C2HMi33w (or Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance)

A builder told me about the P6 abbreviation once: Prior Planning Prevent P*ss Poor Performance. I was thinking about that as I was queuing for a portaloo for a p*ss less than 5 km into the Birmingham half marathon last Sunday. Talk about bad planning!

Back to the beginning. I started my c25k training in March, and the day after graduation I signed up for the Birmingham half marathon. It felt like there was loads and loads of time, but with the wisdom of hindsight, 33 weeks really isn't a lot of time to go from hardly being able to jog 60 seconds to running 21 km (C2HMi33w = Couch To Half Marathon In 33 Weeks). There has been some blips along the way. Like when I spent 3 weeks in July just not being "in the mood". Or like injuring my hamstring a month before the race so that the two weeks pre-taper where I was meant to build up to peak performance instead saw me thawing frozen vegs on my leg and becoming best friends with a physio therapist. Or like catching a cold the week before the race so that I again couldn't run, meaning that I managed a total of 4 runs in the last four weeks before the race. At least the fever symptoms had gone away for race day, but I never felt quite "at the top of my game".

I was staying in a nice hotel 15 minutes walk from the start line, so could get up and have a nice breakfast (porridge with nuts and honey) and a couple of cups of coffee (that's probably the bad planning part... coffee) before leisurely strolling up to the baggage area and depositing a sweat shirt and a pair of long jogging bottoms. The slow runners (of which I was one) were starting on both sides of a dual carriageway, and by pure chance "my" side was the last. I was towards the end of the field with maybe 100 runners behind me and the event had sold out all of its 20,000 places. So there was around 19,900 runners ahead of me.

This turned out to be a downside for two reasons:

1) while I'm sure people from Birmingham love to cheer on runners and while the organisers had arranged several bands to play music to the runners and charity busses with cheering folks, the novelty of seeing someone moving at long distance running pace had clearly become a bit old hat at some point while the first 19,000 runners had passed. So the streets were, if not empty, then at least tired and without much cheer. A few hard core hold outs were calling out names (it gives a GREAT buzz to hear your name being shouted), a couple of the bands were still playing, there was a biscuit stall handing out bisquits to anyone wanting them and twice I passed people giving winegum bears away. Of course the official water stations were still manned. But all in all, it felt very much like we were at the end of a very long field, and like people who did stay to cheer were only doing so out of a desire to stay till the bitter end.

2) I had arranged to keep the hotel room until 3pm, but while the last wave of runners did start at 11.07 as shown in the paperwork issued beforehand, it took the best part of an hour before I crossed the start line shortly before 12. Add 2.5 hours running and time to collect my sweat shirt and wobble back to the hotel. I had time for a quick bath which her Ladyship had run for me when I called to say I had finished (bless!), but the nice, leisurely checkout I had imagined didn't happen.

The course has a looooooooong hill from the 17km mark to 20km. Evil to plan a route that way. Even if it wasn't as steep as I feared, running up hill for 3 km is tiring. I made sure to take it easy and hold some energy back in reserve for that hill which turned out to be a good decision. I must have passed at least a thousand folks walking uphill, and while I was running quite slowly by then, at least I was till running.

I don't know what I feel about the race. As mentioned, the last month beforehand had been a bit crap, but the 6 months prior to that had been good enough that I was never in any real doubt about my ability to keep running all the way. So there wasn't that "yay, I made it!" euphoria. And since my fitness had suffered from not practising enough, there also wasn't any "yay, that was fast" euphoria. My official time was 2.23.30, although Princess Garmin claims it took two minutes longer. Maybe the start and finish wasn't quite where I thougth it was. It's a respectable time, and very close to what I told people I expected (I was aiming for 2.15 plus/minus 5 minutes), but almost meeting expectations is not cause for feeling ecstatic.

It's been a few days, and I was hoping the meh-feeling would give way to this huge feeling of satisfaction I had expected. But it's still blah or meh. Sure. I'm proud that I *can* run that far, but I sorta proved that to myself 6 weeks ago when I had a 20 km training run. It was meant to be the culmination of half a year's of training. Never mind. Upwards and onwards, yeah?!!


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20 Replies

  • Thank you Kat, and although I'm not dancing in the streets (there's a vision that'll give the punters nightmares), I am pleased. I think you're onto something very right with the un pressured runs. Hopefully your plan will work and it will continue to be fun. After all, that's what it is all about. Or at least it should be.

    I went on a 4 km recovery run today. It was fun. It was the first time in what feels like very long that I was running without feeling I had to push myself or improve or prove anything. Fun. Like it used to be. Sadly it was probably too early as it made me limp again, but that's okay. At least it was enjoyable :)

  • Wow, Tomas, the fact that you could run uphill after 17km(and overtake so many) must fill you with a bit of "YAY-well done me!" cheer, you sound like you are being very hard on yourself :( I'm not always the most exuberant person, when i ought to be, but i would be very pleased and i think you should give yourself a big cheer! Do you have a medal? onwards and upwards to you next challenge, i'm way behind you, still on that 10k distance at the mo! but the lady i ran with at club last night siad i had a really good steady pace! :) shes doing halfs and aiming for marathons so she has inspired me to look ahead a little and believe in myself! :)

  • Not really hard on myself, more like hmmmm "is that it?is that all it was?" kind of thing. I think you should listen to the lady. Good steady pace will stand you in good stead, and im sure your 10k will develop into anything you want it to.

  • Tomas you may be feeling 'meh' or 'blah' but by heck, a 3km incline at 17km and you still got a very respectable time - my hat off to you. :-) Not sure how you were in with the slower runners, as that's not a slow time by most HM standards... Not at all, and considering you had a loo stop and would have lost time - you must have pushed on to make that up. WELL DONE TOMAS!

  • Thank you, that is very kind. Would you be surprised if I told you that I checked the time wasted on the loo stop right away and kept subtracting it from the total time? Lol. Once a stats fanatic, always a stats fanatic. It took 2:40 to stand in line and 20 secs to do the business lol. (TMI, I know)

  • Haha, not surprised - I would have timed myself too :-D

  • Wow considering your training had taken a bit of a bash towards the end - you did bloomin' marvellous!! I couldn't run up a 3km hill at the beginning of that distance, let alone at the end. Don't beat yourself up too much :0)

  • Thank you. You're right that is something to be proud of, and I am. Must focus more on all the positives :)

  • Tomas stop beating yourself up. You ran a bloomin' half marathon in 2hr23. You 'mdear are a legend. You're still a baby runner and look what you achieved, with an interrupted training plan AND a 3k uphill slog near the end. I suspects you're in the throws of anticlimax because you've achieved what you set out to do. So give yourself a break Sweetie, revel in what you've just done and enjoy the moment. :(

  • I think you're right. Just an anticlimax, and I will make sure to revel (and tell all my friends!). Thank you, and welcome back to the running world :)

  • Tomas you did brilliantly with a really good time. Maybe you've got the meh feeling that comes after making great efforts and everything just stopping (it's a well known marathon thing). Just look at what you have achieved this year, taper off your exercise for a couple of weeks and then, when rested get back on it. You'll probably find your mood lifts as you remember more good bits and your body gets back to it's normal composition.

  • I didn't know it was a typical reaction, but it's good to know I'm not the only one. And I think you're right. Bit of rest, bit of taking it easy, bit of positive thinking, and soon it will all appear wonderful. Thank you for putting things into perspective.

  • Yes, well done Tomas, I agree with whats already being said.

    You have achieved something very special and you have come a long way. You should be very proud of yourself, I think you did amazingly well :-) xxx

  • Thank you. Very kind :)

  • Maybe huge events are not for you. You could find some smaller, more local events as there's bound to be some near where you live. Maybe you don't want to race at all. It's not like there's any imperative to do so

  • You may be right that the scale isn't right for me I enjoyed my 10k 11 weeks ago far more, but it was also a far smaller arrangement where even a rank amateur like me could feel the buzz and excitement. Good point miss W. Thank you.

  • Just to say I can sympathise completely with how you feel. I recently did a marathon length night walk and really the whole thing was quite flat and not enjoyable. It was hard work but I had done lots of training so the distance was manageable, however it took so long to get going and the route was crowded until about mile 20. The absolute killer was I think some of the mile markers weren't particularly accurate. Got to 26 miles thinking just 0.2 of a mile now and it was well over half a mile (I have measured it!!!). Even at the finish line no euphoria except one man excitedly waving a medal at my friend who could hardly muster a smile back.

    I know I will never run a half marathon and you have had a lot of hassle with injuries etc, even if you had done 20k a few weeks back this time you were battling against others and a different atmosphere from what was expected. I admire your achievements and hope you can feel some satisfaction. Personally I always said I could walk rather than run a marathon so I've put my money where my mouth was - and can spend the rest of my life bragging to my brothers that I am the only one in the family to complete a marathon distance event. Something no one would have bet on!!

    Good luck for next time!!

  • Sounds like a similar kind of experience. I guess with the lack of excitement it does raise the big "why bother?" Question. Although I'm not going to go there... Sometimes the fact that there are mountains is a good enough reason to climb them, and likewise for walking or running long distances. But it becomes a bit like American tourists... "Right, that was Rome, put a tick in the box and let's catch the plane to Paris".

    Well done for completing the distance. 26 miles is an achievement that should be celebrated.

  • Anti-climaxes are horrid, but you really need to somehow as you've said take all the positives from the event. You were on the injury couch getting physio in the build-up and it looked shaky whether or not the race was still possible for a bit - you did it! You not only did it, but you got a good time - yes, yes you say you trained for this and expected to hit that sort of time - but neither the training nor still achieving the time in the race with a loo stop, etc. are a mean feat - you need to celebrate your tenacity and success! Not everyone could do what you did, be proud! It sounds like you possibly knew you had 'more in the bag' had the circumstances been right, and to me it sounds like you do too. What I think you need to do is research a race that is known to be well-organised and supported with lots of cheering throughout, maybe a shorter one even this time, and focus on that now you are back from injury, etc. I say a shorter one as I think you need to get your mental mojo back, as this at the core of everything. A lovely boost from a good crowd I think will put a spring in your step again. Then research another HM/M and focus on that - every race is different and I'm sure some fellow forum peeps can recommend one that will hopefully start you in the right group and also make sure you have encouragement all the way round. And please now that we are your virtual groupies, I love reading your posts and as a recent graduate find them incredibly helpful and motivating, not to mention all the help/advice you give everyone else who posts on here! I'm sure I join everyone else in throwing a virtual celebratory party with party poppers and cake ahoy for your fantastic ahievement, well done, be proud and happy!

  • Well done that is impressive, hm - you should be proud and with a great time. I agree with miss wobble, I ran with 8000 people and it was very busy and first 3km were not fun! Maybe try a smaller race. If it makes you feel better nobody watches races in Chile, I just think its too common. Along the hm route there were no biscuits either or people handing out wine gums, your on your own. Like I say I would be more than happy with your time, especially after a loo break and a 3km up hill near the end.

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