Or nearly achieved.

This year I entered in the City to Bay fun run, a 12km run from the center of Adelaide down to the bay of Glenelg. It was the first time I had successfully entered. I also entered last year but managed to injure the cartilage in my knee and was out of action for most of the year. The City to Bay is easily the biggest fun run in South Australia. This year there were nearly 35,000 people participating.

This year, as last year, I set myself a goal of under 50 minutes. I thought that was fairly achievable, since my best ever time for 6km was 23:45, although it may have actually been only 5.8km. For training, I followed a modified version of the advanced training program on the City to Bay website. I had good results with it the previous year before injuring my knee, but had to shorten it to only 7 weeks.

The day itself was almost perfect weather. My training buddy Sam and I got to the start line with plenty of time to spare. That gave us enough time to get ready and get a good spot not too far back from the starting line. Unfortunately we had to start in the 60min+ section since we hadn’t run under 60 mins the previous year. The morning was quite cool but you wouldn’t know it being jammed in the huge crowd with so many other people.

After many minutes of nervously waiting, including listening to the Premier Mike Rann and the official race start over a tinny PA system, the 60min+ people were let out. The traffic was really heavy in the dense crowd but the other side of the road was virtually empty since the walkers would be starting in those lanes. I moved onto that side of the road and got a really clear run for the first km or so.

Because I’d done very little running for the last four days, I was feeling very good, and put in a pretty quick first km. After the last big training run of the week before, I was planning to get my heart rate around 165 and see how I go. Instead, I found after the first couple of km I was going quite strong and my heart rate was up around 178! Feeling the excitement of the occasion, I decided to just keep going and hope I could hold on to the end.

I did the first 6km in under 24 mins. I was definitely slowing down by this stage, but my heart rate was still around 178 which was a good sign. In the past I had good improvements from drinking during long runs, and eating a lolly or two. I had planned to have a drink at the drink stop at 8km, and a lolly during the only uphill section of the course at 9km. I stuck to my plan and both ideas turned out pretty poorly. Sam had already warned me that drinking from a cup while running is basically impossible, and he was right. As for eating a lolly, it’s fine for a light run but not when your heart rate is near maximum and your breathing is hard. At least I learned a lesson for next time, and the time loss was probably minimal anyway.

Around the 9km I was thinking I would have a chance of finishing in around 48 minutes. By the 10km I knew that wouldn’t be happening, but I was pretty confident I could achieve my goal if I kept a 4:20 pace. By the last km I was really struggling, but managed to keep the pace high enough to achieve my goal time. Later analysis showed my heart rate at well over 180, so it wasn’t like I could’ve run any harder.

Actually, I didn’t quite achieve my goal time. I would have if the race were 12km. My Garmin 405 GPS watch measured it at 12.1km, and I came in at 50:13. Near enough. I was very pleased that I was able to push myself so hard for that distance. All the training and preparation meant that I basically achieved my goal. It was a pretty good feeling basking in that thought at the end of the race. Good enough in fact to take my mind off my legs. I don’t think my legs have ever felt so wobbly as they did at the end!

Now I’m all fired up for next year. My goal is a target time of 45 minutes. Perhaps I’m being too ambitious, but at this rate even if I “only” run 49 mins it won’t be too bad. Perhaps it’s too much of a distraction from the other goals I want to achieve. I’m trying to get maximal results with minimal training though, and it is definitely quite inspiring to set myself a goal and then achieve it. That, and I really enjoy running fast. My strategy to improve on this year’s training: I will try to improve my running technique, run my 500m intervals at 3:20 pace/km instead of 3:40, ramp up to at least 9km of intervals near race day instead of 6km, and do more long aerobic running. Will it be enough? As Kent Brockman would say, “Only time will tell…”