My First Half: Sheffield Half Marathon

It only takes a few words of encouragement from friends to find yourself standing at the start line of your first half marathon.

“Book onto the Sheffield half marathon,” Rose said.
“Sam did the half marathon in 2016,” Briony said.
*Investigates Sam’s previous time: 1:42:27, a stonkingly good time.*
“Surely you want to beat Sam’s time?” Pete said.

When I originally booked on to run the Sheffield half marathon I’d only ran 21.09km a handful of times. I’d initially decided that my goal would be to bring my half marathon time in under 2 hours. It was my naive understanding of how friendly competitiveness could spark my race time ambition and successively lead to the following events.

Sheffield half marathon 2018′

It was going to take some serious preparation following the incepted idea that I should try to run the Sheffield half marathon in sub 1:40:00. My previous P.B. for a half marathon distance was 2:12:00. To give some context, those previous half marathon distances were usually travelled with a springer spaniel that would be excitedly flapping around like a fish on a hook, leashed to my left hand. And don’t forget the spaniel trait of also crapping in excess of 12 times along the way. And before you think of it, all of the said turds was duly picked up and dispensed of at the next available poo bin having sometimes required safe transportation for many miles in the pocket of my coat; as I said serious preparation.

After discovering that I needed to shave a good 30 minutes off my previous half marathon personal best I decided to get serious and make a spreadsheet. This was the first time that I would be dissecting a race kilometre by kilometre to gain a deeper understanding of the task at hand. I calculated the split times I’d need to hit in order to achieve my new target time, and there it was in the cold blue light of the computer screen, according to my spreadsheet the average pace I’d need to hit was 4:52 per km. I would need to cut this pace down further to 4:46 per km to make it around the course in sub 1:40:00.

After this realisation, training wasn’t just about running for fun anymore but it was nice to have an element of jeopardy/competition. It especially helped me to put my right foot forward and force myself out on a Friday night run reccy of the route. Sadly it turns out discipline isn’t a remedy for speed; my pace was way off.

Using this realisation as motivation I decided to train with some fellow runners at an organised session. The one I found was held at the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe by Accelerate running shop. Although the weather was genuinely atrocious during the session, I learnt that I needed to do more technical footwork exercises rather than just running to improve my technique, a lesson I’d later rely on for race day.

Tim Slack Sheffield Half Marathon 2018

During the week prior to race day, I came down with an all-mighty cold that left me fizzing-at-the-nose and ravaging my way through tissues for three days. This had me worried because I couldn’t even go on any short runs all week, my chances of achieving my target time looked slim. Come race day I was feeling better and having written my 5, 10, 15 and 20km split times on my hand the night before I was feeling ready to make my attempt.

Sheffield half marathon sub 1:40 split times
Sheffield half marathon split times to achieve sub 1:40

In the end, the extra preparation and Friday night reccy runs were all worth it; I ended up smashing my target time to complete the Sheffield half marathon in 1:37:37, shaving an unbelievable 35 minutes of my previous personal best. I could add another race t-shirt to my collection and my first participant’s medal.

Tim Slack Sheffield Half Marathon 2018
Tim Slack Sheffield Half Marathon 2018

This was the first organised road race I’d taken part in and the atmosphere across my home city was electric. Needless to say, both t-shirt, medal and I were inseparable for the remainder of the day. The three of us attracted respectful nods of acknowledgement from fellow Sheffield half marathoners when spotted throughout the cities establishments. With my first half marathon under my belt, it’s now time to look ahead at what upcoming race *peaks* my interest, perhaps it’ll be this one.

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