Yesterday was the Southampton half marathon. 13 miles of undulations across the most porty City in south England. Apart from Portsmouth. That’s more Porty. Some 7,000 runners came down to run in both simultaneously running races (10 and 21km) and in sum it was largely a triumph.
Let me make this clear, I am not Southampton’s biggest fan. When they draw the plans up to tear the city apart and build one big ode to a toilet, I will be the first to sign my name to support. It’s not that I don’t like the city, quite the opposite. Like an advancing mould, it has crept it’s sullen way across my skin and these days I spend long hours basking in its musk. Rather, it is content to whither iteratively in its historical misery, an industrial hole of despair. In a country that seems to be picking itself up off its knees, Southampton is content to continue shitting on itself.
I digress. The route was challenging and scenic in equal measure. Encompassing the most beautiful parts of the city, it really made for a great landscape for this rejuvenated event. I almost felt proud at times. Dragging the course through the Saints’ stadium was another act of genius and if I could have, I would have rolled myself over and over in that beautiful turf like the dog I am. I didn’t though and perhaps this is something I can factor in in the future.
I had been aiming to better a time of 1:38, set at Brighton but this did not happen. Largely this is my fault and I will learn from this but this next section is a long spindly finger point at the 1:40 pacers.
Once again I should state my position, in that they both seemed like lovely people. Encouraging, instructional, giving details on water points etc, they fulfilled the stimulatory aspect of their jobs with finesse. Sadly, what they didn’t do was the other part. i.e pace. If I could take any of the points above and stress them as imperative in the job of a pacer, I would say pacing would be a decisive and clear winner.
I will stress this in the simplest way possible. Here is the first half of my splits with 1:40 chaps.
The plan had been to sit with the 1:40 group for the first half of the race, which was largely flat and then jump off to attack the hills a bit in the second half with a bit left to sprint finish. A 1:40 finish would necessitate running 4:45min/km splits more or less pretty consistently. As evidenced above, there was one single example of this at the 4th split and this was in relation to the traversing of the concrete middle finger to Southampton water, also known as the Itchen Bridge. Where were the other 4:45 splits? WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE OTHER 45s? 31 is not 45. 30 is not 45. 34 is not 45. NONE OF THESE NUMBERS ARE 45.
Have a look at the elevation profile above. By the time I reached the foot of the hills I was more or less spent and barely had any energy to climb let alone hold a good pace. I soon dropped off the 1:40 pace group and decided to go it alone. Towards the end as we entered the common, I caught up with them once again (having been maintaining a pretty solid speed myself) suggesting that they had dropped their pace considerably.
What does this tell you about the 1:40 pacers? To me it suggests they were running the race strategically so to bank time for the hills were they could coast and bring it in for 1:40 on the clock. That is not the job of the pacer though. The pace is supposed to be metronomic and cyclical, a beacon for continuity throughout the race. This unfortunately, they were not. This might seem a little particular but for me, it ruined my race and it is worth saying. I don’t hold them responsible for that at all, it should have been my responsibility to drop off and run my own race but it was an annoyance all the same.
All in all, I’m pleased with my result in what was a difficult course for me. I learned a lot once again as I always do in these circumstances and hopefully I’ll be able to put this into practice. I’m looking forward to a week of eating crap and easy running. Day 2 post race is coming up and for me, this translates into DOMS town. Laters.