Tagged: Half-marathon

Kakamigahara Half-Marathon Race Recap

I live in Kakamigahara so this was my local race. The first race I ever did was the Kakamigahara 10K, back in 2011. This year they added a half-marathon to the already popular 10K and 3K.

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One month earlier I set a 1:30:07 PB on a freezing, snowy day in Inuyama. To beat that, and go sub-30, I prepared an ambitious plan of progressively faster intervals starting at 4:25/km pace and finishing at 4:00/km. The running app on my phone gave me feedback so I knew exactly how I was doing.

This was the first race I’ve ever done that started in the afternoon. In fact, it started at 1:00pm with the sun beating down upon us. Temperatures soared to 19C and the cloud that was forecast never came. The only reprieve was a cool breeze.

I lined up nearish the front, but the start was crowded and slow. I did the first kilometer in 4:58, which already put me 33 seconds off pace. The next 9 kilometers fluctuated between 4:16 and 4:23, giving me a 43:53 first 10K. Not bad, only 20 seconds behind schedule, but I wasn’t comfortable at all. My mouth was dry and I really didn’t feel like I could go much faster. So much for running a negative split!

The first of four water stations wasn’t until about 9km. I took two gulps and poured the rest on my head. I was way behind my teammate Sako-san, who even when taking it slowly after a 6-hour trail race the previous week could easily cruise through a half in under 1:30. At the turn around, I was about two minutes ahead of Nathaniel, and Keith was a few minutes behind him.

The second 10K took me about 46:30. I felt heavy legged, and while the massage insoles I had put in my shoes were doing a remarkable job of preventing my usual ball-of-foot pain, I was getting nasty blisters on my toes. My calves, too were starting to fail me, and I really felt like I was plodding along. I even found myself in a mid-race chat with Tsubouchi-san, who runs in a Pikachu hat. He knew me from YouTube and actually appeared in one of my other race videos.

I wasn’t at all surprised that I had fallen so far behind pace, but I became increasing concerned about how I will fair in next month’s full marathon in Kakegawa. I will need to average 4:59 to go sub-3:30 there, and here I was running 4:45s at the end of a mostly flat half-marathon!

The one big hill in kilometer 20 agonizingly put me over 5:00/km pace, but I had just enough in reserve to run a 4:28 final kilometer. That burst of speed, although not quite the 4-minute kilometer I had planned, was enough to get me in under 1:35:00. I ran 1:34:53 to be exact, my fourth fastest half-marathon time.

Nathaniel and Keith also struggled, but kudos to another teammate, Mariko, for knocking 5 minutes off her 10K PB.

I will be hoping for a cool, cloudy day in Kakegawa next month. I will conjure up a more realistic race plan for that one and share it with you here in advance.

My Half-Marathon Masterpiece

Before yesterday’s Inuyama Yomiuri Half-Marathon, I said I’d set out at PB pace and just see how I felt. But there was much more to my strategy than that.

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Months earlier when choosing which races to run in the new year, I deliberately chose to run a 10K before each half-marathon. Last week’s 10K in Kani City was the perfect tune-up race for yesterday’s Half because, despite the longer distance, I’d be running slower than the week before and it would therefore feel easier.

When registering for the Half, all those months ago, we had to pick which wave to start in, depending on our goal. Since my PB was 1:31:54, I picked the first wave, filled with people aiming for a sub 1:28 time. Yes, that was perhaps overambitious, but I knew from last year’s race that if I didn’t start up front I’d get caught up among thousands of people squeezed into a single lane. When race day came, my wave set off with the elite runners and four minutes before the second wave. I was immediately moved into running faster than I did when I PB’d in the 10K a week earlier!

Had it been a warm day, I would have overheated and died by the 4km mark, but in the bitter cold and freezing wind, I was able to keep up before coming to my senses and realizing that even though I had been going as fast as 4:03/km pace and felt good, I absolutely would not be able to hold that for 21km. It was then that I put on the brakes and tucked in behind a big guy running at just under 4:20 pace, perfect for blocking the wind and pacing me to a PB!

When my pacer pulled over at the first water station I found another guy to keep me going. He was only half my height, and not nearly as good at blocking the wind – I had to put my cap on backwards so it wouldn’t blow off! I stuck to my new pacer like glue until the 16km mark when I felt I was fairing better than he was and so moved past him.

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I took advantage of the last water station and did that trick where you pinch the top of the paper cup together and drink from one corner. This meant that I didn’t throw water all over my face which would have been hell in the freezing wind and I didn’t lose much time, either.

Over the the last few kilometers, I ran all over the place ducking behind different people as the wind seemed to pummel you no matter what direction you ran in, and I continued to hold back until about 2km out when I started to push. At this point, I was fairly sure I’d PB and even when I could have easily gone past one guy with 1km to go, I braked again and ran behind him to shelter myself from the wind knowing that I’d still beat my personal best. Little did I know that that moment of laziness cost me a sub-1:30 finish as I had done much better than expected, finishing in 1:30:07.

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All in all, it was a well run race. The strategy of starting with faster runners and then tucking in behind unknowing pacers going a touch slower was, I think, quite masterful. I’m certainly capable of breaking 1:30, given a cold day and a nice flat course like this one, but will I get another opportunity like this? Maybe in Kakamigahara in late March…