… in for a pound!
So. I don’t know if you’re anything like me but the worst part of anything that has the potential to cause you total embarrassment isn’t the actual event. It’s the anticipation, that period before anything happens when you are pretty much committed without chance of return, yet can’t get stuck in. That Saturday night before the Big Half 2018 (or as I will now describe it ‘The Race’) can only be described as like being in the queue outside the school hall at age 15/16 waiting for your exams to begin. You are committed but you equally can’t start.
For me the exams analogy stretches further too as this was my first race, so I had no idea what to expect, no benchmark, no yardstick to compare to. Of course I had read online blogs, people’s racediaries just to see what people said and I felt positive about those. But that’s just words. What if this race – which was a new race and never run before !! – was a nightmare, it could be too hard and challenging, I might be surrounded by more elite runners than I expect, I might get lost as I’m on my own ( lost yeah I know. How the he’ll I thought I might get lost is a bit beyond me. Especially as I work in London!)
The night before I panic I’ve eaten all the wrong things for the last week and start thinking I’ll pass out before the end.
The night before I panic I’m not prepared with the right running kit, and will overdress and sweat myself to an early exit.
The night before I worry I won’t wear enough and freeze to a standstill before Tower Bridge.
The night before I panic I haven’t gone to the loo enough and will need to stop on the route and find toilets which would just be embarrassing to me.
That night I wasn’t exactly calm and placid and ready, that’s without wvenkpanicking that I would get caught in traffic and be late or simple get lost and not find the start!
sometime you can be your own worst enemy …
I finally got my gear ready. I had planned to drive to work (West London) and then get the tube. Work has a shower so I was taking stuff to change into after the race.
I gathered my running stuff – shorts, Hilly socks, Nike compression top, top layer and trainers (Brooks Ghost 10) and then my tracksuit bottoms and stuff to shower and change into when I get back to work after the race. I then pack about a similar volume of things I panic into thinking I might need but ultimately don’t. I’ve packed enough stuff for a family weekend away!
I eat a decent meal that evening, nothin excessive but plenty of carbs.
I don’t sleep much that night – I’m planning the race through my head withbaround 12 different scenarios. Most I fail embarrassingly to finish or survive! In one I beat Mo Farah to the finish line -#gotohaveadream!!
Early start the next day, and the butterflies have certainly come home. My guts feel like that are having a party and I’m not invited. I gather some snacks and drink (enough for a trek through sun-Saharan Africa! And head out in the car.
It’s ahout 5am on a Sunday morning. I’m panicking I’ll be late. But, there’s almost no other cars on the road and I arrive very early ! I jump on the tube – really nervous by this point and still thinking that I might not find the start and am immediately calmed. Almost everyone is carrying the same ‘kit bag’ from The Race over their shoulder with a Lucozade bottle and a Snickers bar in it. I’ve not seen so much Lycra, old running shoes and people of all shapes and sizes are coming together for a coming purpose. I’m amongst like minded people. Admittedly most of them look nervous like me, but at least we are nervous together. I’m feeling a bit better.
We get to London Bridge tube station and the crowd grows. The fear of not knowing wherento go subsides as there are hundreds of people all heading in the right direction. I follow the crowd and head towards the start.
So for those that haven’t done this sort of thing before there are some very organised steps pre-race to follow, however in a mass event like this it simply becomes chaos and a mass of bodies. It helped I had really read the instructions before the race.
I find my baggage drop point, swap my shoes, take off my jacket – it’s still very cold- and hand in my bag – will I ever see it again? – oh for gods sake shut up!!!!
I’m in wave C. Again this isn’t a normal thing to me but with the number of people running they stagger starts so although the race starts at 9am I’m not likely to start until 9:15 ish. That’s fine but there goes my dream of beating Mo 😂
So I’m in line, it’s 8:15 and it’s damn cold. I opted for shorts thinking I’ll warm up but know I’m shivering and it’s too late to change my mind. There is music and commentary and interviews with famous runners – I listen to Sophie Raworth talking ultra marathons – and it helps pass the time. However, the period of calm has passed, I’m more nervous than ever, my legs and arms are frozen and everyone around me sounds and looks like a seasoned Marathon runner – I’m in the wrong place – surely.
I’m in the right place, Wave C and everyone here has the same Bib label. I am OK, but not sure my guts will last the race. “Time to move towards the start line” I hear and the Wave C mass starts moving forward. A few moments later I see the Start line and the heart beat countdown starts. I think my heart is about to burst out my chest, this is madness!
It’s 9:15 on 4 March 2018 and I’m taking my first steps in a half marathon in one of the greatest cities in the world watched by thousands, surrounded by about 12000 other runners, and unsure of what to expect. My legs carry me forward as the crowds cheer.
up to this point I had read a lot about people saying how much the crowd helps you through I could see how this might be the case but didn’t know what they meant. It only took a few minutes to realise the affect this had. The start and end are well supported but in between there are periods with very few spectators. Every cluster of supporters cheered the runners through and every time it gave you that great sensation of achievement. Every cheer felt like a finish line, it made my tingle, it made my legs lighten, my breathing ease and my feet move quicker. Every time. The feeling is hard to describe but it’s real. The crowd are more than just a support and an encouragement, it’s like having an extra motor that when a crowd appears gets kicked in to action, driving you that bit quicker. Sure between this it’s hard and there are times that the effort is high, but the crowds are through and you are never far from a cluster of people with their magical motivational powers! It’s was AMAZING! I loved it. Every bit-ish.
The race itself is fairly straightforward, quite flat with the exception of the limehouse link tunnel, and well signed. The fear I would get lost was so unrealistic it was silly!!
As with the full London marathon thee are cobbles and running on these are nasty. Not my favourite bit. But the. You jump into the footpath and miss them ou, no big deal.
Up until now 18Km was my longest run so I was entering realms unseen before for me. I got to half way OK, no big drama. But it was getting tough. My decision to wear shorts worked out as it was soon pretty warm, I’m a hot runner so I was glad I had been brave💪!
The second half was hard. I found just mentally ticking off the mile markers really helped, but the crowd carried me through.
i was running for charity and had a vest that I had put my name on. This turned out to be the best thing ever. Cheek g crowds are great, they really boost you, but hearing people shout your name, giving you- yes you- encouragement, willing you be name has no comparison. It’s like having your own coaching team there with you. I would go as far as to say I actually felt great at those points, I was knackered but on top of the world!
Around 11 miles I was reaching my max distance preciously run and I had heavy legs. I was thinking about a brief walk to give me a last push over the line. But I then decided that I would just carry on, my legs were heavy, my body felt tired, but it was still moving, I didn’t feel as though I had to stop, my mind was just throwing ideas out there. One of the things I have found in running is that your body does get tired when you run, you do get heavy legs and you are knackered st some point, but it can be easy to pause and walk, lose momentum and not always get it back. I found there’s a difference in what my body is saying between “good effort I’m working hard for you” and “please stop I’m spent”. Often I would stop on the first queue, but then realised , training is meant to be tough, it’s meant to be hard work. I then just tried to see what happens if I search for the second message from my brain. When I did this I found I could run further, 2Km training quickly become 4 or 5Km and then 5Km quickly became 7Km. Of course you need to be careful and your body is a very important thing to listen to, but sometimes the feedback is just a note to self that you are working hard and not always a prompt to stop.
I was in the last 2 miles and the legs were spent, I carried on but they felt like I had toddlers hanging off my legs dragging me back (that’s what normally happens at home!) But I ploughed on with the amazing crowd support now building and the end really closing – I simply had to do this. With 500m let’s he crowd was great a light shower started – refreshing 😀 – and the end was there. I had always thought I’ll really chuck all the logs on the fire for the finish, really throw it over the line. I dug deep and searched, but nope, nothing else there. How professionals do it is without question amazing. The likes of Mo Farah who on the same stretch less than an hour earlier had sprinted to finish are machines! I was certainly out of logs!!
But the line arrived, I punched the air – really not usually my kind of thing!! – and I had done it. I couldn’t have been happier. I had done a half marathon with a body that had an allergy to running only 9 months prior.
My time was 1 hr 40 min 6 secs
I had finished in the top 2000 which never sounds great but I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
I had overcome all the doubt, challenges, training, the Beast from the East and completed the race.
Now the question was what had I learnt and what did this mean?
Part – 1 The best version of me
Part – 2 Learning to Walk
Part -3 Evolution not Revolution
Part – 4 First Run