Race Review: Sheffield Half Marathon 2022

It’s nice to get the 2022 season started, but I was a bit nervous about this one. For the week and a half leading up to the race I’d been taking a break from my marathon training plan, as my knee was really starting to hurt whenever I ran. During my break I mostly stuck to short treadmill runs and gentle walking, and discovered via lots of prodding with the foam roller / massage gun that the root of my knee pain is in my stiff calves (as ever). By Tuesday last week, I was able to run without pain, but I could still feel where the trouble spots were and so I was a bit worried that the issue would flare up during the race. I just had to wait and see.

Pre-race Sheffield Half Marathon
A little anxious pre-race.

I knew from the elevation map that the first five miles of the race are all uphill, but I didn’t quite expect that there would be no flat reprieves at all during that stretch! It was pretty relentless, and I’d been worried about my leg on the uphills due to it hurting a lot during a short sharp hill in Edinburgh the previous weekend. However, it went the opposite way – the leg held up okay on the uphill section, but it did hurt quite a bit during the remaining eight downhill miles! I had to be really careful to stick to the middle of the road during miles six to eight out in the countryside, as the camber of the outside edges made things worse.

Mentally, I had a bit of a pity party at mile ten. Two years ago, in early March 2020, I was in my best shape ever and achieved my half marathon PB of 2:23:42 at the Inverness half. I was training for the London Marathon and it was going perfectly… and then, boom, COVID, and two years later I’m nowhere near that shape and it feels like I never will be again. I had a real moment of doubt at that ten-mile marker, as it was looking like I wouldn’t even get under three hours, and I wondered why the hell I do this to myself when I’m so pathetically slow and bad at running, and what on earth the point of it all is when I’m always trailing at the back like this, and I’ve always got aches and pains that make the whole thing a bit miserable, and everyone else doing this pace is either much older or much heavier than me, and why can’t I just be average instead of utterly appalling…

And then I had a gel, and gritted my teeth, and picked up the plod for the last three miles, and staggered in at 2:58:44. I must have looked absolutely dead when crossing the line as I was instantly accosted by a first aider with a sopping wet towel, who unceremoniously squeezed most of the water down the back of my neck and sternly told me to keep the towel on until I was out of the finish area. Race volunteers are amazing.

Sheffield Half Marathon medal
It’s one of those medals where the ribbon is far too big and looks out of proportion. Kind of like three-quarters of the medal has gone missing!

Post-race, I’m still treating the dodgy calf (plus the bonus hamstring twinge and the recurring hip issue that has flared up again… it’s a bit of a circus down there), and I’m a little unsure how best to get back to my marathon training plan. The marathon is just under nine weeks away, and I’ve got the competing worries of doing too much too soon (resulting in continued issues with the leg) and not getting back to it quickly enough (resulting in losing fitness and motivation). I need to find some kind of balance, and I’m not 100% sure how to go about it.

I’m really pleased I got this half done though. It was a tough one.

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