Last Sunday I headed down to Carlisle with Mandy to race my first half marathon in a while. The Carlisle Half marathon. Not a race I knew much about but one I was looking forward to.
The original plan was for me to run Manchester Half marathon which in on the 13 October. My training had been aimed at that and then I realised I had double booked myself! I had paid for a place and everything but thankfully I've managed to defer my entry to next year. The next plan was to go to Amsterdam and run the half marathon there, a fast flat course but unfortunately, Mandy couldn't get time of work so that was out the window. The only option was Carlisle which was a bit sooner than I had hoped but I was up for a race.
Mandy and I headed down on Friday and picked up our race numbers on Saturday after both running the local parkrun, a 3 lap route with a mix of path and grass running. A lovely parkrun and one I'd love to go back to and race. I was taking it nice and easy so that I didn't waste my legs for the half marathon.
Mandy was running the 10k on the Sunday so also took it nice and easy during the parkrun.
We then spent the rest of Saturday relaxing in Carlisle and just keeping off our feet by enjoying coffee and cake. Sounds like perfect pre-race prep.
We woke up nice and early, had breakfast and then headed to the start line which was just outside Brunton Park (the Carlisle football stadium). I headed out for a 2 mile warm up and then found Mandy before heading in to the packed crowd. The 1/2 marathon and 10k start at the same time, from the same start line, so I wasn't sure who was running 10k and who was running the 1/2 marathon when I was looking around me. The only indication was the colour of our race numbers but it's a bit obvious of me trying to look at someone's race number just to find out if they are a 10k runner or a 1/2 marathon runner.
After a bit of a wait, we were off and running.
First mile and I was feeling OK, not great but I just decided to keep the pace easy and try and relax in to the race. The first couple of miles were pretty twisty and undulating, nothing major but it was around Carlisle city centre. One of the highlights for me was getting to run through 'The Lanes' which is a shopping centre! The course takes you in one entrance and then out the other. A nice unique twist to a race.
I just kept on trying to settle in to a pace but every time I thought I was getting comfortable a hill was put in front of me or a twisty section of the route got in the way.
It took me until mile 5 before I felt like I was racing. These first 5 miles were hellish if I'm honest. I could have and did consider just stopping or easing up the pace and just treating the run as a Sunday long run but the 5th mile was uphill and I was passing people, passing them easily, this gave me a boost and every mile after that ticked by really well.
hen you look at the strava route, I can see why all of a sudden I felt that I was able to get in to a cadence. Mile 5 starts just above the 'R' of Rickerby Park. It's a straight road and as it happens, the wind was on our back at this point. The 10k had split from the pack around mile 4 and I found myself running alone. The people who had been running with me were actually 10k runners and so I made a decision to catch the pack ahead of me.
With the wind on my back and a new found burst of energy, I started catching the group ahead of me and my plan was to stay with them. I thought I'd use them as wind breaks once we turned back but that plan quickly went out the window. Each time we hit an undulation in the course, I naturally left them and I didn't see them again! It's a real confidence boost when you're able to do that with out trying.
I got to the about 8.5 miles in and I was met by the front runner coming out of the loop and heading home! He was looking super strong and had a really good lead on second place. I had hoped the out and back section would have just been around a cone so that I could count how many people were ahead of me but that wasn't possible.
I had no idea on my position, I just kept on chasing the next person ahead of me.
Mile 10 and we were now heading in to the wind. It was pretty tough at times and we were having to share a narrow path with all the other runners who were still heading out towards the turning point. I found myself stuck behind runners waiting for a safe time to pass. If you imagine driving down a busy road where you need to judge a safe time to pass with oncoming traffic, that's exactly how this went. My pace dropped a bit during mile 10 and mile 11 due to this.
Mile 12 and I was now mentally just thinking, I'm almost finished. Just to add a sting in the tail, the route did take in one or two more undulations and I was passed by 1 runner who I did try and stay with but he was just too strong.
I just focused on my posture, tried to stay light on my feet and kept on pushing to the finish line.
I finished in 1 hr 25 mins and honestly, I was gutted. I thought I was faster than that. I had hoped that maybe sub 1:23 would have been possible. Ok, the course was undulating and it was windy but still.
However, I did finish 20th so I can't be too hard on myself!
What do I do now? Well, I signed up to the Scottish Half in a couple of weeks time and that does have the potential to be a good course for a time. I just need to hope it's not windy! I ran this race last year in 1:23.25 so I think I'll go out at 1:22 pace and see what happens - or at least, that's what the plan is just now, lets see what the weather is like.
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Would I recommend Carlisle Half? Actually, yes, yes I would. It was a really well organised race. A bit twisty for the first 5 miles but apart from that, the roads were closed. The water stations were well stocked and the finisher medal and tshirt are really nice. The Tshirt has a list of all the runner's names on the back. A nice touch. It's also the first race I've ever had to dodge grazing cows!
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Entry is now open for next year, which is going to be a March race. Check it out!