Well that wasn't what I expected. After a lousy week of training (heavy, tired legs) and a course described by the race director as "hilly, challenging and scenic", the last thing I would have expected would be a PR. Funny how things work out sometimes!
I drove the course on Saturday to have some idea what to expect. I'm glad I did, otherwise I probably would have let up and not pushed so hard on a few of the miles. More on that later.
It was COLD and windy. The cold I could handle, the wind was a pain, especially since it hit us immediately as we headed north along the Merrimack River on River Road. I struggled with the wind for the 1st 4 miles or so, occasionally tucking in behind some other runners when possible. Mile 2 and some of mile 3 were steady climbs with a couple of short, steep hills as well. Surprisingly, there were LOTS of spectators along the entire course. I probably ran the hardest in the first 4 miles and had the slowest miles of the day as well, a double whammy. When I made the turn onto Union Ave the clock at 4M was 26:00 even (6:30 pace) and I was BEAT. Any thoughts I had of a PR were out the window at this point but I knew I had a couple of easier miles coming up so I tried to pick up the pace. Mile 5 was a long steady uphill and mile 6 was a long steady downhill before turning into the woods for a short trail run through Livingston Park. These two miles felt much faster but I was afraid to look at my watch (I hate disappointment). As we crossed over DW highway the course snaked back and forth through some nice neighborhoods, eventually looping up and around Derryfield Park (where they have the high school XC races) and eventually up onto Mammoth Rd. Although this was a decent climb, it was stretched out for nearly 2 miles (mile 8 was at Derryfield). I wasn't looking at my watch for mile splits but the course had clocks every 2 miles so if I could do the math I could figure out my pace. I passed mile 8 at exactly 52:00 (6:30 pace). Talk about consistent :-)
From my drive yesterday I knew the next 2+ miles would be fairly flat (at least no significant hills) and slowly started to pass a few runners. This race was both a 1/2 and full marathon and all were running the first 13 miles together so you never really knew who was doing what. The half and full marathons had different color bibs but they apparently ran out of half bibs so a bunch of us (me included) were running with full marathon bib numbers. The next clock was at 10 miles and this time I was just under 1:05 (6:29 pace). I was totally convinced a PR was out of the question but......I decided to push the last 5k as hard as I could to see what I could do. The last 2 miles were a straight shot down Hanover St, which had a few hills early on but was mostly downhill all the way to Elm St. I don't remember a clock at mile 12 but I knew I was flying at this point. I made the left onto Elm and had about 1/4 mile to the finish at Veteran's Park.
The clock read 1:23:23, a new PR by nearly a minute!
I ended up running the last 5k in 18:43 (6:02 pace). Like I said, not at all what I expected.
I placed 33rd overall out of 924 finishers. For my efforts I also picked up a 1st place win in my age category. Not a bad day!
Results for the Manchester City 1/2 Marathon can be found here.