This was my second time in the Frome Half Marathon after competing in the inaugural event in 2012. You can read about that here. This year the race was every bit as good as when I ran it before. The locals were out all around the course, cheering runners along the closed roads. It was a hot day, so some of them had hosepipes and were enjoying spraying the runners. The runners were enjoying being sprayed too! The course was rolling with the best part of 300m of ascent on the way around, the turns well marshalled and the water stations plentiful. There were three races: Half marathon; 10Km; and 5km. They all started on the same course with the 5k and 10k runners peeling off early to loop back to the finish.
I thought that I would make this a report with a difference though, as I firmly believe that I finish higher than I deserve due to a few tricks and marginal gains that I have picked up over the years. Can you think of anything that I have missed?
My coach had instructed me to aim at 7:10 per mile which to me sounded about right and would have me on a PB pace. If you want a PB at this sort of thing it is much easier to do so if you start at the front. I dutifully lined myself up a couple of rows back and when the starting horn sounded I took off at a fast but steady 6:30 per mile. I did this on purpose and normally wouldn’t advise starting fast, but in this case I wanted to get clear of the worst crowds and give myself some space on the road. I held this extra effort up for the first 5km, before easing off for the middle 10km of the race. I say easing off, but I was still running at slightly under 7:10 pace and it was hot and hilly. I kept this up through the middle 10km of the race and then just as it was really beginning to hurt I ramped the effort level up a notch. This didn’t actually mean that I went any faster, but it did mean that I didn’t slow down. I finished the last, mostly uphill, mile at 7:10 pace and maintained that across the line. I could not have maintained that pace on such a hot day without doing a few things to help though.
Fluid, Fuel and Staying Cool
I had my usual pre-race bowl of porridge a couple of hours before the race start and washed it down with a coffee. I then didn’t drink or eat anything further before the start. Once the race started I grabbed a sponge or a bottle of water whenever offered. The sponge got squeezed straight over my head, lovely! With the water, which came in little bottles with the tops ready removed, I swallowed a mouthful, poured most over my head, swallowed another mouthful and then discarded the bottle. I guess that I did this 6 or 7 times during the race which helped to keep my mouth moist and my body slightly cooler. This is invaluable on such a hot day as my heart rate was easily 10bpm higher than it otherwise would have been just because of the heat.
For fuel I always take a gel at around the 6 mile mark on a half marathon. I slow slightly to allow my heart rate to drop to aid digestion, but I find it enables me to keep running at full speed in the last mile or two where I would otherwise fade.
If it is a hot day and one side of the road is shaded, even if it is only to knee or waist height, then which side of the road would you run on? I always ran on the shaded side. The roads were closed, so we had the space. You would be surprised at how many people didn’t do this. I only came out of the shade when I had to, either to cut a corner, or because there wasn’t any. Even if this only kept me a fraction of a degree cooler then it was a marginal gain that I wasn’t going to waste.
Did you know that runners can get a benefit from slipstreaming too? Sure it is smaller than that gained by cyclists, but the gain is there nonetheless, particularly if there is a head wind. For the first half of the race there was a slight tailwind, so I had no urge to slipstream. The return leg was s different story though, with a very slight but persistent headwind that I tried to avoid wherever possible. I remember reading somewhere that you should either run in front of someone or behind, but not by the side. There is actually an aerodynamic disadvantage in running shoulder to shoulder with someone. Once we turned into the headwind I put a spurt of power on to catch the guy 50m in front of me. It was worth the expenditure of energy because when I got there I tucked in behind him and saved energy for the next couple of miles. I believe in fair play so I would periodically take a turn on the front, but he didn’t seem interested in dropping in behind me. His loss I guess as I beat him to the finish by 5 or 10 seconds in the end, which I made on the final hill, not in a sprint.
People do daft things on hills. I often see people putting in insane efforts on early hills, not realising the toll this takes on their body is hugely disproportionate to any initial gain made. For hills you should shorten your stride, lean in to the hill to maintain your good form and not increase your effort level by too much. I often get overtaken when climbing hills, but then catch and overtake those runners on the next down or flat. I often see them on a couple of hills in a row, but eventually they cannot maintain it and I edge away from them.
Race smart, consider marginal gains, exceed your expectations and enjoy your racing 🙂
Oh, and do the Frome Half Marathon. It is a lovely event and well worth taking part in, although the medal is extremely crappy and you have to pay extra for the t-shirt :(. [Update: I have just been informed that next year the medals will be bespoke for the event, and therefore much better 🙂 ]
Here is the video of yours truly staggering across the finish line.
You are probably interested in how I did? I finished 18th out of 250 in a time of 1:33:53 which was a PB by 2 mins and 43 seconds. Top ten next year unless a load of real runners turn up and leave me in their dust 😉