With about 8 weeks to go before the Perth City to Surf, I decided to commit to the half marathon (21.1km or 13.1 miles) and up the training. My running buddy was training for the full marathon (42.2km or 26.2 miles) so slotting into her long runs was easy. I had worked up to about 30km a week since Blossom was born but had to up the ante a bit to make this a race rather than a run. I included a couple of speed sessions to the week and increased my long runs to bring the weekly total to around 45-50km.
Non-runners don't always understand that "racing" very rarely means "trying to win". It always means trying to achieve a goal, whatever that may be. I had run up until 38 weeks into my pregnancy and started again 3 weeks after Blossom's fairly straight-forward birth so my fitness wasn't that hard to pick back up. I knew I'd worked hard in the lead up to the race and I was in good enough form to break my PB of 1:45:48 from Darlington last year. I had hopes of going sub 1:40. I'd run a 1:43 in training and felt good. The only foreseeable hiccup was the terrain (and maybe the devil that invariably parks on my shoulder screaming doubtful messages during a big event). The Half Marathon of the Perth City to Surf begins uphill, then heads into the beautiful but elevated Kings Park. I hadn't trained on hills at all and didn't really know how to pace up or down the hills.
The race started a little late as we waited for road clearance from the marathon runners. It was drizzling but there was little wind and the temperature was cool. Perfect racing conditions. I was in the first start wave and as a group, we jogged from our marshaling area and surprisingly straight through the start line. That was it, it was on, straight up the first hill, then the next. I found myself becoming disillusioned with my pace uphill so flew down the downhills and was hurting early as a result. Seeing the pain in the faces of some of the marathon runners as we crossed paths (they had started 3 hours prior and some were still only half way through their journey) filled me with empathy. That was pain I would partly understand later in the race.
I'd foolishly written the 5km splits needed for a very ambitious goal time on my hand. When I was out by over a minute for the first, that devil spoke up. The rest of the race would be undulating. Both in terrain and in my mental state. I found another runner whose pace suited me and we stayed pretty close together for the entirety of the course. The hills hurt, my quads were killing me and I was having trouble maintaining the 4:40min/km pace I really wanted to be sitting on. I had a baby who would be ready for a feed waiting for me at the finish line, and I just wanted it to be over.
Somehow I made it to the 20km mark and managed to pick up the pace for the last km. As I headed towards the finish line, my running buddy (who had been waiting for an hour and a half because she finished the marathon in a phenomenal 3:11, and placed 6th female) was yelling "Go Pam!" I was glad someone was there to see me cross the line. Hubby had been busy negotiating public transport with Blossom and amongst the spectators for the 48,000+ competitors, had missed me finish. I stopped my watch at 1:40:55. My official time was 1:41:00. Most people didn't, and won't understand, but I was devastated beyond belief. I had just run a PB by 4 minutes, on a brutal course, 7 months after having a baby and in between breastfeeds, yet I was disappointed I hadn't run my goal time.
Upon reflection, I am proud of my result. I tried my hardest and ran a good time. The act of planning and training for a major event helped pull me out of a low patch, and mental health is the main reason I run, so for that I am grateful. I'm going to lay off racing for a while and enjoy just running for the rest of the year. I've got my sights set on a marathon in 2014, and I'm determined to get that sub 1:40 half that I so desperately wanted from the City to Surf some time soon. I accept that some weeks I won't be able to run as much as I like, and maybe I won't experience my running potential until the kids are a little older and I can put more hours in (but hopefully before my body decides it's a little older though!) but if I can run a marathon and have 3 proud little faces waiting at the finish line, then I'll be a winner.