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

Race Report: Southend-on-Sea 10k Classic 2012

I was matching another runner stride for stride.
I doubted I could maintain the current pace.
But I wanted a new personal record and my instinct was to keep up.
I was running in my hometown. The beach and estuary were beside me. The road was lined with loud supporters. Motivation was all around me.
But I could only focus on not slowing, despite my fear of the inevitable. Due to the limited space we weaved between runners that were not keeping pace. My heart rate kept increasing.
I knew my body could manage the hard effort. The possibility of falling back and allowing the other runner to pull away continued to test my concentration.
Then the finish line came into view. I chose to sprint the last metres, my trademark ending.
But I did not feel elated as I often do after a race.


I knew before the starting horn sounded that to get the best out of the race I had to use another runner to pace me. This strategy showed my inexperience and lack of training preparations. I felt I was running close to my maximum and my partner runner offered me a physical reminder of my desire to push my limits.

The race taught me that mental strength and confidence is vital to keep insecurities from negatively affecting performance. The final stretch proved I had more to give. But the loyalty that my partner runner had shown me made me question whether I should have beaten him.

After the race we shook hands. He said he could not have run the race as quick as he did without me. I thanked him for his influence on my race.

The runner was a man over fifty.

He inspired me with his performance. He was proof that, regardless of age, running can bring the best out of everyone. Running a road race is about competition but on this occasion it felt more important that I made a personal connection with another runner.