Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Warwick half marathon


I ran a negative split 1/2 marathon PB in 1:36:20 and enjoyed it.


This was only my second ever proper race. I entered just one week before - we were visiting Emma's parents and they told us about it. So no time to train. My running fitness isn't bad but I'm 1/2 stone heavier than October last year.

Goal setting

On the Monday I did a 10k tempo test to see if my "finger in the air" goal of sub-100 minutes is realistic. The McMillan tool said a 44:50 10k is equivalent to a 1:39:59 half marathon. I managed a 44:30 without ruining myself but because I haven't had any recent fast long runs I left the goal as "merely" sub-100  That meant 4:44/km average pace (7:37/mile)

The course is all on road and is undulating - lots of ups and downs as well as some flat stretches.  The final 3k or so is nicely downhill, so a fast finish to make up time was on the cards.  If I averaged around 4:44/km to the half way point then that'd be great because factoring in the remaining downhill I'd be ahead of schedule.


On the day I had a coffee and 2 Sainsburys granola slices for breakfast. I walked the 2k to Warwick race course and picked up my British Heart Foundation red T-shirt. It isn't a technical one so I decided to run in the Stratford marathon one I bought last year. I made a final toilet stop and checked in my bag for safe keeping.

I had 12 jelly babies for the run but no drink. I figured the 3 water stops would cover me fine.  The holding area was divided in to sections based on finish time: 2-3 hours, 1.5-2 hours, sub-1.5 hours.  I made my way forward a little bit but stopped in the sunshine for a 2 minute wait before we started.  We walked towards the start line and jogged from 50m before. We hit the line running.

The start

The people I started with were around the same pace but mostly slightly slower. My first kilometre was the slowest of the whole race at 4:59 although it was 20m uphill so not that bad. I'd decided to make an effort to not start "hot", and I only overtook people who were significantly slower than me. There's also the hill to climb and I definitely didn't want to go in to the red in the first kilometre.

At 3km by the Woodloes estate roundabout I saw Emma and niece Jessica. Cheers of "Go Russ" were appreciated. To this point I was about 8 seconds ahead of the sub-100 schedule - perfect.

There's a long gentle drag from the A46 roundabout up to Leek Wootton (48m over 1.8km = 2.7%) which took back nearly all the seconds ahead I'd gotten. We turned left on to quiet country lanes and soon hit the first water stop. 330ml bottles of water with the caps already off.

This section was quite exposed and there was a headwind as we ran up and down hills.  I was mostly catching and passing people. I don't recall any/many people passing me.

This phase was kind of featureless. There were clumps of people clapping and shouting encouragement but there weren't really any landmarks of note.  At one point I got out my bag of jelly babies and dropped 5 or so on the floor, leaving me with only 2.  But after a mile or so we reached a family where the kids had trays of jelly babies. I grabbed a handful without slowing much and got 5 back. Result!

Half way

I was checking my cumulative average pace from time to time, having done calculations the night before as to what "catch" pace I'd need from the 14k (2/3rds) and 16k  (5k to go) points.  I also had the Garmin Virtual Partner feature enabled and set to 4:44/km  After one particularly long hill (ending at 11.5k in) I was 10 or seconds behind my goal pace but the 1.8k downhill the other side at 4:21/km pace brought me back to 4:41/km overall (35 seconds ahead)

Downhill is great

After a short spell of climbing I realised that I had reached roads that I'd run before from Emma's parents' home and that there was a consistent downhill for the next 2km. I think I must have pushed a little on the previous climb because my breathing was a little heavier but it felt OK so I carried on with a work rate that maintained that breathing.

Half way down the descent I saw that I had already made up the time to average 4:40/km (7:30/mile) for the whole thing, so I started thinking about my previous fastest (training) half marathons and what I'd need to average from there to get close to them. But mostly I just carried on working hard without pushing over the edge on the climbs. I was generally passing people on the downhill and flat bits, maybe losing some ground to them on the ascents.

5k to go

With just under 5k to go the 2km downhill ended and we had an undulating climb up to Budbrooke. But I knew it was a definite downhill finish so I kept pushing, actually catching and passing people on the final climb - novel!

Downhill finish

With 2.5km left I finally hit the highest point in Budbrooke and picked up speed. As we emerged on Hampton Rd  there were people with more water bottles (not marked on the map) but I figured I was so close to the finish that it wouldn't make any difference and I'd lose time taking and drinking one.

The first km was net 2.8% downhill, the next 1.1%  There was also a tailwind (finally!)

I averaged about 3:59/km for the first km, 3:56/km for the second. I caught and passed quite a few people. The gradient leveled out and the final 350m was 0.4% uphill so maintaining pace was hard but as soon as I saw the finishing arch I just nailed it, averaging 3:44/km (6:02/mile)

I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a finishers goody bag containing a chocolate coated seed bar, rice oil (?!?) and BHF literature.

Position, time and PB

By chip timing (not absolute finishing position) I was the 207th finisher of 1906 (196th man of 1242) with a time of 1:36:20

I overran the finish a little to make sure I was over the 21.1km  My watch says 21.14km in 1:36:24 which is a slightly faster average pace than the official numbers.

Strava says this run includes a 1:36:10 half marathon PB. It actually equals my previous time but this one had more hills (406m versus 268m) so I'm happy to take this one for my official PB.

Negative splits and final 5k pace

Over the first half I averaged 4:42/km (7:33/mile) although it was net uphill 47 metres. For the second half I averaged 4:24/km (7:05/mile) which includes the equivalent downhill plus a little bit of tailwind and a high effort finish.

The final 5k was undulating but net 26m downhill and was covered in 21:25 at an average of 4:17/km (6:53/mile)

Closing thoughts

I really enjoyed the race, probably helped by running within myself for the first 2/3rds before picking up the pace. A downhill and tailwind finish always helps. The unexpected PB is the cherry on the cake.


# Split pace Gradient Adjusted Pace Elev chg. Cadence
1 4:59 4:30 +20 90.4
2 4:25 4:39 -17 90.1
3 4:39 4:29 +2 89.9
4 4:36 4:36 -3 89.5
5 4:44 4:25 +10 89.4
6 4:58 4:12 +34 88.9
7 4:41 4:40 -10 89.0
8 4:46 4:36 +3 88.6
9 4:22 4:21 -4 89.2
10 4:54 4:34 +13 88.6
11 4:43 4:36  +3 89.0
12 4:55 4:31 +13 88.4
13 4:21 4:32 -13 89.0
14 4:37 4:31 +0 88.9
15 4:20 4:31 -17 89.1
16 4:16 4:29 -13 88.6
17 4:26 4:24 -2 88.2
18 4:41 4:24 +9 87.8
19 4:29 4:24 +0 87.7
20 4:00 4:22 -26 88.8
21 3:57 4:01 -10 89.8
21.1 3:21 3:19 +0 94.0