This was meant to be one of my two 'A' races for 2010 and the lead-up to it was less than positive. Since the first week of November I have had a total of 4 injury, illness or pain free weeks for training. In the meantime I've been plagued by injuries to both feet, the shoulder, various illnesses and when the injuries decided to absent themselves, foul weather - including snow, lots and lots of snow.
So I rocked up to Malta on Thursday with very few long runs under my belt - one 16km run (which happened exactly 1 week before the race), two 12-13km runs, two 10km races and a few more 5-10km runs in between, and from all I'd been reading that wasn't really enough to prepare for my first half marathon.
The weather in Malta was absolutely glorious - mid twenties (celsius - IN FEBRUARY!!) sunny and some wind. It wasn't exactly the weather I'd been training in - temperature hasn't gone into double digits in a long while here and I've been training outside. IN order to get used to it, I made sure I went out for a couple of runs (a 5.5k run on Thursday and a shorter 3.5k run on Saturday).
Choosing to have an early night on Saturday night (and an alcohol free few days in Malta) I set the alarm for 6:30 to have time to fuel up and get to the start line well in time (the race was due to start at 10am).
I tossed and turned for a number of hours before finally settling down and sleeping - and sleep I did, so soundly that I totally missed my 6:30am wake-up and woke up at 8:05 instead. Panicked to high heaven I had two slices of toast with strawberry jam and got dressed. Headed to my parents' house and hitched a lift to the start line.
At the start line I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a number of friends/acquaintances were actually racing also. One in particular, Nicky, chose to run with me - to be honest I was a bit concerned as he is obviously fitter than me - and the company was welcome.
We started at the back of the pack, running at my pace (not Nicky's) through Rabat and down to Mtarfa and Ta Qali. The going was fairly smooth and though we started at the back we were overtaking people relatively regularly. At around 9k Nicky chose to up the pace and head off ahead - I was on my own but going at a steady comfortable pace that I knew I could keep. The first real inclines wouldn't hit until about 12k into the race so I was very concerned about not blowing up before the hills hit. Just after Nicky headed off I ran past my parents and my wife, waving and taking pictures just past the Corinthia Attard lights on the Mriehel bypass.
It was really nice to see friendly waving faces at that point. The Half Marathon closes a number of main arteries (which the runners need to cross) and many of the drivers stuck in that traffic were not appreciative (in the least) - I got sworn at, and told to "go run somewhere else". It was funny, and oh so typical ... but mostly funny, Nicky and I had a good laugh.
The inclines hit at about 11.5k and I was very pleased that although I slowed down a little bit, I didn't stop to walk. Refuelling regularly (with gels and water/powerade) I kept going The hurt was increasing, the heart rate drifting but I was still going. With 5k to go the last incline was over, one 200m downhill and 5k of flat to the finish. The heat was sapping, the sponges really helped and I must admit I chucked more water over my head than I actually drank but it all really did help. I ran out of gas with 1 mile to go. I tried to up the pace to keep up with two people who had just overtaken me but had no more left to give. I kept pace but couldn't up it.
In the last 100m I had a decision to make ... sprint to the line and cut maybe 5-10 seconds or coast in and smile when crossing the finish line. I went for option 2, coasted in, smiled for the finish line photo and picked up my medal.
Loved it ... every minute of it, the pain included. Would I do it again? At the drop of a hat ... will I do it again?? Most definitely!!
I'd recommend this event to anyone -
my time? 2:15:57 Official Time, 2:15:10 Real Time ... what's the difference? I don't get it ... so I choose to go for the 2:15:10 - my Half Marathon Personal Best
I'm hurting now - the legs are really really heavy - but it'll pass - and the training will start again for the next event. More soon.
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