I knew going into this race that what I’d consider a good time these days would be a big ask, and my best chance would be to try and go for a sub-1:30, and not push for better than that. My left shoulder had however been a cause of pain since Llanelli Half last weekend, and was not only at times difficult to move, but had also been keeping me awake at times. So the chances of that sub-1:30 seemed pretty far off now as well. Yesterday though, I paced 28 minutes at Northala Fields parkrun as a gentle leg loosener to help me feel ready for today.
Carmen had thought she would be pacing the 10K race today, but due to forgetting about confirming her place, she’d actually got a free morning and would be volunteering at the local junior parkrun instead over in Aylestone. With Watermead Park in use by the half marathon, it'd be the only one about today.
Being local meant not too early a start, but I did set off an hour before the race to hopefully get some free parking on the road. It wasn’t too cold out, and thankfully drier than some previous years, which is a miracle considering last nights rain. Watermead Park would be flooded for sure. I didn’t get to park quite as close to the event as I normally would though. Carmen walked from there to the park, and I walked to the race village. I did run briefly, but my shoulder was making it very uncomfortable to do so. It was also unfortunate that most of the route to Victoria Park was up-hill so I didn’t run too much of it as I didn’t want to over do it.
The race village was busier than I ever remember seeing it before. I think having a 10K and a Half made it busier than when it was just the half, or the half and the full marathon races. At least the grass wasn't swampy today, but I headed over to the tarmac to wait as I couldn't see any familiar faces about this time.
The race started at 09:15, and fortunately it didn’t take too long before I could no longer feel discomfort from my shoulder. I think it disappeared by the time I got to the bottom of London Road. The 45 10K minute pacer was getting farther and father ahead, the 90 minute HM pacer was somewhere behind me having started one pen further back than I would have expected, and I was doing around 06:30/mi.
This didn’t feel too bad, and I eased off on the pace, knowing I should try to stick to 06:50/mi and no faster. I was certainly not of the fitness level to be anywhere near the 06:20/mi of my previous PB pace. I felt it was okay for the first mile though, since a good chunk was downhill. In my second mile, along Charles Street, I realised that Wilkos had not yet closed down here, as people were watching the race from inside. I could have done with getting a few bits from there, but I knew it was unlikely I’d want to walk back there after the race.
This second mile goes out on the Golden Mile, and still everything felt good. As did the third mile and passing the water station at around 5K in. My mind started to think ahead, to Thurmaston Village and the long climb up out of it and onto the dual carriageway. Thinking of that made me feel more tired I think, but I kept on going, determined that I’d push on until Watermead Park.
When I reached Thurmaston Village I kept an eye out for my hairdresser since I’d passed her in the previous year. This year I thought amusingly I could try to book a haircut as I passed. Not this time though. The dual carriageway also seemed longer than I remembered, and I wondered how I ever ran along here and further when I did the Leicester Marathon all those years ago. For this second 5K, my pace had dropped to just below 07:00/mi pace, and the 1:30 pacer overtook me whilst on the dual carriageway. I tried to make sure I kept him in sight though.
As I got to the bend before the entrance to Watermead Park, I grabbed some water from the aid station there, and squeezed the plastic cup as I have done at many races before. This time though, instead of the cup keeping the water in, it split from top to bottom. Unfortunately there was only the smallest drop of water left in the cup as a result, but I drank it anyway and kept going. I regretted not having put my water bottle in my Flipbelt before the race - that would have rendered these aid stations unnecessary for me, but I stupidly thought that the extra weight might slow me down, or tire me faster, so I left it behind in my car. Now though, my legs may have felt fine, but I still felt like I wanted to walk.
I kept going into Watermead Park, and knowing I’d reached the point where I walked last year, and passed the 10K mark, I started to walk. I do wonder if I could have convinced myself to keep on running, find an excuse to, like I had in Llanelli, but I did not at the time. Every mile now would be between 08:00/mi - 08:30/mi and getting another sub-90 would be slipping further and further away from me.
As I walked and ran through Watermead Park I thought about the time I’ve been there previously doing the parkrun. Even wondering the purpose of the King Lear statue in the lake didn’t help distract me enough to keep on going.
I walked from the park up through Birstall, and didn’t start running again until I reached the hill and then ran most of the way to the next roundabout and then walked a little before the entrance to Little Mead. I knew I wanted to run more than I was doing, and even cheers for Spider-man (mis-naming my Superman t-shirt) didn’t help when I finally got to Abbey Park.
As I was leaving the park I thought I saw my next-door neighbour overtake me - him and his wife were doing the half marathon too. I used that to convince myself I wanted to finish before them, and managed to push on and run for a bit longer until I got passed the flyover at least. This section of the course was new following the closure of the underpass earlier this year. The course would then wind around some of the backstreets until it then headed towards the Clock Tower in the opposite direction from years previous.
I got running again, knowing Carmen would be near the LOROS store, but unsure exactly where it was. I got halfway up the High Street before I walked, but that was only briefly and I got going again and overtook some people dressed as snails. Finally I saw Carmen and gave her a hug as I passed, with her eager for me to keep going and to not stop. It was okay though, I’d already lost a lot of time.
That had given me the motivation to keep on running longer, and I made it half way up New Walk before I walked again. I then took two walking breaks in that second half, and then ran from the top to the finish in Victoria Park.
I finished the race in 1:38:46, in position 186 out of 2,047 finishers. Sure that was still in the first 10% of finishers, but it didn’t feel good enough. As I look back over my results of doing Leicester Half Marathon over the years, I realise this is my slowest one yet. Slower even than the one I did in 2015. I could blame having run yesterday, or my shoulder discomfort, or even my water issues following the surprising humidity of the day; but I think perhaps I’m just nowhere near as fast as I was, and getting slower all the time.
My plan to get faster over the second half of the year, to have an improved marathon season next year had clearly failed. I wonder if it’s a lack of motivation, or just a side effect of getting older now I’ve moved into the V40 category. I’ll have to see how things go at the Great Eastern Run and MK Winter Half over the coming months and base my training on how they go.
At the finish I got a medal, a can of water, a Mars bar, and a chocolate chip granola bar. I didn’t even think about getting a photo at the finish.