OK, so that might be a little bit of a stretch, but if Geoffrey Kipsang KAMWOROR can claim to be the 2016 World Champion over the Half Marathon distance, then surely I have some sort of claim to my world ranking too?
Well, back in March last year, that’s what I was doing on a damp, chilly and windy day in Cardiff, at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
It had all started as a bit of fun, as these things do, as I was planning to run a 46 mile Ultra Marathon earlier that month. But some friends had entered, and had suggested I did too. But as the races grew nearer, I was less worried about 8 hours of running over trail and through muddy fields, as I was about lining up behind the worlds elite and being sent on my way through the streets of Cardiff by Lord Coe. And with only a couple of weeks in between races, I was hoping I’d have shrugged off 46 miles of mud, and would have a spring in my step and some pace in my legs. Well, the world was watching, literally, and I was going to find out the hard way.
So, with my pacing notes written in marker up my arm, I stripped off the last of my warm clothes, slipped on my plastic poncho and made it down past the big mass ‘red & green’ starts to the slightly smaller, but still sizeable, ‘white’ start. It seems the quicker runners had been given ‘white’ bib numbers, but as I headed in the direction of the start line there were still plenty of ‘white’ starting pens to choose from. Upon arriving at the first, I was quickly ushered past by the marshal and told ‘you gotta keep on going’. Maybe words of encouragement for the race, I thought, but turns out he wanted me to get my ass down to the furthest white pen from where we were, the white pen that was in fact where the racers lining up behind the worlds elite, the guys wearing the National vests, were being held.
With what felt like all eyes on me as I made my way past a lot of other competitors (who were going to pass me), I strolled in to the pen only to bump in to a team mate who quizzed me on ‘How had I got such a low number?’. I shrugged, and thought perhaps my ambitious target time for my age and early entry might have had a large part to play in it.
And then we were off.
And then we were almost down. The eventual winner, Geoffrey Kamworor actually fell on the start line as the gun went, unfortunately I was probably only a couple of meters directly behind him and had to very quickly remember how to hurdle the mass of bodies that was building up on the floor. He got up and knocked out a sub 5 minute mile, I stumbled around avoiding people trying to keep within my 6 minute mile pace, which is tricky when you don’t have a GPS watch.
The great crowd and adrenaline made the first mile unpaceable, I had no idea of my pace, but trusted my gut and tried to keep it easy whilst everyone flew past. Mile marker 1 thankfully appeared and I realise I’m slightly down on my times at around 6m18s. And whilst the next few miles are easier to pace the crowd thinned and I knew there was work to be done.
I get through 3 miles in approx 18m30s which doesn’t feel so good, and with a hill approaching on what I thought was a flat course things start to get tricky. Over the next part of the course, I have good miles followed by bad. I’m enjoying ticking off the milage, but just want to get to 10 miles to see how things are really going.
About 8 miles, after battling the wind along the bay wall, the sky opens and it’s literally like someone has tipped a huge bucket of water down my back. My front is oddly dry, but the wind and the rain pound my back, that is until I turn in to it, and now I’m completely wet, cold and tired. I keep running past kilometre signs, but they mean little to me once I’d pasted 10k, and I’ve worked way too hard to even contemplate doing the maths.
So 10 miles and 60 minutes arrive pretty much at the same time – I know the elite guys are finishing now, whilst I’ve still some good plodding to do. And with the energy draining from my body, I’m realising that the Ultra Marathon from earlier in the month is still in my legs. I’m literally counting down the minutes and miles until I finish, and upon seeing the happy sight of the 12 mile marker I think the last mile can look after itself, can’t it?
Well, maybe not on this course. The 12 mile marker was followed by a sharp turn in the road, that turn hid a rather nasty steep hill that lasted about 80m. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but that day it certainly was. Slowing with every step, and with people flying past me for fun, I just wanted to get home, to the finish line, to some dry warm clothes and a nice cup of tea.
The last mile went on for what seemed like ever, and up another incline that felt like Everest, but the last few hundred meters down hill and past the large friendly crowds that had gathered were amazing, even if I felt like I should have stopped running 3 miles earlier. I finally clocked in with 1hr23m which wasn’t the 1hr18m I wanted. I was disappointed with my last 3 miles but I gave everything, and in return it’s given me a good for age time entry for the New York Marathon. Which can’t be all that bad, can it?
So with that entry in, I’m just waiting to hear back to see if I need to book flights for this Autumn – I’m really hoping so, I just wondered if I’ll still be thinking so positively at mile 20!