For this spring, I convey with my coach to try a fast and well prepared half marathon, approximatively 2 months before the marathon. Indeed, one my main weaknesses it has always been the lack of speed in shorter distances, while the endurance needed to finish the marathon has never been a big issue for me. Looking at the international calendar, I immediately focused on Mitja Marató de Barcelona, especially looking at how many athletes did conclude the last year with a time between 64’ and 66’.
During the month of January, I mainly focused on fast aerobic threshold workouts. Since a couple of years, I do not run anymore twice a day. Instead, I try to keep a mileage of about 140km/week running with singles and to always run a bit faster, even the recovery. For this preparation, I added some hill sprint workouts that I wasn’t used to do: I started with 12 times 120mt progressively increasing, week by week, reaching 8 times 300mt. Every time, the sprints were followed by a fast short tempo of about 3 to 5 km. While my training is fully available on Strava, I will recap two main workouts that gave me a good confident in running a strong HM tempo. The first one was 5x3000mt with 2’ recovery, where I run approximatively at 3’05” pace (here more details). The second one, my last before the half marathon, consisted in 2 series of 3000-2000-1000mt with recoveries of 2’30”, 2’ and 3’ respectively. Here, I was able to run immediately under 3’00” pace (8’57” for the first 3k) with the final rep in about 2’49” (here full details).
Especially with this final workout, I was reasonably sure to be able to run by PB (that was 66’14”). Luciano said that my race pace could have been about 3’05”/06”. I heard that the women were targeting the world record (thus, below 65’) but according to Luciano I should have started a bit slower.
I flew to Barcelona on early Saturday morning with my teammate Melina and her lovely friends. We booked a nice apartment really close to Plaça d’Espanya, that was also the location for picking the BIB numbers. After a bit of sightseeing and an easy run in the afternoon, I was feeling ready to race the day after.
What about the race? I got lucky to be included in the elite runners, so I had all the facilities to start in a comfortable way. I ran the first km in about 3’01”. The group was very compact: I was expecting something like 2’50” for the Kenyans in the first km, but they were basically right in front of me. I started to look around to find a good group to follow: after that 3’01” I had 4 girls still in front of me! Therefore, I immediately thought to follow them. However, I was feeling very easy and comfortable that I decided to be a bit more brave: I saw Jonas Koller, a 2h16’ German marathoner that just came back from Kenya, running close to me. I thought “well, this guy just came back from Iten, he should be in a good shape”. Thus, I decided to stick with him and try my luck. From km 2 to 4 we slowed down (about 3’07”/08”) since the course was going slightly uphill. Then, I formed a group with Jonas and other 2 guys. Till km 8, Jonas was the one more active in pacing such a group. However, I noticed that he was slowing down (he will retire after a bit) so I took the initiative and I started to lead the group. Before the start I disabled the Garmin auto-lap and I was not looking at the watch. So, I got really conscious about the pace we were running when I crossed the 10km mark in about 30’47”.
For the next 2km we slowed down a bit (about 6’13”), so I tried to increase the pace again, running 6’08” from km 12 to 14. After this move, I remained alone with one last guy, William Mycroft. However, it was clear he was suffering the pace, so unfortunately I didn’t get any help from him. At the 15km mark I met Tito Tiberti screaming something like “go go, you are going to run a big time”! Thus, I started to do a bit of math in my mind, trying to calculate how fast should I have run to conclude under 65’. Luckily, I was getting closer to the group in front of me. I gave everything I had to catch them: constantly running in about 3’02”/03”, I caught the first athlete at the 19km mark. One km later, I reached the other 3 athletes in front on me, starting a long sprint till the finish line. Right on the 21km mark, I had a look at my Garmin and I realized that a sub-65” was a done thing! Nevertheless, I produced the last effort to win the sprint and catch the 22nd position.
I have to be honest: it took to me a couple of minutes to realize that that I just improved my PB of 83” seconds, running 1h04’53”. I waited for some friends to cross the line: Armin, Fabian and Francesco (Puppi) that unfortunately had some physical problems and he is still recovering from that.
I had a fantastic day in Barcelona. Looking at the final results, it was the same for many many athletes. In Italy, we should learn how to organize races such this, attracting many elite, sub-elites as well as thousands of casual runners. And now, after a 83” improvement on the half, I am already super excited thinking at my next goal: Rotterdam Marathon on April 7h.