pic of senate building in Cambridge

Training for the Cambridge Half Marathon

I have a somewhat odd relationship with this half marathon. It’s going to be my first and emotionally it keeps doing the roller coaster thing to me.

A year ago I stood on the street, cheering folks on for the 2014 Cambridge Half Marathon. I joined a bunch of friends in the pub afterwards to congratulate them on their run. I was greatly impressed with their feats of speed and endurance but couldn’t imagine that I would be able to run that kind of distance. However, as the year progressed I ran a few more 10K runs and thought well, maybe it might be possible. I just need to run 10K twice and then a bit more. That doesn’t sound too much does it? Well of course it does and I vacillated endlessly between a whiff of hopefulness and oceans of despair.

The pendulum swung back toward the positive just before Christmas (2014) when I went out one day, felt good and so just kept on running. By some miracle I had managed the 21K so knew that the half marathon couldn’t frighten me anymore. The dark despair would be vanquished and I could skip happily on my way to a triumphant finish in the Cambridge Half Marathon. A couple of weeks later the pendulum has swung back and so I set off out once more to see if I could repeat the feat. Sure enough I did manage it (as detailed in this blog post ) but suffered for several hours afterwards from what must have been either water or nutrient deficiency. I’d done the distance twice but still wasn’t sure I could do it again so had to strap on the running shoes and prove that it wasn’t just a couple of flashes in the pan.

I prepared myself for the cold (running tights, long sleeved top, jacket and hat) and ventured out. There was a bitter cold wind and occasional flurries of rain. It was anything but a cheery day but I was a man with a plan. I had my map of the Cambridge Half Marathon route so intended to run down to the city centre, once around the route and then back again. It felt rough at first but it always does. I went over the cycle bridge cursing the biting wind and preponderance of grey and dismal clouds. I was also cursing the nagging pain from the hamstring injury at Parkrun yesterday and hoping that it didn’t get any worse. I trotted down the other side down the road and turned left toward Chesterton. I was trying to decide whether to cross the river at the Green Dragon bridge or the new bridge further down. I decided on the one further down and then looked up and found myself by the Green Dragon pub about to cross the bridge. Oh well. Down the side of the river there are lots of people running even now at 08:30 on a  dismal Sunday. They are all going much faster than me. I try to kid myself that maybe they are not running as far as I am but with the Cambridge Half Marathon only a few weeks away it’s a good bet that most of the people I see are also training for the same run.

I run on to Cambridge and stumble across what will be the start of the half marathon at Victoria Avenue. The route stays quite close to Cambridge City centre. It’s 6 miles long and we’ll be doing it twice on the day with an extra twiddly bit at the end to get the extra mile. I’m feeling good and eating up the miles. I hesitate as I run up Kings Parade. Do I turn right at the Senate Building. I pull out the map. It looks like I do. Running toward Jesusgel pic Green I decide to try out the gel. Richard has given me a gel to try. These are the ones that they will be handing out at the drinks stations during the half marathon. I rip off the top and suck down the contents. It tastes incredibly sweet, sticky and fairly unpleasant. I know there needs to be a lot of sugar in these things but surely there’s some way of disguising it a little. Ah well – I’m pretty sure it’ll provide the energy I need but during this run I’m wishing that I’d brought along some water with which to wash it down.

I finish the 6 mile section around Cambridge and head for home. I’m flagging a little now and I know my pace has dropped quite considerably. I’m still confident I can get home.

Several kilometres later I arrive home and it’s much less of a drama than last time I did over 21 kilometres. I ran 22 and a half kilometres but I’m still standing and have enough energy to do my stretches and then go to soak in the bath. For now I’m happy and confident as regards finishing the half marathon but I strongly suspect that those doubts will creep back in once more.

Footnote – The hamstring injury didn’t bother me much at all during this run. I kept my stride short and the pace was fairly gentle. I must do a little searching on the net to find out how to look after this injury and hopefully strengthen it to stop it happening again.

You can view the details of this run on Strava

2 thoughts on “Training for the Cambridge Half Marathon”

  1. Congrats on another good long run Jim. It’s nice to read how you got on and to hear that yesterday’s Parkrun injury didn’t get in the way. You made a wise decision to pull over at Parkrun and save your legs. That’s the game we all now have to play if we feel any niggles – if we want to be fit for the Cambridge half.

    So you managed 22.5 k -well done. We (myself and some of the guys from Up and Running) also went for some distance this morning at 10 o’clock. We covered 9.75 miles – 15.7km but at quite a pace. We had intended to run a slow one, but the person who had requested this didn’t come along in the end….. so Darryl led us of at race pace for a 1:50 half marathon. I didn’t keep that pace up for long though.

    I’m pleased to hear you got on OK with the High5 Gel. I would have given you two if I’d known your plans for the distance. I also took one after 5.5 miles – really just to test my stomach with it. I’m glad I did try is as I had a stomach ache at about a mile afterwards. Could be a coincidence, so I’ll try one again next weekend.

    Yes, they are tricky to open and don’t taste great. Practicing opening them on the move is also worthwhile in these test runs, so you don’t have to stop running to take one on the big day.
    On the half marathon drink and feed (Gel) stations are roughly every 2.3 miles, so you can grab some water at the same time to wash it down – for me also on the last half, I used the water to wash the stickiness off my hands after a spillage on opening the Gel. Darryl and I are running the half together and have planned to take a Gel and water at every other station.

    You could start to taper back the distance in a couple of weeks (I, myself still need to get to the 13.1 miles), so that your legs have time to recover for March 8th.

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