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I did it! The Castleward Half Marathon

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My time was 2.05.09, which I'm incredibly happy with as it was an off-road course which meant that if you weren't going up a hill you were going down one! So, not a course to set a personal best, but definitely one for outstanding scenery and endurace testing.

The grounds of Castleward are amazing. We ran past farmland, through forests and along the Strangford Lough, with the race starting and ending at the main house (Think Downton Abbey, although this estate is in Northern Ireland). The first half of the race consisted almost entirely of windy pathways that seemed to go up one half of a hill and then down another. Runners were moving in single file up these hills surrounded by forests, which looked like tinsel on a Christmas tree. It does slow one down because it's hard to overtake, but people were polite and moved out of the way if you needed them to. Then there were the muddy paths, which felt more like an obstacle course than a run! Fortunately those were few and far between. After about 6 miles, the course opened out onto wider pathways and gorgeous views. The final mile was a killer, though. Just after the 12 mile marker, I turned a bend, and there was a hill steeper than any of the others we had had so far. I kept running up it, but acknowledged quickly that I was going to have to slow down my pace. I probably lost a minute or two making my way up the hill, but I didn't have the strength to go any faster.

Although I was very tired by the end, one big difference between this and previous runs is that I have absolutely no IT band pain! My legs are stiff, but I'm not limping and I'm not feeling worried that I'll need to take a few days off running next week.

So, I think that this has persuaded me that the training method I used this time has really helped keep me injury free. I was a bit daunted having not completed a 21km distance whilst training, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I managed to combine the speed of my shorter runs with the distance of the longer ones without much trouble. No, it was not my fastest pace, but off-road races have more hills, more mud and some paths that require runners to go in single-file. I now know that going forward I need to take my shorter runs more seriously in order to increase my pace and strengthen my muscles and keep doing what I have been with the longer runs, which is to keep a slower pace, but longer time. I'm completely converted to this method.

I would like to complete one half marathon in under 2hours. I feel confident I can achieve this by the end of this year. Now to find the next race!

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