Race Recap: Valentine Half Marathon 2024

Roughly this time last year, I had an absolute nightmare race at the Winter Warmer Half Marathon on the Town Moor. It was the last in a series of absolute nightmare races that led me back to the local hospital to request a different treatment for my 2022-diagnosed ankylosing spondylitis, and so I had demons to slay on the Moor. However, I didn’t want to run the Winter Warmer itself this year – it’s a Saturday race and I’m working towards a numerical parkrun nicety that means I can’t miss parkrun until March – so I instead opted for the Run Nation Valentine event, which takes place on the Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day.

I’ve done lapped events held by many different race companies on the Moor (as well as both the old and new courses of Town Moor parkrun, obviously) and it never fails to amuse me how many different routes can be invented to run exactly 5k on the Moor! Half marathons are always four laps plus a weird extra bit. Today’s route was similar to the old pre-COVID parkrun course, but not identical.

Having greeted the friends doing the event (plus the Benchies who came to wish us good luck at the start towards the end of their Sunday run), then shivered on the start line for a while during the ten-minute delay, we were off. I started at roughly nine-minute mile pace, which felt comfortable-ish; I decided to hold it for as long as possible, but expected I would slow by the second half if not before. I knew sub-2 was a possibility (my existing PB was 2:14:52, set at the GNR last September, but I’ve improved a lot in the intervening five months), but would have been happy with a PB of any stripe given that today wasn’t an A race.

Most of my mile splits ended up about 8:50ish. I felt strong, but for some reason couldn’t face fuel or water and so didn’t eat or drink for the whole race (this is something that I think is specific to long distances at race pace, and so I really need to solve it before the marathon itself). I only really started to slow in the last three or four miles, and not by much, going down to about 9:20 minute miles. 11 miles in, I finally allowed myself to do the maths. Sub-2 was on… if I stayed strong, and if (big if!) my watch wasn’t measuring the course too short.

I rallied in mile 12 for a 9 minute mile split, giving me 11 and a half minutes to finish the final 1 point something miles. I still had no idea how big the ‘something’ was going to be by my watch, so I didn’t know how close it was going to be! I pushed hard again for mile 13, but the split came in at 9:20 again, and though I could see the finish line, it still looked a very long way away… so I had to give it everything I had left for the last few hundred yards, still not sure if I was going to be able to hit that magic number. Geth was waiting near the finish and ran in with me, but I hardly knew where I was at that point.

I finished in 1:59:31. I am a sub-2 half marathoner. There were so many years when I thought this would NEVER happen, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet.

I am so happy today.

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