Most of my fitness activities since I turned 50 and got into serious competition winning shape are ones that take place over less than an hour.

A weights session in a gym takes 50 minutes, a cardio session is 40 minutes and a 5km run about 25-27 minutes. I tend to find that my energy levels and interest threshold work best for sub-hour activities.

Taking on the half marathon

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However, I went to the far side of the hour, when I did my first ever half-marathon run – joining the great Paula Radcliffe and 40,000 others doing either a full of half marathon in Vienna.

It’s all Jenny’s fault of course.

My wife has done several half-marathons, marathons and triathlons of Olympic distance and beyond.

The allure of Vienna

Her suggestion of joining her for one of her half-marathons didn’t exactly appeal; but a weekend in Vienna with our friends Mark and Ger, and visiting some of the excellent cafes and pubs we know there, was very tempting!

So if I had to take a couple of hours out of the weekend for the half-marathon in order to get the full weekend away, it would probably be worth it.

running a half marathon_2Running a half-marathon

In fact, it was rather more than a couple of hours. I took 2:26 which is hardly any kind of record, my main excuse being it was my first one.

I may indeed have performed better had I trained for the event – which I didn’t have time to do due to the very different preparation I had undertaken for a fitness contest a week before.

But the time was probably not too bad for a non-distance trained 55-year old on his first long run.

I say this is running my first half-marathon – it was, but I did do a 20km the year before. This doesn’t count because it was a 20k distance, rather than the half-marathon of 21.1k.

More significantly, I walked half of the Brussels event, so I guess even without specific training.

Results speak for themselves

I must have improved my fitness level over the year as this time I didn’t stop running until crossing the finish line.

I set myself a pace target of 6min 40sec for each km.

This is much slower than my usual 5km pace of around 5min 10sec, but it’s a pace that I thought I could keep to for the full distance and also reasonable for someone of my age, fitness level and lack of distance training – It’s also a pace that is easy for mental en-route calculations, as it works out to 20 minutes for each 3km.

On this basis, I should have crossed the finish line just over 2:20, so my actual finish time wasn’t that far out of my prediction.

I did the first 10km much quicker than the 6:40 pace, then kept to the pace for the next 5km or so, followed by some significant slowing for the final 6km. This was due to a pain in my right ITB, which I first noticed at around 15k and then became worse with every step.

Between 10-15km I had convinced myself that I should actually carry on running for the full marathon distance.

This would have been possible due the design of the course, as runners for the two distances start together and the half marathon route is the same for both races.

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