I ran the Ealing Half Marathon last Sunday (25/09/16). I have been building up to the race for 12 weeks. You can see my training plan here.
I had heard good things about the Ealing Half Marathon. It is the winner of the best half marathon at the Running Awards for the last 3 years.
So with all this training and preparation, I should have spent Saturday night on the sofa with my feet in the air casting my critical eye over the beautiful voices showcased on The X Factor.
Stuff that, I am off to a birthday party! A pretty chilled birthday party that very conveniently happen to be in Ealing and I had also been offered a bed for the night. So no faffing with trains in the morning!
Like I said, I was taking this race a bit more seriously following my last half marathon (race review here) where I muddled through with a lack of longer runs. I was feeling pretty prepared for this one. The training had gone well. I had got more distance in. The odd session had been missed, but I was feeling good.
The Build Up
Maybe this is where my chimp mind started to play tricks on me. You have prepared well for this race, Iain. It’s okay if you have a few beers tonight. I was planning on only having one beer. I ended up having three Coronas. I also went to bed at 1am. These are not excuses. It just strange that when you have prepared for something for weeks and it’s important to you, that you can still nearly self-sabotage it.
I was slightly disorientated in the morning, not having all my stuff around me, not having your own toilet. I pottered around a strange flat trying not to wake anyone else up at 7am whilst I was on the hunt for tea.
It was a great decision to stay over in Ealing. It was nice to save so much time in the morning and be able to walk out the door and take the 20 min walk to the start. Thanks to Gabi and Arek for the top notch hospitality and the bed. Very kind!
When I do any races in London, travelling to the race is an important part of the day for me. It’s seeing those other competitors and the nod of recognition and a smile to each other as you see the timing chip on their shoe. As soon as I turned on to Ealing Broadway there were people flooding from the station towards the start. As I reached Lammas Park, the atmosphere went up a few notches and I was surrounded by people. I am always intrigued by what people get up to before a race. It is a great place to people watch. There’s the three guys in lycra stretching for their lives, the lady chasing her dog, people rooting through bags trying to find their safety pins, the people who clearly stripped off too early.
Rain had been predicted, but there was no sign of it now and the temperatures were pretty much perfect. I plonked my bag down, applied the magic nipple plasters, pulled my vest on and dropped my bag off. The organisation was excellent, no waiting around. There seemed to be plenty of toilets (always important). There were even some tunes blasting out for a bit of last-minute inspiration.
I wasn’t rushed but was late-ish to the start line. I tried to sneak as close to the front as I could, but I made a pretty piss poor effort really. My polite Englishness stopped me from pushing any further up the line. No one likes a queue jumper! I was aiming for a time under 1hr 40 mins. I ended up starting behind the 1hr 55 pacers.
The gun went off and I crossed the line after a few minutes. I set off at my usual fast way. I still need to work on honing my race craft. I could see the 1hr 45 pacers in front so thought – I started a couple of minutes behind them. If I can catch them, and get a few minutes on them. I should be close to 1 hr 40 mins. I quickly caught the 1hr 50 pacers and it maybe took me a mile or two to catch the 1hr 45 pacers. I passed them and continued to push on.
All the roads were closed which is fairly rare in a London half marathon, but there was still a lot of parked cars on the roads, which required plenty of jumping up and down, on and off pavements as the road narrowed.
I have a little recollection of hearing the route maybe hilly. But I had no idea it would be like this. I don’t want to put anyone off this race. I will be doing it again, but it is challenging. The first half felt like we were either going up a hill or going down the opposing hill.
There is always the urge to power up the hills and be strong. You then to let yourself go on the downhill section as it’s an “easy” way to gain time and go fast. On longer runs, it is always my quads that go first and all the uphills and downhills quickly shredded my quads!
I knew I was going pretty quickly as I rocked through half way in 50 mins. Bang on schedule you would think! But I knew I was not going to be able to keep this pace up. I resigned myself to the fact it was going to be tight. I stopped looking at my watch; put my head down and just kept pushing.
The crowd support was fabulous. There were different running clubs and churches that had set up their own water stops. There were people handing out sweets and jelly babies. People in their pyjamas, kids high fiving you and plenty of encouragement along the way. It is a good race for supporters to catch you in two places along the route.
At around 10 miles, I was starting to slow. I decided now was the time for a Shot Blok (I spilt the first two out of the packet on the floor). I was not really sure if I needed it, but by now I was looking for anything that might help or even distract me. The sugary sweetness gave me a boost, but it only seemed to last 30 secs or so.
I really slowed in the last 2 miles. The 1 hr 45 pacers came back past me. I tried to hold on to them and did so for a couple of hundred metres, but I was cooked and they slowly pulled away from me.
Luckily another set of 1 hr 45 pacers came through and seemed to be well within their time so slowed up a bit and pulled me through the last mile and especially the last 400m. Thank you to the 1 hr 45 pacer with the silver balloon who was so enthusiastically encouraging everyone to pick it up through the last bit of the park to the finish.
I crossed the line and stopped my watch. 1 hr 43 mins 11 secs. You know what! I was pretty pleased. It was not quite what I was aiming for, but it was a PB by 4 minutes. Knocking 7 minutes off your PB was pretty ambitious. The sun had now come out. I was tired but happy.
I heard my name being called and my girlfriend had made it to the finish. I had already seen her and my friend Piotrek out on the course in two places. Pictures were posed for and I collected my medal. A nice touch was the eco-friendly lack of plastic goody bag. There is no need for another 7000 plastic bags. A bottle of water, a couple of energy bars and a banana was plenty of swag. I shuffled back to my friend’s house and was provided with a lovely breakfast and another bottle of Corona!
I would highly recommend the Ealing Half Marathon. It is accessible by public transport, has a great atmosphere and is super organised. A big bonus is the closed roads, but the parked cars could do with moving, but that is a minor peeve (and also a big ask). It is a bit hilly. Nothing crazy, but is testing. I will definitely be back next year. Just got to add a few more hill sessions into the training! Excellent!