Monday, August 24, 2009

A half marathon is a long way

I raced in the ACT Veterans' Half Marathon on Sunday. It was a cool and sunny morning, with a yacht-friendly breeze blowing across Lake Burley Griffin. I decided in advance to make good on my promise to Pre — I'd start fast and hold the pace for as long as possible. Somewhere around 16k I found out that a half marathon is a long way.

The race has three separate starts, and I was in group two (for runners expecting to finish between 1 hour 40 minutes and 2 hours). Surprisingly, my quick start had me nowhere near the lead of the group! I was probably in around 12th place after the 2k sign, which I passed in 9:04 (1:35:40 pace). I kept running as hard as possible, but inevitably began to slow down.

After 5k I was overtaken by Roger, then Speedygeoff. Approaching the Governor General's residence Helen caught me — I managed to run with her until the aforementioned 16k mark. Gary also went by around here, saying something typically cheery. I found myself thinking about Malcolm Fraser, and did he really say "a half marathon wasn't meant to be easy". Anyway, I finally made it up the last hill, and down to the finish-line in 1:45:18. A very welcome finish-line indeed! Obviously I have a lot of work to do if I'm to get down to 1 hour 40 minutes for the Melbourne Half in October. Some long training runs will help — let's get this party started!

5k splits: 23:40, 24:33, 25:14, 26:08 + 5:43 (1.0975 km).

Into the wind [photo by D Appleby]Being blown backwards near the finish of the Ski-jump 5k


Blogger Bruce said...

You didn't slow too much by the looks if you still registered a 1:45. Another good month of training will fix the stamina. The ABs were certainly partying on Saturday night. Beat the yarpies up for us eh.

7:14 pm  
Blogger Luckylegs said...

Why would you start out at so hard a pace that you wouldn't be able to maintain it for the entire 21.1kms?

Doesn't make sense to me for a half marathon race. Was Prefontaine talking about "chicken shit" for shorter track races?

7:57 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

You'd wonder if Pre's philosophy of going out hard applies to the half marathon. For anythong longer than 5k i'd prefer to go out at target pace and hold it for as long as possible or go out a bit slower and step it up (if I can) over the last third of the race. Going out too hard and getting passed from before halfway is tough for the head to handle.

Still a very solid run @ 1:45. A more evenly paced run in October after a month of "partying" should see you closer to target.

8:36 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

I reckon Pre is on the mark and your problem is that you did not go out hard enough!!!

Sure you had to limp/grind home but imagine if you went out faster and still limped home at the same pace....

My running history is littered with crash and burns, but I always seem to want to line up for another crack in the hope that this time it will be different. Much like the weekend golfer, always hoping for the perfect tee shot :)

9:14 pm  
Blogger plu said...

I would love your time.


9:15 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Occasionally go out hard, I say! Then hang on! If you go out hard you won't die wondering. My best half was when I shadowed John Andrews for the first km, at a very fast pace, then had to let him go and raced solo up and down every hill from then on. He ran 65 minutes, I ran 70. But you've got to have enough long runs in training to be able to do that.

In my best marathon though, I didn't surge hard until 20k. Marathons are different. But for everything shorter, you may go for it from the start!

I am talking about real races here; the ones you have trained well for and are rested up for. Not the weekly club events where you train through. In these, pacing rather than racing probably produces more consistent results, as you cannot expect to pb, or to be in shape to pb, every week.

9:22 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

I don't think Pre slowed down that much. We are going blue line on sunday but via walkway but somehow across the cahill. Didn't think it had a footbridge? Your 800m off M50 PB shape. Easy to pickup at Melb.

9:44 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Yes, a half marathon is definitely a long way, especially if you start out fast. At least you get some 'pain tolerance training' from this race before the big one in Melbourne.

10:09 pm  
Blogger jen said...

Very solid finish! Congratulations. Looks like a nice day for running. Keep up the good work!

10:54 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Have to disagree with you on the length of half-marathons, but 1:40 isn't a world away. That should be within reach if you manage to improve your stamina.

Even splits might be preferable, though! What did Pre know about half marathons anyway?

10:55 pm  
Blogger R2B said...

You need to run even Ewen,even!
Not "Pre" and not post!
A few long runs and a bit of interval work wouldn't hurt either.

My wife went to see Pink on saturday and LOVED it.

And our friend Tom (a doctor) was called to the stadium and had to give Pink an injection (in the bum) for a bad throat infection.True story.

11:51 pm  
Blogger Dusty said...

Great job on your half! Yes, it is a long race.

I thought of you as I cheered for friends in a half out here. One guy blew up around 10 miles, he said he noticed the problem at 5K, but when he came through the 10K mark with his 2nd fastest 10K time.. he knew he was in trouble.

I thought of you and your "running like Pre". I'm not sure I'm cut out to be like Pre. Even Sanya Richards is slowing down a bit at the start of her 400m so she can still have a solid kick. I think as long as you figured out how to lay it all out on the course and not save it for the last 1/4th of the event, you did it right.

1:29 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Good PRE effort, but methinks you can go even more PRE-ish than that but a good starting PRE point. 1.45 is a good time, and sub 1.40 is there for the taking if you can build the momentum for long enough...

4:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the central governor theory is valid, a non-conscious part of our brains rarely let us push ourselves to the point of utter exhaustion. I believe that most the classic collapses in big races (eg Jim Peters in Vancouver in 1954) were protective. So the question of how to get as near to ones’ limit as possible is mainly a question of how to cajole the governor into giving us a slightly slacker rope. In general the governor tends to be conservative, especially when the distance remaining is large and the estimation of reserves is inaccurate. Consequently, the governor is more likely to allow a slacker rope in the second half provided there is something in reserve at halfway – though in shorter races, competitive tactics can over-ride this principle. I have memories of you out-maneuvering your arch rival Lily in an 800m with a well executed Pre a year ago. Maybe you should polish your Prefontaine credentials over 3000m on the track.
Despite your fast start, your performance in the Canberra half was impressive. With a bit more endurance training and some good pace judgment, you can probably take 5 minutes off that time in Melbourne.

5:31 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Well the only way to out wit the cental governer is to take anthetamines like the late great poor Tommy Simpon, not a good idea!

5:04 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

sorry- SIMPSON

5:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rick, I agree that stimulants such as amphetamine allow us to over-ride the central governor in a dangerous way. Amphetamine releases the chemical, dopamine, in the brain. The normal role of dopamine is to increase our drive to achieve our goals. Amphetamine releases massive amounts of dopamine and can produce a dangerously excessive drive to achieve our goals. Unfortunately Tommy Simpson died as a result.
However, I believe the governor is usually a bit too conservative when there is too much uncertainly about how much more energy is required. Hence we can cajole the governor in a reasonably safe way by increasing the pressure in the second half of the race.
We can also use this effect to demoralize an opponent in the first half - we know how fast we are going to push our self but our opponent doesn’t know. As a result the opponent's governor acts too conservatively. Hence we can break the spirit of our opponent by a fast start. This was Prefontaine's trick - it allowed him to win races. I suspect he could have run faster times if he had conserved energy more effectively, but I suspect that winning mattered more to him than setting records.

8:22 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Funny you should mention PM Frazer and getting passed by Helen "approaching the Governor General's residence"


"Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the central governor!"

8:29 pm  
Blogger jojo said...

hmmmm im no coach but i know when i ran 1.43(and im slower than you over the longer stuff 3km pb of 13.14!) i started slowly and worked my way into it.....

my best runs this year have all come from being slighlty conservative in the first section and hammering home! but hten fortunately we are all different-maybe see you in september

9:12 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

Congratulations on a great "training run" Ewen! I'm with Plu - that time would be amazing to me!!

9:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wannabe said: injection in the bum for a throat infection eh.....just wondering if your doctor mate knows where to inject an enema?

6:31 pm  
Blogger Stu said...

21 comments already and the best was EASILY speedygeoff's!!!

Pre for a HM.....I think not, he was one of the kings of the track and I don't see many HMs on the track!

Let's make sure we catch up Oct 11.

11:02 pm  
Blogger bill carter said...

Wow, it looks like it was a beautiful day! I have a great deal of respect for the way you ran this race. I honestly think that every now and then you just need to push as hard as you can and then try to hold on. It is not a great way to do every race, but it an interesting test for your body and I think helps in the couple races afterward.

I'll just bet you get that sub 1:40
and having a race like this under your belt will help.

BTW, curious to know what kind of shoes you are wearing as I have not seen those before.

2:06 am  
Blogger Rob said...

Ewen you have done the Pre thing. Now, be sensible, don't try the same thing in Melbourne.

7:58 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Bill, those are the original Nike Free 5.0 - the best shoe ever made! The photo is from the previous 5k race, not the half, although the half was also near the lake. I wore new Brooks Racer STs in the half - an excellent shoe too.

Stu, you're right about Speedgeoff. He's worth listening to. I always do, 'cause I can never get a word in edgeways ;)

Scott, I laughed out loud at that one! That was a memorable speech by Edward Gough Whitlam. Fraser was famous for saying "life wasn't meant to be easy", but isn't racing a metaphor for life?

Canute, I intend to practise "creative tactics" in non-important races on the track. Like Gough, I want to teach the governor general, I mean central governor, a lesson!

R2B, I look forward to catching up with some more Pink gossip at Six Foot next year.

7:13 pm  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

1:40 is a pretty impressive goal. I'm still shooting for 1:55, which will make me happy for a while. And your first 5k split is faster than any 5k I've ever run. Well done!

8:28 pm  
Blogger rinus said...

It is not a bad time and maiby the next time litle slow start and than for a < 1:40 time!.
Nice pic and is it cold now there?.

6:49 am  
Blogger IHateToast said...

the word half fools people. you have to think about what it's half of.

a half of a grape is easy to eat; half a roast pig, not so much.

you'll do it. it'll take work, but you're king.

7:12 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

You added a picture! Nice form.

11:10 am  
Anonymous JoeGarland said...

I confess to being somewhat intimidated by the HM. It seems an awful long way when you take the first steps. Hence I try to roll into the race by not hammering the first mile, as I tend to do in shorter races. Recently, I've invariably run negative splits; when I get to about 7 miles, I realize that I just might be able to finish and start picking it up.

So, yes, I'm afraid of crashing and burning early. It's bad enough when that happens in a 10K.

1:22 am  

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