Welwyn Half

Wait a minute? What does a wimpy half marathon race do on this tough going ultramarathon blog? Well, first of all, it's a sign of life. I haven't given up running altogether. Second, this half marathon took place in Welwyn, my home of the past seven years. And third, believe it or not, but this was my first ever half marathon! That's right, nearly 16 years after my first marathon, someone finally managed to convince me to try the half distance. That someone was my wife, who decided to get back into the running business herself, after not have worn trainers for more than a decade. Jianmei thought it would be fun to race together again and besides, there was a £150 cash prize at the finish line!

And so we both lined up at the start line of the inaugural Welwyn Half Marathon, on the track at Gosling Sports Park. The track which is normally off limits to me. Gosling charges an £8 admission fee and are unwilling to make any exceptions to anyone who hasn't qualified for the Olympic Games. Really, that's what they told me when I asked for free access back when I was winning medals at international championships. Anyway, off we went and I quickly found myself at the front of the pack with a strong looking runner who I later found out to be Kent AC's Tim Lawrence. We chatted a bit and Tim told me he wanted to run 1h17'. I thought I should be able to do better than that and pulled away from him after a mile or so. All I wanted to do was win because I had promised so much to Jianmei.

After 5 miles I had established a comfortable lead of maybe 200 metres. We ran through the 'AL7' postcode area towards Hertford, followed the old railroad-track-turned-bike path for a while, then turned back to Welwyn along the Old Coach Road. The sun was shining and I should have had fun, but I wasn't feeling comfortable at all. I remembered why I have always avoided short races like this: you never get any time to catch your breath! I was constantly looking over my shoulder to check my lead and, much to my dismay, it wasn't getting bigger. If anything, the guy was getting closer. For a moment, I thought he would catch me but I managed to hold him off and after an agonizing 1h15'56", I crossed the finish line in first place, a mere 20 seconds ahead of Tim Lawrence. Not a great time (my halfway split time in the marathon used to be 8 minutes faster!), but the best I could have hoped for with this shape, on a fairly windy and hilly course, and all by myself. Anyway, all's well that ends well. Jianmei finished in 1h48', which is amazing after just a few weeks of training. I received the prize and that's all that matters in life, isn't it?
First prize: enough money to pay for 18 runs on the Gosling track!

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