After four days off I decided last night to join in the Convicts and Wenches fun run at Victoria Point here in the Redlands. I had a wide range of events to chose from: 5km, 10km, half marathon, 20 mile or marathon. I decide to challenge myself by running my first half marathon. There’s no turning back now. I’ve never done a half-marathon before and, while the course will be flat, I know the conditions will be tough. It’s been raining heavily all week, so at the time I enter the race I know that I’ll either be running in a tropical downpour or in extreme humidity. The latter eventuates.
I misread the start time and turn up at the event at 5am and watch the marathon and 20 mile runners start their event. There’s a flurry of colour as Digger tells the runners to start. This isn’t a fancy fun run with starting hooters or finisher’s medals; runners hear about it by word of mouth and have come from all over Brisbane to participate. The low key start seems fitting in the circumstances.
I hang around for an hour waiting for the start to the half marathon. One-by-one my running friends start to arrive (they actually read the race information and knew the start wasn’t until 6am 🙂 ). We cheer the 10km runners on as they start their race at 5:4am and then we make our way to the start line.
The race starts in the scout hall car park and the surface is loose, gravelly and painful on my bare feet. I take it easy for the first few metres until we are out on the concrete footpath that we will follow for most of the race. We cross a bridge that has recently been covered with water and I almost fall over on the mossy surface. I grab the handrail and keep hold of it until the end of the bridge, about 100m. I will cross this bridge four times during the race and I have to slow almost to a walk each time.
I am running barefoot this race. It’s going to be the furthest I’ve run without shoes so I take every opportunity to run on the grass rather than burn out on the concrete paths.
I hit out hard and fast. I realise it’s not sensible to do this in my first half marathon but I have never been one to play life safely and this extends to my running. My first 5km split is 26:28 and I feel great. I find my place near the middle of the field and find a rhythm that means I am pushing myself but still comfortable. My second 5km split is 27:29. I’m pleased that I’ve only lost a minute, especially because I’ve had to cross the slippery bridge twice, costing me time. I drop a gel before heading out for my my third 5km. The split is 27:46. I’m feeling great as I pass the 15km mark and am surprised at how consistently I’ve turned over my third 5km.
At 17km my feet are starting to suffer. My lungs and legs are fine but every time I cross sections of road my feet hurt. I manage to keep up my pace for another kilometre and then find myself struggling to keep going. At 18.5km I finally can take it no more and I have to walk. As I stop at the drink station my head starts to spin and I feel nauseous. I realise it’s probably a good thing my feet are hurting because it’s obvious I am not going as strongly as I believed.
I walk for 500m to the next drink station where I stop and talk with the volunteers. I’m dizzy and my legs are wobbly. I realise pushing hard for the first 17km was not a clever idea. I take a full 3-4 minute break before I find some reserve energy with which to shuffle my way through the final 2km to the finish line. It takes me 15minutes to run those final two kilometres.
It feels great to cross the finish line in my first half marathon. I’m pleased with my time of 2:10:57 in hot and humid conditions. While I would have loved to continue running fast enough to break two hours, the reality is that my feet need a little more time to really be effective past 15km – and I guess I just have to learn patience.