Philip HarrisRunningLeave a Comment

The recommended preparation for a half-marathon is to rest as much as possible the week before, with just a couple of short, slow runs to keep your fitness ticking over. The advice we’ve been given a couple of times is “Don’t stand when you can lean. Don’t lean when you can sit. Don’t sit when you can lie down.” Nowhere has anyone suggested that two trans-Atlantic flights, a three day conference and four nights of jet lag induced insomnia is a good strategy. So, I wasn’t expecting much at last weekend’s Fall Classic half marathon.

I did manage to get out for a 3km run on the Saturday to iron out the kinks and I felt fine but 3km is a lot less than 21km. The weather was great and, keen not to overheat during the race, we decided we should dress pretty lightly for the race on the Sunday. We took it easy the rest of the day, mostly catching up on television and playing Killzone on my new PS4.

When the alarm woke me up at 6am on Sunday, I felt terrible. I’d slept well since coming back from Sweden but apparently I still hadn’t quite got back to normal. Still, I was looking forward to the race and struggled out of bed and got ready. At this point the weather forecast was predicting rain. Actually, it claimed it was already raining but that didn’t appear to be true.

For some  reason, probably laziness, we ignored the weather forecast and stuck with our original clothing strategy. Five minutes later, as our cab driver pointed out the ominous black clouds hovering above our destination, I was wondering whether we’d made a big mistake. Two hours running in the rain with no wet weather gear is not a recipe for a fun race. A couple of years ago we ran the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon in the rain and even with appropriate gear it wasn’t a good experience.

Fortunately, the Fall Classic takes place at the University of BC so we got to stand inside until we were ready to head out to the start line a few minutes before the start of the race – it’s a fairly small race (roughly a thousand people in the half marathon) so there’s no rush. While we were standing there (in our short sleeves) I took a look at our fellow runners. Virtually everyone was wearing at least two layers, a lot of them with rain jackets. I think I saw two other people wearing short sleeved tops. Not a good sign.

Just to cap things off I couldn’t get my feet comfortable – my left sock seemed intent on rubbing my toes. Yes, that’s stupid but it’s exactly the sort of thing you obsess about while you’re waiting for a race to start. Especially when the start is delayed for a few minutes so you could have taken your shoes off to fix it after all.

And then the race started and within a couple of minutes all the concerns about race preparation and rain and rebellious socks were forgotten. The Fall Classic is a double loop along the roads through the UBC campus. We’d not run the race before so weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s a really nice route. There are some hills but as the course is a loop you get to run down them as well as up which is good.

By the halfway point the clouds had cleared and the sun was out and our clothing choice was looking pretty smart. Despite the jet-lag we kept a pretty consistent pace and I was pretty comfortable for most of the race. I think a lot of that was psychological because a) I wasn’t expecting to do that well and b) I could see that we were on track to break the “magical” two hour barrier.

And break it we did. I finished in 1 hour 57 minutes 50 seconds which was about two and a half minutes quicker than my previous best. My wife was one second quicker, I blame that on the timing chips.

Post race snacks were good – they ruined the bagels by putting cream cheese on them but made up for it by providing some nice oat slices and lots of surprisingly edible protein bars. Then it was time to hobble home and recover.

Next up – another marathon in January. In the Bahamas of all places.

[1:57:50 by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 24 November 2013]

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