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Gold Coast Half Marathon 2017

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

After I finished the Gold Coast half in 2015, I asked my partner if he thought it was possible for me to train to break 80 minutes on that course.

I’d had good results there, running a PB of 82:13 in 2014, and coming in just under 84 minutes on a light training program in 2015.

In the lead up to the Berlin Marathon last year, I was so focused on my marathon goal that I wasn’t ready to target the sub 80, but was happy with a new PB of 81:17.

When I started thinking about my goals for this year, sub 80 was at the top of the list!

The Gold Coast was the obvious place to target it, with it’s fast course, early start (6am) and plenty of fast runners to chase.

In the few months before the event, I had countless conversations about breaking 80 and how to go about it; run two 38 minute 10kms back to back, run 3:47 pace and just sneak under, run 3:45s – 3:46s to have a bit of a buffer, or simply run fast enough to get back before the marathon started at 7:20am!

I had a good build up leading into the race, with a 10km PB in May that was a big confidence boost. My plan was to aim for slightly faster than 38 minutes at half way and hold that pace on the way back. I was pretty confident it was achievable, and more importantly, I was ready to race hard.

The week of the race didn’t exactly go to plan when I picked up a niggle in my right quad. I was worried about whether it would hold up, but I wanted to be on that start line. A combination of heat pack, ice pack and voltaron later, the morning of the race had arrived.

I warmed up with a friend at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre. I didn’t really have time to focus on the twinges in my quad, the morning was flying by, and we had to head the start line. I tried to cram in a few last minute run throughs and leg swings to convince myself I was sufficiently warmed up, then it was time to go.

My approach to this event in previous years was to run slightly conservatively for the first few kilometres and come home strong. It was a nice way to run, generally feeling really good until about the 16km mark then putting the foot down. My plan this year was to do the same, starting out around 3:50s for the first few kilometres because the thought of holding 3:45s for the entire race scared me!

I started comfortably and thought I was on track, then saw my first split was 3:41, oops! Determined not to respond to my watch and figuring it would settle down, I kept going and was surprised when the next split was the same. It wasn’t the way I usually run, but I couldn’t change it at that point.

Heading towards the small out and back section just before the 7km mark, I felt like I was definitely working harder at that point than I had in previous years, but tried not to focus on ‘what if’s’ later in the race. With a slower 8th kilometre, I reminded myself that it would be really easy to tune out and slow down, I needed to stay focused. I pushed on for a faster 9th kilometre and hoped I would still be under 38 minutes at the 10km mark ahead.

When I got closer, I could see that I would be. It was about 37:30 when I crossed, a bit quicker than I planned. A guy who was running next to me commented that I was running well, and asked what I was hoping to do. I replied anything under 80 if I could hold on, before he zoomed off ahead.

Approaching the turn around, I felt good, and ran one of my fastest splits in the race for the 11th km. If 11 felt good, 12 was the complete opposite. Running alone, I suddenly noticed we were going into a head wind. I hadn’t felt anything on the way out! After seeing that the split for kilometre 12 was over 3:47, I told myself I really need to focus and push hard or the sub 80 would slip away. I’m glad my mind was switched on, because my legs were hurting!

It worked for the next kilometre, which was back under goal pace, but the two following I slowed marginally again.

Heading towards the 16km mark, it felt like we finally got a bit of a break from the wind, and I caught the guy who I spoke to at around half way. It wasn’t long before we were approaching the bridge where these pics were taken the last two years:

Image of me running the Gold Coast Half Marathon
Smile for the camera! Gold Coast half in 2015 and 2017

As I got closer, one half of my mind was psyching myself up to get ready to smile, the other half was thinking, you’re working REALLY hard, maybe the photo should reflect that.

I managed a tired smile as I passed the photographers, and it might have given me a slight boost, because kilometre 17 was under goal pace.

Me running the Gold Coast Half Marathon in 2017
Smile for the camera 2017 edition - feeling much more tired!

The next two kilometres felt like they went for forever as fatigue really set it. I remember expecting to see a 4 minute split on my watch, it felt like I was seriously slowing down. I got a bit of a boost when it was actually 3:48 and told myself to hold on.

Not long later, I felt a stitch coming on, and had a brief dramatic moment of thinking it was all over. Luckily it passed as quickly as it arrived, and I remember really wishing I would see one of the 3:43 splits that felt like they came so easily early in the race! I had to settle for 3:45, and knew I must be really close, but wasn’t sure if I was ahead of 80 minute pace.

All of a sudden, I noticed the noise from the finish precinct – I wasn’t far away.

As I approached the 20km mark, I knew there would be a timing mat and clock. I was hoping to see the time far enough under 1:16 that I wasn’t in for a close finish.

I didn’t check the split on my watch at 20km (it was 3:50), but it didn’t matter – the clock said 1:15:30 something. It was nice not to have to spend the last part of the race wondering if I was going to get there. Unless I fell over, 4 and a half minutes was enough time to run 1.1km.

I told myself to enjoy it as I ran towards the finish, I was going to achieve my goal. The guy next to me had started high fiving people, I definitely wasn’t feeling fresh enough to enjoy it to that level!

We made the last left hand turn into the finish chute with 250m left to run. As I got closer to the finish, I has a nervous moment of hoping I hadn’t slowed down and was still going to make it! I could see 1:19:12 on the clock ahead and probably subconsciously picked up the pace just in case.

Me finishing the 2017 Gold Coast Half Marathon
Finished! First priority, stop the watch to record the sub 80.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 1:19:36, relieved that it was over and happy I had done it. When the results were posted later, I saw that I had finished in 13th place (female).

Thinking back about the race just after it happened, one thing I was sure about was that I had given 100% of what I had. Almost two weeks later, that feeling hasn’t changed.

While I was really happy with my PB last year, given how comfortable I felt until about 16 km, I did wonder after the race if I could have pushed harder. I will never know, and it doesn’t really matter as I really enjoyed the run.

This year, I ran the race differently – starting a bit faster, pushing a bit earlier and holding on at the end. It wasn’t exactly what I intended when I thought about how to approach the run, but in more simplistic terms, I wanted to run hard and I did. It was a definitely a different experience and a different feeling pushing earlier in the race, and I enjoyed it for a different reason. I’m happy that I raced to my limit and got everything out of myself on the day.

It will be a bigger challenge to work out how to get faster next time, but for now, onto the marathon!

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