2017 Lake Macquarie Half Marathon Race Report – Matt Hutton
Race Date: August 27th Results: 2017
This year started in very familiar territory for me – injury. This year I had bone stress in my left tibia, and ended up having around 3 months off and building back up. Déjà vu since I also had 4 months off at the beginning of 2016.
Coming back from that I decided, finally, to invest the time in coaching myself and programming my own training. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, particularly about what I cannot and should not do and thus my return to training involved less overall intensity with a lower percentage of hard running and plenty of aerobic work. Mileage was still not sky high, but enough to get the job done. With a solid run at the Winery half marathon, a better-than-last-year parkrun (though not a PB) and a course PB at City2Surf, I was confident going into the Lake race.
I’d run the event 5 times previously, always going faster than the year before to maintain a streak of improvement and I very much wanted to continue that. The goal going in was to run sub 75, which I was confident of – when the festival asked people to place their bets, I posted up that I would run 74:30.
After a very steady group warm up with some Flyers (where we received a frosty hello from our Runlab competitors on-course, brr) and a last-minute dash to answer the call of nature it was onto the start line where all the usual faces appeared. Runners at the front end of Newcastle club runners have been lifting their game steadily over the last few years and I had no doubt that there would be a pack of at least a few people aiming to run sub-75. Once we got away a pack very quickly formed consisting of myself, Arnold, Sean & Luke from Runlab and lone-wolf runner John Cottrell. At least 3 of that 4 are faster than I am over 5 and 10k but I am more competitive over longer distances and settling into a pack suited me just fine.
The first 5km was the slowest of the race, once or twice a bit of a surge was required to keep the pace on and when we hit the park area with the turns required to get around the fencing and across the grass I/we clocked the slowest split of my race at a 3:36 kilometre. Approaching the turn around, we all seemed somewhat unsure that it actually WAS the turnaround as there was no Marshall to steer us. Around we turned though and the pace was juiced a little bit as we started clocking splits at 3:28/9 on the way back to Warners Bay. Myself, Arnold and the Runlab boys were hovering around the front, a little bit forward or a little back depending on what was happening with John sitting behind more consistently.
Clocking 10k in 35:16, faster than I’d raced 10km at Sydney10, was a good mental boost because I felt pretty good. It occurred to me at some point about ¾ through the race that the pace was still pretty hot and I was either going to do very well or blow up at some point. I did still feel strong and steady though, grinding out the distance. Reaching Pippi’s on the second lap we started to run into the rear of the back of the pack and it was necessary to either yell “KEEP LEFT”, which I did several times, or do some weaving which I think we all did to some degree.
Out the other side of the park on Creek Road I tried my hand at a John Doyle-style shoulder charge (when John hits you, you move… not so much with me) as I hit the back of a walker with my shoulder while going through a drink station to get a sip of water. Not deliberately I might add but after I shouted keep left (the drinks were on the right), she did no such thing and despite my narrow width when I tried to squeeze between her and the table I failed, hitting her pretty hard since she was walking and I was running just under 3:30/km. I was concerned with it not breaking my pace so that I didn’t lose touch with Arnold (and honestly was annoyed that she’d gotten in my way), so I didn’t shout sorry as I ran away. So, if you read this, sorry lady.
Arnold and I had gradually gapped the others and by the time we came out of the park onto the Esplanade, Arnold had also gapped me. I wasn’t particularly confident that I would be able to catch him but I distinctly remember looking down at my watch and thinking ‘unless I get injured or drop dead, I have a PB on the cards today’ and between that and chasing Arnold’s back through the throng I managed to stay nice and steady running sub 3:30/km and getting home with a negative split for the second half of the race. For most of the run back from the park I had no idea how far behind me the other guys were but since I couldn’t hear their steps nor see their shadows creeping up on me I figured I was in a good spot.
With about 1500m to go Arnold turned almost all the way around to see where I was and I knew then that I had him running scared but he was safe and I wasn’t going to be able to close the gap much at all. There was a huge amount of support out on the course for the whole race but the run into Warners Bay at the finish is always rewarding in that way – having the Flyers tent right there was a great addition, something I’m sure we’ll maintain going forward. Having my wife, kids and outlaws there is a big support too – I suspect the kids were more impressed with the free yoghurt and jumping castle though.
After crossing the line what’s the first thing you do? Look at your watch of course and when I looked at mine I saw… 1:13:50! Ecstatic would be a good way to describe how I felt. I’d come 3rd (my second time on the podium in two years having won in 2016) but more than that had exceeded my own expectations, in what was essentially my goal race for the year. It was really rewarding to run a time like that, to be competitive and do well once again while racing my peers. The cash reward and early birthday present didn’t hurt either.
Conditions were near-perfect, the course changes were as good as could be made given the Council’s construction in the area and lots of runners, especially within the Flyers, seemed to lift hugely with PBs all over the shop.