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Bristol Half Marathon - RunHalf Marathon

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Bristol, England
United Kingdom
Bristol City Council
65F / 18C
Total Time = 1h 24m 30s
Overall Rank = 153/8870
Age Group = M40-49
Age Group Rank = 24/1350
Pre-race routine:

This was one of those days that really makes you feel that you're alive. 3rd event in my week-long series of races with my little bro Robin while visiting the UK. Up at 5:30am, race in the fun of a big city half marathon, beating a PR that dates back to 1983. Then racing across town and across England to make it to the airport in time for the flight back home to the family. Fantastic.

I had been targeting this race for around a year, since learning that a work trip would conveniently coincide with one of the UK's largest half marathons, which also happened to be held in Bristol, where most of my UK family live. It was doubly attractive because it would be an opportunity to race against my brother Robin, who is 6-years my junior and took up running just a few years ago. I had been an avid runner in my youth, but only returned to running last year after a hiatus of many years. So we had never raced before in our lives. Well, apart from the 2 additional races that we decided to enter earlier in the week. Most of my training had been geared towards a HIM in August, which should have given me ample endurance, and I have been doing something approximating a run focus for the past few weeks. I figured there was little chance of beating Robin, but was hoping to beat my HM PR of 1:26. Normally I just ignore my 'real' PRs from younger days as they're too far out of reach, but for some reason I hadn't done a HM when I was at my fastest, and so my PR was from a race that I ran when I was 15.

Up at 5:30am. This felt like a nice luxury. Most of my tris start at 6 or 7, but the British climate makes such early starts unnecessary, and a 9:30 start time was far more civilized. Drove into Bristol with my dad, who helped me to find a parking spot and a path through the downtown that would allow me to make a quick getaway right after the race. The city was full of runners, all walking towards the harborside start areas. Much better than sitting in a traffic jam for a big parking lot at a US race.
Event warmup:

Met up with Robin. Easy running around the harbor. I have been finding that it takes me longer to get ready to run lately, and I also wanted to test out my foot that has been bothering me since my tune-up race earlier in the week. Everything seemed promising, but nevertheless I was worrying more about getting around the course intact, rather than about the pace. Thousands of runners milling around getting ready by the water in fine sunny weather. Nice! Last 15 minutes spent waiting in the densely crowded start chute, soaking up the atmosphere.

  • 1h 24m 30s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 06m 27s  min/mile

I wasn't able to get forward enough in the long start chute, so I knew that I would probably be held back by crowds of slower runners at the start. I decided to not worry about that, as it would force me to ease into the race gradually. In a race this size I wanted to steadily work my way through the field, giving me lots of runners to chase down, rather than crumbling as I was chased down by other runners later on. It took me about 30s to get across the start line, and for most of the first mile I was running well within myself, looking for gaps in the mass of runners. Lots of spectators already lining the streets. Great atmosphere as we quickly moved towards the long section along the Avon River Gorge.

The race plan was to try to run around 6:25/mile early on, and then to try to either maintain or build from there later in the race, depending on how I was feeling. The pace was based on the McMillan equivalents of my recent shorter races, and it served me pretty well in this case. 6:35 for the first mile was a pleasant surprise, as I had expected to lose more in the early crowds. After that the course widened and the runner thinned enough to get a generally clear run, so I was able to settle into a rhythm. The goal was for the 7-mile out-and-back section along the gorge to go by as uneventfully as possible. Miles 2 and 3 were in around 6:15, which felt comfortable at the time, then miles 4-8 went by at a surprisingly uniform 6:22/mile pace. Half way passed in 41:45. I was rather worried early on by some twinges in my foot, but luckily that didn't last. More concerned about a very tight right achilles and calf that lasted throughout the race - I never get that problem these days; no idea where that came from. Apart from some blustery winds, the conditions for racing were ideal. Temps in the mid-60s and sunny. The Brits were actually starting to complain that it was getting a little warm for their liking (I am not making this up), but it felt great. At the turn-around at a little past 4 miles I saw that Robin was about a minute ahead of me. Since he was probably much earlier than me in the start chute, the difference was probably a bit smaller than that. But he was looking good, so it wasn't likely that I would catch him.

One very nice feature of this race was the drink stations. Water and energy drinks were handed out in small bottles, rather than in cups. This made it *far* more feasible to drink while running. I normally have to stop for a few seconds to drink, as I really don't want sticky energy drink splashing over me. But not in this race. I wish that was more common.

As the race re-entered the city at around 8 miles the course changed character. Lots and lots of turns (many scenic and historic areas, and great for spectators too), a few short climbs, and some annoying cobbled sections. I stepped up the effort a little, and started to pick off more people, including some who I had met at Robin's running club earlier in the week, but my mile splits started to slide a little, perhaps because of the change in terrain. Low 6:30s through to mile 10 (64:04), and then rising over 6:40 for miles 11 and 12, which included the worst patches of climbing and cobbles. The atmosphere was now getting better and better, due to the growing crowds of spectators. I very much wanted to crack 1:25, so I made a real effort to pick up the pace in the last mile (roughly 6:20). It felt great running down the finishing straight knowing that I was going to be right around my goal time. 1:24:30 is probably as good as I could have hoped for. Beat my 28-year old PR by over 2 minutes. Good morning at the office.
What would you do differently?:

I might have been able to run slightly faster, but I'm pretty happy with the plan and the follow-through. In my next HM I might target a more aggressive pace, and I might also try to lose less time in the early crowds. But I have no recent experience of racing this kind of distance outside a tri, and I haven't done any speedwork, so I was not confident about my ability to survive 13 miles at this pace.
Post race
Warm down:

I quickly caught up with Robin in the finishing chute. He was feeling pretty good too, as he had run a 1:22:30 PR. So he won the race series by 2 to 1. But I had the consolation of the shorter total time (I beat him by ~13 minutes in last weekend's duathlon). So good results all around. But now it was time to start the second race of the day, making a quick escape to get to London for the flight back home. Quickly left Robin ("see you next year!"), and ran through the lines of recently finished runners. Picked up my stuff at the bag drop, and then ran through the streets of the city to retrieve the car, which was at the other side of the downtown. At one point, to cross the race route I had to merge with the flow of runners so that I could work my way across the street. Quick drive out to parents' place, fastest post-race shower ever, quickly pack up the suitcases. Ice on the sore bits would just have to wait. Grabbed post-race snack at a gas station, and then quickly down the motorway to London, keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn't get a cramp while driving. Dropped off the rental car and made it to the airport with a few minutes to do a little more refueling before boarding the flight.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Tri training and a hearty diet of steady running has given me as good an aerobic base as I have ever had. I recovered surprisingly quickly after the race. But I think that I need to try to find a way to incorporate some speedwork into my running - without injuring myself - so that faster running feels more comfortable. My gait changes significantly once I go below around 6:30/mile, and my training hasn't prepared me adequately for that. This may also explain why I was feeling achilles/calf soreness throughout the race, something that I haven't encountered since my first few weeks of returning to running. But no complaints, I'm really quite pleased with this. If somebody had told me a couple of years ago that I would run a HM PR I would have thought they were nuts.

Event comments:

This is a really nice event. I would do it every year if it wasn't for the fact that I live on the wrong side of the pond. Big race atmosphere, scenic and fast course (mostly), great for spectators. Excellent organization -- by Bristol City Council, which puts on some outstanding run and bike events as part of its effort to brand itself as one of the UK's most healthy cities. It's no wonder that they can easily sell out 20,000 entries. The starts are managed well to reduce crowding - half of the runners start at 9:30, and the other half (time-seeded) start half an hour later. The race attracts a high quality field as the UK half marathon championship, so faster runners are in little danger of being isolated in the later miles. I really liked the way the drinks stations were organized - bottles rather than cups are a real time saver for runners. They even laid on adequate number of portapotties - and they were flush potties, quite the luxury. And finally, Bristol is a neat city for visitors, too, with plenty for friends and family to do.

Last updated: 2011-01-01 12:00 AM
01:24:30 | 13.1 miles | 06m 27s  min/mile
Age Group: 24/1350
Overall: 153/8870
Performance: Good
Course: Mostly flat and fast. First 8 miles out and back along scenic Avon River Gorge, then last 5 miles twisting and lumpy in places (short climbs and cobbles) around city centre.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2011-09-11 9:46 PM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Bristol Half Marathon

2011-09-11 10:37 PM
in reply to: #3681689

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Columbia, South Carolina
Subject: RE: Bristol Half Marathon
Taking a break from catching at IMWi and thought I'd check out your race.   Fantastic!  It sounds like a great race, and you certainly put in a great performance.  Well done!
2011-09-12 7:12 AM
in reply to: #3681744

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University Park, MD
Subject: RE: Bristol Half Marathon

Experior - 2011-09-11 11:37 PM Taking a break from catching at IMWi and thought I'd check out your race.   Fantastic!  It sounds like a great race, and you certainly put in a great performance.  Well done!

Thanks, Michael! So I take it that we can look forward to an IMWI race report from you around this time next year?

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