How to enjoy a race you haven’t trained for

Gosport Half Marathon is a popular race on the south coast that is renowned for being fast and flat. I’ve run it three times before:

However, I’ve always done a reasonable amount of training before taking part in this race. Often it hasn’t been a specific half marathon training plan, but I’ve usually been training for a marathon or regularly doing long runs at the weekend, but this year has been different. I spent much of the year in the water training for the Scilly Swim Challenge and then I went straight onto two wheels for Tour de Y, so running has taken a back seat.

At the start of the year, I persuaded a few of my colleagues to start running with me at lunch time. Attendance was variable, not because of lack of motivation, but because of everyone’s hectic work schedules, but everyone made progress. One colleague, Sarah, decided that she needed to set herself a challenge. Sarah completed the Great South Run 5 years ago in a respectable time, but has not completed any races since, so I persuaded her to enter Gosport Half. Unfortunately, neither of us has managed to get out and do very much running in the last few weeks. I had expected to do a 10-15 mile run on my training holiday, but the extreme weather conditions meant the schedule had to be flexible and the long run was a casualty. Last weekend, Sarah and I went out for an 8 mile run on part of the half marathon course. I think we both found it hard, with both of us being grateful for some walking breaks, which didn’t seem auspicious.

I checked the weekend’s weather forecast during the week. It looked bleak: 40mph winds, temperature around 10-14°C and the possibility of rain 🙁

My lack of run training meant that I knew the race would be hard and I was worried that a slow time would make me feel demotivated – especially as many of my club mates have been running really well recently. I also didn’t want to risk injury, so I had to come up with a strategy that would help me to enjoy the race.

Some people would argue that it is unwise to run a half marathon when you haven’t trained for it, but I felt that my swimming and cycling combined with strength and conditioning sessions and previous experience as a runner meant that I would be OK to complete the race as long as I didn’t try to do it in under 2 hours.

I spoke to Sarah and agreed to run with her in a time of just under 2:15. I said that this would equate to around 10 minute miles, which would be a solid pace… however, I generally work with run paces in min/km, so we then agreed 6:00/km.

On the morning of the race, I had to collect my race number. I realised that I hadn’t received an email about my entry, so I logged in online and had a complete panic that I didn’t appear to be registered. I couldn’t let Sarah down, but there are no entries on the day for this popular race. Luckily, I must have entered some details incorrectly, as Stu pointed out that I was on the list of registered entrants.

We drove to Gosport and I collected my race number. It was really lovely to catch up with friends from the running community – especially Flo, Becky and Ruth. I also had plenty of time to chat to friends from Lordshill Road Runners… and, of course, there was time for a group photo!

Pre Gosport Group
Before the start of the race ©Lisa Fhithyan

There was also enough time for a bird to ‘leave a message’ down my arm as I was waiting outside. I know superstition states that’s lucky, but it didn’t feel like it! I washed my arm off, met Sarah and deposited my bag, before heading to the start.

There were a couple of thousand runners, which is a good attendance for a local race. I made sure that Sarah and I didn’t start at the very back as I knew there would be plenty of people who would be slower than us. I also wanted to make sure that we didn’t go too far forward as I’m really bad at going off too quickly.

The new course at Gosport is two loops that are essentially an out and back with the ‘out’ bit being slightly more sheltered and the ‘back’ being entirely exposed along the sea front.

Sarah and I had quite a lot to chat about, so the first loop passed fairly quickly. Sarah’s mum had braved the bad weather and was out cheering on the course, and I was also watching out for many of my friends who were running. The second loop was a little tougher, but Sarah had a goal in mind – she wanted to beat her 10 mile PB.

Gosport 1

Gosport 2

Gosport 3
Thanks to Lisa Fhithyan for this series of photos. I’ve no idea who I was waving to!

As we got towards the 10 mile point, we kept the pace consistent and Sarah looked strong. She smashed her 10 mile PB by around 6 minutes, which is fantastic 🙂

It was then only ‘parkrun to go’, but the wind seemed to have got up a bit and there was a bit of drizzle… and one of my knees was starting to ache a bit. I was motivated by trying to keep us as close as possible to our target pace of 6:00/km, which gave me something to focus on.

Gosport Half

I might be grumbling a bit about the race, but the photographic evidence shows that I was still having fun.

Eventually, the finish line was in sight and Sarah and I could see the clock. We both picked up the pace and finished in 2:07:53 – well under our goal time of 2:15 and at exactly 6:00/km. It was a great time for Sarah’s first half marathon and I was pleased that I managed to pace it correctly.

We had our chips removed and then were given our medals as well as receiving the legendary Gosport goodie bags: Capri Sun, a finger of fudge, a cereal bar, a packet of crisps, a banana, a piece of cake and some information about joining Gosport Running Club.

I said goodbye to Sarah and then posed for another photo with fellow LRRs before heading back to the finish to cheer on some friends.Post Gosport Group

Even though I was 15 minutes off my PB, I loved this event and will be back next year.

So, to summarise, if you want to enjoy a race that you haven’t trained for:

  • Decide whether you have done enough training to safely complete the race
  • Modify your goals – don’t expect a PB
  • Run with a friend
  • Consider whether you can help to make someone else’s race by supporting them
  • Use the event to practise pacing

Do you have any tips on how to enjoy a race that you haven’t trained for?

2 Responses

  1. Can’t imagine a better companion on my first half Tamsyn! You are a legend with a winning smile; couldn’t have done it without you. Agree on the advice and definitely more training for the next one….

    • Thanks, Sarah… I know that some of my other friends will be even more impressed by your accomplishment as you had to listen to me chat for over two whole hours! I’m glad you’re already planning ahead for the next one though 😀

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