I haven't been following any structured training plan for the Great North Run - just trying to build up my long runs, keep to a good pace, and include a variety of hills and interval sessions in the week. Today was just 3 weeks away from the race, so I thought it was probably about time to get near the 13.1 mile distance, and I planned a route that was just under 13 miles. I thought I could always add a bit on at the end if I felt like it.
I set off at 9.30am after breakfast of a bowl of Cheerios, a glass of water and some Lucozade sport. As I started off down the road, I realised how very windy it was, and decided to change my route - I had planned to go over the bridge again, but that can be hellish when it's very windy, so I thought I'd do a route I'd done in marathon training that I knew was about the right distance.
The first few miles were downhill, and appeared on my Garmin as being too fast (8m50; 9m05; 8m45). Still, what runs down must run up, and I knew I'd be slowing down later. I turned off the main road and down a country lane, where I overtook another runner. We had a brief exchange about how unpleasant a hill was, and I'm sure I ran a bit harder than I would have if I'd been unobserved.
At about 5 miles, I turned on to a busy A road that goes to the airport. On this road, I gradually began to realise that I might as well have stuck with the windswept bridge. I was surrounded by open fields on each side, and the wind was in my face the whole length of the road - all 3 horrible miles of it! It was hard going and I reconciled myself to the fact that my time might be slower than hoped for.
Once off that road, there was a long winding uphill to contend with, and I registered my 2 slowest miles - 9m27 and 9m44. I wasn't keeping much of an eye on my time, but I noticed that I got to 10 miles in 1h32, when my previous fastest was about 1h34, so I was quite surprised. As I got onto some flatter road, I was feeling quite strong and started to increase my pace again. I looked at my Garmin, and saw that I had completed 12 miles in 1h51m. I started to wonder if I had enough time (and energy) to get near that elusive 2 hours.
(Cherished readers of my last post will remember that I had recently decided to aim to beat 2h02m in my next half, with a long-term goal of getting under 2 hours later in the year).
So I decided to go for it. I picked up the pace and kicked for home. It was starting to hurt now, and I switched my ipod from talking to music. That helped me speed up, and my arms were working really hard, pumping backwards and forwards. Eventually the Garmin beeped and I'd run the 13th mile in 8m39 - the third consecutive long run where my last mile has been my fastest!
Of course it wasn't over yet, and I turned into my street with an eye on the clock. The time read 1h59m, but there is no seconds display on the Garmin, so I had no idea how close I was to 2 hours! I watched the distance tick over - 13.04miles; 13.08miles - still1h59m! Finally it said 13.1 miles, and I smashed the stop button and stopped running. Just as I hit the button, the time rolled over to 2h! I staggered towards my front door, whispered an exhausted 'morning' to my neighbour, and had a little rest in the garden.
I felt so excited! I have been aiming for sub 2 hours since I did the marathon in May, but I really didn't think I had done enough training to achieve it yet. No sooner had I blogged my goal of getting there later in the year, than I did it! Amazing. The fact that I didn't enjoy much of the run into the wind, and I had to stop a couple of times for traffic makes me feel that I can do even better.
I'll definitely be hoping to record a sub 2 hour time in 3 weeks. I just hope the other 53,999 runners at the Great North Run don't get in my way... Woo-hoo!