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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

High Performance London Half

For today’s race I would be a the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a RunThrough event, and that meant travelling across London from the west, and an outrageously early start to get there. When we got to Liverpool Street we found the Elizabeth line wasn’t running very well, so was then a 14 minute wait for a train to get us to Stratford.

We thought the toilet queue in Westfields would be better at the stadium would be better, but for me it wasn’t. So Carmen went on ahead, and I ran to catch-up - she’d gone around a different way, but it got my warm-up sorted. She collected her race number, and we dropped off our bags with ten minutes to spare before the race start.

My typical training plan for a marathon is to do a 10K in January, a half marathon in February, and a 20 miler in March. That wasn’t quite what I’d done this year with my only race in 2024 being a 20 miler in February, but I was at least getting a half marathon in now to practice some speed. Or, lack there of. If I could get somewhere close to 90 minutes today, that would be nice, but wasn’t sure how likely it’d be. I wanted it to go better than my last few half marathons though.

I positioned myself to be far enough behind the pacer to not tempt me into trying sub-90, and without flags it meant I lost sight of the pacer pretty quickly anyway. It started with crossing a bridge and going passed the Orbit, before crossing back and around the back of the stadium before going down to the road and further around the back to where a running track is located. There was the small obstacle of a parked van to get past on a narrow lane, but fortunately it was only the very front of the pack approaching in the opposite direction at this point.

I’m not sure whether it’s the surface itself, or the knowledge that it’s a running track, but I felt my pace increase for the lap of the track. I had to concisely slow myself down from 06:00/mi to make sure I wouldn’t burn out far too soon. It was a good job as once the course leaves the track it then goes up hill, down a little, goes into a U-turn, and then goes back up and down. Despite the reasons that’d mean go slowing, I still did the second mile at the same average pace as the first.

By the end of the third mile, the stadium had been left behind and it was now somewhere behind some ‘normal’ buildings, alongside the River Lea Navigation. From there it goes back up hill to where a kettle drum was being played, and for the next few minutes my mind was focussed on trying to identify the song. I was still thinking it over whilst going through a park and out, back to near where the kettle drum was playing, and onto a road that crosses the River Lea. This area was kind of cool as you could see rows of runners on paths all over - those that were ahead, and behind, all running along different paths.

I was feeling a little tired, but I managed to keep going and by the time I reached a down hill section I was okay. This U-turn is a bit mean though - after a long up hill you only get to go 3/4 of the way down a hill before doing a sharp U-turn on the hill to immediately be going back up. I managed it though, and continued on a fast enough pace that I was still averaging sub-07:00/mi for these first 5 miles. The next mile was harder though as it looped around the outside of the Velopark, the Olympic BMX track, and some tennis courts, winding all over the place, going up and down hills frequently. I was almost at 7 miles when I found myself needing to walk, just to catch my breath from the constant elevation changes.

When I got going again I realised it was still close to being another sub-7:00/mi so I did some quick maths in my head and realised if the remaining miles contained walking, I’d probably be looking at up to 09:00/mi for the remainder, and if I’d lost about a minute from averaging just under 07:00/mi so far then I’d be looking at 91 minutes, plus about another 12 minutes from the miles ahead. When the next mile contained walking and was still around 07:30/mi I realised that maybe I could do this in around 96 minutes if I could minimise the walking like this - I felt determined that if I was going to walk up some of the hills, I would run the rest of it.

Some of the paths earlier had felt a little slippery in places, but for the most part had been okay. Around the London Blossom Garden and the little lakes here, I could feel these new running shoes losing grip in places, but not enough to cause problems. Just enough to make me cautious. I can’t remember if it was here, or earlier in the race I’d seen a heron standing in the water. It was amazing it hadn’t been scared off by all these runners passing it.

This route eventually starts to retread a familiar path, but in the opposite direction, at the point where you join the 10K runners. It goes back towards the kettle drum, and then back along the canal. I ran most of this, until I was going back up the hill towards the bridge that leads to the stadium. It was only a brief walk this time though, and I kept on running until I was on the hill up to the running track. This felt like harder work this time, but I still found my pace increased whilst running around it at this late stage of the race.

It then continued on up the hill to a sharp U-turn, and back up and down the hill to around the back of the stadium. I walked again, and hoped I could run most of what remained. As I ran along the avenue past the Orbit I was looking forwards to finishing. I sped up along the last bridge, and then realised the finish was a little further away than I realised, and didn’t want to push too hard, so walked a few more steps before getting going again.

I crossed the line in 93:43, in position 302 of 3,065 runners. It’s been a while since I got that sort of time for a half. It was a definite improvement over MK Winter Half, and Leicester, and felt like I’m heading in the right direction again now. Hopefully if I can keep this training up I’ll be back to sub-90 in time for Copenhagen or Cardiff.

Tags: 13point1 halfmarathon race running sport

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© David G. Paul