

Smiles all round

And so a successful race – with a new PB by about 8mins, and a finish time of 1hr26m46, and a top 100 finish. I can’t believe I shall ever be in contention for prizes in a race of this distance, but I’ve now managed a time I can be proud of, and it offers plenty of encouragement as I continue to build towards the London Marathon.

The day finished with a trip just round the corner to Somei and Trevor's, two of the Commando Runners, who kindly hosted an after run party for the second year running - great food and great company. Charlotte smashed her own PB by 6 minutes, so a great day all round.

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