Before yesterday’s Inuyama Yomiuri Half-Marathon, I said I’d set out at PB pace and just see how I felt. But there was much more to my strategy than that.
Months earlier when choosing which races to run in the new year, I deliberately chose to run a 10K before each half-marathon. Last week’s 10K in Kani City was the perfect tune-up race for yesterday’s Half because, despite the longer distance, I’d be running slower than the week before and it would therefore feel easier.
When registering for the Half, all those months ago, we had to pick which wave to start in, depending on our goal. Since my PB was 1:31:54, I picked the first wave, filled with people aiming for a sub 1:28 time. Yes, that was perhaps overambitious, but I knew from last year’s race that if I didn’t start up front I’d get caught up among thousands of people squeezed into a single lane. When race day came, my wave set off with the elite runners and four minutes before the second wave. I was immediately moved into running faster than I did when I PB’d in the 10K a week earlier!
Had it been a warm day, I would have overheated and died by the 4km mark, but in the bitter cold and freezing wind, I was able to keep up before coming to my senses and realizing that even though I had been going as fast as 4:03/km pace and felt good, I absolutely would not be able to hold that for 21km. It was then that I put on the brakes and tucked in behind a big guy running at just under 4:20 pace, perfect for blocking the wind and pacing me to a PB!
When my pacer pulled over at the first water station I found another guy to keep me going. He was only half my height, and not nearly as good at blocking the wind – I had to put my cap on backwards so it wouldn’t blow off! I stuck to my new pacer like glue until the 16km mark when I felt I was fairing better than he was and so moved past him.
I took advantage of the last water station and did that trick where you pinch the top of the paper cup together and drink from one corner. This meant that I didn’t throw water all over my face which would have been hell in the freezing wind and I didn’t lose much time, either.
Over the the last few kilometers, I ran all over the place ducking behind different people as the wind seemed to pummel you no matter what direction you ran in, and I continued to hold back until about 2km out when I started to push. At this point, I was fairly sure I’d PB and even when I could have easily gone past one guy with 1km to go, I braked again and ran behind him to shelter myself from the wind knowing that I’d still beat my personal best. Little did I know that that moment of laziness cost me a sub-1:30 finish as I had done much better than expected, finishing in 1:30:07.
All in all, it was a well run race. The strategy of starting with faster runners and then tucking in behind unknowing pacers going a touch slower was, I think, quite masterful. I’m certainly capable of breaking 1:30, given a cold day and a nice flat course like this one, but will I get another opportunity like this? Maybe in Kakamigahara in late March…If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!