As the weeks pass by the reality that Vienna Marathon is now less than 7 weeks away is exciting and slightly daunting. Another week at home meant 3 of this weeks 4 runs had been all around the realative flatness of The village where I live which was a nice change. This was made even more appealing due to the fact I found a new route, through a park, dissecting the village in two. This really helped as I was at the risk of becoming stale running the same routes regularly however as with everything there is a down side. Recently I have become increasing more frustrated during my runs in the playing the game of dodging the dog dirt, even unknowingly trailing some in the house after a 16 mile run. This is even more frustrating as you don’t really want to be bending down cleaning floors of dog dirt after such a distance, inconsiderate and hugely frustrating but less of the negativity. 3 runs through the week with not much to write about other than I have been very disciplined and when easy runs were planned I’ve consciously made an effort to slow down.
As the week progressed I started to focus on the fact my long run on Sunday was my first race of the year the Great North West half marathon in Blackpool. This is when the talking stops and I begin to find out how my training has been going. I’ve been running consistently in training and producing strong times however training and races as we know are different animals. As Sunday grew closer and the weather in Merseyside deteriorated I allowed myself to look at the predicted weather for Blackpool…big mistake. 50mph winds and heavy rain!! Awful, I can handle rain but running through gale force winds is soul destroying. It didn’t matter though, however the weather I was committed to the race and with a mixture of excitement and nerves I went through my pre race routine the night before.
1) Spaghetti Bolognaise for tea
2) Layout my clothes like the first day of school. Including my new Bolton Hospice Running Vest the charity I’m supporting this next 12 months.
3) Organise breakfast for the morning on the race
4) Reasonably early night.
After a decent night sleep, a pre race bath to loosen the legs and a final check on the predicted weather we headed off up the M6 to Blackpool…it wasn’t looking good
I put this to the back of my mind and we arrived in Good time and headed to registration. It was mild and off the promenade front and behind the buildings the wind wasn’t too bad however upon reaching registration this changed. Registration was located on the lower prom and I realised quickly there was going to be no hiding from the fact today’s race would be heavily influenced by the wind. This disappointed me slightly due to the fact of earmarked this race as a potential PB run and secretly I’d harboured hopes of beating my previous 1:38:05 which I’d set at Liverpool half marathon in March 2015.
I went through my final preparations, said goodbye to my wife And I lined up ready to attck what ever Blackpool had to throw at me. As I was finishing my final stretches and preparations I met a guy I went to university with and had not seen for 16 years stood across from me, bizarre! After a few minutes catching up on 16 years the race apparently started but I was confused…no real start line…just a mass ‘Off you go’ this left me thinking where do I start my watch?? Where do I start Strava?? Before I’d even started my planning was going belly up and rather quickly!! So I started both my watch and Strava and began to weave my way through the mass of runners where I could. This added more to my frustrations and I’d decided my slight hopes of a PB had definitely gone now for sure!
The first 3 miles were two smaller loops of the promenade towards North Pier. After 1 mile I’d found my pace and thankfully some space so down went my head and my focus was on the mile I was in. The main body of the race was 2 loops of the promenade up to little Bispam and from approx miles 3-6 the wind was behind us. At this point I was as I say, fair trapping, under 7 minute miles and comfortable. It was at this point I also realised I’d started my watch and Strava around the correct time as my starva notifications and the mile markers I passed were roughly in sync. As I grew into the race I was gaining in confidence as my minutes per mile were consistent until I turned off the sea front onto the upper promenade! Bang… Here all of a sudden I was hit by a gust of wind that nearly floored me. This was a sign of what the next 2.5 miles had in store, a real eye opener!! The next 2.5 miles were undulating and through the worst winds I’ve ever experienced. People were tucking in behind each other and plodding however I’d eyes on a PB so couldn’t be held back. Now rightly or wrongly I became ill-Disciplined, I left the pack, went head on with the wind and pushed though on my own. Some may say silly however for me to get close to my PB needs must!
The winds at times were that bad I felt I was going backwards however as I hit 15km at 1:06:30 I knew I was on for a PB. This was helped with my wife encouraging me on and as I battled through the wind past her and another group of fantastic spectators I exclaimed “I’ve paid for this privilege”They found its funny…I didn’t!
As the corner was turned back onto the lower promenade I knew I had a couple of miles to gain back some ground. So as the waves hammered the sea wall which made the sea spray inevitable I foucssed on the mile in hand and pushed on. It was here I drew inspiration from what I saw in from of me a lady who according to her T-Shirt is called Netty. Netty is 47 and had lost 60lbs of which she was quite rightly proud. As I passed her I shouted well done and high fived her, she may not have been the fastest there but she did it and ultimately it’s not how fast you get there it’s the getting there that counts. People like Netty are an inspiration and she inspired me to push on. Again I turned off the lower prom at little Bispam, up to the upper prom, on my second loop I knew the finish was close if not quite in sight, my battle was nearly won. Battered by the winds, miles 11 and 12 fell by the wayside and all of a sudden the end was in sight, I could see my goal. Every step now was beginning to hurt but my PB was close to being smashed so I had to push on. As I finally crossed the finish line into the funnels a quick glance to my left and I became emotional, again!! I’d done it, through the worst conditions I’d ever ran,I’d broken my half marathon PB.
As I struggled to get my breath and my wife rushed over to greet me I was emotional the announcer congratulated runner 88 Matt Bowman running for Bolton hospice and all I could say was “I’ve bloody done, I’ve beaten it, I’ve done it!” 1:37:39 a good 29 seconds off my last best, absolutely chuffed to bits!! Made sweeter with the fact I finished the 107th runner out of a starting field of 1600 runners. After collecting my goodie bag, with a great medal, me and the wife made the decision to head straight home. We were both cold and tired, Blackpool had taken it out of us! but we were both proud of what I’d achieved. There was however time to stop at a rock shop on the way home…the wife was even happier then!!
Blackpool was my first big test this year and with 7 weeks till my first marathon of the year I was hoping for a positive result. There are things I’d probably do slightly different if I race that route again however it’s left me thinking I’m going in the right direction to achieve my goals on 10th April in Vienna. So roll on next weeks runs and 20/22 miles next Saturday however for now I will enjoy the moment and my medal from my fastest half marathon yet!! Happy days