One chorus of ‘If I could turn back time’ was all I could take. “Thanks a lot Cher” I muttered to myself. Not exactly the motivation I was after. With talkback radio restored we slowed to a crawl before getting to the Cambridge High School field gate. Bucket in hand a nice volunteer from St Johns Ambulance greeted us. Handing her the smallest note I could find she asked if I wanted change for my $5. “Yes please, $4 thanks” … I imagined saying in my own little private world of hilarity. The fact is $5 wasn’t nearly enough for the great work these guys do. We were then passed from one marshal to the next before getting to the final one who, with air traffic control precision, brought us to a complete stop in a car-park not more than 150m from the registration room, toilets, start and finish line … perfect.
The Cambridge Half is organised every year by the Cambridge Athletic and Harrier Club and they do a superb job. I’d run this a couple of years ago and despite the weather bomb that hit at the start I’d really enjoyed the day. That year (2013) I ran a 1.34.32 and finished 49th overall.
|I wonder if I could tie another knot in that shoe?|
With bib number 188 attached and timing chip secured with a triple knot no less I gazed down the long stretch of road before me. I had no expectations for the day. That’s not to say I lacked confidence. My build up had been consistent, measured and full of variety. Trail runs, tempo runs, long runs, lots of hills and more plank exercises than I care to remember. I now begrudgingly admit that slotting those nasty nasty planks into my work day has made all the difference. Running with a stronger core feels different and is a sensation that is all too real. You honestly notice it while running and it allows for much faster splits with what seems no more effort than you’re accustomed to. Who knew! Well OK you did and I ignored you. I get it now.
Back in 2013 when we took off in what seemed like the storm of the century I couldn’t believe the pace. I felt like I was at the bloody Olympics running mid 4.20’s for the first few kilometers. By comparison, on Sunday I averaged 4.08/k for the first 5k and at the finish, 4.14/k for the race. (Garmin splits here).
There’s something magical about the 21.1k distance isn’t there? Strategically it has very little in common with the full marathon. With the half you can lock yourself into a pace and given its distance hold on for all you’re worth. There is no fear of hitting a wall and you certainly shouldn’t have to worry about stitch, cramps or crippling fatigue. Hell, I reckon you could just about run past every drinks station and never suffer the consequences later on. Most importantly you can forget about carrying and consuming those bloody awful gels.
The day was just about perfect. I finished in a time of 1.29.54. I placed 14/249 overall and 3rd in my age group. If I had to pull out a ‘please work on’ task it would be my left trapezius muscle which cramped on me again with less than a k to go. Is it a potassium thing? Maybe a banana at the start line would work?
I met a truly amazing runner at the end of the day. I got the feeling my newest friend Jennifer Barker loves running as much as I do, maybe even more. What a fantastic story she had to share and what a life changing sport we have in common. The Cher song I listened to all those hours ago did resonate with me. ‘If I could turn back time’ stirred feelings of, why didn’t I take up running earlier. All those years wasted. Yet as I drove home that afternoon I couldn’t help but think of another good sort, Colin Thorne who also ran in the same race, his 98th half marathon in a time of 2.55 and at the sprightly age of just 91.
I love to run, don’t you?