Wokingham Half Marathon – Sunday 19th February 2012

I have to say that the Wokingham Half Marathon is almost certainly my favourite road race. In 2006, I ran the race for the first time, finishing in 1:25:48, breaking my previous PB by over 11 minutes, and therefore giving me my first half marathon time under the magic 1 hour 30 minute barrier. The 2012 race was my fourth running of this one, and aside from cross country courses (like the glorios Lloy Park) and Parkrun, this is the race I have run more than any other.

There has been a course change since 2006, making the course a true one lap half marathon, a retracing of the first mile and a half into the local sports centre from where the race started. While I’ve got nothing against two, or even multi lap half marathons, Wokingham gives you the impression that you’re actually going somewhere, rather than round and round in circles. Covering familiar ground over the last couple of miles can give you either a sense of relief that’s its nearly over, or encourage you to kick on if you’re still feeling fresh!

So to the actual 2012 race. Conditions were great, the weather being about 8-10C . On the start line I felt relatively fresh. On a couple of occasions I’ve also had a cross country race the day before, so real excuses.The slight downhill gradient over the first mile or so encouraged my to push the pace a little, meaning I covered the first 2 and a half a little quicker than hoped. Pace at the three mile mark however, was putting me on course for a 1:23:30 of thereabouts, about a minute off my PB.

Settling to the race from here my pace was pretty steady  for the next three or four miles, although the Garmin suggested my pace average was dropping by a second a mile (whose counting that closely anyway?!) Unfortauntely however, this was something of a sign to come for the final third of the race. At around the 9 mile mark I lost a few extra seconds per mile, leading to an eventual blow up! I lost over 2 minutes over the final 3 or so miles finishing in a time of 1:25:48. These last few miles were pretty painful, but a pretty clear wake up to my lack of any quality distance training over the past couple of months. You can only race yourself fit to a certain extent!

Strangely enough, this was exactly the same time I ran at this race, albeit a slightly different course, in 2006 when I set a massive 11 minute PB. I remember being completely over the moon the day with the performance, and it’s amazing the contract in emotion you can feel when achieving exactly the same result. I suppose if I didn’t I wouldn’t be as passionate about the sport, and be able to run as fast. What do you think? How much does your mental state affect your performance? Probably more than compression socks…..

Finally to the Half Marathon itself. I think this one is a real classic and I’ll keep coming back to it year on year. It has the feeling of a top class professional race without being too pretentious. It can be difficult to find flat single lap half marathons and this one attracts a pretty good field. It’s not too corporate like some other races, and for those that are interested, the medal isn’t bad either.

So I’ll see you on the start line next year!

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