The Brass Monkey Half Marathon was the first big test of 2015. In terms of the build -up it was either a third of the way through the build- up (if you were following an 18 week plan) or at the beginning of a 12 week plan assuming the majority of the week post race was devoted to recovery. That is assuming of course that you conform to one of the off the shelf 12 or 18 week programmes.
For me the Brass Monkey represented a point in time, a test to see where I am and how the training is going. Right up until race morning I was unsure how to run the race. The problem with winter races like this is you really are at the mercy of the weather. In the past fortnight I’ve run in some freezing cold weather, snow, sleet, high winds and in some cases opted for a treadmill session rather than risk a twisted ankle on the icy pavements.
So the Brass Monkey race plan was only going to be about the weather. I decided that if the weather was a wintry shocker I would run the race as a true marathon pace effort tagging a few miles on either side. On the day the weather was almost perfect with a ground frost, temperature around -1/-2 and no wind. I say almost perfect as we stepped out onto the finish area I envisaged carnage in the home straight given that you could barely walk the course never mind run at speed. We were also informed that there were patches of black ice on the course between about 5 and 7 miles which may need us to be cautious. The rest of the course was bathing in tropical sunshine!
As the race started I felt really comfortable – the target pace of around 5.40 seemed effortless and the first few miles ticked along with splits of 5.31, 5.33 and 5.33. The black ice started to appear on the course and this slowed the next few miles to 5.42, 5.43 and what would turn out to be the slowest mile of the day with a 5.48 mile at Mile 7. Once we were past this point it seemed the whole field speeded up as a result of being held back for the last few miles. My focus was now on the two Vet 40’s immediately in front – Alisdair Tatham of NYMAC and Andy Grant of Harrogate. Both excellent runners over a wide range of distances. I caught Andy at something like the 9 mile point after two consecutive 5.35 miles and set about trying to reel Alisdair in. I reached the 10 mile point in 56.18 and Andy must have rallied as he also went past me again and set about trying to get to Alisdair. Mile 11 – 5.39, Mile 12 – 5.38 were comfortably hard leaving me with a mile to catch the two in front. I probably sub consciously thought at that point that I was settling for the position I was in and barring a disaster would be comfortably under the 75 minute barrier that I had set myself. I closed with a 5.46 mile which left me the final 200m or so to negotiate – thankfully the organisers had gritted this section so I left my ice skating finish for another day. 14th overall. 4th Vet 40 in 74 minutes 18 seconds.
I’m really pleased with the time because it shows that in terms of fitness levels I am in decent shape. The way I ran the race was a lot stronger overall and more in control of my pace at the end – no hanging on for the last few miles which was always a feature of my early half marathons.
The half marathon as an event is not one that I feel I have been able to crack in the past. My overall pb is 72.22 set at Wilmslow Half in around 1995. That’s about 5.30 per mile so given my run on Sunday I think may be one that I look at for a slight revision. Of all my non marathon pb’s this is the one that I think is in my reach.
Well done to the race organisers on Sunday for putting on a great event. I haven’t raced the Brass Monkey for a long time and it really was a great event, well organised and well marshalled. Should they have allowed the event to go ahead given the conditions? On reflection it was probably a brave decision as the middle section was a bit touch and go. I was made aware that a similar size race over at Helsby in Cheshire was cancelled on the morning of the event due to ice on the course. It’s a fine line as an organiser and I suspect both races got it right on the day.
So in terms of the build up to the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon things are going well. Last week was a solid 60 miles (including the Brass Monkey) and now it’s time to focus on making the long runs slightly longer and with a greater focus on the marathon pace finishes. My next race is the Snake Lane 10 on the 22nd February. Last year this was a bit of a make or break day as it was my first long run of the build-up as a result of a badly timed bout of sciatica. This year I’m hoping to afford myself the luxury of a few easier days in the build-up and an all-out race effort over 10 miles. The next four weekends will be an important phase in the marathon build up where I aim to push the long runs up to 22/23 miles while maintaining the quality in the programme.