Wednesday, 11 April 2007

What time did you have in mind?

Before races this is all runners seem to talk about. What time?

When I was planning and training for the half (in my head The HALF) I had some plans for time. Like so many runners I've either talked to or read about on their blogs, I never had just one time in mind; I had five. Let me explain. It's all based on a system of rewards and targets, not letting yourself down and staying positive but realistic.

There was the 'please god let me finish before this time' - the one that would mean I had managed to injure myself and/or suffer a mental breakdown on the way round. (Unlikely, but not inconceivable.) It was also set for me by a friend when she ran a half and gave me my first target to aim for. Yes, it is hideously competitive to have a friend's time in mind - but competition makes me work harder and train longer. It was a useful bench mark and a pick me up when sessions were hard.

Then, moving up a stage, there was the previous PB. Back in December I'd run the distance in training with a time of 2.23. I knew that my running had improved since then. I knew I'd trained hard enough. I knew my speed overall had improved significantly, so it was possible to beat. It was also great to have the mental kick of knowing I had, in the past, finished the distance.

It ratchets up yet again - I worked out what would happen if I ran at 10:30 pace. I knew I should be able to beat this but my last long training runs seemed to be at this more sedate pace. I wanted to get this - this was my major target as I'd never managed to push past this in long run training. 2.18

Then there was the 10min time. This was a hoped for dream. It relied on running at 9:30 for as long as possible then seamlessly transitioning to 10:30 and therefore ending up with a 10min/mile average. I just missed it. 2:11 was the aim and 2:13 was the time achieved. I was still delighted, amazed and walking on air with the time I got. It was close enough to my hopes, I'd already beaten three of my own time categories and I had much to celebrate.

Not quite making the 2.11 time is only slightly tempered by the ultra-positive-psycho-time I had at the top of my list. In peak condition, with a following wind, no cold, and a massive crowd cheering at ever corner I believed the magic time of 2.05 might be possible. This would have been a 9:30 average. Now it looks a mite optimistic but, in my defence, I had once pulled off a training run of 8 sub 9:30s in a row - surely the other 5 weren't going to be a problem?!

Knowing all these times so well meant I always knew, whilst I was running, which one I had in my sights at any given time. It was almost instant knowing that 2.05 was never going to happen - I just wasn't up to it, the cold had felled me. But the 2.11 time was on the cards right up until the 10th mile - I just couldn't keep the pace. But that still gave me goals and targets to beat. Knowing that I'd never run out of options really helped to keep me mentally focused and to boost my determination when it got really hard.

Never have one goal - to defeat yourself can be too down heartening during a run. Always have a plan B, C, D... there is always something that you can achieve. Is this your fastest lat 1/4 of a race? Is it your fastest 10th mile ever? Are you still running? There are times when that is the greatest achievement of all.

Happy running people.

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