When I was a corporate English teacher in Paris, a few of my students were marathon runners. One of them, a financial services sales representative, never allowed his advancing years and expanding waistline to get in the way of his running; he had recently done the London Marathon.
But when I told him about an upcoming half marathon once, he was uninterested. “When you’ve run marathons,” he said, “it’s hard to get excited about a half marathon.”
I don’t agree with this. While a half marathon isn’t daunting for me compared to a marathon, it’s still a race – and a race is always an exciting occasion.
I’m running in the Dublin Half Marathon on Saturday 21 September, so to get me in the mood I watched the Great North Run, also a half marathon, on TV last Sunday morning.
And talk about excitement! In the women’s event, London Marathon champion and Olympic silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo asserted her road dominance over the two track stars in the field, the Ethiopians Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar. The men’s race saw a sensational sprint finish, as Kenenisa Bekele held off a barnstorming fightback from Mo Farah to claim an impressive tactical victory.
Needless to say, next Saturday’s race in the Phoenix Park will be just as exciting and rock-hard – I’m going for a new half-marathon personal best!
My current best time is 1 hour and 40 minutes, from the 2010 Semi-Marathon de Paris. I ran the 2006 version of that race in 1 hour and 40 minutes too – while wearing tracksuit leggings to fend off a bitterly cold easterly wind.
So, my primary objective for the 2013 Dublin Half Marathon is to get under 1 hour 40 minutes, that nicely-rounded 100-minute mark. I’m hopeful of doing this – my time of 1:12:30 in the recent Frank Duffy 10 Mile, over much the same Phoenix Park course, means this is a realistic target for me.
However, simply dipping under 100 minutes mightn’t be enough to satisfy me.
In that 10-mile race, my number was 7359 – and so I had an eye on finishing in under 73 minutes 59 seconds. This I did, with a minute and a half to spare.
Imagine my mixture of excitement and dread when I discovered my half-marathon race number: 9476. As a time, this converts to 94 minutes 76 seconds, which is 95 minutes 16 seconds. Can I beat this time too?
Well, I’m not sure that 95 minutes is a realistic or sensible half-marathon target for me this weekend. It would require me to run the exact same 7:15 average pace I did for the 10 mile race, and I’m not sure I can sustain that for an extra 3 miles.
Right now, my plan is to set out at 7:30 pace for the first mile and then see if I can settle into something around 7:20 for the rest of the race. This will hopefully give me some energy in reserve for the second half of the race and especially the hilly last few miles.
This week I’m having a mini-taper in my Dublin Marathon training so that I can have a good crack at the half. I’m promising nothing, but don’t be surprised if you see me finishing hard like Mo Farah and Kenenisa Bekele in the Great North Run: