Monday, 28 October 2013

Race report: The Gun Run - 13 October 2013



Since I ran the 2 Oceans Half Marathon 2 years ago I have done everything in my power to avoid extremely popular half marathon road races. All I had heard about The Gun Run is that it is loaded with so many people that, if you want to run fast, you will be dodging lampposts the whole way. I had absolutely no intention of entering but, 3 days before the race, a colleague pulled out and offered a free spot so I thought it would be a good opportunity to push a half marathon and see if my focus on speed training has helped at all. This would be my first road race since 2 Oceans Ultra, so I dug out the tights, singlet and New Balance 1080's and headed out to pound some pavement.


Cruising down beach road (too much heel strike?)
(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/running.photograph)
The Gun Run (http://thegunrun.co.za) is a race that any self-respecting runner in the Western Cape has done at some point. It is a scenic flat run that takes place as soon as Spring has sprung. For those that took it easy in winter it is a wake-up call as road running season begins and for those who kept the training up in the wet and cold, it is a rewarding opportunity for a PB. Approximately 8,000 people take part in the half-marathon and another 8,000 do the 10km (and about a gazillion do the 5km) which makes it one of the biggest events in the country.

I was petrified of starting at the back so got to the starting line excessively early. I could have started right at the front but thought I would leave that to the serious chaps (and the arrogants) and positioned myself about 10 metres into the crowd. This strategy resulted in the toughest part of the whole race in that with 20 minutes to go I started needing the porta-loo badly but, after turning around and seeing the 8,000 strong crowd, I decided to hop it out. At 7am the cannon fired and we were off past the Cape Town Stadium. My early arrival worked well and I didn't lose too much time finding my comfortable position.

I had done a good recon of the route beforehand and I run around the area often so I have a pretty good idea of the distances. It is a pretty flat course with the only hill up Kloof road which is not really much to worry about. I don't do many half-marathons so I was keen to beat my PB of 1h47 which I set at Milkwood in March. In the week building up I had planned to get under 1h45 but then I made a bet with one of the guys at TAGG CrossFit on Saturday that he would do a burpee for every 10 seconds I came in under 1h40 (and I would have to do the same for every 10 seconds I was over). So that confirmed a new goal, I would be shooting for my first sub-100 half.

My strategy was to split it into thirds of 7km each and try get each one under 33min (3 x 33 = 99 = sub-100). This means an average pace of 4:43/km. I started decently with the only hiccup being a toilet break about 3km in (it was the longest passing of water ever). Running from the stadium out past the lighthouse and through around the side of the Waterfront I was feeling good. My first split was 34:09 so I was a bit over but I put that down to a slow first km and the toilet break. I was feeling good and ready to push.

The next leg takes you back into the stadium precinct past the McDonalds and then back onto beach road. There were loads of people around here and the atmosphere was electric so you don't even think about feeling tired, you just go for it. In trail running you can draw your energy from the incredible surroundings but on the road it is the people and the vibe that get you to that line. The next split was at the top of the hill on Kloof road which I hit in 33:08. I was happy with this as it was pretty much downhill from there. I basically then had just over a minute to make up on my last third which I knew was the easiest part of the race.

Down past Camps Bay High School was quick and refreshing. I ate my only nougat of the race and was ready to push the last bit. I let loose and was chuffed to see I was passing people (not something that I get to experience often as usually I start races too fast and the last 4km I have nothing left in me). I managed to finish strong and comfortable and was psyched to see my time of 1:36:55. A full 3 minutes under what started out as an ambitious goal and negative splits on the way home. I made up 3 minutes on that last third which I did in 29:38 and also somewhere in there I got my second quickest 5km time ever. Conclusion: the speed training is helping.

Below is a an illustration of how I did. I was happy to keep fairly consistent the whole way with the only real blips being my P break and the Kloof road hill. I really dipped under the average at the end there which felt really good.

Pace per km vs average



Pushing for the sub-100
(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/running.photograph)
So with a new PB by 10 minutes I can definitely say it was a great race. What added to this was the incredible weather which made the amazing scenery that much more enjoyable. Also it is an exceptionally well organised event which just makes everything so much better. I am glad I have ticked it off my list and will definitely do it again one day...maybe when I feel I am ready to shoot for sub-90.

Race summary As a benchmark I usually look to get inside the top 33% of the field. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%. I think I should change this for road races though.

Distance:    21.1km
Time:          1:36:55 (33min behind winner)
Position:      401/5341 (7.5%)




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