After much debating with myself I decided to enter the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon. It wasn’t time to run 13 miles yet according to my marathon training plan, but it’s local and entry was really affordable. Also, Run Pompey (AKA Believe and Achieve) always put on a great event (with great bling!) so I decided to go for it.
Despite not being sure if I was ready for 13 miles, I did have a plan. A plan that involved slowing down to get a PB. I know, sounds weird right? I’m able to consistently run under 11 minutes a mile now but I’d worked out that I only needed to run 11:26 per mile to cross the finish line under 2 and a half hours. I’d already beat my half marathon time back in August 2017 at the East Cork Harbour Half Marathon with a time of 2:36. That event had taken over 5 minutes off my previous best so I just need to do that again this time.
Looking at the course, I was unsure if I could stick to the pace I’d set myself. The first 4 miles are flat and run on pavements and roads. You get to see the amazing views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight (if you have a clear day) as well as some popular sightseeing spots like the Royal Marine’s Museum and South Parade Pier. From mile 4 it becomes a little bit harder …
It starts with an off road section along Milton foreshore where you get to run on the infamous muddy beach section and the trail that leads you up towards the top of Portsmouth. At the end of the trail you loop back down towards the seafront but not before you detour back to the beach and into the Bransbury Park ‘bog of doom’. The event then ends with a nice 3 miles back along the seafront to the finish. With all this talk of muddy beaches, trails and a bog of doom, my legs were feeling tired already!
After a small warm up we started the race bang on time and headed out along the seafront. This was it. My first long run of 2018.
I started out slow. Well, I thought it was slow. My first mile ticked by in 10:43. After working out that I only needed to run 11:26 per mile I was already going out too fast. I made a conscious effort to slow down but my next three miles came in at 10:43, 10:41 and 10:42. I was already 2 minutes and 55 seconds quicker than I needed to be but I felt good so I kept going until I hit the beach. This is where I was going to slow down whether I wanted to or not.
The beach section was short so I was thankful for that as I climbed out and back onto the trail to run up the Eastern Road. What I wasn’t grateful for was the wind. The 3 mile stretch along Langstone Harbour was so windy and bitterly cold. The view out into the harbour is lovely but I couldn’t wait to reach the turning point and start making my way back.
At 7 miles we turned out of the wind and straight towards a water station where I grabbed a handful of jelly beans.. The volunteers at these races are always lovely and I got some shouts of encouragement to keep going. With just 6 miles to go I picked up the pace slightly as I kept thinking about that PB at the end. I wasn’t sure at this point whether I could still come in under 2 and a half hours but I was going to give it a good go!
I knew the muddy beach section was coming up again so I prepared myself to get through more wet sand and slippery rocks. If I could get through the beach twice I knew I had this in the bag. And I did. Until the Bog Of Doom appeared. The bog isn’t really a bog – It’s a piece of land that just always seems to be wet and muddy. Still, after 9 miles of running into the wind it felt tough! Just one last squelchy bit to get through before I was back on solid ground.
At mile 10 you start to make your way back towards the seafront. My legs were getting tired but I continued on. I run along the seafront in Portsmouth a lot so I had a rough idea of how long it would take. I managed to bump into a friend who was also running as well. He gave me some encouragement which was the last push I needed.
The last mile was hard graft and I had to keep walking sections of it. The changing terrain had taken it out of my legs and the seafront was busy that day – weaving in and out of people is tiring! It was only as the finish line came into view that I knew I’d done it. I’d run a sub-2:30 half marathon. As I ran the last 200 metres I frantically tried to work out how much time I was going to take of my last half marathon effort.
The support at the finish line was amazing as always when I ran through to pick up my medal and goodie bag. The organisers certainly out did themselves this year as the goodie bag was packed to the brim and the medal was impressive!
My official time was 2 hours, 25 minutes and 57 seconds. Not only sub-2:30 by 4 minutes but also a whole 10 minutes off my time in August! My boyfriend was waiting for me at the finish line so we went to celebrate with fish and chips (if you haven’t been to the Fisherman’s Kitchen in Southsea you must go!). I headed home that day with tired legs, an awesome medal and the confidence that I can get a PB at the London Marathon.
Unfortunately it looks like I will be away for the next edition of this event but if you’re in the area I highly recommend it! It was boggy, slippery and muddy in parts but it was also so much fun! Make sure you’re there in 2019!