Brighton and Silverstone Half Marathons could not have been more different.
And also similar.
In the wake of the floods and storms that swept the country in February, Brighton had been repaired and cleaned, ready to welcome the runners. The day was warm and got even warmer. As the crowds of runners and supporters descended on Marine Drive, the sun shone down, unseasonably warm and after a long grey winter very welcome. The onshore wind made for breaking waves and a genuinely picturesque start to the day.
Fast forward two weeks and I'm stood in an old World War 2 airfield converted over the last 70 years into Silverstone Race Circuit. Brutally cold and exposed to the wind, a light mist of rain fell and the runners huddled around garages and tea wagons in an attempt to shelter and find some warmth. Despite promises from others, the sun never broke through and the wind never let up. It started and remained very, very cold.
I'd booked Brighton ages ago. It was to be the first time I'd run the same race as my brother, Joe, in a long time. Having had two lots of back surgery recently, he was looking for a finish. I was looking to PB. I'm not a big fan of road running, mainly because the scenery sucks compared to the trails, but Brighton boasted a quick lap of the town and then a coast view the rest of the way. We had set off early and I'd driven us down. Joe was doing his usual race-preparation. (Immodium and lucozade). It was the first time I'd been to Brighton and I loved the place. Good views, nice coffee and the promise of chips afterwards., Who could ask for more? As they called us to the race start we went to our individual starting pens, agreed to meet afterwards and awaited the starters gun.
Silverstone, on the other hand, came as a last minute thing. A friend of a friend couldn't make the race and although I know you're not supposed to, I gladly took his race number with just a week to prepare and only a week after Brighton. I love motor racing, I loved the idea of running around an F1 track and I was in it for the medal and the goody bag. As part of training for an ultra I was due to run 15 miles that day any way. This was just a structured distance in my mind. I drove up with my daughter, we froze our arses off waiting for the race to start and as I joined the starting grid I made my way to the front. All the way to the front!
Two different races, two different mind-sets, trained for one, unprepared for the other.
In Brighton I wanted it. I was hungry to PB I had plans and aims and splits in mind and this was to be my fast HM before a year of ultras and trails. My A race. The result of lots of cross training, intervals and speed work.
With Silverstone I had no clue. An unknown entity, still a bit worn out after Brighton and the weather totally against me, I didn't really know what to expect or what I could achieve.
But here the differences end.
Both races went like clockwork.
In Brighton I set a PB of 1:31.16.
Two weeks later in Silverstone I went even faster, 1:30.27(chip time).
Now I'm not expecting the Olympic committee to come knocking. I know lots of people who run faster than this and I think I could probably go faster myself (although I don't really think I want to). But that's not what these races were about.
Although this is a tale of two halfs [sic], it makes one whole story.
For the first time in a long time I loved the racing. I had done my own training for it, my own plan using everything I've learnt. Although I'm not a fan of running the roads and I haven't run a HM on the road in years, my last one took over 1:40!
I described it to someone afterwards as feeling like I had more gears. It was like I had previously been a two speed runner and all of a sudden I could switch cadence or ratio. Whatever the incline, or the wind blowing against me, I had a response to offer. I would find a different groove and run in it. My splits were even throughout and there was always enough in the tank for a fast finish.
Running means different things to different people, and it's the same with races.
In a month I run the South Downs Way 50 and I have gone against the norm with my training. I've not had time for lots of mega miles so I've relied on quality over quantity in my training. Its not what I've read I should do or what others are doing. It's what feels right to me and what I believe will work, for me.
These races and the results I got have given me the confidence to meet my next challenge head on. I enjoyed how hard I was working and how fast I could keep going. I smiled the whole way around, cheered back at the crowds and celebrated at the finish lines. I hope that SDW50 goes as well as either of these races, but I'll take the Brighton sunshine any day of the week.
|Laid back and loving it, unlike the guy I'm racing!|
NB There is an absence of people in this story who I want to include. Firstly, my wife who lets me disappear at weekends, wearing shorts and hyped up on coffee and run, a lot! You need support at home or none of this is possible. It also helps to get back to a cold beer (or two) and a nice dinner. x