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The Big Half review

By Darren O'Toole | In Marathon training | on March 7, 2018

Keen to pester clients at Dynamic Fitness Training into booking onto local races, the weekend just gone, I competed in the inaugural half marathon race run along the streets of the Capital. Won by Sir Mo Farah, the race began on London Bridge, taking in the sights of Canary Wharf and ultimately finishing at the iconic Cutty Sark. The freezing temperatures of the previous days subsided allowing for what was, in essence, perfect running conditions. Here are some thoughts on the race:

Once again it was a race whereby the organisers had to confirm that it was still taking place in the days leading up to it. This was also the case for my first marathon (Dublin – a hurricane was predicted!), my second marathon (Edinburgh – a severe storm was forecast) and a previous half marathon (North London half – again, freezing weather conditions in March). Last year’s Belgrade marathon had also seen me touch down amidst snow falling so the uncertainty was far from unsettling. In fact, without this doubt, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!!

As it turned out the conditions were great. A pleasant running temperature and a great atmosphere amongst the runners.

Let me take you back for a second. In 2015 I achieved my fastest Marathon in Edinburgh in May (3:19) and then my fastest half marathon in the September in Nottingham (1:29). Since, I have struggled to build good times, and what’s more, I have not enjoyed the process. An injury late on prevented me competing in Paris and Belgrade last year was my least enjoyable running experience!

I say this, not to put you off, but to explain the importance, for me, of this marathon block. I have read multiple books trying to decipher how I can begin to improve and enjoy the running experience once more. The result: Learn from the very best runners. I consumed books by Dean Karnazes, one of the Greatest Ultra runners of all time, ‘Born to run’ by Christoher McDougall which is a must-read for any runner, and the inspiring story of Emil Zatopek – the only man (and likely to be the only man ever) to have won the 5k, 10k and Marathon at the same Olympic Games. Inspiring, but full of lessons too. The most important being: When training for a marathon the biggest mistake people make is that they do their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow. Thus, I have put together a different training regime aimed at utiliing this knowledge. The long runs completed slower and the fast runs completed with more quality. The Big Half was my first test to see how it was working.

Completing the race in one hour and 32 mins was pleasing. I felt good throughout and ran reasonably consistent splits. Plus, I was able to take my mind away from physical discomfort which is important. Aleks, my wife, said that she relaxed when she saw me as I seemed relaxed which is a good sign (in Dublin, 2013, I saw her once all race where I ran over and said ‘Painkillers, give me them, I’m (insert swear word)’, so if anyone is to know if I am suffering, it’s her!

Whilst not my fastest race, it is my fastest pre-marathon race. My only faster time was when I was solely training for the half marathon. This gives me a little spring in my step leading into the last 5 weeks of training ahead of the Rotterdam marathon.

For those looking at this race next year, it was well organised. The support along the course was good and the number of runners meant that you never felt isolated either. It’s a pretty flat race with the only challenge being that there were quite a few twists and turns at times. Starting at London Bridge made it very convenient and the start time of 9am meant that it didn’t take a chunk out of the day. It’s a race I’d highly recommend others to try in the future – especially if, like me, you can’t ever seem to crack the London marathon ballot.

For me now, it’s full steam ahead to Rotterdam. One long run left and some high quality speed work. Finger’s crossed, when I sit down to write about that race in April, I am reviewing a new personal best!


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