I did the half marathon this morning. Lovely day for it. I was going great guns. They have pace-setter runners who have a helium filled balloon displaying the time they are going for. I started in the 1:30 – 1:45 section, but when we set off the 1:45 pace-setter was way ahead of me. I wanted to threaten 1:30 this year so I had to work my way through the pack until I could see the 1:30 balloon. I missed the first mile marker, but paced myself going up the cantilever bridge hill, opened my legs and got a trot on going down. When I checked my time at the 2 mile point I was averaging 7.15 m/m. Or 1:34 for the distance. I was feeling OK at the faster pace. Then at mile 4 my quads began to cramp again. My right thigh first, then the left. There was nothing I could do about it so I pushed on.
At the 10 mile point, after running 6 miles with cramped quads, I was still averaging 7.30 m/m, good enough for 1:37. Then there was the long, slow downhill past the Dingle and under the Bridgewater Canal. The bit where you get free speed and everyone was getting a move on. My thighs were crippling me and I was slowing down. I gritted my teeth and stumbled on. I was so grateful for the uphill of the cantilever, but then the steep downhill on the other side finished me. I got to the bottom and had to stop. I tried stretching my quads (by lifting my foot up against my bum, I could barely lift my foot off the floor, my thighs were screaming!) but that was useless. I just had to start running again. It was bloody killing me, but at least I knew it was flat from there on in, so the pain wouldn’t get any worse. On mile 12 –13 I had enough energy to pick the pace up and overtake people again. It wasn’t that the pain was any less, just that it would be over in a bit and I still had loads of energy.
I forgot to stop my stopwatch on the line, but after a brief conversation with an official who wanted to make sure I was alright and a stagger to the goody-bag area it was 1:40.15 I reckon I did it in 1:39, but until they publish the official times am kidding myself it might have been a 1:38.
I was shouting out loud when I tried to stretch off. The pain was intense.
Still, new PB for that course, my previous best being 1:42.38
I really think I could have threatened the 1:30 mark though. Gutted.
I’ve spent some time researching what caused quad cramps, after ruling out sodium deficiency (studies show it’s not primarily that) and period pains (I’m way past the menopause) the two likeliest suspects are; new trainers (Dammit! I like these trainers, comfiest and fastest I’ve had in ages.) or over-extending my legs on the downhills. This is possible, I have been opening my legs and speeding up. Apparently it’s lots of little steps with your feet landing under your body, not long strides as they cause your quads to act as shock absorbers.
I’m going to work on the second theory first. I really like these trainers and I don’t want to blow £80 -£100 on a different pair. Especially when these were only £50.