Well, I did it - my first race. There are some more photographs here, which Michelle took. I lined up at 10am this morning with the four hundred and twenty-seven registered runners for the PEI Half Marathon. I had pinned my race number to my running shirt and strapped the timing chip round my ankle and tried to forget my pain niggles. Would you believe it, I had a bad flare up of fibromyalgia in my left thigh yesterday, plus a severe pain in my right ankle and also a nasty insect bite in my right armpit just to give me something else to think about. I had felt pessimistic as we drove into Charlottetown this morning but I was determined to run through the pain if I could.
We parked and walked to the start in Grafton Street in the shadow of the Confederation Arts Centre. There was a buzz of excitement and a very large crowd by Charlottetown standards. All shapes, sizes and ages of runner were represented, and there were running kits of all colours. The weather was calm and kind but rather fresh, about three degrees Celsius and bright sunshine. Michelle planned to stay in town with Maisie and be back by the finishing line in time for my arrival - whenever that might be.
Having chosen to start near the back, I had to walk for half a minute after the gun while the first runners set off and gave us space. Something told me if I was overtaken by fast runners at the start it would be psychologically worse than keeping my pace sensible and sticking to the speeds I had tested in training. So I tried to stick close to six minutes per kilometre and monitored my progress against my watch as each kilometre marker passed. The initial crush thinned out and soon runners in the ten kilometre event peeled off to return to town while we half-marathoners forged on towards the airport on the outskirts of town.
I was so relieved that my pains had diminished when the race started and I actually felt pretty good throughout the whole thireteen miles. After an hour or so of running I let my pace gradually creep up as I was fairly sure I could now finish comfortably. Because my training runs have tended to be an hour or less I am new to the idea of refuelling mid-run. I had a plan though and in accordance with it, I drank a couple of gulps of Gatorade at three of the drink stations from the ten kilometre mark onwards and also sucked down two power gels from foil pouches.
In contrast to my last couple of training runs I had plenty of energy left and started to pass other runners. There are two severe hills at the two thirds point and these were sorting the men from the boys. I slowed dramatically on the steep rises but kept grinding away and passed more exhausted runners with their hands on their knees at the roadside. The field was well spread out by now and a glance over my shoulder revealed the nearest runner was at least fifty yards behind while there were a sprinkling twenty yards ahead for me to draw towards.
The city had closed most roads for the runners' safety but some arterial sections were open and simply had a coned-off running lane with policemen encouraging cars to stay slow, which obligingly they did. We turned onto University Avenue, the seven kilometre finishing straight but the undulating road and the distance prevented any view of the finishing line yet. By now there was no passing done and runners at our position in the field were hanging on to make it to the line. Groups of interested families were clustered here and there by the roadside cheering us on. I waved and smiled at them.
Race day adrenalin and excitement made a big difference to my performance. Also, I only ran a couple of short runs this week, ate plenty of good food and rested as much as I could. I didn't stop to walk at all during the half marathon and overtook quite a lot of runners in the second half of the race, so I think my strategy paid off.
On the final approach to downtown, I could see the big time clock over the finish line so I knew my watch wasn't lying! As I neared the line they called out my name over the public address system - "Paul B***** from Ferndown, Great Britain!" I ran quite fast across the line and waved to the crowd, finishing 227th out of 427 in a "chip" time of 2 hours, 1 minute and 11 seconds. I am very pleased indeed with the time as I beat my best training time by over ten minutes.
I have a finisher's medal and my race number as souvenirs. Now I am eager to run another half marathon and my target will be to beat two hours.