I made the mistake of running the North London Half Marathon again this year. The problem with this race is that it’s in the middle of the Crossfit Open, which means Crossfit is a bit more full-on right now than it normally is (such a thing is possible… even though Crossfit is never NOT full-on).
Last year I ran this half marathon after having done 200 wall balls a few days before and my quads hated me a lot. Did I mention this half marathon has hills? Like when one ends the other one starts kinds of hills.
This year I thought it’d be better, the week before the race I went to Crossfit on Monday and then not again until Friday. I did a session of Bikram in between and had a sports massage. On Friday I did the scaled (supposedly easier) version of the next Crossfit Open workout – that one had 44kg deadlifts instead of 70kg. I still had to do 55 of those though. And 55 wall balls with a 14lbs ball. And a 55 calorie row, which kills my calves because no matter how hard I try not to, I keep pushing with my toes when I row.
I had rested all week though so I thought I’d go for a nice fast half marathon on Sunday As soon as I took the first steps across the start line though, my legs said no. My calves were tight as rocks, despite a decent warm-up, and once they loosened up after 5kms, my quads started niggling and then also my left hip flexor. I have never felt hip pain when running before so that was kind of interesting. I’m sure it was to do with all the deadlifts and wall balls.
I quickly change my mindset from trying to get a PB (anything less than 1:42) to just trying to finish as enjoyably and with as little discomfort as possible. I was tempted to walk up a couple of hills but I didn’t. I ran up very slowly though as some of those hills were very unpleasant. I had started in the 1:30-1:45 group so everyone was passing me left and right. I kept telling myself “It’s YOUR race. You’re running it YOUR way. It’s not a competition. Be kind to your legs.”
When we approached Wembley for the finish and music was blasting from loudspeakers, I even busted out some dance moves and despite the hills and the rather boring route and the tight legs, I had somehow in the end enjoyed the race.
I clocked in at 1:47:26, I was not out of breath or nauseous and while I had run of course faster than I would run a training run, it felt like an “easy” race pace, and if my “easy” race pace means a 1:47 half marathon then I’m pretty happy.
In general I like the half marathon distance a lot, it’s long enough and it’s short enough. You can play with your pace a bit, and if legs are in good running order it’s a really enjoyable distance.
My legs were not in good running order yesterday but sometimes I think we all have to have races that make you just enjoy the fact that you’re running, enjoy the atmosphere and know that no matter what you will get to the end and that then you can have a great big strong black coffee. :)
I definitely need one of those races now and again as I tend to always race for a PB and whereas the enjoyment of a PB at the end is also a great feeling, just running for the fun of it and enjoying a long race like that, is an equally good feeling.
Next year I will not run it though. I think it’s not fair for my legs to be doing a half marathon in the middle of the Open. And like I said, the route is pretty boring and the hills are awful and the finish line that’s been advertised as “the greatest finish line in the world” is totally not – the finish line is in Wembley football stadium – hardly a historical or architectural masterpiece!