After Action Review - EDF Half Marathon Training

After Action Review – EDF Birmingham Half Marathon

Here we are then after several months of anticipation, ten weeks of training and a number of blog posts about that training, Sunday 24th October 2010 came and went; with it came the accomplishment of one of my goals this year to run in and complete the EDF Birmingham Half Marathon. For those of you who have regularly read my posts on the goal and the training, you will know that I had a goal that went “On October 24th 2010 I will complete the EDF Birmingham Half Marathon in a time of 1:59:00 or better”; well one out of two ain’t bad… I completed the half marathon but my official chip time was 2:04:51, more about that later!

After Action Review (lite) – Training week 10

Before I get into a bit of narrative about the day itself, I thought I ought to share with you the usual round up of training that would normally make up my AAR (After Action Review) blog post.

Half Marathon Training – Week 10
Day Planned Activity Actual Activity Status
Mon Rest day Rest day Green 
Tue 3 mile run at race pace 3.29 mile run
Average pace: 08:12/mile
Green 
Wed Cross Training No activity. I hadn’t felt too good on Tuesday night so decided to rest. Red 
Thu 30 minute run 3.64 miles, average 08:53/mile Green 
Fri Rest day Rest day Green 
Sat 20 minute run 2.72 miles, 08:30/mile  Green 

EDF Birmingham Half Marathon – 24th October 2010

So, on to the day itself. It was an early start, we had to be on the start line in Broad Street for the 9am ‘gun’. It was up at 6am to allow for breakfast to be eaten (porridge & raisins) and final preparation to take place. I had arranged for us to meet my cousin and his family at the NIA at 08:30, so we were out of the door and on the road for 07:45. As we neared the centre of Birmingham, the roads got busier and it was easy to see all of the runners making their way to the NIA and then on to the start line.

Once we were parked up, we made our way out of the NIA car park and met up with my cousin. The families left us there and made their way to the spectator areas. As I’d drunk a good slug of Lucozade Body Fuel mixed with water on the way to Birmingham, I thought it would be the better part of valour to have a ‘comfort break’ before making our way to the start line. As we queued up in the Portaloo queue, it became clear just how cold it was; the air temperature was around zero and the wind was bitter. As a novice I had just my Helly Hansen under layer and running vest on… you could see the veterans with their t-shirts, fleeces and black bin bags looking somewhat more comfortable than me. Lesson 1!

Dave and Rob before the EDF Birmingham Half Marathon

Dave & I before the run

To the start line

Ablutions over, Dave (my cousin) and I made our way up to Broad Street. The road was literally full, as far as I could see, with runners, all ages, all abilities; Elite runners, club runners, charity runners and a some just doing the event for the sake of it. We scrambled over the barriers to a point about 800m from the start line and waited… It seemed an age, 9am came and went and we hadn’t moved a yard. Eventually, there was some movement and we ‘penguin like’ shuffled our way toward the start line. About 50m from the start, the gaps started to open up and we were able to break into a light jog, over the start line… then almost immediately we had to stop. A lesson from motorway traffic to be learnt… two lanes of traffic merging into one = congestion! It took us over a minute to do the first 20-30m.

Finally going

So after the ‘false’ start it was good to finally break into a trot after about a minute of ‘race’ time on my stop watch. There were hundreds of runners in front of us; lesson 2, running with all those people is nothing like a training run! On training runs, I got used to running on my own, in a ‘straight’ line and at a pace I was comfortable at… Nothing like the run, check, dodge, move over, nudge, barge that became the norm for much of the first 5 miles.

Entertainment

There was something to keep you entertained and to take your immediate attention off the run throughout; the variety of charity vests, the fancy dress runners, the roadside bands, the well wishers with cake, oranges… The next ‘target’ for me to overtake ;-)

Settled In

After the first mile or so, I started to settle into this different experience. My cousin and I were keeping a fairly even pace and keeping close together. The first water station was at 3 miles, another interesting experience… well more like a mini-obstacle course actually. Navigating the other runners to get a bottle, then navigating all of the bottles that had been abandoned on the road. At 4 miles there was a Lucozade station, I swapped my water for a bottle of Lucozade Orange body fuel.

At 5 miles we passed the Cadbury Bourneville Chocolate Factory, the air was filled with the smell of warm chocolate… lovely. It was about this point we doubled back on ourselved and hit the first of a couple of hills over the next mile.

It was around the 5 mile mark that the road seemed to open up a bit, it became less congested and I was able to settle into a pace that I was more familiar with and I didn’t have so much dodging and weaving to do. Strangely, having kept together through the congestion of the first 5 miles, it was around this point that I lost contact with Dave; the next time I saw him was after the finish line

The going gets tough

At 8 miles, we got off the road and went into Cannon Hill Park; it was nice in the park. A wide open space with a tree lined peripheral path and a nice little incline… We left the park and came upon another nice little hill ;-) That sort of set the tone for the next mile or so. As we passed the 10 mile marker we were on a nice flat stretch of road, I recall passing a group of Asian drummers who were playing some fantastic rhythmic music and then the fun began…

We started up an incline, then round a corner and up again. I looked a couple of hundred metres up the road and I saw the brow of the hill, relief I thought, as this had been quite a long climb… At the top the road dropped off, great I thought… Then I noticed the runners in front of me were turning right after about 20 metres, as I turned the corner my heart dropped another hill and a steep one at that. By this time my thighs were burning, I broke into a power walk for about 50 metres as it was easier and quicker than the shuffling jog I had descended into. Luckily, the hill then became less steep and I resumed my jog. The hill climb carried on til after 11 miles.

12 miles and still going, we dropped down an underpass and back up the other side, a bit more of a hill after that. At this time it was easier to focus on finishing, I was reciting my “1,2…10, that’s a win, do it again” and “I can and I am” messages when the going was tough. As we came out of a horseshoe, we started to hear the cheers from the finish straight. Down a hill, under an underpass and into Broad Street; crowds on both sides of the road, cheering and shouting. The atmosphere was great, there was a real buzz in the air; a timely lift and a small burst of energy. I passed the 500m to go sign and rounded the final corner… then a disappointment. There was going to be no glorious run across the finish line, arms raised… As I looked forward, all I could see at the finish line was two lanes of Broad Street full of runners shuffling like penguins (again) to get across the finish line. The motorway traffic management lesson revisited. I stopped my watch at 2:02:25, 15 metres short of the finish line. I joined the shuffle and crossed the line at 02:04:51; nearly 2.5 minutes to do 15 metres!

Thus my estimation of actual time for my run is nearer 02:01, with the events at the start and the finish. Not the 01:59:00 I had hoped for but not bad for my first half marathon.

Blankets & Goody Bags

After crossing the finish line the shuffle continued, down the road. First we got to the station where the silver foil blankets were being handed out; very welcome, as the air was still cold and we were starting to feel it. Then to the area where the timing chips were cut off our shoes and finally to the gazebos where the goody bags were being handed out. Tshirt, medal, bag, couple of bars, chocolate and some more Lucozade ;-) Very nice.

My cousin and I managed to find each other again in the shuffle, he had beaten me in by about 2 minutes. We made our way out of the area and met up with our families and took some very welcome fluids on board… we both had a pint of bitter ;-)

Dave & Rob at the end sporting their t-shirts and medals

Dave & I at the finish

All in all, I had a great day. The whole thing was a new and exhilarating experience and in the process of running the Birmingham Half Marathon I have raised £700 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association

If you would like to add to that total please make a donation on my Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/robjcameron. Thank you