Hocus Pocus by Focus is one of my favourite running songs. It really does make you run faster. They play it really really really fast on this live version.
Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Remember that old adage? Will it wasn’t true for the Great North West Half Marathon at Blackpool.
This was the least prepared I’d felt on the morning of a race ever. It didn’t help that Kate and I went out for a meal on the Friday night, got accidentally drunk (again) then had a “proper” rest day lying around the house with a hangover all of Saturday.
I didn’t even get my stuff ready the night before the race as I normally do, so getting up Sunday morning still feeling rough I had my breakfast and quickly gathered up my kit then Kate and I rushed out of the door to get up to Blackpool in time to pick up my race number from race HQ.
After parking up fairly close to the race HQ I had to run down to Race HQ to pick up my number before the 10.30am cut off, then got changed on the lower promenade and headed to the start line. Conditions where pretty fantastic for running though, a slight breeze and cool (but not cold) sunshine. A big surprise after seeing (though not taking part) previous Great North West Half Marathons where conditions have looked terrible in the past.
Although on the morning and the weekend of the race I felt thoroughly under-prepared in the week running up to it I felt great. The previous week I had reduced my mileage significantly, visited the physio and got a sports massage after feeling some discomfort from some mild shin splints so after a few easy miles in the week my legs felt very fresh (it’s just a shame my head didn’t).
We had the countdown and then we were off in to the Blackpool sun as we headed south down towards the North Pier before dropping down on the Lower Walkway right next to the sea then heading back north under the start line then looping back up to repeat this again before finally heading out north towards Bispham on the Lower Walkway. First small set of loops done.
My first mile clocked in a 7.48 and I was thinking this is waaaaaay too fast. However I was feeling pretty good and my next couple of miles come in at under 8 minutes so I figured I’ll try to stick it out a 8 minute miles until I run out of steam and see what happens.
Once out to Bispham the course headed up on to the Higher Walkway (so there was a bit of a hill heading up) and that slight breeze I felt at the start felt a whole lot stronger when it was blowing in to my face. There were also a few undulations on the top part of the route and with the wind in my face I was still just about managing to keep near the 8 minute mile mark up to mile 8 when we were nearly back to the start/finish area, then for another loop!
From mile 8-9 the course dropped back down to the flat Lower Walkway so I picked up a bit of speed on the flattest part of the course before looping back up at Bispham again. At least now after looping around back the 2nd time I knew I was heading back to the finish.
I’m not a fan of courses with laps and repeated loops in, I find them a psychological drag but I didn’t feel it too bad here. Probably because my head was still aching and fuzzy from Friday night and I was concentrating on getting rid of that rather than thinking about laps.
I was starting to struggle and my energy was running out a bit from miles 10-12, again the undulating top bit of the course with the breeze in my face was slowing me down and that pace was creeping up to just over 8 minute mile pace but I knew that up to mile 12 was as tough as the course was going to get and I picked up the pace again assisted by the sharp decline back towards the start/finish area.
With the finish line in sight I could see on the clock that the sub 1.45 was well and truly on. I sprinted as hard as I could and on the way to the line I just edged past another runner who’s legs seemed to have deserted him right near the end so I gave a big “Come On!” shout then we pushed each other on crossing the line at the same time (see the main image above, the race photographer captured my shout and sprint finish face well!)
I couldn’t quite believe it after crossing the line. I wasn’t sure where this came from, what Hocus Pocus and magic was this?!
Before the race I was expecting to do around 5 minutes faster than the Helsby Half (on 21st January) which would have given me around 1.48, but I didn’t expect to beat my time of the Village Bakery (Wrexham) Half from last February where I got my of PB 1.46.53. I certainly didn’t expect to beat 1.45, so to come in with a time of 1.44.34 I was ecstatic!
I smashed my PB and already beat one of my 2018 goals to get a sub 1.45 Half Marathon.!
After picking up my medal (Fylde Coast Runner do some fantastic massive medals), t shirt and freddo (the freddo makes it all worth it) I caught up with Kate, went for some fish and chips and headed back home well and truly pleased with myself.
I don’t usually enjoy courses with laps and I find them a bit of a drag. However conditions on this morning where just perfect for running, the support on the course was pretty good, I was feeling good (other than a fuzzy head) and the race was organised brilliantly so everything just come together on the day.
I’m done with half’s for a while now. I need to concentrate on getting that mileage back up for the marathon and looking after my legs (lots of foam rollering, massages, ice baths etc) as I don’t want shin splints ruining my marathon preparation.
Next race is the Trimpell 20 mile race in Lancaster on 18th March. I will be aiming for a PB and to beat my time from last year at this race.
Peace and Love.
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