Yeah, yeah, yeah, runner-for-more-than-a-year... What's next? :)
After my last post, I've run two half-marathon races and learned a few things (as always), but I still feel like I want to keep this post brief. Whereas last time's was a sort of retrospective where I didn't mind talking about what I'd been up to, this time around I feel like I'm definitely in more of a 'just want to be doing it' frame of mind. I think I know a reason for this, but I'll get to that in a second.
The two races I've run couldn't have been more different in outcome or location. The first, I ran in the drizzly nearby town of Taunton. Race day was a bit of a rush, with me arriving at the start line pretty much as the race was starting, which meant that I didn't have much time to get mentally 'in the zone' before setting off. However, it didn't really seem to matter (possible mental lesson #1, check) since I set off as if I was on any other morning run; I don't take any provisions of my own for this kind of distance, so I was running light and loving it. I ran into a guy who I know loosely through a friend and he was running the marathon version of the course (two soul-destroying laps of the half course) on the same day, so we chatted for a while.
The race itself was pretty uneventful, other than that having an accomplished runner (and triathlete) to run with helped me keep a good pace throughout, but I felt so strong and comfortable running it - isn't it 'run easy' first? The route wasn't particularly challenging, but there were a couple of long, steady inclines and I felt pretty happy that where everyone else seemed to be either slowing up and struggling or grinding to a full halt at the top, I just changed down through the gears, kept my head up and as with most of the best things in life, let my groin lead the way. Looking back over the GPS race data, I kept a really steady pace across all of the sections, which I was pleased about - what I was happier about, though, was the last half mile, where I decided to see exactly how much I had left in the tank and started hopping over the big logs... I passed about twenty other racers in that last half mile and felt good doing it :)
The second race I ran was the half marathon in sunny Nice, France - this was the first time I'd actually travelled abroad specifically to run and I had a lot of fun. First off, the city is beautiful; we stayed in the old quarter and had a fantastic time - a bit pricey, being the French Riviera, but I'd recommend it to anyone. Secondly, the race was very well organised, so even though there were a few thousand people running, everything ran super-smoothly. Even though I don't have much of a language barrier in France anyway, there were definitely enough English-speakers to cater for even the most lost.
I ran the race itself with my brother and I think he'd be the first to say he had an absolute shocker. Even with this being his description, it seems bad karma to dwell to much on what went wrong, but we set out strong, until he started really struggling around 8km, from which point on we had several stops and walking sections. Since he isn't as confident a runner, we'd talked about what would happen if he started to struggle (me saying, truthfully, that I wasn't concerned about time and would stay with him for support), but we hadn't pictured what I still think was a freak poor result for him. Although this was a shame, he still made it across the line in under two hours and personally, I learned that my previous give-it-beans-for-the-last-half-mile tactic might actually serve me well; after giving Joe one final 'good luck' with the final stretch to go I simply (it felt) switched up a gear again to leg it past at least 50 people (Joe overtook some after I left and I finished 50 places ahead of him). I know that I'd obviously not been pushing as hard as I could have been for the majority of an arduous race, what with supporting Joe, but I don't know how else to put it, except that for that last half mile I was flying and just got it.
I should mention that overall, my first travel-to-run experience was a good one and I'd encourage anyone to take the plunge and try it. It definitely gave a long weekend a good sense of purpose and doing something like this definitely recharged a few mental batteries.
Gah, this post has gone on for longer than I'd hoped already, so I'd better circle back around to why I'm feeling more doing and less talking at the moment. In under two weeks, I've got my first real test towards my run in August and I'm focusing squarely on it; I'm running in the inaugural year of a horrendously off-road 17-miler around a stretch of local coastline, which has been designed specifically to be one tough bugger of a race - so naturally I'm planning on running the 26.2 miles there to get to the start line. Because why not? I'll let you know how I'll get on with that, my first unofficial ultra; hey, with all this talk of #thecoolimpossible, who knows? I think I'm maybe starting to get it a little bit more.