1 year ago from this very day, I ran my first ever half marathon in Stockport, and today was the day I finally got to tackle this fantastic trail again.
Since competing in this event 12 months back, I have since taken part in roughly 25 races with 3 of those being half marathons, unless I have forgotten some! I have since failed to achieve the time I set on that very first half and I really couldn’t wait to give this one another bash.
This race arrived on the final day of my 11th week of marathon training, with only 5 weeks until my first marathon of 2016. Having found the last couple of weeks quite tough whilst out pounding the pavements, I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to break any world records on my return to the Hatter’s Half (I am daft enough to dream I could one day).
Well, almost 2 days rest before Sunday came. I had Friday penciled in as a full rest day and on Saturday I did strength training at the gym and only ran 2 miles on the treadmill just to keep my legs loosened up for race day. I was scheduled to do about 5 miles on Saturday but my body had been telling me not to, and hey…I actually listened!
Here we go again! Over the starting line and off we all went. Beginning from the car park at Edgeley Park stadium (Stockport County’s ground), and heading off in the direction of the Mersey River, there was roughly a mile or slightly more to find your feet and position yourself amongst the runners before hitting the trails.
Despite the fact that I am doing 2 road marathons next month, road running is my least favourite style. Give me a trail or some fells any day of the week, today being no exception. 1 mile in and I felt I had started at a moderate pace. Nothing too fast but I would need to kick on at some point over the coming miles. I was well positioned in the field but as ever, I wanted to overtake a good few numbers before seeing that finishing line!
Just over 1 mile in, heading onto the trails surrounding the River Mersey and I felt I had started at a moderate pace. Nothing too fast but slow enough that I would need to kick on at some point over the coming miles. I was well positioned in the field but as ever, I wanted to overtake a good few numbers before seeing that finishing line!
For me, if I am in a good place with my running, I don’t need a GPS watch to tell me how I am doing, I can feel it. Over the course of 13.1 miles, the body will let you know a thing or two and mine was telling me I felt well…well enough to get a decent time that I would go home happy with. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin watch because as I have discovered recently that this helps me to run with more freedom. I listen to my body to control my pace, not the bleeps of a machine. I have raced enough times to know when I have more in the tank and I have put myself through enough to be able to push myself without any outside encouragement.
I found my rhythm after the first few miles. I knew that at the pace I was going, with mild discomfort, I could hold this until crossing the finish line. At the same time though, due to the fact that I was feeling physically well after a few miles, I started to wonder about 2 things…the first was my previous PB of 1hr 33m 57s which I had set on this course 1 year ago, and the other was 1hr 30m which is a goal I have wanted to hit since running my first half. I didn’t honestly think I had run fast enough over those first few miles to beat 1hr 30m but maybe, just maybe I was on track to come in around the mark I had hit the year before.
This was a major marker for me during the race. Firstly, it was the first distance sign I had seen in a few miles but secondly, I was over the half way mark and I felt like I had another gear in me. It was time to turn things up a notch. Not too much! There was still over 5 miles to go, but I knew that I needed to at least turn the dial up about 10% to see if I could handle it for a couple of miles. This is something I have become good at, pushing myself without influence of others. I know what I am capable of and I also have the mental ability to push myself well into the pain zone and keep pushing to give myself the chance of beating previous times.
I can do this!
I held my faster pace…I was passing the 11-mile marker when I gave myself a reminder that the last mile of this race was tough and involved a big uphill section, so if I was going to gain some ground on anyone and improve my time, between 11 and 12 miles was the time to really work for it. So I did…concentrating on my arms as I always do at times like this. Get those arms involved even more, keep them working hard and pumping and the legs will come along with the momentum. Strong breaths, not caring if I am making any awful growns…I let the body do what it’s gotta do. haha. I was knuckling down and giving it all I had, taking over one or two more runners. By this stage, there was a big distance between anyone more than 3 or 4 runners away in any one direction.
The final part of the trail is behind me and it’s time to head on up that bitch of an A-road. Swearing, yet smiling as I climb my way up, knowing that this is the painful part but it is almost the end of a great day’s work. Once the final uphill section was complete there was about 1/2 mile left to push on as I overtook my last victim of the day. I always try and spur them on when I do though, as much as I love to finish ahead of people I always try and encourage them with a few words of motivation and a swing of the fist towards the sky.
Come on!!! Let’s be having this final stretch!
I turn the final corner of the course, the finishing line revealing itself in the distance. As I gallop closer I spot the clock…1 hours….31 minutes….woah!! Hold on, I can do this! I can get a new PB! Just once last push…
And there we have it. My work was completed. Finishing in 40th position with a time of 1hr 31m 52s. Knocking over 2 minutes off my previous PB set 12 months earlier. I still have 1hr 30m to achieve, but that is coming, don’t you worry about that. I will smash that at some point in the not too distant future. You can view the full results of the 2016 Hatters Half on the race-results website here.
I love this course
The Hatter’s Half Marathon is a fantastic run. The trails are a real pleasure to run and there is a noticeable difference in the impact a road race has on my legs in comparison to this. I enjoy this kind of running far more than anything concrete based. I was unsure if I had previously enjoyed this race (in 2015) so much due to the fact that it was my first ever half, or if it was genuinely a good course to run, but now I have my answer. For anyone looking for a half to run off the busy streets and onto the lovely trails, get your ass down to Stockport next year. I will see you there!