This was my second go at the Stride Half-Marathon. The first time was 2 years ago where I was happy to get into the top 10. I hadn’t planned to run it again this year, as my focus had been on racing in Disney earlier this month. A case of Shingles over the festive period turned that race into a training run and the main event became the Stride Half. I wasn’t the most confident going into the race (but I never am!), as I was still getting my fitness back after illness, so as usual my negative side was winning the mental game.
With Miami Marathon/Half the following week all of the sub 1:30 runners chose to give this race a miss, so there was a lot to race for!
This event 2 years ago was the last time I raced properly in Cayman, so I had become used to the well organized events elsewhere, it was a bit of a bump coming back down to earth to a race where the start is delayed as somebody has had to go home to get more pins for attaching numbers! Eventually that was sorted and just over 100 of us walked over to the start where the person who had organized the event (and eventual winner) counted down from 3 and shouted “Go!”.
The first 3 miles were just keeping to Coach’s plan, ease myself in and speed up to race pace. I calculated I was in 9th. 1st and 2nd were long gone down the road. I could just about see 3rd and 4th, and there were 4 people about 200m in front of me and I couldn’t see anyone behind. Once I was up to race pace I started to slowly close on the group in front, although that was also down to taking the shortest line around all of the corners whereas everyone else was sticking religiously to the right-hand side of the road.
By mile 5 I latched on to the group in front and I had to start thinking about racing instead of just running. I had never been in this kind of situation before, every other race I had solely been running against my watch, now I had to think about the people in front of me and how to catch and go past them; It’s harder than you think.
Although I had caught them, it had taken 2 miles, and I was maybe only going 5-8 seconds a mile quicker, that kind of differential wasn’t enough to just go past and carry on. I took the first couple of people through a water station, and then decided to take the front 2 about mile 6. As I went past they both accelerated and were right on my shoulder, something I am really not used to, and didn’t particularly care for.
After half a mile of this I realized I was going over 20secs/mile quicker than I should be, so backed off. The two went past me just before the turn and we set off back towards the finish. The brief acceleration had at least brought us back in touch with the 4th place runner who was tiring and just after 7M I was 6th.
The next 3 miles were really hard work, and the slowest of the race, I was starting to feel tired and I couldn’t seem to get back to race pace. The 2 in front had caught 3rd, but they were dangling about 100m in front of me and I just couldn’t get my legs going to catch them. I decided to risk the one gel I had taken with me. The reason I say risk is because the Cliff Shots don’t generally agree with my stomach, but I needed something and I hoped the added caffeine might just give me a bit of a boost.
I knew the plan called for a fast 5K to close, so I decided that basically I was either going to finish 3rd or end up walking to the end. Before we hit 10M the long time 3rd place runner was dropped from the group in front and I also took his place as well.
Right at the 10M mark, one of the two in front accelerated and got a 10m gap on the other one. I decided it was time to see what was left in the tank and turned on the Team Wicked Bonkproof Afterburners. I quickly went past the runner in 4th and then it was just one person between me and a podium finish.
The course joins the 10K, which goes on at the same time for the last 3M, so we were in a sea of about 1000 people, you tend to get some of the 10K people wanting to race you which can be frustrating more than anything.
All I can really say about the last 2 miles is, they hurt. Once I caught 3rd, I just went past and tried to keep to my pace, he stayed with me for a bit but then dropped off. Stupidly I then slowed as I thought I was pushing too hard and he caught me again. This meant with just over 1M left we were tied together. I had the crazy thought to just back off completely and let him have it, stupid I know, but my legs were hurting, he had just caught me again and I wasn’t at all sure I could do anything if it came to a sprint.
However, just as in Disney last November my training took over. I got my form back under control and picked the pace up gently and moved ahead. With only the .1M left I had 100m on 4th and was over the moon to see the finish!
I had been so caught up in all the racing from about 5M onwards that it wasn’t until I got home afterwards and checked my watch I realized I had missed a PR by 2 seconds!
Whilst I may run faster in the future, I am not sure I will have the opportunity to finish quite so high up in a “big” (for here) event like this. Although it wasn’t big enough to give out medals or trophies for top 3, I did enjoy it and that’s the main thing.
NOTE: I did eventually pay for taking the gel. As I got into the car to go home I felt the twinge of a stomach cramp and once I made it back I spent the next 2 hours being rather ill. It did take some of the shine off the day, but I did recover in time to go out for a celebratory dinner in the evening!