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Great Birmingham Run

Monday 24th October 2011

I ran a marathon a few weeks ago and had entered this as a back-up race. I knew that with it taking place three weeks after the Brussels Marathon I would not have enough time to get into decent half marathon shape so I offered to run at 75 minute pace to help a few people from my club who were aiming to get the London Marathon championship qualifying time.

The elite athletes (including Haile Gebrselassie) were introduced to the TV audience just before the gun went at 10:02. I can only assume that this obscure start time was due to advertising breaks on Channel 5, the broadcaster that now has the rights to some of the Great Run events. I reported on this blog last week that Eliud Kipchoge would be running after receiving a letter from the race organisers to local residents stating that he would. What probably happened is that he pulled out, opening the door to Gebrselassie, who was a late entry.

We set off from just behind Broad Street and into the first mile which is almost all downhill. I was trying really hard to hold back and set a decent pace; I had also been asked to make sure that a 17 year old from our club didn’t set off too fast either. We passed the mile marker in around 5:38, not bad given how much descent there had been. On Thursday evening I had been down to the track and run 4 miles at 5:40 pace to remind myself what it felt like, and I was hitting the splits fairly accurately. Looking over my shoulder just before the 3 mile mark, I realised that I had a huge crowd of about 15 people just tucking in behind me and following my pace! No doubt this was due to the fact that I had written “sub 75 pacer” on my back. It’s amazing how many people are suddenly interested in running with you when you do that!

At around the 10k mark I was out on my own despite having run an even pace the whole way, so I slowed down by jogging on the spot to allow a couple of club mates to catch up. I then picked the pace up again, knowing that we had to leave a bit of time in the bank for the hill between 10 and 11.5 miles.

We got to 10 miles in a few seconds under 57 minutes, which I knew was about the slowest possible 10 mile split that would allow a sub 75. I pressed on and although I worked harder in the next mile than in any other, still recorded the slowest yet as most of the mile was uphill. The guys behind were still in sight but clearly at their limit. I kept shouting encouragement and urging them to close the gap to me. Stephanie was at the 11 mile mark just down the road from where we live, offering her support. She had taken a great photo of Gebrselassie at the same point a few minutes earlier.

The course flattens out in the 12th mile, but still has lots of turns in it so isn’t the quickest part of the course. I went through 12 miles in just over 68 minutes, which was just about spot on. It was great to see so many friends on the course. In the last 2 miles alone I saw about 5 people I knew, one of the perks of running a race in the city you live in.

The support from the crowds on Broad Street was immense, a wall of noise all the way from the tunnel exit by Five Ways to the finish line in front of the Hyatt. I stopped my watch at 74:52 (not bad pacing for a first attempt, I thought!) and immediately looked behind me to see Chris, one of my club mates, cross the line agonisingly short of the 75 minute barrier. Still, he ran a PB by nearly 2 minutes, a great achievement. Our club is on the up.

My friend Mark didn’t have such a good day and fell off the pace around the half way point, finishing in 78 minutes. He will break 75 within the next year.

The plan now is to race a half marathon myself in December and try and break my personal best, set earlier this year. Two months of hard training should do the trick; I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it again.