Fast Thoughts: Racing at Goodwood

I’ve driven to Goodwood, I’ve driven at Goodwood, I’ve worked at Goodwood but I’ve never raced there before. Here’s what that was like.

Arriving there in the morning, I’ve driven there and I’ve been a bucket of nerves for the past week. Its my first half marathon for nearly three years. During that time I’d switched universities, been hit by a lorry and a motorbike, done two 24 go kart races and a few other things in between.

The decision do enter and to do this 4th Half Marathon was inspired by my brother doing a 10k for the charity Mind. In the same way that I’d realised the mental challenges he’d had to overcome I realised now was the time to face some of my own. Since a motorbike accident in October 2016 when I twisted my ankle after being hit by one I had avoided any path that may lead me to doing another half marathon. It was a street I couldn’t go down.

Seeing my brother do the 10k made me realise it was time I finally got my arse in gear in that regard, signed up and booked a half-marathon. Why Goodwood? Two reasons. Firstly, if I was going to make my return to half marathons I wanted to do it on familiar ground. Secondly, cleaner air would mean breathing would be easier and a better time would be possible.

Eight weeks and a few training runs later I was there on the starting grid at Goodwood ready to take part. My goal? First and foremost finish, in under two hours hopefully. Secondly, finish below 1 hour 45 minutes, the truth was though that 20 minutes before the start I had settled into the mindset of ‘Sod it, lets just run’.

So it started, 5 laps of Goodwood does not make a perfect half-marathon so we ran a set distance in the opposite direction in order to even it out. Immediately coming out of this makeshift cone based hairpin my right knee began to show signs of faltering. A few weeks earlier the day after the final round of the BUKC season I had picked up a right knee injury that wasn’t quite pissing off as intended. Less than two miles into this half marathon and here it was, waving at me, ready to rain on me.

Coming round and into the second lap the pain was there, not big but definitely there. So I slowed my pace down, a move that incidentally allowed me to set a quicker time than expected, straightened my legs and tried to find someone to follow.

Weirdly enough, even though I was only doing five laps of the circuit it was remarkably hard to keep track of what lap you were on. I had a chat with a marathon runner who was four laps into his ordeal who agreed. Every lap then, something had to be different, not just waving at my family who were walking along the path going anti-clockwise.

First lap there was a board that said, ‘Tap to go faster’, so I ‘tapped that’, by lap two that was no longer an option as clearly some people had grown irate by its happy go lucky phrase and punched instead. So each circulation became defined by chatting to people, an ultramarathon runner, someone in a wheelchair, the bloke leading the half marathon itself who was lapping me and a Frenchman who had no interest in discussing what lap he was on.

We got there however, but on the final lap my decided that running straight wasn’t really for them. I’m duck legged which means when my knees are straight my feet stick out. To compensate I run with feet straight so my knees point in. Running clockwise means that you’re always putting more weight and lean on the right leg so the left trucks along and the right takes some lateral load. On the last lap it appears this became rather monotonous for them so they went to jelly, oh dear.

Coming onto the back straight to say I was confused A F would be an understatement. The rest of my body was in good health, knee pain was gone and no stitch but my legs were on holiday somewhere else going through Woodcote and into the chicane. Despite this I was able to summon up enough discipline to coax them into an emotional sprint finish (see the cover photo).

What was my time then? It was a personal best actually, a 1 hour 38 minutes and 14 seconds, 29th out of 266 half marathon runners.

One though : you mentioned how slowing down at the start made you go faster?

Ah yes, you see with these runs I have a habit of going far too fast at the start and overtaking a lot of people. This results in a great first half but terribly slow second. The knee pain made me change my pace, not get fussed when people overtook me but importantly kept my speed consistent over the distance. As such I found myself overtaking people at mile 11 and 12 who had take me in miles 1 and 2.

Next up?: The London to Brighton Bike Ride on June 16th.

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