So my main aims were 1- Beat my time from last year (2.18 something) and not fall over. I also really wanted a t-shirt that fit better as last year I went straight from the finish line to the back of the paramedic car, and one of my friends grabbed me a t-shirt but it turned out to be unisex M which was too big for running in.
So in the morning I had some toast (two bits- one with jam and one with honey) and took my time getting ready. Even though it is not far to the start (2 miles) I drove in and parked about half a mile away as I thought I would struggle running 15. Some of our club runners were doing the hilly 8 mile route, then running to the start line, and then running the half for their super long marathon training run- hardcore! It was great though as it meant loads of our club were out either running, marshaling or supporting – some ran the first bit and then watched during the race.
First success- I remembered my timing chip (last year I left it in the envelope and threw it in the bin, and only when I saw other people putting theirs on did I realise and had to scrabble around and find it).
It was very windy- I considered a buff to keep my skin warm, but I knew I would just get sweaty and annoyed with it so I had to suck it up and be cold before the start. Luckily it starts in the ground of a sports centre so we stayed inside until about 8.45am. They had kids races going around the track and a few of our club’s kids had run them, so admiring their medals kept my mind off the cold. At the start it was very busy (as always) and we ran around the track, out of the sports centre complex and along to a pavement- suddenly the runner in front headed right and I headed straight into a huge bollard- luckily I saw it a split second before I hit it and managed to put both hands out to cushion the impact- it really hurt my wrist but I could have been much worse- they had marshals at the side and some bollards had coloured tape, but this one had none. I told Louise (who I was running with) at that point that maybe next year I should marshal to be on the safe side.
I was aiming for around 10 minute miles but I knew that it wasn’t flat, and of course the wind would be a factor. I didn’t set off too fast, and it’s always good at the beginning as lots of people you know are passing around you so you can have little chats here and there. I ran with Louise for the first 3 miles, and we even saw Andy as the route goes very close to where we live, so he’d walked down to cheer us on.
At the first water stop Louise had a drink and I carried on- I thought she was just behind me but I didn’t see her again. I saw a girl in a bright orange top and her friend in grey, and they seemed to be going a similar pace to me, so I stuck behind them for a fair bit. The course is sort of an out and back with a loop at the end- we ran out along the old railway line (with a great OH lady cheering station partway along), and here we were sheltered from the wind, so I felt like I was doing OK. At each mile marker I was just shy of 10 minute miles- all good. I had been doing (unintentionally) long runs along the route- either along the old railway line (the way out) or more recently, along the country roads (the way back). The last time I ran along the old railway line it was super muddy, but it had really dried out so it’s good to know I can head back there again when I fancy it.
At the half way point you come out of the path and along some roads (the way I can run back from Panshanger parkrun)- this is not sheltered as it goes between fields, and the wind here was awful- really tough. The girls ahead of me slowed too, so I kept them in my sights. When I looked on Strava I could tell exactly where the wind hit us- my times crept over 10 minutes (not by much- 10.03/ 10.14) but it felt harder. I actually surprised myself that I mainly felt OK, although I did start to dread the next half (in two weeks time). I stopped to walk up a hill for a few paces, and the girls ahead had walked too. As I ran past them they commented that we were sort of pacing each other! Anyway- at the final water station I stopped to have a drink (just before 10 miles)- they had cups (which I prefer) and only a little bit of water, so I stopped to have a few sips before carrying on. At this point I lost the girls ahead of me, but as we ran along the streets I could see them ahead and gradually caught up. I think if they hadn’t mentioned anything I think I would have slowed down a lot more.
I felt like I was being so careful along the pavements as last year I had tripped and really hurt myself (a lot of blood, cuts on my hands and a massive bruise on my hip). The final part felt long- as we came out of the pathway section and re-joined the road, I was just around the corner from home but still had 3 miles to go and I had already used my “just a parkrun to go” at mile 9 (where I told myself that I had a warm up and a parkrun to go).
With a mile to go we headed along a grassy path by the side of the road, and of course I managed to trip here- I just managed to catch myself so I didn’t hit the ground. So I suppose I can count it as a success. I felt a bit sick at that point and the two girls (who kindly checked I was OK after my stumble) gave me some motivation for the final push- by this point I was counting to 100 in my head to try and distract myself. I think maybe knowing the route and running it in training runs doesn’t help me because although we feel near, seeing the signs means you know you have another mile left or whatever. It’s also gently uphill which is really mean for the finish of a half! The final few metres is downhill into the track area and onto the track.
I was very happy to see the finish line! I got a hug from Donna, my run leader (she loves a sweaty finish line hug!), collected my medal, a bottle of water and a banana. I also got a t-shirt (a better size this year too) and then joined the queue to get the print out of my chip time- 2.11.18. I’m very pleased with that- it’s not a flat course and the wind made it very tough today, and I suppose with the half being 0.1 over, I probably averaged 10 minute miles. Some of the super long runners had already finished, and some were just behind me so I hung around for a bit to chat to them, but my jumper was in my car, and we had brunch booked, so I didn’t stay for all of the runners. I put the t-shirt on and was very glad of an extra layer.
I jogged slowly back to my car, put a nuun tab in my water, put on my jumper and wiped my face before walking into town to meet Andy.
Ah, Bill’s pancakes and a huge pot of tea- this was what I did the run for!
So I feel I can call it a success- I beat my time from last year, and I didn’t fall over (well not properly). And my t-shirt is a much better fit- I do love a technical t-shirt.