When I passed through the 10-km marker during my race at the Paris Marathon a couple of months ago I noted that it was the third-fastest I had ever run the distance. When I passed through the 10-km marker during the Como Landing Half Marathon it was the fastest I had ever run the distance by a full minute, with a plan to repeat that performance once more and then hopefully to put everything remaining into the final 1.1 km. But first let me rewind.
As I neared the end of my 12-month journey around the world I started looking at races taking place in Australia. When I finalised my return date for the middle of May the Como Landing Half Marathon taking place a week later was the perfect fit. I had run my best time over the distance in early 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa on a course that my Johannesburg running crew would call flat, but that most road runners would call monstrously hilly. In that race I had comfortably achieved my target of completing the race quicker than 4:00 min/km pace by recording a time of 1:22:30. This time I would target a time of under 80 minutes.
I arrived early for the race, and during my warmup run I noted that the course wasn’t perfectly flat as I had expected but featured a couple of small hills, including one in the final kilometre. As a person who enjoys hills I decided to take that as a positive since it would provide a slight change in the muscles that would be engaged.
It started to drizzle as race time approached and by the time we ran across the start line it had clearly increased beyond drizzle to a fairly heavy rain. I settled directly into my intended pace and tried to determine the number of people ahead of me, but with 7-km and 14-km races starting at the same time it was not possible to tell which of the runners ahead of me were in my race. Shortly after 2 km the rain had ceased but one of my shoe laces had came undone. I was interested to note when reviewing my GPS watch data after the race that I had managed to stop from race pace, tie my shoelace and return to race pace in under 15 seconds.
I passed through the 10-km marker in approximately 37:50 minutes, and after 12 km we passed the start/finish line to commence an out-and-back section of the course. When I noted one of the runners ahead of me turn around to complete the 14-km course I thought that I was possibly in 5th or 6th place. I could see the next runner ahead of me, with a gap of possibly 200 metres.
I had reached the point of the race where it was no longer a point of wilfully maintaining my target pace, but was instead a matter of holding onto the fastest pace I could coerce my legs to withstand. Therefore I had ceased checking my splits for each kilometre, but on one of the few I did check I noted a split 8 seconds slower than my required average and realised that I might be in trouble to achieve my target time.
When I passed through an aid station at the 16-km marker the woman handing me some sports drink pointed out that I had closed in on the runner ahead of me. I put all of my focus into catching the runner and slowly started to pull back his lead. As we passed the 20-km marker I was close enough to make the decision to pass so I picked up the pace to ensure that he would not hold on to me as I wanted to avoid a sprint finish. I pushed up the final hill, and when I spotted the race clock I realised that I was going to achieve my target.
I ran across the finish line in a time of 1:19:44. The runner behind me crossed only a few seconds behind me, and as I started chatting to the runner who had finished one position ahead of me I found out that he had finished first. My race had secured a new best time, and was good enough for 2nd place.