Thursday, 9 August 2012

personal bests and proxy bests

Finishing the 2012 Brisbane Half Marathon (photo courtesy of David Curnow)

Despite my lamentation a couple of weeks ago that I wasn't a runner, running played a reasonably significant role in my last two or three weeks, albeit more by significance than by actual time spent.

A bit over two weeks ago I popped over to inTraining to get myself some new shoes. My previous pair were a bit over a year old, and I reckon probably had 800-1000km on them. I had heard that this was about the useful life of a pair of running shoes, and I was seeing signs of this in the guise of some foot pain after my runs. After trying on a few pairs, and hearing my sob stories about sore feet and shins, the salesman suggested that I might be well advised to see their podiatrist before I rushed into buying something. I was able to get an appointment that afternoon, and he gave me a few useful tips in terms of some stretches/exercises to strengthen some muscles in my hip to try and lessen the stress on my feet and legs, and made a nice little cushion to protect my sore foot. I wound up buying one of the pairs of shoes I'd tried earlier, certainly the most colourful I've ever owned, with garish green splashed lavishly on the sole and upper.

This weekend just passed, I once again ran the half marathon in the Brisbane Running Festival. I was fortunate enough to get a lift in with David, an old college friend who has just gotten back into running in the last couple of years, and was running his first official half. He's actually a very handy runner, though, so I harboured no illusions of keeping up with him.

The start this year was on Alice Street near the botanical gardens' entrance, which was a marked improvement of last year's chaotic laps of the gardens. I fairly quickly fell in with the 1:45 pace runners, which hadn't been my plan, but I felt comfortable, so I stuck with them for the first 5 or 6 km. Although we started before the sun appeared, it turned into a sensational Brisbane winter morning - cool and crisp under a clear, deep-blue sky - and I was feeling really happy as we were going across the Story Bridge. The pace runners were running a bit behind 1:45 though, and when they lifted in order to make up some time, I couldn't and didn't go with them. I felt pretty reasonable for quite a long time, but whether from the fast start, or from my not having done many long runs, by around 16km I was really struggling.

I had a few walks between 16 and 19, and saw the 1:50 pace runners pass me somewhere just before the North Quay stretch. The route had the misfortune to run us right past the finish line with 2km still to run, uphill up Garden's Point Road then around the gardens. After a last walk up the hill, and looking regularly behind me expecting to see the caped, scythe-toting spectre of the 1:55 pace runner, I dug deep and finished strongly over the last km or so, and was delighted to see a time just a shade over 1:53. David had finished 20 minutes earlier, and was waiting for me at the line, which was great. The results were up within 5 minutes, which was super-impressive, and my chip time came in at 1:52:27, almost 3 minutes faster than I ran last year, on what I think is a more difficult course. Its quite possible that this will remain my PB for some time, so I lashed out and got my time engraved on my finisher's medal (photo to follow).

As well as my results, it was great to be able to have a group of friends also running good times. Dave Curnow ran 1:32-odd in his first official half, which he seemed to have mixed feelings about, but which I reckon is pretty impressive. I also caught up with Dave Coyle and Neil, who ran the 10km, in 50 and 47 minutes respectively, which I believe are both also PBs. Its been really interesting to see how the social systems built into RunKeeper (which we all use to track our runs) have kept us up to date with what the others in our "Street Team" are doing, and (in my opinion) encouraged us to keep running. I feel a definite sense of pride in their achievements as well as mine; their is an element, however small, of team success in them.

A few days on, I'm recovering from what was a fairly nasty-looking collection of blisters, and feeling good about getting out for another run in the next few days (when I find some time!). Like last year, I'm not sure that running half marathons is what I most like doing in the world, but I can see myself doing it again. Perhaps even more than last year, I'm really proud of having done a PB, especially when I don't think I was quite as fit as last year. At the same time, I'm still "running dumb", and with some better training and some better race-management (for lack of a better word), I reckon I can still improve.

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