Refections on a Half Marathon

 Mick Conefrey|   | 

I just ran the Forest of Dean half marathon and realised that it was all about numbers

Last week I ran the Forest of Dean Half Marathon

 A good time was had by all. It was well organized, benefitted from good weather and a beautiful course. Unlike the city races that I have done, it wasn’t over crowded and I never had that feeling of claustrophobia that I remember particularly in Bath a couple of years ago when there were thousands of runners.

Being of a lazy and impetuous disposition, I signed up for the half marathon about four weeks ago and put in the bare minimum of training. Hence I was very pleased to get to the end in just under two hours.

The Hurdle

As with previous half-marras, I had a low point at around 5 miles when I felt queasy and contemplated giving up. Then I reached the 6-mile mark and realized that my time was okay, I rallied and cheered up.

Running by Numbers

As I counted down the mile markers and worked out my speed, it struck me just how much the experience was mediated by numbers. If there hadn’t been markers and if I hadn’t had a watch I think it would have been a lot harder. Having a numerical target- get in under 2 hrs- gave me something to focus on, the markers allowed me to break  the task into small chunks.

Physical memories

The hardest half marathon I’ve done, was the first. Yet paradoxically, it was when I was probably at my fittest. I’d recently come back from a long filming trip to K2 in Pakistan, was well prepared, very light and had an abnormally high red blood cell count.  Yet I found it very hard and as my wife likes to remind, looked like death at the end. Since then all my times have all been better.  I might be wrong, but I wonder if like going to altitude, your body retains some kind of physical memory of an extreme experience, which makes it easier next time round?

Running against yourself

Though I did find myself engaged in mini battles with other runners, which I invariably lost, in the end I was always running against myself and my own weaknesses- in this case the desire to stop. Training can help get over this obviously, but it is essentially an attack of will power. Your legs hurt, your back hurts, your stomach hurts, but you have to force yourself. I very much doubt I could ever do a full marathon, I can’t imagine the will power needed to put up with that much discomfort and that much tedium. A friend of mine’s husband did the London marathon a few years ago, after doing very little training, but I’m sure he’s the exception that proves the rule.


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