Today marked the first race of the year, and in typical fashion I am sitting here with very sore legs. This was the second time I was taking on the Cambridge Half Marathon having completing it last year in 2:26.
It’s a difficult race to get into and supply outstrips demand every year. This year they increased the entries to around 9000 people (up from 7000 last year).
The course was the same as last year so I knew what I was going to get.
Race preparations have been pretty good, except for a couple of short-lived illnesses. Most of my training runs have been at faster than target pace (target being 2 hours 30 minutes). I was confident I would complete the distance.
I was due to be running with a friend from work who unfortunately had to pull out through injury. Another friend from work was also doing the run and we had said we would stick with the 2:30 pacer until half way and take it from there.
Breakfast was 3 slices of toast, a cup of tea and a banana. I would take my bottle of Lucozade Sport with me.
The organisers state that you must be there for 08:30 but why is anyone’s guess. All you do is hang around, it was cold, windy and wet and the forecast grim for the entire event. There were serious questions as to why I was bothering. Next year I will turn up at 09:15.
You are organised into pens based on your estimated finish time and to be honest the organisation and staff are fantastic. As good as any event I have done. Soon enough it was our time and off we shuffled towards the start. We had planned to start just behind the 2:30 pacer and then overtake but in the melee the pacer was nowhere to be seen. He was a good 50 metres behind us so we walked towards the start line allowing him to catch up. It felt weird given everyone was running but as the race hadn’t started it didn’t bother me too much.
The course takes a convoluted route towards the the city by going out and back, but it is a very nice first few miles. Going past the vast university buildings is something special. I am a big fan of Cambridge but even in the overcast sky it was clear to see why.
Speaking of the weather, we were fortunate, other than the first couple of miles there was not a drop of rain for the rest of the run. The “weatherman” had got it wrong again but that was OK by me.
We ended up staying ahead of the 2:30 but within eyeshot. The first 10k was relatively painless. Miles 6 to 7 are not the greatest, a slight incline the whole way. Certainly not a hill but you do feel it. By this point a crazy man with a washing machine on his back ran past us.
I was flagging by 8 miles and by 10 miles I had said to my running partner to carry on. I was slowing him down and also putting too much pressure on myself. He pushed on, and then I did too. I stuck about 50m behind him for a further mile before tiring. Last October during the Peterborough Half I made myself run every step and nearly collapsed at the finish line. The thought still scares me. I took some walk breaks the last 2 miles. I didn’t run the whole way but it’s better than what happened last time.
At this point there were a fair few walkers and it become a game of dodgems weaving between people. It’s tough you are tired you want to finish and it seems like it will never end. Crowd support was good and encouraging.
Eventually I recognised Midsummer Common and the finish line was approaching, I don’t normally sprint finish but I lit the afterburners and overtook dozens in the last 0.2 miles. Finishing in 2:23:45. Way ahead of my 2:30 target. Way off my PB.
Once crossing the finish it’s a bit of a walk to collect the medal, but that’s a walk I don’t mind. The medal itself is smaller than the beast that they handed out last year but no less attractive. It’s a serious bit of metal. I will be returning next year.
I now have 6 days until my next event, my first cycling Sportive.