Hard work equals PBs – unfortunately not always true!  The Amsterdam Half Marathon in October 2016 was my last personal best. Since then I have trained harder than before. Considered the importance of rest and recovery. I have seen a coach and developed my technique. Totally changed my approach to strength and conditioning and consequently made my body shape more suited to running at speed for longer periods. I have looked into nutrition. As much as an amateur enthusiast can, I have tried to improve my preparation so that I keep getting faster. My training has been fun, varied and statistically successful. And yet, no race PBs despite several attempts at marathon, half marathon and 10K.

Paris this year was the big chance. The speed was comfortable. I had built the endurance. I was confident I was in good shape. And then on a hot day, the gels did not sit right and at the 30k point a sickness feeling significantly reduced my pace and the PB went with it.  It may be have been a dehydration issue.  But I am still confident I was as prepared as I could reasonably have been and it just shows that endurance running can be brutal.  You can work hard for months, but if things don’t align on the day, the time you have worked for may not happen.

But perhaps the best opportunity of all still lay ahead. The Edinburgh Half Marathon came 7 weeks after Paris. Time to recover and then have a focussed period of speed work to take on the race.  My programme was set – it was time to work hard.

Check out the programme here.

Ultimately it worked. The 27th May was race day in Edinburgh. I felt well prepared. The endurance was in the legs from Paris and, according to numbers in training, my race specific speed was looking good. The first few K had some good downhills from the Royal Mile until reaching Holyrood Park, where the gradient flattens out. I was able to buy myself a few faster splits and bank some valuable seconds for later in the race without expending too much energy.

Conditions were chilly on the start line at about 8 degrees, but once we were running, it was a nice temperature for running. The first time I have raced in cool conditions for a number of years, and something I need to consider more in race selection. As we hit the prom at Seafield I was feeling very comfortable, maintaining my 3:38/k race pace nicely, and the head wind was not as much of a factor as I had expected. It was there, but, I did not feel it was hurting me significantly. I was running in a pack of about 12 runners, all of whom were working together, happy to do a stint at the front and then settle back in the pack. People were sharing drinks from water stations, and although I had never met any of them before, there was a feeling that we were in it together. Certainly a realisation that working together was a good idea if we wanted to run the times we had our hearts set on.

As we worked our way through Musselburgh and past the race course it was great to get some support from the crowd. A nice lift to spur us on for the final 4 miles. The group was still together and it was a good sign that we were not being over taken by anyone. Instead we were gradually picking up runners who had gone out harder at the start. The group was gradually getting smaller as we approached the turning point at Prestonpans. As we turned with roughly two miles to go I decided to start pressing the pace. I quickly changed my mind as I felt the heart rate surge. I had been patient up until now. I had avoided the temptation to push on just because I felt good, and quickly decided it was too early to press on hard. As we entered the final three kilometres there was a feeling that others were starting to push and the group had increased in speed. I went with it and (except for the downhill stretch on the Royal Mile) finished with my three fastest kilometres.  After the race I was delighted that I was capable of running these speeds late in the race.  My training programme had obviously been successful and my move towards a “Super Easy Taper” had paid off.

I made it to the finish in 1:16:06, 1 minute and 29 seconds better than my previous PB in Amsterdam.  But there was a bit more to it.  Despite not achieving the times I had aimed for in a number of preceding races, I was determined and the hard work eventually paid off – I still think I can get faster.  I was also really pleased that I had been disciplined and stuck to the plan.  So often I have felt amazing after a taper and gone too quick in the early stages – suffering later on.  It seems to always be something that crosses my mind when I race, despite knowing the pitfalls, when you feel good early you always think you could go faster.  I may well make the mistake again in the future, but I can say for definite that all of the races that have gone to plan have been the result of a disciplined pace for the whole race!

Finally – when you work hard in training, finally getting the time you want is very motivational.  The confidence is still there and my focus moves on to the next challenge!