The first half-marathon (wait, that much running is only half a marathon?!)

I’ve never been to Wokingham before. I’ve driven past it several times – it’s just off the A329M between Bracknell and Reading – but there’s never really seemed a need to stop off and see the sights. But today I didn’t just go to Wokingham: I ran my first half-marathon there.

The Wokingham Half-Marathon turned out to be a perfect practice run for the London Marathon. It had more than 2500 entrants, so was a big enough race to help me work on running in groups and crowding at the start (oh, and dealing with pre-race portable toilet queues…). And it ran on closed roads, which made it a very pleasant, traffic-free run in the countryside.

My last two blog posts concerned the challenge of applying race numbers, and of the value of a pre-race routine. So, naturally, I managed to mess up both of these things.

I left plenty of time to get to Wokingham (it’s about a 50-minute drive from my house), and was there early to go for a pre-run coffee – and then to start fretting about what to wear. It was surprisingly mild, but overcast and with a quite strong, chilling wind. So one top, or two? Long sleeve or short?

I kept changing my mind, so when I finally decided (two tops, long sleeve under a short sleeve), met my friend Matt (who’s also running the London Marathon for the South West Children’s Heart Circle) and walked from the car park to the start it was relatively close to the starting time. That meant I was in a bit of a hurry to pin on my number – despite it having been posted out weeks ago. I was still fiddling with it at the start.

Sigh. Well, that serves me right for writing about how annoying they were.

Since this was my first half-marathon, I had to work out a target time. Based on my best ten-mile time, one of those online running calculator things told me I could do a half in 1h 29m 48s. Doing my first half in under 90 minutes seemed… optimistic but, well, let’s see. That meant running at around 6m 51s per mile.

I actually went a bit quicker than planned over the first half, and that 90-minute mark seemed very achievable. Then, in the second half, a combination of aching legs and running into a bracing headwind slowed me down. With about a mile to go, that 90-minute mark seemed touch and go – and I wasn’t sure how much I had left to push.

Dig deep time, head down, push and… 1h 29m 30s. I will very much take that.

It was a good feeling, and I certainly earned the very welcome free post-race hot chocolate (a nice touch by the organisers).

Of course, my massive sense of accomplishment was slightly tempered at the finish by a thought. That was a half-marathon. A half-marathon distance, funnily enough, is exactly half of a marathon. I’ve got to run a marathon in two months or so.

Granted, my planned marathon pace is a good chunk slower than my half-marathon pace, but still… It’s a weird feeling: there’s a huge sense of achievement at my time, but the next big target seems even bigger.

I’m running the 2016 London Marathon to raise money for the South West Children’s Heart Circle. Please sponsor me by clicking the ‘Just Giving’ button below. Thanks!

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