I felt very relaxed about the Shinjuku half today. I decided I'd run it hard, but not aggressively. I think of aggresive as when you go at a pace that you really honestly don't think you can hold, but if all goes well, somehow you do, or close enough to end up with a great time. A couple of people asked me what my goal time was and I truthfully said I really didn't know but would be happy with anything under 85 minutes.
The race started and finished on the running track of the national stadium. Oh my, it was so crowded. And that was the theme of the day. I got with an audacious group of Nambanners right up near the front in the 1:15 to 1:25 group. Even so, it was a very slow start, and those that started further back later said that, for them, during the first kilometer "running was optional". I was able to get up to a steady pace after four or five minutes and eventually went through the first 5 km in 20:43. Not bad considering the slow start. And I figured I wasn't too much slower than 4:00 pace, but feeling fairly comfortable. The course consisted of four loops around the local area, and during the first loop we got, as a special treat, to run through a road tunnel. Yippeee!
The second 5 km split was 20:09, so tracking nicely. Still felt hard but comfortable. I had picked up a passenger too, a young chap named Christian who spoke to me at the starting line and had decided that I seemed "experienced" and he would try to stay with me for as long as possible -- his goal was to finish under 90 minutes. He was still there at 12 km but somewhere after that dropped off.
The 10 to 15k split came up in exactly 20:00.2 minutes. Somewhere around here things got ugly as the multiple loops meant we were running through the back markers, and in places we had a total of one traffic lane of space. Mostly there was a way through, but there would always be the odd dimwit who would stray over to the right and block the path prompting me to have to yell for them to make an opening. One guy did it wearing earphones and couldn't hear the call, so when I went through I tapped him on the shoulder to make a point. Probably not really the right thing to do, but the point is it was pretty frustrating because actually I was building up pace and feeling strong and wanting to really bring it home.
Anyway, I hit the 20 km mark with a 19:32 split. So, yes, I really had been building up. Then I had another curse-fest as there was a point after the 20 k mark where you had to leave the main course and head back to the stadium. Only it was just after a drink station so all the slower runners on their third lap were obscuring the exit point and the marshals were doing an awful job -- the exit lane wasn't even marked with cones or anything...blah! I wasn't the only one who missed the turnoff. I realized something was wrong pretty quickly and cut back across to the right course, but I reckon it cost me at least 20 seconds, and it also broke my rhythm and concentration so that I probably just coasted home instead of building to the big finish, so maybe it cost a few more seconds. So the final 1.1 km was 4:29 for a final gun time of: 84:56!! Exactly 4 seconds off my estimate. Not bad eh! And I was pleased that each successive 5k split was faster than the previous.
A very nice postscript was that young Christian came in under his goal of 90 minutes. I think we have added a new Nambanner to the ranks!