‘The last 5 are the hardest’…reflections from the half marathon
So the half marathon is over.
The main positive is that it’s done and I was able to get round in a marginally respectable time of 1:54. My good friend and running partner on this race Ben Haining also smashed it with a respectable time too.
There are a number of reasons I enjoy running or running based training. Purely from an aesthetics perspective high intensity intervals and short distance runs are a great way to keep body fat levels low, they compliment strength training very well and are a good way to keep the heart and lungs healthy. I’m talking sub 30 minute sessions, 400m sprints, 30:15 protocols and similar here. Basically anything that you are running at high speeds and getting your heart rate elevated for 20-30 minutes.
Distance running I like for a very different reason that has nothing to do with the body and everything to do with the mind. Whatever distance you choose whether it’s 3, 5, 10k or even half marathons and marathons, provided you push yourself each one is like a mini version of life. They take your thought away from life itself and re focus it on handling the pain and the challenge you are immediately presented with. You go into survival mode. Some people listen to podcasts or watch TV when they run on treadmills. I can’t focus on the screens because my mind is so concentrated on managing breathing, coping with the pain in the legs and lungs and generally willing myself to keep going.
That is why is love distance running. It’s the perfect conditioner for life itself.
The last time I ran a half marathon was the great north run when I was in my teens almost 15 years ago.
Running the Leeds half was always going to be tough, it’s one of the hardest in the country with extreme hills and very little flat ground.
But I’m keen to tell you some of the learnings I had in the build up, during the run itself and on reflection over the last couple of days.
Don’t peak too early- I am confident that I would have run under 1:40 8 weeks ago. I didn’t have any niggles and was ready for it. Since then I had too much volume, picked up some niggles, put a little weight on, and these factors meant that it was a struggle to hit the times I’d targeted.
Be realistic- I’m 90kg on a lean day and my training history is weightlifting and combat sports. Doing a 13.1 mile run was always going to be tough and I’ll never be close to being elite without dropping 15-20kg and committing a lot more to it.
Add 10 minutes for the heat- the second half of the run was a killer. Running at the sun on a hot day is literally like having someone pushing you back every time you take a step forwards. If it’s going to be a hot day add 5-10 minutes for every hour of running as a minimum.
Get ready for a mental battle- It’s fascinating how you negotiate with yourself throughout the race. You brain tells you to ‘slow down, be reasonable, even try walking with all those other people who are’. The will of the mind has to overcome the logic of the brain. Very often you will reach a natural agreement position, just bear in mind (excuse the pun) that at the end you will either be pleased with yourself or disappointed. Your mind has to barter hard to make sure you’re pleased and not disappointed.
The last 5k is the hardest- My plan was to run well but not too hard in the first half which is largely uphill, and then really push on in the second half. I did the first 10km in 52 minutes which is pretty good considering the severe hills on the route. The last ten 10km which were all downhill, flat or slightly uphill took me 54 minutes. That’s a combination of fatigue, heat and psychology. The final 5km were torturous. I was way off my usual pace and towards the end the objective was literally to get to the finish line.
So the biggest question is what’s the next challenge? It could be another run, maybe a climbing or sailing challenge. Or something totally different…
Do you have any ideas for me? If so leave me a comment below or on social media @brendanchaplin. I’d love to know what you think.
I’ve also been raising money for Save the Children. If you feel like donating a quid or two click HERE to check out my just giving page.
As always thanks for reading this and I wish you all the strength and success in your endeavours.