It’s simple. Get quicker.
The quicker I get at this stuff, the quicker I’ll get at the stuff that matters to me.
Ever since my first half marathon in 2013, that has been the aim. Flashback to the Sheffield Half, May 2013. I ran the Milton Keynes Marathon on the 6th of May. My first ever event, surprisingly at the time I thought it to be a great idea to run the Sheffield Half as well on the 12th of May. So I did. The old Sheffield Half that started at Don Valley, the flatter one if I remember rightly.
Being a bit ‘tubbier’ back then; carrying something like 14 and half stone, not my heaviest I don’t believe, but not my slimmest. Being the tender age of 19 year old, not too wise to all the things running is about to bring me! Proudly wearing my Milton Keynes shirt, I managed to stumble or roll across the line in 1:39:48. But it worked, getting quicker at the shorter stuff, meant that by my second marathon appearance at York in 2013. I could take 44 minutes off of my time. Bringing me down from a 4 hours and 4 minute appearance at Milton Keynes, to a 3:19:35 at the inaugural York Marathon. I managed to break the elusive 1:30 mark shortly afterwards at The Clowne Half Marathon in November of 2013.
Short fast forward to the Retford Half 2015, the goal being still as simple as ever. Get quicker. In ‘peak’ training looking forwards to the eventual short Manchester Marathon of 2015. Target was now set at the 2:50 mark for the marathon.
The Blue T Shirt had officially been donned, the running had taught me a few lessons. My first appearance at The Retford Half was off the back of a sub 3 hour performance from the year before a 2:55 at the short Manchester and 2:58 in the autumn at York.
Early indications of the course gave me the impression, that it isn’t a PB course. It has some cheeky little hills, some naughty climbs and interesting descents. I set my marker in my first year at Retford of 1:23:57. Although I claim it isn’t a PB course, I have gone onto PB there in; 2016, 1:19:51. My quickest time on the course is from 2017 being 1:16:58. Currently my 7th fastest half marathon time, it’s alright to say it’s not a PB course!
My 5th time running Retford today, the aim, get quicker. Going into it fresh off of The Norton 9 last weekend, feeling alright, not quite fully recovered but getting there. Going into it with a PB of 1:12:06 from The Brass Monkey in January. The conditions going into it, not at all promising, only promising wind, rain, cold and potential snow. Lovely.
Saturday was a nice practice for the conditions, with an awful headwind for the run around Barnsley Parkrun. A late night run after work didn’t leave my legs feel too fresh when I woke up Sunday morning. Ah well, things can only get better. And if I can’t run knackered, then what is the point in running at all! Read my blog post from 2017 on Saturday, my blog post about the Retford Half from back then.
It gave me a little boost, it was interesting looking back. It also told me that in order to get a car park spot in the car park and not on the grass verge. That I would need to arrive earlier than 9:15. I’ve never ever parked in the car park here. So the plan was to set off at 7:45/8. Just like I planned in 2017, but didn’t.
Sunday morning came, legs a bit achey, I got up after Ellie trying to corrupt me into staying in bed a bit longer. Managed to get ready and stumble around the house, leaving at 8 o’clock. Score! Only a 45 minute run through to Retford, managed to get in the car park for the first time ever. Must’ve done something right. Sat in the car for a bit, speaking to Rob Taylor for a bit. He’s doing his first half marathon today, what a day. The number gets sent through the post, so don’t need to collect that today, I got out the car then paid the portaloos a visit. No queue, must be because I’m early! Reluctantly took my trousers off at the boot and off I went for a ‘warm up’ in true fashion, it was and it was needed! 3 mile later, sweating, a bit wet and damp; but a whole world warmer. Jumper, t shirt off, vest on. Now, we are racing. Made my way to the start area, catching the end of the official warm up. Chatting with a gang of penistoners, with a Barnsley Harrier and AC imposter. Some decent times will definitely be ran today! I made my way, eventually to the start, it’s usually a busy one here. I wanted to get out the blocks fast, fast enough to hit pace straight away.
That I did, we was off and underway, up and around the roundabout, a few shoutouts from runners I know and then we was onto the road. Off out and onto our adventure. Early on I got into pace, on my own, again with the lead car for company. Not ideal when I’m wanting to get faster, I needed company today, the weather wasn’t pleasant. Cross wind, headwind, minimal tailwind. Straight away I was into my rhythm and into my pace, right where I wanted to be. Aiming for 5:20 pace throughout the race. Faster than I’ve run before. So we’ll see how that goes. The 1st mile marker was ticked off as we broke away from Retford and onto the long ‘A Road’ 5:10 for the mile, looking ahead at the large clock in front of me. It’s a long drag on here, feels ever so slightly uphill as we go. Nice to get a monotonous pace, easy to get ‘negged’ out. Nothing much to see, trains to race as they pass by. Working hard, ticking over, familiar to the marathons. Sitting in a pace and just letting the miles do the work. Thinking to myself, have I set off too quick? Too quick to maintain the pace, have I done too much already? Praying for a chaingang to pass me, so I could jump onboard. Feeling good and feeling relatively strong, I just stuck with it and hoped I wouldn’t regret it later. Hoped I wouldn’t regret it in those final few seconds when I needed something from somewhere. Pace began to settle to around 5:30’s ish, some way off of where I wanted to be, but with some downhills coming up, later. I’ll make it up then. Still being optimistic that we’d get some tailwind as well. Around mile 5, just before we turned off the main road to the country road. The one with all the typical tractors, I was passed, and passed again. Finding myself now in 3rd place, but with targets, targets out in front. Those being Gareth Sampson of Rotherham and a lad called Chris Kilburn. Weaving around the puddles on the country lane, one large puddle in particular, the two in front opted to run wide and around the edge on the grass. I wasn’t going to, but a last second change of mind, meant that I too ran around the grass. Skirting the edge on a small patch of mud, wondering what the masses of runners will choose to do through here. Eventually stepping off and back onto the road. Chasing down and letting my pace slip slightly, pick it up. Knowing at the end of this road we have a small downhill section. Out and back where you can pretty much see it all, everything that will unfold. Reached there in good time. 33:43. Around the 10k marker, feeling comfortable, bearing in mind its now around a minute off of 10k race PB pace. Get faster. Out and back on the section, actually looking forward to the turn. In previous races spotted Gareth Lowe, John Beattie, Joe Sweetnam-Powell, Dan Kestrel, Ben Sadowji, Ben Butler all battling it out, all running superb times. With myself dreaming of running those times that they have ran. Making the turn and head up, looking ahead to see who is running towards me. Seeing plenty of faces and people I know, not quite mustering the energy or the vocab to respond. Slightly uphill now on the way back, but enjoying it. I wasn’t regretting taking it hard early on at this point, taking the race by the scruff, one day I’ll be able to hold the pace for fun; hopefully! Aiming for my next landmark on the route, the humpback bridge. Looping back into the small village, back onto the country road and hitting the small climb over the humpback bridge. Seeing Jason Stokes who I know from various things through work, out on the route supporting people as they go by.
Jason managing to snap a photo of me, at that point I’d just reached my chase on 2nd. Not knowing how close Ben Butler from Wakefield was behind. My pace had again returned. After looking at my blog yesterday, I knew the tough slower miles were around 10 and 11. So I wasn’t too worried about those. They seemed like they were over quick enough today. Then a tougher bit came in mile 11-12. A slight incline to turn left at the top, hoping your legs had returned in time for the 1.5 mile dash down the hill to the finish. Passed by Ben Butler in the middle of the climb, again finding myself in 3rd place. With the promise of a PB all in my hands. My body had settled, it felt comfortable again, I was happy. But I needed to chase, I had 1.5 mile left and wanted to just get faster. So I kicked at the top of the climb, head up, ignoring the puddles now on the ground. Counting the steps down until the line, just racing against myself and working hard for it. Still didn’t regret setting off fast.
A slight 21 second PB, on a course that is nowhere near a PB course, in conditions that were nowhere near PB conditions. A club record as well, because I held the previous one at 1:12:06. Crossing the line to a small coughing fit, momentarily. The cold air had hit. Then I turned, turned to watch everyone else also cross the line. To joys and jubilation. PB’s, PB’s, PB’s. On a course that is nowhere near a PB course. Seeing many people I know from various running backgrounds and place. Seeing Rob Taylor complete his first half in 1:31. A quicker time than me, may I add! Michael Grain’s gurn/pain/squeeze face as he approached the 1:20 mark. Lee Nash clocking yet another PB, Joseph Wade just in front of him. The 1:30 gang in Noel Adkins, Mark Havenhand, Robert Davies. Andrew Pearson wearing a white vest! Mark Riordan taking 4 hours off of his PB because he couldn’t do the maths and Matt Robinson finishing 2nd vet 50 in 1:21:30. Then off I went for a cool down/ rewarm.
Hung around for the presentation, speaking to Clive Helders who owns the ‘stuff4runners’ company. Clive is the one who supplied the Team Barnsley buffs.
Made it back home just in time to catch Ellie’s game, arriving in spectacular fashion. To see her sprint to beat the defender, knocking the ball around the keeper and comfortably place it into the back of the net. She’ll hopefully do that again come the 100m in summer!
A decent day out anyway at the Retford Half Marathon, I’ll probably be back next year. Again. The aim, just to run quicker, as always.
Just Keep Running, quicker.