Richmond Half – The Comeback One

The built up

In my post a few weeks ago, I stated that the wheels have come off in a couple of my runs. 3 miles felt like too much!

The Richmond Half had crept up on me and I didn’t feel I was in shape. Over the last few weeks, I got as many quality runs in as I could, in the hope my legs would come back. I did some mini duathalons – 7 miles home on the bike, a quick change and then a 6-mile run.

I was tempted to give the race a miss. The way some of my training runs had gone, I thought I had no chance of completing 13.1 miles. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to throw away the entrance fee and there was something telling me I needed to prove it to myself that I could do this and see off a bit of adversity. Whatever happened, I would definitely learn something.

The evening before, I went to meet friends to watch the finale of the RBS 6 Nations (Ireland vs England). The game was a bit of a damp squib and a disappointing result, but hopefully, England have their own lessons to learn as they build toward the 2019 World cup. I sipped on my water and sank a lemonade, then trudged home and got an early night.

I was up early for an 8.30am start and was prepped and had some oats with nuts, blueberries and banana. Something I don’t normally do when I run in the morning. The train journey was chilled as I listening to Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review podcast and sauntered the 5 minutes from Richmond train station to the start in Old Deer Park.

It was all hustle and bustle as you expect at a big race sponsored by Salomon. Queues for the toilets, people warming up and others looking particularly nervous.

There was a long but quick queue to deposit my bag. This was my only gripe about the race, not the queue, but the fact that you wandered into the baggage tent and although there were areas for certain race numbers, you just put your bag wherever you fancied. This made me a bit nervous. Even though there was nothing of particular value in my bag, I pulled out my Oyster card and stashed it in my shorts, so I could at least get home if something did happen. I should note that there was an area set up where you could sign in your valuables.

After secreting my bag, it was straight back to the toilets. As I stepped out of them, the 2-hour pacers were setting out to the start line that was a couple of minutes jog away. This was quite welcome. An enforced shake out of your legs before the real start. One aspect I was very impressed with was the starting waves. The organisers were very clear on the starting waves and starting times, with the quickest going off first at 8:30 am and then waves every 5 minutes. Therefore I felt in no rush to get to that start. The waves also strung out the runners so it was not too crowded on the narrower sections of the course.

The beginning

We had a couple of minutes before we were ready to go. I crossed the chip sensors and there were scores of beeps as everyone set their Garmins to go. Settling in behind the cheery and enthusiastic 2-hour pacers at a comfortable pace. I told myself – Just stay here and get through this. Take it easy.

Richmond selfie
My first attempt at a running selfie! See the concentration!

We got to the 1km mark and looked at my Garmin. We were on a 9.30 min/mile pace. This may have been off and was part of the pacers pIan (I am sure they came in with plenty of time to spare), but I had worked out that to finish safety under 2 hours I needed to be on 9 min/mile pace. So that was it, I was off and past them. My take it easy approach had lasted all of about 5 minutes.

I didn’t bury myself in those first few miles as I‘m prone to do. I still remembered where I was at with my training and kept a comfortable 8.30 mins/mile pace and focused on my breathing. With the 2-hour pacers behind me, I had some leeway if things went south in the latter stages.

One of the things I thought about many times during the race was the Rich Roll podcast (No. 266) featuring David Goggins, a US Navy Seal and Ultra athlete. This is an amazingly motivational listen for anyone who is struggling with doing that thing they keep saying they are going to do. In it, he explains the 40% rule –

“When you think you’re done, you’re only at 40% of your body’s capability”

This is why so many people who start a marathon, also finish a marathon (99 % of starters). At some point, they are going to be tested, but they break through the inevitable mental barrier that hits them at some point during the race. I knew that whatever happened to me, there was a good chance I was going to finish this thing.

Another little moment of inspiration was the little girl sat on the footbridge who shouted “I love you Mummy” to the lady running next to me. It put a big smile on my face.

The middle

The route was a familiar one (and clever – not to cross any major roads). Out of Richmond and past Kew Gardens to Kew Bridge and back along the Thames past Richmond then cutting away from the river, through Ham and towards Teddington. The majority of the last 4 miles was along the Thames from Teddington to Richmond, a path I’m well acquainted with from my days of living in Teddington. With the majority of the race based around the river, there were no nasty hills to catch you out.

Richmond Middle
Some of the lovely scenery! And two guy’s backs!

It was good to be on home ground. I knew where I was and had a good idea of the remaining effort required. The 1hr 55 min pacers were visible in the distance. I was managing to hold the 8.30 mins/mile pace and I ignore my legs that were starting to moan. Jens Voight (pro cyclist and all-rounder geezer) came to mind with his mantra when he was in pain in a race of “Shut up legs”. I focused on the next 50m in front of me, controlled my breathing and tried not to look at my watch too often.

The prep beforehand had worked, I was well hydrated for the race and only took a couple of sips of water at the water stops. I didn’t bother with gels or sports drink as I wanted to know that if was well fuelled and hydrated, that I didn’t need anything further. It worked, I didn’t hit the wall.

The end

Richmond Finish
Finished and feelin’ good!

Following good crowd support through Richmond, I made it back to Old Deer Park (caught the 1hr 55 min pacers) and following a hidden switchback, crossed the line in good shape with a time of 1:52:05. I was very nicely surprised with the time, and the test had worked.

The debrief

Richmond Medal

A few bad runs don’t mean all is lost. A little bit of focus can work wonders. I’m proud of my time and it shows that you learn as much from the “failures” as you can when it is all unicorns and rainbows!

The immediacy of the race and my poor form focused my mind. I did all the things you’re supposed to do. Stretch daily, eat well, hydrate, and sleep well. All the things I talk about on here, and I had a good race.

The danger now is thinking – Your form and shape is not a pile of poo. You know what, you can relax a bit, you’re all right! Got to stop listening to the chimp!

I had doubted myself and entered race day with some trepidation. But it came up good and has given me the spark to kick on to my next race, or even book a few more in.

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