We weren't lucky with the wind... my God were we unlucky! But besides that, wow, what a race. Not my performance mind but the actual race itself. I'd possibly put this as my favourite race EVER - The Mende to Marvejols half marathon would move down to a very close second. From ease of location, changing facilities, showers, football pitches to warm up on, enough prepacked sandwiches to feed an army afterwards, tea, coffee, everyone so friendly and chatty, and an absolutely stunning route to boot, made this the perfect race in my opinion. At stages it was absolutely breath taking along the coast road. All this for £12. If I have the chance to hit the Larne half marathon next year I'll definitely be back.
The aim at the start of the race was to go out very easy for the first mile and then bit by bit pick off people and settle into a steady fast pace. That all went as planned except for the "steady fast pace". The first 6 miles had us running into a 30+ mph head wind. Five miles were along the coast, totally flat, before we turned in for a lap of Ballygally. As the first mile approached I started to work my way through the crowd and try to find a group going at a decent pace that I could tuck in alongside. About 200 metres ahead I could see a group of 6 or 7 that looked to be going along comfortably. I made my move to catch them and brought another six with me. Up until 6 miles I just tucked in behind them. The pace was dictated totally by the group. It felt too slow at times but there was no way I was kicking on by myself in that wind. The sensible approach was to stay in with them. Afterwards talking to one of the lads from that group he said we were ticking along at 6 minute mile pace at this stage.
The lap of Ballygally had a few hills. Nothing as bad as people said beforehand. There were two or three short, steep hills, one of which was back into that poxy head wind. I felt good going up these hills, picking off two lads up ahead that had pulled away when the group split. Leaving Ballygally there was a lovely down hill, wind at the back, stunning view of the coast up ahead, with the sun beating down.
We came back onto the coast road and began the 5 miles home. Wind at the back or not this was getting tough. Litterally, just as I crossed the 10 mile mark my legs wanted to give in. It was as if they thought that 10 miles was as far as we raced in Ballycotton and that was all they were prepared to do today. On I soldiered! There was not much left to give now - why didn't I take that second gel at mile 8?! I knew now that the lads ahead were not going to be caught and all I could do was try not to get caught by anyone else. From nowhere an uphill drag commenced at mile 12. This mile is by far and away the longest of my life.
"I've gone 600m since the sign, only 1,000m to go, now 800m, where the hell is that leisure centre? ahhh a left turn - IT'S ALL THE WAY DOWN THERE, THAT'S AGES AWAY YET, sweet mother of God!"
On crossing the line there was no clock about so I couldn't tell my time - this no watch wearing has its flaws. I grabbed the guy who finished ahead of me and asked what his time was. I guessed that I was about 1:17:30 from his time.
The results have now gone up and I've found out that 1:17:42 is my new half marathon time. Really I'd have liked to have recorded a faster time before I got to Larne and faced the conditions, but hills and wind considered I'll take what I'm given. One annoying thing though is that I can't really use this race time for help predicting my marathon time. But the race itself will stand to be no end over the next few weeks.