Monday, 5 March 2012

Eastbourne Half Marathon - Race Report

So on Saturday night I was lying in bed considering entering another half marathon at the end of the month, as I thought Sunday's race would not go well. The forecast for heavy rain and strong wind was putting me off, I must admit. I wasn't so worried about the rain, but obviously wind can really slow you down.

When the morning arrived, the rain wasn't too heavy, although it was very consistent, and the wind could have been worse. We decided that Pete and the kids would drop me off and go shopping, as it was no weather for spectators. This is the worst thing about bad weather on race day - the fact that it keeps spectators away.

I queued up for the toilet with my bin-liner on, and got colder and colder. The rain and cold temperatures were making me shiver. I couldn't wait to start running to warm up. As I assembled in the start pen (this was a race where runners were simply told 'fast at the front, slow at the back' rather than any organisation!), a man told me he'd done the race every year, and it was always sunny before this one. He also warned of a huge hill ('a killer'), that seemed to flatten out and then continued. A group of us were listening intently for his insight on the course.

Then we were off, and there was a bit of scuffling and barging to get across the start. The start and finish were in a park, and it was very muddy and slippery already. It was a relief to get onto the tarmac.

The race started along a flat road by the sea. Despite the persistent rain, it was quite pleasant, and not too windy. After the first mile, my Garmin beeped - 9m06s. Too fast, I thought, and resolved to try to slow down. I failed though, as mile 2 was 8m56s.

At 2.5 miles we reached the start of the hill, and it was indeed a killer. In the next mile we climbed from sea-level to 400 feet, as we approached the top of the cliffs. I was completely stunned by the steepness of the road. I had no idea it would be so bad. I kept jogging for as long as I could, but eventually I gave up and walked parts of it. Yes, walked! In a race!! At this point I decided there was no way I would get a good time, and I felt really angry and fed up.

Cliffs - pretty but steep

Then at about 3 1/2 miles, we reached a peak, and turned round to descend the hill. Suddenly I was speeding off, trying not to fall. It wasn't easy to run so steeply downhill, but it was a lot faster than the previous mile! My Garmin said 10m05 for mile 4, so I reasoned that if I could run the downhill mile in about 8m, I would still be at my target pace overall.

We continued downhill almost as far as the 5 mile marker. As my Garmin beeped again, it showed 8 mins exactly - back on track! The rest of the race was more or less flat, along the sea front.

After speeding down that hill, I felt absolutely elated, as though I had been flying, and that feeling really stayed with me for most of the rest of the race. I felt great, and every time my Garmin beeped it seemed ridiculous - I told myself to slow down for the next mile, otherwise I'd be sure to run out of steam. But it never happpened, and I just kept the same pace up somehow. I had totally underestimated how much faster you can run in a race than in training, because my times in training had been nothing like this! My splits were as follows:

Mile 6 - 8.46
Mile 7 - 8.58
Mile 8 - 9.04
Mile 9 - 8.52
Mile 10 - 8.41 !!!
Mile 11 - 8.58

I think this was the fastest I've ever run 10 miles as well - I was there in about 90 minutes. I did start to flag a bit in the last few miles, but there were a few people who kept going past me, and then I'd go past them again, and I just didn't slow down. By this stage I knew I had a good chance of getting under 2 hours, and I didn't want to throw that away.

I started thinking I might never run such a great 10 miles again, so I'd better go on and get a fast time now, or I might never do it! For these last few miles I was actually smiling as I was running. I was so excited, I just couldn't help it!

For the last 2 miles, it got a bit tougher. We turned round and started running right into the wind - for the first time in the race really. It was along the seafront and completely exposed. This part felt very tough, and I was starting to feel tiredness in my legs. I really thought I was running well over 9 min/miles, but the chance of getting under 2 hours was totally pushing me on. The last 2 miles were just as fast as the others, despite the wind:

Mile 12 - 8.55
Mile 13 - 8.42 !!

Finally I turned into the park again, and of course by now I knew I was going to do it! I was so ecstatic that I was still flying, and I charged towards the finish line. It was extremely muddy and runners were slipping all over the place. Someone called '20 seconds to get under 2 hours, keep going!', and I pushed on a bit harder! (Of course he was talking about gun time, rather than chip time anyway).

As I crossed the line I was elated. My garmin said 1h58m48s. Better than I could ever have imagined. The whole race just went so well, and even the hill had been good, as the downhill kick-started my speed! From that point I just couldn't slow down.

Later the results were online. My chip time was 1h58m38s!!! Awesome. A PB by almost 12 minutes and well within my goal of going under 2h05m! For stats fans, my position was 778 out of 1444 runners, and I was 154 out of 469 women.

That was probably the best race I've ever done, as I totally exceeded my expectations of what I could do.

This is as probably as fit as I have ever been, and it feels particularly fantastic after spending so many months unable to run last year, and then taking so long to get back to full fitness. There were times when I doubted I'd be able to run regularly again, and certainly not as far as 13.1 miles. Take that Plantar Fascia!! Ha ha ha!!!


  1. ...oh, but more huge congrats too, of course! /sheepish grin/

  2. "I queued up for the toilet with my bin liner on" - honestly, you runners are weird to think this is normal behaviour!!

  3. That is so great. Look at your 13th mile. Very impressive. You'll be going faster next time!

  4. Those types of races are just magic. When you have a secret goal that you don't really think is possible and you do better than this goal - how can it get any better than that??

    Congratulations Liz and bask in your achievement.

  5. Congratulations! I'm so glad for your big race - the way you turned it around from a not pleasant race at the very beginning and then sped downhill to a great finish!

  6. Great race report - I felt like I was right there with you, flying down that hill! (and feeling cold at the beginning - brrr)
    Congratulations on such an awesome time - good job!

  7. As Amy said, great race report. Wind, rain, nasty big hill, and yet you'd the best race of your life! Looks like you've found your distance.
    Congratulations on a wonderful achievement.