Be warned, this is going to be long.
First up, Saturday. We packed and headed down to Southampton for the afternoon. We popped to see Andy’s grandparents and then went into the town centre. After a bit of a wander (and a tea) we went to Pizza Express for a late lunch (4pm) as we had football tickets. I went for my favourite salad which comes with dough sticks too.
Then we watched the football (exciting first half, not so much in the second half) and then headed back to the car. We then drove to Frome where our hotel was and had a late picnic of some M&S bits (around half 9 I think). Probably not ideal preparation.
Sunday morning we were up early (7am- early for a Sunday) as we had to get to the park and ride before it filled up. We sat in the car for a bit and ate our breakfast (malt loaf) before getting the bus into the town. At the queue for the park and ride there were families giving out bananas, sweets and doughnuts! So kind of them, although I didn’t partake in any of it!
I didn’t take any pictures of the race village but it was really well set out and so well organised- with so many tents for charities, a few food stalls (including an amazing looking pancake stall) and information desks. The bag drop was so organised too with sections for each set of numbers.
We were there by half 9 and the race didn’t start until 11 so we had to hang around in the wet and cold for a while. I only had on a light rain coat as it had to fit in my rucksack (which also had to contain fresh clothes and swimming stuff) and I was shivering a lot. It started to rain at about 10am, so we just got wetter and colder.
At half 10 we braved removing our coats and using the bag drop and then walked to the start line. It was very congested along the narrow streets but luckily everyone had left plenty of time so there were no issues. Andy decided to run with me to help pace me so it was nice that we could chat while we waited. I did jump about a bit to try and warm up but I also wanted to save my energy for running.
Finally at 11 the race started. It was one of the busiest races I have been to, and it was over 8 minutes before we crossed the start line (and we were only about half way back). The run was all on roads, which I was not expecting. I looked at the map and it seemed to go around the river, so I imagined in my head running along tow paths (like the end of the Oxford half). No idea where that came from. Anyway, the streets were packed with spectators which was brilliant- the best crowd support I have seen (even beating the Great North Run which is going something). The route went through the streets for a mile or so, then there was a loop out and back, which you repeated twice, before doing the first section in reverse. There were a few steep streets in the first couple of miles, and I knew we would have to do them again but I was feeling OK. I had written down mile splits for 2.08 and 2.05 (to be extremely optimistic)- I wanted to beat my 2.09 pb. The first loop was fine- at times I was on target and at times I was a little fast but generally feeling OK although I did keep getting a stitch which is really unlike me (and the stitch was swapping between left and right side too). It was raining (well heavy drizzle) but the great crowd support helped and the second part of the loop was fairly flat. There were also a couple of bands including a great samba one- I always love music on my way around a course. After about 3 miles a police bike came along to move all the first lappers to the left because amazingly the front runners were already lapping us! They would have been on about mile 8 I think and at first I could not see how they had managed it, but then I realised they started nearly 10 minutes before us.
It was great seeing them speed past- the two front men were running amazingly quickly, just steaming ahead but not looking even remotely tired. Everyone cheered as they went passed and it was exciting- I had flashbacks to when I went into London to watch the men’s Olympic marathon. It was a while before the speedy club runners went past. I did like that element of the lapped course as usually while it is great towing the same start line as these amazing athletes, you never see them if you are running it. After a lot of male runners passed, the lead female came by, and I did ponder for a while about why I think female elites should have their own start, as really what they do is amazing but running within good male club runners must be a bit demoralising, plus for young girls looking up to them they don’t seem as if they are working so hard as they are not as fast as a lot of the men.
Anyway, I digress. The course was busy and we had to do a lot of weaving in and out to stay together. When we run up hills Andy tends to run ahead as I slow right down and it is easier for him to slow down at the top so I catch up. But in the second lap we got separated and I lost him- even on our second lap it was still so busy whereas I thought it would thin out a bit. Mile 9-10 is often my nemesis during a half marathon- I have already run a long way so am tired, but I am not close enough to the end to think about it yet. At around this point I started to feel rubbish- veering between feeling sick, a bit dizzy, tearful and starving hungry. It was a very low point for me and with Andy not around I had to just try and distract myself from it. I did really worry at some points that I was going to fall over as I felt so weird. But those feelings passed, only to be replaced by the stiffest legs ever. In fact the last time I felt like that was during the marathon. I was having real trouble and had to take very small steps as my hamstrings had just got so tight. Here I wanted to stop and walk so many times, but looking at my crumpled piece of paper in my hand confirmed that I was on course to get a new pb, and the stubborn side of me came out.
The crowd support, which was great, started to hinder me somewhat, as I missed seeing one of the mile markers, and knew that by that point with all my weaving that my Garmin was already .2 or .3 miles ahead of where it should be, but lots of people were saying things like “one more mile” when in fact I had 2. It was great seeing all the fundraisers, including several people carrying giant boobs on their backs (the official charity was coppafeel)- they looked like big bean bags so hats off to anyone who struggled around carrying on of those.
I had managed to keep all my miles apart from one on target, and as lots of these were quicker I had time in the bank, so when I finally reached the marker for mile 12 I knew that I could go over 10 minutes and still get a pb, but at that point it felt like an impossible task. I seriously cannot emphasise how drained I felt. In the end I counted my breaths- I got up to 100, then I counted back to 0, then back up to 100, then I lost count and then we got to 300m to go. I was being overtaken by people in their droves, and I had nothing in me for a strong finish, I just wanted to get across the line so I could stop.
I glanced down at the finish line and saw 2. 06 something, so I knew I had achieved my goal, but I didn’t get that feeling of elation or pride. I was just shattered. I saw Andy (he had finished just behind me in the end) and told him my time, but I really just felt awful. The finish area was so congested too- we were given medals right away, but then had to queue to get down some steps (given a bottle of water at this point, and Andy picked up a Lucozade which I never normally like but think I needed a sugar boost so I had some), along a street and back to the runners village before being given a goody bag. By this point I was shaking like mad- I could barely hold my water bottle still enough to drink it without pouring it over myself- I really think we should have been given blankets on the finish line as it was so damp and everyone cooled down so quickly once they stopped running. In the bag was a small 9bar so I ate that right away (I had a clif bar in my bag but could not wait for the bag drop queue) and also a cotton t-shirt so I went into the changing tent (which was huge and even had chairs) to take off my running top (wet on the inside from sweat, wet on the outside from rain) and put on the free top. I felt so much better but then we had to head back out into the rain. Then I was shivering and shaking so Andy basically made me eat the Mars bar that was also in the pack. I suppose by this time it was around half 1, so I had been up a while, and only eaten breakfast, plus I had run my fastest ever half marathon.
The rain wasn’t helping things though! We went to M&S and bought a sandwich each, but then I got a stomach ache (probably from eating too quickly after stopping running) so could not finish it all. Then we got a hot tea (that sounds so american!) which helped loads.
Then we went to the spa, which was amazing. So amazing. We have been to Bath loads but never been before, and it was such a treat. Straight away we headed to the showers, and then spent two hours relaxing in the pool, steam rooms (they have different scented steam rooms- my favourite was a minty one) and we even headed up to the rooftop pool which was packed! It was raining hard but the water was warm so only our heads were getting cold. There were lovely views of the city from up there too. After our two hours were up we showered again and got ready for dinner. There was even a big vanity table with mirrors and hairdryers so my hair was a little dried.
One thing that was a little pain was the park and ride- they had increased the price for the day (fair enough I suppose because I imagine they had to put on extra buses) but the last bus out was 6pm. So in the end I went to Bill’s (we had booked) and waited while Andy went back to get the car and park it in the town centre.
Then it was dinner time:
Yes for anyone who saw my facebook post on Thursday- I painted my nails navy as I saw that the medal ribbon was going to be blue and I wanted them to match. These are important things to consider!
I should have worn my medal all the way through dinner, but I didn’t. I had the gorgeous butternut squash soup which comes with a huge hunk of rosemary bread, plus some hummus, crudites and pitta bread, and then some lemon cake for dessert, plus a huge pot of tea. I felt so much better after that.
Then we headed home- the rain was heavy so the two hour drive was hard work but we had the soundtracks to Book of Mormen, Southpark the Movie and Team America to keep us entertained.
Today I checked my time on the website and my chip time was 2:06.58 so I managed to beat my pb by a couple of minutes- I am edging closer to the two hour mark. I just feel a bit deflated by the whole experience and I am not sure why. I did really struggle in the second half, but then I was running out of my comfort zone, so I suppose I should expect to find it tough. I think I had basically used all my energy reserves so by the time I finished I just had no energy to celebrate or anything. Being so cold didn’t help things either. Today I feel pleased with my time but not really the way I normally feel after a race. Perhaps it is because Oslo was cancelled and I have no other races booked? Who knows.
I don’t think I would do this event again- the crowd support was amazing and it was quite a nice course really, but it was expensive- if it had included a technical t-shirt that would not have been so bad, but it was a cotton one so only good for that day really. The 11am start wasn’t great either- I can see why they start it later so people have time to get there, but it meant a lot of hanging about and really ate into the day.
How was your weekend? Have you ever had a similar experience?
Edited to add- the title of this post was shamelessly stolen from the official t-shirts that you could buy. I just loved the phrase.