Today, I took part in my 39th Robin Hood Half Marathon, which is my hometown’s main half-marathon. I took part in the first Robin Hood Half in 1981 and missed just three of them since (and there was no race in 2020 during the pandemic).
In 2021 and 2022, I ran the Robin Hood race in just over 1hr 37 minutes. I knew that today’s race would be slower, but I was unsure how much slower. My training has mostly been focused on longer distances. For longer distances, I run slower, for example, 6 or 7 minutes per km. In a half marathon, I try to run at close to 4.5 minutes per km. That speed makes a very different demand on my body, and to run 21km at that speed, I have to train specifically for it. I am also heavier at the moment, a consequence of too many conferences and social events (and a slip in my monitoring of my calorie intake).
I am not super fond of the Robin Hood route, but the race feels important to me; it is part of the cycle of the year for me. It is also a great chance to see lots of people I know, especially from my running club. Today was also more special because my son William returned to Nottingham to run the race (he has run quite a few of the races before).
Because of my previous finish times, I started in the second tranche of runners, just behind the elite runners. My tranche was supposed to finish in under 1 hour 40 minutes. Since I knew I was not in top form for half marathons, I went to the back of my tranche and tried to follow the 1hr 40 minutes pacemaker. I set off following the pacemaker and monitoring my heart rate. My target was to keep my heart rate around 142. I managed my heart rate target, but I lost contact with the pacemaker just after halfway.
The conditions were great, cool, overcast, with a slight breeze. The race is well supported, with crowds along most of the route, shouting encouragement and offering high fives and, quite often, sweets and such. Every few km, I spotted somebody I knew in the crowds, a real boost. We have our names on the front of our numbers, which means that many of the race watchers shout your name as encouragement – people are great!
The downside of today’s race is that I did indeed run slower than my previous two Robin Hood half marathons. Indeed, it is my slowest half marathon since 2019. The good news is that I felt comfortable all the way round and could keep a fairly even pace for the whole race (the second half was about one minute slower than the first half). My time, 1 hour 41 minutes 34 seconds, was good enough for me to finish 3rd out of the 54 people in my age group (Men, 65 to 69), and I was 613 out of the 5429 finishers.
Even when my time is not as good as I would like it to be, I try to remember that a) I will never be as fast as the very fast, b) there are lots of people who would like to have my time, and c) there are lots of people who would like to run and can’t. However, today this was even easier as my time, although slower than last year, was faster than I was expecting. I set out with a plan, ran to the plan, and finished feeling strong and happy.
Thanks to Rachel Drury for the picture of me running up to Nottingham Castle.