Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon: An unexpected sprint finish

So. This weekend was the Bournemouth Bay half marathon. I’d forgotten what a different experience it is going out to do a race that isn’t the one you’re training for.

Normally there’s the build up, the anticipation, a few butterflies in the stomach and the knowledge that you can cane it as fast as you like because in a few hours time it will all be over.

Not this time. Bournemouth’s quite a popular race with marathoners because it falls just before most people start to slow down their training (the longed-for taper).

That makes it quite a serious race, no fancy costumes or pubs playing loud music. It’s just you and the seafront, and some people who didn’t realise it was happening looking bewildered.

It’s also notorious for being pretty windy, and there are a fair few hills.

So it was a funny feeling driving into Bournemouth on Sunday morning. I was hoping to run somewhere around 1.45, praying that it wouldn’t be windy, and wondering if the slight under-the-weatherness
I’ve been feeling this week would have gone away.

It wasn’t windy, but it was warm, about 14 degrees. That might not sound hot but when you’ve trained a lot in cooler temperatures a couple of degrees warmer can really make you suffer. Well me,
anyway, I think I must have a deficient temperature regulation system….

Anyway, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable. In fact it was a bit of a slog. Sometimes you’ll hear runners talking about flow, that magical state where everything’s just working and you feel like
you’re flying.

I didn’t get that. I did get pain in my left shin, my right foot and a lovely blister underneath the nail on my left big toe.

There was one moment, at ten miles, where running 1.44 looked like it might have been a possibility. But then my legs realised we were running slightly uphill and decided to slow down, instead of
speeding up. (I hate it when that happens).

By the time we were back on the seafront I felt decidedly overheated. I was determined to go for a 1.50 even if I couldn’t make it to 1.45 and tried my hardest to pick up the pace a bit.

If it hadn’t been for a lovely girl called from Hamworthy Harriers called Bex I might have given up.

This is what I love about racing. About a mile to go and, to be honest, I felt a bit like dying. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make 1.50 and I was slightly worried about doing myself an
injury by overdoing it.

But I could feel another runner on my shoulder… she was getting support from some people in the crowd and she was definitely picking up the pace as she headed for the line.

I knew she wanted to get past me – I’ve done it myself as a way to motivate myself to the line. So I lengthened my stride a little to pull ahead.

She came back at me, so I sped up a bit, stretched out for a few yards. She was still chasing me, so instead of easing off I tried to leg it for the line (to the people watching I probably looked
like I was sprinting in extreme slow motion – like film of Usain Bolt slowed down A LOT).

I was about to slow down to job my way over the line when I heard her footsteps sprinting at me. Oh no you don’t, I thought, and from out of nowhere my legs realised they could move after all and I
dashed over the finish.

She shook my hand afterwards but I did feel a little bit bad. Then I consoled myself with thinking that both of us had run faster than we would have done without the little race. So thanks,
Rebecca, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Anyway, I‘m sure you’re all dying to know. 1.51.16, 600th place. Applying the “double your half marathon time then add twenty minutes” rule that puts my projected marathon time at about four hours.

I’m hoping three weeks of taper and chance to get over whatever bug it is that’s making me feel dodgy will take off another five minutes or so – my new marathon goal is to match or equal my
previous time, 3.56. Maybe what I need is a Bex to run round with me?

UPDATE: Her’s a picture of said race!


~ by Sam Shepherd on April 6, 2009.

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