I'll say it upfront: I finished in 3hrs, 29mins, 56secs. My aim was 3 1/2 hours, so that number looks like the perfectly executed race. Read on...
Preparation, if that's the right word, consisted of me only doing one thing different from my weekly running. Hearing somewhere that I should do a 3 hour run 3 weeks before, I did. After 2 hours, I had to loosen my shoelaces 3 times as my feet were swelling up. So I also heard that taking advil would help. Some say take 1 before the start, others say 2 halfway through, then another 2 at 3/4 distance.
I did a taper of sorts in the week leading up, ate a little more, then really went to town on that old wives' tale and had a huge bowl of beef tortellini the evening before. All the above added up to getting me into the shape below:
Left home at 5am as the year before. Damp cold this time, so the blue gloves again. My aim was 3hrs 30mins, which would mean matching the previous year's half marathon pace. I found a feature on marathonguide.com called "pace bands", which you can print off after entering your target time. It states what your total time should be at each km, useful tool for anyone wanting to keep a set pace. A-Chang stood on the left of the course, so as to get a head-start on the dash to Starbucks.
|Who is the guy on the right, that's a genius pose for the camera.|
It had got pretty quiet by now as the half-ers had long since turned around - there were 3 times as many of them. It was quiet enough to remember a rabbit running across in front of me, giving applause to a steel band, and a high school kid doing violin practice on his front garden as I went past.
Varsity is not a neighbourhood I know all that well, and it was here that my feet started to swell. 2 advil, and I felt my feet deflate a bit. After this, and just before Market Mall again, I got to 27km which was the furthest I'd ever run. Only 15 more. "What a bloody long way to run" I said, as the crowd of runners passing Market Mall for the first time in the opposite direction from me got quite thick.
As I descended Shaganappi Trail, last place was coming up it, followed by a police car. Shortly after, I overtook the 2 last placed half-ers, followed by 2 officials on bikes. They were smoking. The 2 runners, that is.
By now, at around km30, my legs were starting to feel empty, running more on momentum than energy. Countdown the bridges. Crowchild. Pedestrian bridge. 14th. 10th. C-train. Prince's Island. Centre Street. Edmonton Trail.
It was between 10th and the c-train bridge, around 30 seconds ahead of schedule that my right hamstring suddenly got shorter and my right foot nearly kicked up into my backside. A few quiet "ouch"s, and straightening it, I hobbled to the roadside. I did several angry stretches, then a deep breath and made myself break out of a too tempting walk. I had to run with my right leg straight, like a cliched pirate. A couple of hundred metres later, and it just relaxed so normal running could restart. A medic on a bike pulled alongside, "how you doin'?" "Good" I said, somehow smiling at the same time.
Last drink station, and as I drank this last cup of gatorade, my brain told me that it was going through my stomach and trickling into my muscles. Weird. Must've been part imagination, part muscle fatigue.
I was now roughly 40 seconds behind, so decided I was going to still achieve my aim despite all that had gone before. Now then, some people might say "come on" to themselves or something like that. Not me. No, for some reason my internal mp3 played the end music from Top Gun, voiced over by Yoda telling me, "Do or do not. There is no try." Something in that last gatorade perhaps.
I overtook a couple of runners at the end, and I recall grunting on the finish straight as I saw the clock.
One final tip I acted on was to avoid sitting down staight after finishing. Junk food never tasted so good once I finally did.