Returning Home to Improve Half Marathon

12 June 2016

I ran a number of strides as a warm-up.
But the race start was delayed.
I stayed calm at the front of the field then ran a fast first mile in 5:47 along residential streets.
I passed many runners despite my calf muscles aching from the second mile.
I ignored the water stations as I continued to advance my race position.
As the weather became overcast I saw my supporters.
The crowds were loud at times, some cheering me as “Runner 763” and praising my “good running”.
On the second lap my legs felt fatigued. Rather than slow I alternated my foot strike to challenge different muscles. Running flat footed helped keep the pace consistent.
Closing in on the final few miles I used a soaking wet sponge to moisten my head and face, which felt excessively dry.
I battled with two runners over the final stretch but ultimately came up short.
I still managed a final sprint across the grass before collecting my medal.


The race was my second Southend Half Marathonand my fifth half marathon. The experience brought back fond memories of my first ever road race in 2011.

I felt pressure to ensure I improved my performance, although I contained my nerves. My training had gone well, culminating in a 9-mile run in 57:40 (6:25 per mile pace) three weeks prior. I felt confident and despite the cool conditions, I began the race strong. The significant pain in my calf muscles was a concern, but I coped well throughout the race.

I maintained a steady, fast pace throughout the flat course and was extremely pleased with my finishing time of 1:22:50 (6:19 per mile pace), shaving over 6 minutes off my personal best. I finished in 29th position out of almost 2,000 runners (18th in my age category).

I was also proud of raising £140 for Havens Hospices, the local charity that organised the event. The day proved again that my hometown brings the best racing out of me.

Southend Half Marathon 2016 finish

Book Review: Marathon Man by Rob Young

Anything can ignite your dream

Rob Young, an ex-soldier and former youth triathlete for Great Britain, undertakes an incredible journey to test his endurance. His quest to break the record for the most marathons in one year is inspired by a ridiculous bet made with his fiancée. His drive comes from his desire to improve the lives of underprivileged children.

Based in London, Young begins running in the early mornings around Richmond Park.

He soon loses weight, suffers knee pain and sleep deprivation as he balances a full-time job and family commitments.

He then broadens his challenge by running official marathon races across the UK, including Halstead, Milton Keynes, Coniston and London. He also runs ultramarathons such as the North Downs Way 100, Equinox 24-hour race and the Race to the Stones.

As he does not have his own car he relies on public transport, friends and strangers to get to and from races. His impulsive personality and lack of preparation in fuelling and accommodation means he often gets lost, on and off the race course.

He ends his adventure by running the Race Across America, a 3,080-mile route starting in California and ending at the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia. Young suffers throughout the race, disagreeing with the organisers and being forced to rest after his left leg swells.

Overall, from April 2014 until June 2015, Young completes an extraordinary 420 marathons/ultramarathons in 420 days.

No challenge is without consequence

Despite his remarkable feat there are some negative repercussions. Young loses valuable family time, which strains the relationship with his fiancée.

He tests his friendships as he requires countless massages and physiotherapy, as well as a place to stay once he loses his job and his flat. The expense of the endeavour is high because of the extra food he needs, often calorie-dense meals and high in fat.

Your past never has to hold you back

As a child he is severely abused by his father, physically and psychologically. Although horrific, Young claims the experience taught him to control the pain with visualisation and to better appreciate his life.

He raises over £200,000 for charities close to his heart, including the NSPCC, Dreams Come True and Great Ormond Street Hospital.


Accomplishing a dream

Young completes his mission (and breaks the record) by following a sensible strategy: race the first half, then taper off in the second half. He has fun and takes a laid back approach to reduce the stress. He also provides valuable running tips such as run downhill with arms at ear height for better steering and reduce pace in order to effectively absorb calories.

Young’s story is an extreme example of how a person can transform from couch potato to relentless endurance athlete.