Given how much I dislike large road races, Fleet Half Marathon was surprisingly pleasant. Granted, it’s not London Marathon large, but there’s a fair crowd of runners, and enthusiastically loud supporters can be found on large chunks of the route.
It started at 10:30, though runners were asked to arrive by 9:15, presumably to avoid the road closures. We were warned not to park on the streets around the park and told to use the town centre car parks, for which there would be a charge. I dutifully took along a handful of shrapnel, only to find that the car park in the main shopping centre is free on Sundays. Bargain. It also, the shopping centre, not the car park, had toilets, a fact a fair number of runners were taking advantage of.
I followed the trail of runners towards the park, passing several banks of portaloos on the way, and took refuge in the baggage tent. At 9:45, we were called outside for a warm-up. I ignored the call and continued loitering in the relative warmth of the tent, chatting first to a runner returning to half marathon distance after two years off running with plantar fasciitis and then to some club mates who were helpfully sporting club vests. Memo to self: wear club vest to races.
As 10:30 approached, we wandered over to the start. I’d decided that I didn’t want to spend the race clock watching so I lined up behind the two (two!) 2:00 hour pacers. What followed was 20 minutes of me reeling them in, 10 minutes of basking in the knowledge that I’d overhauled the pair of them and was feeling goooood, a horrible realisation that I wasn’t all that good as the leading one reeled me back in, another twenty or so minutes spent telling myself that I hadn’t slowed, he was pacing way too fast and thirty five minutes of knuckling down, staying with him and reassuring myself that at least I was way ahead of the other two hour pacer.
And then, 85 minutes into the race, with just over a parkrun to go, the second two hour pacer came flying past and vanished around a corner. Damn.
I reached mile 10 with less than 30 minutes in hand, on the back of a 9:40 minute GPS mile which was nearer a 10 minute on-the-ground-not-quite-running-the-racing-line mile. Suddenly my sub-2 (the weakest of my three goals going in) did not look good. Telling myself that I was not NOT NOT! going to accept a 2:0x time, I drew a line under the first 10 miles and set out to run a 29 minute parkrun.
I did it. I think. Official results are either not yet out or just very well hidden*, but according to Garmin, I did it. It was touch and go and needed a sprint (sic) finish, but I think I snuck in just under the 2 hour mark.
It wasn’t a PB, but it’s only 20 seconds per mile off my PB pace, it’s my first solid sub-2 in two years and it’s one of the few races I’ve managed to keep plugging away at until the bitter end.
Just don’t ask me to tell you about the big metal tower, gigantic canal, large white folly, or ferris wheel that we ran past in the last couple of miles because I didn’t spot a single one. Just the mile markers, supporters, marshals, and very, very welcome finish line.
* EDIT. Gun time 2:02:00. Chip time 1:59:13. Phew!