Inverness half marathon race report

Inverness half marathon - 8th March 2015

The first half marathon of my 2015 season and I was really looking forward to it. After the new PB at Cupar the previous week I felt strong and in a positive mindset for the 13.1 mile course. 

After chatting with a couple of people on twitter, we all agreed that it could be a windy race. Not something I really wanted to think about but it would be something we would just need to deal with. Dave, Doug (@icu_dave & @dougskisallday) and I had chatted about running together to help each other in the conditions, this sounded like a good plan. 
River Ness bridge

Mandy and I drove up on Saturday to Inverness, it was pretty windy heading up the A9. The snow was thawing pretty quickly and the rivers were in full flow. Some of the scenery on the way up was breath taking. The new average speed cameras all the way up the A9 seem to have calmed the traffic down a bit as well. Not as many idiots trying to overtake on bad corners just for the sake gaining a couple of minutes. 

We checked in to our hotel, the Royal Highland Hotel, where we have stayed before. It's really nice and the staff are really friendly. We headed up to our room and realised we only had a shower. I went back to the reception to see if we could have a room with a bath. I explained I was running the half marathon on Sunday, they were really helpful, there wasn't a room available on the Saturday night but they would transfer our stuff to another room on the Sunday which did have a bath. Perfect! 

Sunday morning the wind had dropped back a bit but it was still present. We headed down to the sports centre to collect my race number and were amazed by the water level of the River Ness. Obviously all that snow melting was causing issues to the city centre. The 5km route was changed because the islands in the middle of the river, which were part of the route, were now submerged! There were no issues for the half marathon route though. 

Race number collection was nice and straight forward, as was collecting my race T-shirt and baggage drop off area. A very well organised event so far. 

With 30 minutes to go before we had to be in out starting pens, I went out for a warm up. I headed a mile along the route, turned around and headed back to the starting area. Last year, I was only doing a mile warm up for my races. I did a 2 mile warm up for Cupar so I thought I'd give 2 miles a go for this race as well and I'm glad I did. 

I started off and felt good, maybe a little heavy legged after a poor nights sleep and the drive up the day before but generally, I was OK. Then I felt a stitch start so I eased the pace and did some stretches, by the time I had done the 2 miles and some heel flicks, knee raises and strides, the stitch was gone. I would have hated to have had that for the first 2 miles of the race! 

With a couple of minutes to go, I had a quick chat with Keith (@keithmdunlop), a fellow Edinburgh AC runner and the spotted Dave and Doug, said Hi to Jennifer (@jwetton28)  and Kevin (@KevinBrydon) and then took my place. Dave and Doug tried to encourage me closer to the start line but I felt it best to stay where I was. I wanted to run my own race and the stitch from the warm up was still in my mind. The first mile was also going to have the wind on our back so I wanted to keep an eye on the pace, not wanting to go off too fast. 

After a short countdown, we were off!
Dave and Doug put a good start in and instantly I was happy not to be running with them, they were off like rockets! Keith was slowly making his own surge and I let them all go. I was happy where I was.

The first mile passed and my pace was 6:01 per mile, that was ideal. I could feel my compression sleeves slowing sliding down my leg as well which wasn't great but there was no way I was stopping to sort them out. I think the issue was I had pulled them up too tight, which meant once I was running, they were retracting back down my leg. Will need to sort that for next time.

We then turned in to the wind and it felt like I was in no mans land already. I could see Keith was in a group just ahead of me and I could hear a couple of people behind me but not many. I decided I would see if I could eat up the gap and join Keith's group and try and shelter from the wind a bit. 

No matter what I tried, I just couldn't catch them, I was passing other runners but the group ahead seemed to be matching my pace no matter what I tried. 

Mile 2 to mile 4 I got slower and I started to think that sub 1:20 was now out of the question, 6:12, 6:14, 6:23, the head wind and the 3 miles of uphill had taken its toll on the pace. I had watched Keith lead a pack up hill, everyone hiding behind him and then all of a sudden he ran out wide to the right. This made me laugh, obviously he had been putting in all the work in to the head wind and no-one else had shared the brunt of the wind, this was his way of saying, it's someone else's turn!

Once I got to the top of the climb I decided not to look at my watch and to just run to feel, run hard and race hard. In my mind, I knew the pace was too slow for sub 1:20 so all I could do now was race. Catch people, pass them and then aim for the next runner.

Owain running Inverness half marathon

The plan worked, I was passing people and I felt strong, the course had now flattened off a bit and I could still see Keith up ahead. He was also now running alone and I think I was picking off the people he had helped up the hill. 

We ran through some really nice parts, the support on the route was brilliant. Small pockets of locals, standing at the side of the roads, clapping and cheering. At one point there were kids out with drums and musical instruments, it was great. 

Mandy had been walking to different points of the course as well and giving me a cheer. It was nice not knowing where she would be and a nice surprise when I heard my name being shouted from behind the camera. 

I ran past a couple of the water stops but it had been pretty warm at the top of the course. I decided to pick up one bottle of water about 8 miles in just to wet my mouth, this gave me another boost and I went after the next runner in front of me, dropping the two guys who had been running just behind me for the past mile. 

Still feeling really strong it was now time to come down from the top of the city and head towards the finish again. 

Down a steep hill at mile 10, this should have been a welcome feeling but it was downhill and in to the wind. We must have got some benefit from it but it still felt like hard work. 

3 miles to go and I know this section of the course well, it's almost identical to the final 3 miles of the marathon. The biggest difference this time was I was really enjoying the race. I don't think I've felt as strong in a race as I did during this one. With 3 miles to go I was still chasing people, still catching them and passing them, hearing them breathing really heavy while I felt like I was out for a fast run home from work. Breathing was controlled and I cruised past them. 

Maybe some of this was due to the wind being behind us and blowing on our back now and the course was still running slightly downhill but either way, it was a great boost mentally. 

With 2 miles to go, the heavens opened, hailstones and sleet, it was miserable but I couldn't give up or slow down, I didn't want anyone passing me! 
The finish was back down the road we started on, which now meant the wind was in our face and no shelter to be found anywhere. 

I could see one more runner ahead of me who I thought I'd try and catch and get some shelter from. 

I caught him quicker than I had thought, which then made me think he must be slowing so I pulled out past him. Just at that point a cyclist passed us. She congratulated us and said we were doing well. I thought I'd ask for a lift but was surprised to then hear the guy I passed say it was his girlfriend and it was his lift if anyone was getting one. This picked up my spirits a bit, he sounded shattered, he wasn't the shelter I needed and then an idea hit me, the cyclist was going at a good pace, could I use her for shelter? 

I nipped out behind her and got a bit of shelter, she then picked up the pace and I went with her until I couldn't keep up, this gave me another good boost and it had meant there were now 3 others in front of me and we were outside the sports centre. The finish line was on the track at the back of the sport centre so it was time for one final push, pass the last 3 runners and get the job done. 

Again, it didn't feel difficult to pass the runners and I came round on to the track still feeling in good shape. The guy I met on the track must have known I was pushing things now because he offered to race me over the final 200 metres, I smiled, gave him a grunt of acknowledgement and we were off, pushing each other harder and faster. I could hear Dave and Doug shouting encouragement from the finish line. There was no way this guy was going to beat me on the track and I'm glad to say, he didn't but he did help me get my final time. 

1:20.32 and a 45th place out of 1814 runners.

Now, you might expect me to be gutted that I was 32 seconds outside my target time but honestly, I'm not. I ran hard, I raced and for the entire 13 miles I was catching people and passing them. Right down to the final 200 metres. 

It was a really well organised race, the course was enjoyable and I will be back to give it another go next year I think. If I was to race it again, I would push a bit harder on the hills at the start, simply because there is a fair amount of downhill or flat sections to recover once you are at the top. 

I've had a quick read of this blog before publishing and it does sound like I was passing people all the time. Maybe I should have gone a couple of rows closer to the front but then again, it did feel great passing people, especially in the final miles. What I did find encouraging was 4 other runners came up to me at the end and said well done on a strong finish, I presume these were the guys I passed on the final mile. 

Training is going well and this has set me up for the rest of 2015, all I need to do now is enter some more half marathons. 

I think I will look at Loch Leven and the EMF Edinburgh half in the short term. I had looked at heading over to Tiree for the half marathon there but unfortunately I can't get the time away for it, I might just need to do the Edinburgh to North Berwick 20 mile race instead! 

People to follow on twitter:

@dougskisallday
@icu_dave
@jwetton28
@keithmdunlop
@KevinBrydon

and me @scottishrunner

Owain Williams

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