• Thomas Alexander

Perth Half Marathon 2021 - Race Report

For some people, racing is purely about the times, but my key goal this year was to enjoy running and the experiences both in training and races, with any times or achievements being the icing on the cake! mmm.. cake. Another West Australian Marathon Club event, Perth Half Marathon runs along the south side of the Swan River, over the Narrows Bridge, down towards the University of Western Australia and then doubles back on itself so a very flat course prime for some good times (in both meanings of the word).

There was also a small diversion just after 2km to avoid the great floods of 2021

Race Morning - The Perfect Storm

Now I'm not saying that West Australians exaggerate the smallest weather events, so when I explain that yesterday was like the running version of that Kevin Costner movie, The Perfect Storm, you get the picture. I realise some of you will now need to take an extra hour and a half out of your day to go and watch a B-grade movie for this blog to make sense but if you can do it on work-time, you're welcome. I'm sure I wasn't the only one refreshing the weather app on their phone throughout the night and checking Facebook to make sure the race hadn't been cancelled in the morning.


The last time I checked the forecast was for 45km/h WSW winds with stronger gusts, a 98% chance of rain and 11 degrees, with a feel of 8 degrees, so basically a balmy English summer's day. As part of my 2021 plans, the worse the weather, the better the adventure, so perversely, this was great news to me but sadly, despite my prayers, there was no snow - although in time, my recollection of the day might include that but safe to say it was definitely most moist.


I arrived in plenty of time although underestimated how many people would be there (close to 1000 all for the half) and couldn't figure out where the free parking was so ended up close by for the bargain of $20 for two hours - literally nothing is cheap about running any not more despitewhat you probably tell your partner. Had enough time for a quick chat with familiar faces, a toilet stop and then we all funnelled out of the warmth to the start line. I self-seeded a few rows back from the elites with the aim of trying to find a similarly paced group in the first couple of kms to sit with. The start:

The Outward Leg

The outward leg.. I may have just named a yoga, or karma sutra, pose, but I had no real idea what to expect in terms of pace for the first half of the race, mostly into the wind. The start was very civilised without much jostling for position. I let the fast guys, and girl, run fast (by which I mean they disappeared into the distance) and after about 2km sat in with a group of about 8 other runners including Mackenzie Burgoyne who I knew was aiming for roughly the same, or a bit quicker pace, than me.

A very civilised start!

The group worked really well together into the ferocious (and this time I'm not exaggerating) headwind and rolled through turns for the next few kilometres down to the Narrows Bridge. I had some gels with me but unfortunately splashed some form of electrolyte drink in my face and over myself at the aid station thinking it was water - my fault for having headphones in and not hearing what they called out. Sticky! The group lost a couple of lads (maybe to freak waves from the river?) along the way and as we turned to run over the bridge there were six brave warriors left. Pace had been mostly between 3:40 and 3:50min/km but up and over the bridge on the really exposed section was hard work and a couple of kilometres dropped to 4mins.


Almost running in a huddle to minimise the wind, there were a few clipped heels after we turned to head out for the UWA loop but luckily no one went down. The lead runners came past headed the opposite direction on this stretch too and is there anything worse for making you feel slow than watching them fly by? Super fast!


Homeward Bound

At the turn-around cone I slightly rolled my left ankle in a clumsy attempt to avoid slipping over, it didn't hurt but I started getting pins and needles in my foot which was odd. Another soul dropped off our group and by the time we were back to the bridge a couple had also gone off the front and I was in a group of three. I think we must have had a tailwind at that stage but was still pretty harsh from the side at times which assisted in pushing me off the path and through the mud. Yes, I wanted to immediately take my shoes off and wash them as I'm OCD about clean shoes, but I tried to ignore the impulses and we settled back into a good pace. I had checked an online calculator which said 3:50/km would be 1hour 20 and was pretty happy with this as a goal by this stage of the race and seemed achievable.

6km to go, back on the south side of the river

By this stage, my left foot was nearly completely numb and felt like it weighed 20 kilograms. No pain, quite the opposite, but a really weird and annoying feeling but I tried to put it out of my mind and some good songs on the playlist helped given I have such an easily distracted mind!


It was still just light rain and the last few kilometres ticked by uneventfully. At 2km to go, with the diversion back through the carpark to avoid the flooded section, our group of three split and we all fell into our own paces for the final stages. My last two kilometres were a 3:41 and a 3:37 and finished averaging 3:50/km exactly but.. that gave me 1 hour 20 minutes and 52 seconds, stupid online calculator!

Finish lines feel good no matter where you are

Aftermath

I'm cursed with a natural inclination to immediately start critiquing everything, even when it doesn't matter in the scheme of things and a huge goal of mine is to avoid doing this! Slowly, we'll get there. I was initially disappointed with not getting under 1hour 20 and could have pushed harder for the last 5 kilometres but was a bit worried about my foot and trusted the pace/time goal that I was aiming for. Turns out, there is actually a use for maths! First. time. ever.


I quickly snapped myself out of the danger of starting to wallow in self-pity when I considered how lucky we are to have had four separate running events on in Perth yesterday (maybe more but these are the main ones) and many places are still in lockdowns or unable to run. Also, very happy with the time considering the conditions.. yes, there was a head/tail wind combination but it definitely made getting into that steady rhythm a bit harder. Despite the weather, it was amazing to see how many PB's were set when the social media updates started popping up, in this and the other events and it really was a huge day for running in Perth.


All up, it was an 11 minute PB for me (officially) given that my only faster runs had been self-timed virtually so have to be happy with that and, in a good way, knowing that there's definitely room to go faster next time! Now straight back into training to hit up some longer races over the next 2 months and.. still a PB in every event so far this year 😁🙏.


One last thing for anyone clinging on here.. but was overwhelmed with the support on instagram yesterday so thank you to everyone. Truly such a great worldwide community that running creates and everyone inspiring each other with all the negativity in the world is awesome!



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