North London Half Marathon 2016

The main focus for my running since returning from injury at the end of 2015. After running 1:54:51 at Watford Half a month earlier, things hadn’t exactly gone to plan – I’d missed 2 out of 5 weeks of training with various colds / illnesses, and thus Watford hadn’t turned into the springboard for this event as was planned.

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The first few miles were awful, and my body didn’t feel like it wanted to play ball. I seriously considered dropping the pace right back and just settling into having a long run and not trying to push something that didn’t seem to want to happen. But then during Mile 4 something must have loosen off and I managed to hold something near to target pace without working *too hard*.

Running round the race track at Saracens stadium was excellent and gave an extra bounce, and the half-way time check showed things were going very much to plan. However I was also dying for a quick wee stop and ultimately that minute in a portaloo would ultimately scupper my sub 1-50 hopes! The other thing(s) that dashed the hopes of sub 1-50 were the 3 hills in and around Mile 11. Unfortunately I’ve not focused (yet!) on hills since my return and have been found to be wanting – and even more so in North London. Not only that, these hills also featured in the Sure Run to the Beat 10k I’d done in 2014, so I really should have known better!

Running along Wembley Way I remember asking my legs to go for it, and they didn’t respond. I then just considered how much longer it felt running down Wembley Way on tired legs in comparison to walking it having had a few pints as a football fan. The finish within Wembley was great, just sadly it was only about 200m, the final mile was very much round and underneath the stadium, and just felt like hardwork.

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A really well organised race – plenty of pre-race toilets, a mini-race expo village, a big medal and smooth finish area. Unfortunately with the exception of the 2 stadiums, the rest of the race was very much non-descript North London, and with the exception of the excellent water stations and charity support areas, the route wasn’t exactly lined by spectators / support. However saying that I’d enter with the attraction of a Wembley finish, so I’m certainly not complaining. Not planning to return to this event myself, but if you want to experience the stadiums, a relatively challenging hilly half (this had almost as much climbing as Watford Half) and a well organised half marathon in the build up to a spring marathon, then you’ll not go far wrong with this one.

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As for logistics of getting there – I parked at Harrow and Wealdstone Tube, which had limited free on-street Sunday parking and with contactless payment cost £3 for a return to Wembley and then a 0.5 mile walk to the stadium. (The tube station car park was also only £2 on a Sunday, which had been my original plan until finding the free parking spaces literally outside the car parks).

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What Went Well?

  • Delighted with 1:51:30 for a finish time. Can’t help but wonder what might have happened without a toilet stop – as I had originally hoped for a sub 1-50 finish.
  • Again, touch wood, no knee pain.

What to Improve?

Nothing majorly at this point, just need to keep that consistent training going, keep building the mileage and start to increase distance.

What Next?

Back at Christmas time I convinced myself that if I ran Buntingford 10 without any major problems, I’d look to enter Snowdonia Marathon (which needs to be done quickly on New Years Day, as it sells out). So whilst these half marathons have been the focus up to now, they have been part of a build to Snowdonia later in the year. (Snowdonia is also a nervous race entry for me, the last 2 times I’ve entered I’ve ended up withdrawing from the race due to finding out I’m becoming a dad. Seriously!).

The other thinking was to ‘complete’ a Spring Marathon – in order to make sure I hit some miles early in the year as part of the preparation for Snowdonia. This hasn’t quite worked out as hoped as this point with various illnesses (I’ve also had a minor operation which scuppered another long run attempt). However, having put together a 14, 16 and 18 milers in training, I’ve entered MK Marathon. This is purely a training run for me, I’ve not grand ambitions of a fast time (for me at least). With a few more weeks training, I’m fairly hopeful I’ll get to 18 miles on the day without any major problems – what happens in the last 8 miles might be, well, character building.

Post Milton Keynes I’ve also got an exciting opportunity as a beta tester for TrainAsOne so I’ll use that as a basis for the Snowdonia training (with perhaps a real focus on hill training where possible!). More of that to come though…

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