An extremely pleasant November morning met the competition at the Gosport Half Marathon on the 20th November. With the temperature being about 10C and there being almost no wind conditions were however set fair this time around. People I’ve spoken to who have done this race in the past have mentioned that the conditions can be pretty bad, with the prevailing winds causing havoc to PBs over the last couple of miles or so.
I certainly wasn’t in any shape to be attempting a PB however. I’ve had a very mixed summer and autumns training, with a number of niggling little injuries and seemingly back to back colds. this was also only my second half marathon of the year, the last being the Wokingham Half Marathon back in February, a race I finished in 1:23:18
My aim for this one then was to maintain a steady 6min 30sec mile pace. My hope was that this would give me a fair idea of my current level of fitness and endurance.
The first mile or so of the race was fairly congested. Admittedly I opted to start a bit further back than I normally would just to ensure I didn’t start too fast, but keeping everyone on a fairly narrow pavement did mean there were a few elbows knocking about. The first few miles felt very relaxed at this sort of pace. A couple of weeks earlier I had been thrashing round the cross country breathing hard after only a few minutes so felt positively sedate.
At about 3 miles we were introduced for the first time to Daedalus Airfield. I had been warned about possible winds in the area – obviously planes and gliders need wind to take off! – again all was calm and clear. From this stage of the race for about the next 4 or 5 miles I found myself steadily moving through the field. Being on a nice flat airfield can be quite motivating in the sense that you can see far ahead and can aim to pick off the opposition.
Mile 6 led us back out onto the road, and a nice little jaunt around the outside of Stubbington. I still felt pretty comfortable running at 6min 30 pace of thereabouts, the race being pretty spread out by this time. Soon however, we were to re-enter the airfield. I suppose the first time it quite interesting to see the inside of an airfield, and there were a few distractions. A local steel drum played heartily, and there was a motorcross club practising jumping their bikes over pretty huge ramps. However, when we passed the same point for the fourth time (twice in each direction) tedium was setting in. Still it meant I could doggedly focus on the watch and pace.
We emerged back out from the airfield at about mile 10 and were greeted with a pretty bizzare little dogleg. At first I thought this was to stop us needing to cross the main road, but didn’t seem to serve any real purpose other than perhaps filling up the distance. This added to quite a number of little twists and turns that some runners hunting a PB may have felt had slightly disrupted their rhythm at points.
So to the final drag along Lee on Solent sea front, and to the first gusts of wind. I have run along the promenade at Lee on Solent a couple of times before, so know what the wind can be like. Having not felt even a breeze previously, it was a bit de-motivating to need to battle against quite strong blow. The promenade however is a very pleasant penultimate section to the race. Slightly disappointingly this was the only part of the race where I was overtaken. This was at about 11.5 miles and gave me quite a telling insight into my fitness. I attempted a change of pace to go with these couple of guys who had overtaken me, but I seemed locked onto the 6:30 pace. Some more fartlegs needed into my training I think! They only had about 100m on me at the finish though so no need to complain too much,.
I eventually crossed the line in 1:27:02, a time I’m broadly quite a happy with. It demonstrates quite clearly what I need to do to achieve a new personal best in the Spring which is my aim for the next 6 months.
To thoughts on the race itself. Well, I think the Gosport Half is OK. The route doesn’t really appear to take you through Gosport, and the airfield can only be described as tedious. The twists and turns through much of the course probably count negatively against it as having true PB potential. That said the organisation appeared good, marshals friendly and the atmosphere positive. The only final thing to mention is that the race did appear long. My garmin had it at about 13.3 miles. Not a huge issue for me, but speaking to a friend afterwards who finished outside his PB by around 30 seconds, I imagine this was a quite a bit more frustrating; maybe the gantry was just slightly in the wrong place? I’ll probably be back to have a proper crack at it in 2012.