Run: 13.21 miles
Time: 1 hour 56 minutes 45 seconds
Today's schedule called for an easy (or was it comfortable?) 120 minutes. So that's about 12 miles. However, as you know I've been upping the distance and or pace to increase my training to be more of an intermediate level than the beginner's plan. So I choose to do 13 miles, easy. So about 130 minutes. But 13 miles means the route I choose is the "Stanford in the Vale Half Marathon" that I designed last year. And because I was running a Half Marathon, somehow it didn't feel right trying to do it in over 2 hours. I haven't run this distance that slowly since June 2009.
I don't deliberately set off too fast, but I'm soon hitting a low 9-minute-something pace, and it feels comfortable. Although, stupidly, I forgot to double-knot my laces before I set off (thinking I'd do it when I was waiting for my Garmin to find a signal, but then forgot). I reach Park Lane to notice a loose lace flapping about, so have to stop to tie them up. Far from a 9-min-mile then, I clock up the first mile in a tardy 9m41s. Not to worry, maybe I should take it steady after all.
As per usual, however, my legs have other ideas, and I whizz through the next mile in 8m40s. Surely this is too fast? I'm going to have to be more careful in 2 weeks to more rigidly stick to my race plan. I can't afford to overcook it too soon. Today, however, I have every confidence that I can make the half in under 2 hours, without pushing it too much. I've already done over 2 miles, and there's less than 11 to go. Today's run feels a) like a doddle (compared to last week's 22) and b) seems to be going really quickly - I'm not far off 20% done already.
At the end of Park Lane I turn right towards Denchworth. The wind is against me now, and strong too. Oh, this means it'll be against me for a good few miles towards the end of the run too. Oh well, I can't chop & change the route now. Soon I'm heading East and I'm out of the wind again. Both miles 3 & 4 come up quickly too, although my pace has slackened off a little - back closer to a 9-minute-mile.
Somehow some renewed vigour from the more gentle speed gives me a kick for the next couple of miles, and I'm running faster again. I've chosen to bring only one gel today, so plan to take it at 7 miles. I'm thinking ahead now, and not about the miles I'm going to complete first. I miss clocking up both miles 5 & 6, but can tell I'm still on pace to make the 13.1 miles in about 1h57m, although when I reach the halfway point it would seem that I might make it a bit quicker than that too (especially if I do the usual negative split).
I turn North on the road towards Southmoor, knowing that very soon I'll be turning West back to Charney. All the times I've been running these roads over the last few months, increasing my distance each week, and making the runs progressively harder, fade away to make today's 13-miler seem increasingly easy. At this rate I'm going to beat the time I ran the Milton Keynes Half Marathon in back in July - which is surprising as that's a proper race with a crowd of other runners to keep pace with. Today I'm out on my own, but my inner runner is keeping up the pace without anyone to follow or anyone to cheer me on.
It's been a grey day, and fairly cool to boot. I'm not going to need the 750ml of water I've brought with me, as well as the 500ml of lucozade sport. Still better to bring too much than too little I guess. The downside of planning my run this morning is that it clashes with the Great North Run, so I'll miss the coverage of that on the TV. Still, nevermind I guess. I'm running my own Great Run today.
At Charney Bassett, I get the odd mix of desire to push on and speed up the pace for the last 4 miles coupled with a sense of tiredness. Ok, so I'm not going to push for home just yet, but neither am I going to succumb to the niggling doubt that would otherwise raise its head that I may have overdone it. On a longer run of the higher teens, then perhaps the tiredness would have tried to take a grip over my enthusiasm, but not today. I brush the idea away, barely even given a real thought.
On the road to Gainfield I do feel I can speed up, but then this is slightly uphill, so actually I slow down. The wind, as I suspected, is against me again. Time to dig in and keep going. It doesn't feel bad, but I suppose it is a bit harder work than would be ideal. I think ahead to Loch Ness, and wonder how the land lies there, will there be exposed sections prone to strong winds? What will the weather be like in the far North of Scotland in October? I guess I'll find out in a fortnight.
Now I'm on the downhill in Gainfield, on the home stretch. I can push on and go for it. I use the favourable incline to kick it up a gear, making mile 12 in 8m31s. And with only a mile or so left to go I'm on the edge of Stanford, and again I speed up. Far from flagging now, I feel great as a wave of energy floods my legs knowing how close to the end I am. The last few hundred yards whizz by, as I clock up mile 13 in 8m13s and I pass the Half Marathon distance in about 1h55m (my 3rd best this year), and reach home in 1h56m45s - a distance of 13.21 miles.
The next 2 weeks will be a lot easier now. Next Sunday's 8 miler won't even feel like it's worth getting out of bed for!
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