I never thought the words Race Recap and Half Marathon would ever appear in the same sentence of mine, yet here I am looking back on what was my biggest sporting achievement to date.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll be all too aware of my knee troubles and even after surgery in March 2016 it’s been a long battle, both physically and mentally to recovery.
Last year I’d given up all hope of ever running a half marathon and my main focus was being able to run 1 mile pain free. So often I’d try and the pain I’d had before surgery just reappeared leaving me feeling fed up and frustrated. It had been whilst I was out on a 4 mile run training for the half marathon distance when the problems had started a whole 2 years before that, in November 2014.
At the beginning of 2017 I set myself the target of building up enough strength to run 5km again. I knew that as long as I could shuffle round that distance I’d still be able to take part in events to add to my medal collection. Looking back, I ran 2km on 25th January and it took me almost 16 minutes and that really was my limit.
Fast forward 5 months and I completed my first ever sprint distance triathlon, and had a new 5k PB of 28 minutes. Go forward another 4 months and with a 10km PB of 58 minutes I’ve just completed my first half marathon too.
The body achieves what the mind believes.
I may not be fast compared with a lot of runners, but I’m faster than I was and I know that my times are other people’s goals. I’m humbled by the thought that some people may be inspired by what I do.
Running gives me focus. It’s something I can be in complete control of. It’s mine and no one can take it from me. My achievements although largely influenced by others are MY achievements, and I’m proud of that.
I believe if you want something hard enough you’ll find a way.
Yesterday I was so nervous at the start line of the Manchester Half Marathon. I’d signed up with the idea of doing it with my pal Jacqui, then she injured her shoulder doing a 100 Mile bike ride a few weeks before. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it on my own so I coerced my friend from Dublin into joining me and also planned to meet up with Jacquis training buddy too.
My wife, my parents and other family and friends all came down to cheer us on and whilst that excited me, I didn’t want to let them down. For some fun they all put bets on my predicted finish time which ranged from 2:10:00 to 2:45:00. Honestly I no idea who was going to win. Anything could’ve happened.
Then all of a sudden I thought about agreeing to run with the guys and thought ‘what have I done’. They were bound to go faster than me and I was so worried about starting too quickly and running out of energy for the way back. 13.1 miles is a really long way. I was really beginning to feel under pressure.
We set off just after 9 and 1 of the guys was still queuing for the loo! I felt so guilty leaving him. He too had signed up planning to run it with Jacqui, then me, and now he would have to run it all alone.
I’d promised myself though that I wouldn’t get too hung up on another people’s races, I had to concentrate on my own. I’d trained for the last 2 months, I’d had good runs and bad runs and I needed to stay focused.
All of my training runs had been around 7-7:30 km pace and the furthest I’d ever done was 17km.
I set off with my friend at 6:30km pace, I felt strong but I was conscious that it was much faster than training. I told myself this was race day and it was about going all out, overcoming barriers and smashing targets so we continued at a steady pace.
I’d mentally broken the race down into sections where I knew our supporters would be stood, focusing on reaching them to do them proud. We passed the 10km marker and I was feeling good. Still maintaining the 6:30ish pace, so I knew the second half would be tough.
It seemed to take forever to reach mile 10 but I knew that once there we would be spurred on again by our supporters and it was just a 5k run to go. I visualised my local 5k route so mentally it didn’t seem a lot. I was getting tired but not as tired as I’d expected by that stage.
Then at 19km I just hit the wall. I think it was partly psychological because I knew I was close to the end, but I looked at the watch and saw my pace had dropped to over 7 minutes km.
I didn’t know if there were going to be any more supporters on that final stretch, my family and friends were at the finish line and it seemed like so far away.
Then there was a hill…and like an angel sent from heaven there was my mate who had come down to cheer me on. I’d been looking out for her on my way round but assumed I’d missed her. It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. She ran with me up the hill patting me on the back and when I got round the corner I could see the finish line in the distance.
I looked around and couldn’t see my friend, I hoped he wasn’t sthat far away. It took all of my physical and mental strength to dig in and find those last few hundred metres from nowhere. Knowing all my important people were waiting for me at the end though gave me the extra energy to even put on a bit of a sprint finish too.
All the emotions whirlled around my head as I glanced down at my watch and saw 2:20:05.
I did it.
I ran a half marathon.
I really didn’t care what time I’d got but the more it sunk in the happier I was with it. I average 6:36km all the way around and did so well to remain consistent.
Having someone to run with made it so much easier despite my initial panic. We paced each other and to have my family and friends there was a huge motivation.
I’m so proud of my run yesterday but I dedicate the medal to all of those who believed in me when I thought my running days were over. Thank you all for your incredible support.