11 March 2012


2,943rd out of 6,351 means I finished in the top half of the field, and 2:03:23 means I was still justified in lining up in the curiously imprecise 1-2 hours section for the start (at the very back of it). But that wasn't what the Silverstone Half Marathon today was about for me.
More than the time and the place, it was about completing the distance without problems, proving that Achilles, if not perfect, is at least able to tolerate exercise. But out of deference to the troublesome tendon, I did run in nice new springy Mizuno Wave Riders rather than Achilles-unfriendly huaraches - yesterday morning's outing in them was enough for one weekend.
Above all, though, today was about a privilege that I suspect relatively few runners enjoy: running with my daughter in her first (and, she insisted, last) half-Marathon - and her boyfriend, Phil. For different reasons Tor and I didn't want to burn up the track, while Phil was on for a faster run: my attempts to keep the two of us to nine minute miles didn't work out brilliantly, though, as Garmin gave some odd indications of pace - I think I was demanding a greater degree of precision than the GPS system can deliver. one minute it reported that we were doing 8:30-something, then without any noticeable change in pace it was 9:00+. To compound matters I had forgotten how to set the pace for the virtual trainer, which would have been a useful resource for an exercise like this. Still, up to Mile 9 we didn't exceed 9 minutes per mile, which isn't a bad outcome. It slipped somewhat after that, but it was very warm - uncomfortably warm for running, which is unusual in an English March, isn't it?
The race was, frankly, a disappointment. All the things I hate about big commercial events: participants who don't just fail to observe etiquette, but don't even appear to realise such a thing exists in the world of distance running; a high proportion who cut themselves off from interaction with their fellow competitors by means of earphones and music (a couple of such competitors badly obstructed me on one of the bridges, which are inevitably bottlenecks anyway); many bored marshals offering no encouragement (the few exceptions not enough to make up for their uninterested colleagues); spectators there to cheer on their friends and family but not strangers. It made me anticipate the forthcoming White Horse half - organised and run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts - even more keenly.
The course was also disappointing, with not even one full lap of the circuit. I had foolishly thought that four laps would do it, but of course you'd have Scott Overall and David Weir (and others) lapping some backmarkers four times. Even Tor and I would probably have lapped some people a couple of times. This is a different matter from the 10K that I have done here a couple of times. So the course, as recorded by Garmin, looks like a scribble in red pen on a map of the circuit. Much of it, I'm afraid, could have been anywhere. And running half a lap the wrong way was, to me and probably most fans of motor racing, bizarre.
Maybe it was the nature of the event, or maybe it was just a consequence of running with offspring, but I didn't socialise. Perhaps my one exchange was to say sorry to a guy who I didn't notice coming, so I nearly pushed him into the pit wall - I apologised for doing a Schumacher on him.
I wanted to get a photo of Tor crossing the finish line, and after running every step of the way she was pretty tired by the time we reached the 13 mile marker (which Garmin put at about 13.25, having told me all the markers were some distance out - I wonder where the truth lies?). I planned to put on a burst of speed, finish, and turn round to snap her on my Blackberry crossing the line. I even woke the stupid device up (it has, incidentally, been much more responsive and less liable to hang on me since I deleted Google Maps, which was the most memory-intensive program on it) a few hundred yards out, and switched it to camera in readiness. I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and turned round - and there she was, right behind me, having matched my (admittedly modest) burst of speed. You can however see the official photos here.
Phil had finished some 11 minutes ahead of us. The three of us hobbled back to the car together, thoroughly exhausted by the heat and the effort.
An historic day for me, but not one to be repeated - Tor will never run her first race again, and indeed claims it will be her last anyway, and I don't intend to do this event again with her or otherwise. I feel as if I am back on track to do longer events, and while I hope the future holds many Marathons in interesting places around the world I will stick to doing big city events as part of a tourism exercise and do my racing (if the word can honestly be applied to what I do) at more intimate events.

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