The Waterford Half Marathon was the penultimate race of the year, the PB day, the last race of the season and I had big plans.
I was nervous and couldn’t get to sleep that night. Although I knew it didn’t matter and that adrenaline would get me through the race anyway, it was something I didn’t need to be worrying about.
I was quite in the car on the way to the race but was satisfied with the thought of the season being over in what I hoped would be another 1:25 hours of racing.
The feeling on the start line was heavy. A small man from a club I didn’t recognise spoke to me as I was doing the obligatory last minute warm up.
“This your first one?”, he asked.
I tell him it’s my second but that I hope to break the 1:30 mark.
“Just go with the race” he said “there will be plenty more races to worry about your time”, he nods.
I thanked him and wished him luck.
The countdown begins and we are off. A downhill start sets the tone of the race. We bomb down the hill at a 3:47km pace. A stupid pace for someone who hopes to run 21kms but I was ‘going with the flow’.
My legs felt good for the first three kilometres, then I noticed a hint of fatigue beginning to creep in.
That feeling of utter helplessness and panic descended, even though I was running hard and hitting 4:30km pace I couldn’t keep up with the 1:30 hour pacer.
At around 5km we were running through an industrial estate. With nothing to keep my mind off the panic, I had a little pep talk with myself. I began to embrace the fact I was hurting and I knew that no matter what happened from here on in, it was going to hurt and it was going to be my best effort in my current circumstances.
The only problem was I had told everyone what my goal had been. I did this to add pressure that would hopefully translate to performance on the day. While it didn’t make me reach my goal, it sure helped over the last 3km.
The course was horribly boring for the most part. Main roads, industrial estates and then more main roads. There was one back road which was semi scenic, although the county council had decided to fill the pot holes with loose gravel earlier that week, which believe me, my Asics Gel DS Racers 11 didn’t absorb.
Three times I had to stop during this race. That is three more than any other race I’ve ever been in. This race kicked my ass. The first time was a quick toilet stop, the second happened on the crest of the hill that conveniently arrived at approximately mile 11.
This hill was the straw that nearly broke my back. Running up it on shattered quads that had taken the beaten of downhill for the last 10 miles really was a shock to the system. I seized up and had to stop for a breather.
The third time was a weakness of character in the sense that I was going to just give up about 2km from the finish. I had to push on even though I had hit the wall completely. I could feel every step and it hurt… a lot.
Coming onto the home stretch was genuinely one of the happiest moments in my life. I could see the finish although my legs had finish 2kms ago.
Coming over the line was such a relief. I didn’t collapse but I came damn close.
I learned to really respect the distance that day. Even though it was the pace that killed me.
I believed I could get away with running it at a 10km pace. I learned my lesson but I’ll be back again.
Check out the Strava segment here; https://www.strava.com/activities/792162679