Today was the day that I finally got that Half Marathon monkey off my back! (Pardon the pun)

About a year ago I was booked in to run my first Half Marathon. But due to a lingering bout of the flu, that didn’t quite go to plan. And ever since that day something (timing, injury, a party the night before which included free wine) has always got in the way of me being able to tick one off the list.

But that all changed today and I’m no longer a Half Marathon virgin. My cherry has been officially popped!

And what a beautiful Brisbane winters day it was. Running temperatures in the low teens with clear blue skies and a slight breath of wind to take the edge off those hot bodies. And what a display of bodies! This is exactly why I love these events and this sport. There are all shapes, sizes, ages and genders having a crack and looking for a new PB. They all have a story to tell and man, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I was passed by people running with their dogs, an old Chinese lady that looking like she was about 70 and a young fella dressed as Darth Vader, complete with light saber. Thankfully I caught up to and passed the guy pushing the pram, as I can’t stand being prammed!

Oh and some terms you may need to remember for future running related posts include:

• Chicked – being passed by a female runner

• Prammed – being passed by someone pushing a pram

• Chicked and prammed – being passed by a female runner pushing a pram

• Dogged – being passed by someone running with their dog

• Chicked, prammed and dogged – the ultimate embarrassment for a highly competitive male runner

Thank you to Matt Archer for broadening my vocabulary when I first started running.

The course takes in all the sites of Brisbane city including the Botanical Gardens, Story Bridge, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Southbank, West End, Go Between Bridge and the bicentennial bikeway. However unlike the Gold Coast Half Marathon this course has some interesting hills and undulations which you may find tricky if you haven’t been doing your hill training sessions. The run starts with a climb up Margaret Street and then weaves its way through the city towards another climb up Ivory Street and over the Story Bridge. This is where it gets a bit tight and highlights the importance of starting with similar paced runners.

Once you get over the bridge the paths widen and you can once again comfortably settle into your own pace. From there you can take in the sites as you run along the Kangaroo Point cliffs, Southbank and past the State Library heading out towards West End. The next challenge comes at about the 13km mark when you’re faced with the rolling hills of Montague Rd. This seemed to take the edge off a lot of runners with others following my plan of surging the hills and catching my breath on the way down. It was also at this point that the little Chinese lady sailed past me in a puff of smoke.

At the 15km mark you’re presented with the Go Between Bridge climb. It was steep, but thankfully relatively short and once over the top you got a nice long downhill onto the Bicentennial Bikeway heading towards Milton. This once again got a little squishy as hundreds of runners jostled for position along the bikeway in both directions. However, it all added to the atmosphere of the day and the challenge that is the Brisbane Half marathon.

My plan for the day was:

• Start on a 5:30min/km pace as I know I can comfortably hold this pace for the entire race.

• Drink at every aid station except the last one and make sure that I make up any lost time immediately after the station to ensure that I at least keep to the 5:30min/km pace.

• Work the hills and take advantage of the downhills to potentially put a few seconds in the bank each km.

• Manage my lingering foot injury. It seems to present itself around the 15km mark. So at that stage if it’s feeling ok I’ll pick up the pace slightly. Plan B – keep the same pace or slow down as required to keep foot in check.

• At the 17 to 18km mark pick up speed no matter what the foot’s doing and finish strong. (Suck it up) Revert to plan B if it really starts hurting.

What happened I hear you ask?

Things all went to plan up to the 15km mark and I guestimated I had about a minute up my sleeve so if I needed to slow down due to my injury I could, and still be on target. As per the plan I tried to pick up the pace slightly. Unfortunately the foot started to get worse so I had to revert to plan B and slow things down for the next km. However at the 17km mark I felt ok and decided to stretch it out over the last few kms. It started to hurt again but thankfully held together long enough to finish the race in a time of 1:53hr.

So what did I learn from this first experience?

Start slow and build into it: 21.1km is a freakin long way. So there’s no need to get too excited and smash yourself in the first 10kms. Watch your times, build slowly and finish strong.Karl - Brisbane Marathon

Start with similar paced runners: this way you don’t have to fight your way through the pack when pathways narrow. Stick to “your” race plan: try not to get carried away in the excitement of the occasion and run with the crowd. You have no idea who’s running along side or in front of you. And you definitely don’t know what their plan is. They could be aiming for a sub 1:40hr and if your best time is 2:10hrs, you could be following them into a world of pain. Set yourself a pace, a plan and keep to it. And always have a plan B incase plan A doesn’t pan out.

Keep an eye on your hydration and nutrition: know your sweat levels, keep hydrated and take advantage of the water, electrolytes and gels (if that’s your form of nutrition) along the way. Grab something from each aid station, even if it’s just a quick splash.

Enjoy the run: despite having a plan A and a plan B, just go out there and enjoy the run. If you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful city like Brisbane then you’d be a fool not to take in the sights, the smells and the atmosphere of the day. Have a laugh at the smell of Dencorub that lingers in the car park lifts when you arrive, thank the people volunteering at the aid stations who have given their time to make sure you’re hydrated, and give a thumbs up or a high five to the random stranger ringing a cow bell that yells out “go Karl”, and don’t forget to have a chat to your fellow runner along the way.

The next time I’ll run a half marathon will be in 6 weeks and part of a greater challenge I set myself 6 months ago – the Sunshine Coast 70.3. Between then and now I have lots more swimming, riding and running to do, but not before I enjoy two days’ worth of sleep ins. ☺

Keep Smiling Tri Monkeys

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