Sunday 1st October came round quicker than expected and I found myself, on a surprisingly nice autumn day, on the starting line ready for my first half marathon. I’d entered a few months ago as a way to keep me motivated to run through the hot summer months, but I now had mixed feelings over whether that would turn out to have been a good move or not.
I was ready in terms of mileage and time spent out running, but I hadn’t done any long runs at the pace I was aiming to do on the day, and hadn’t done any runs over an hour without a training partner to keep me going. That said, I had headphones at the ready and a quality playlist of slayer, Napalm Death and Brutal Truth to keep me going – what was I waiting for?!
The first couple of miles went in a flash (as they always do at races) but at 3 miles it became clear that a half is a very different race to a 10k. With a 10k, by the time you are over the initial jostle and pace-finding, you’re already over halfway round and can use that to help keep you going, but here I was less than quarter of the way round with more than an hour and a half left to go. I also had a terrible stitch, which was making the early miles hard (although more on that later).
Mile 5 hit and we left the park to head out around the country lanes and back in through Combe. This was the best part for me – the miles between 5 and 10 saw me settled into a good pace and starting to pass some of the eager starters who were now feeling the distance. I went through 10 with a big smile on my face as I knew at this point that I was going to finish.
Until I passed the 11 mile point.
This was as far as my longest training runs had got me to, and I was really starting to feel the pace creeping up on me. I got to 11.5 and my hips were starting to ache, a twinge of cramp was starting to nag at my left calf and my thighs were numb which made me worry about taking a trip and taking my knee out before I finished. My wife was there to cheer me on just before 12 so I had a brief surge there, but the final mile was a real slog. My music gave up and I couldn’t stop to get it going again, and more than half of the people ahead of me were walking up the last hill. I was determined to run all the way so I dug in and just pushed up the final hill and over the line.
An emotional finish, but I held it together and met my wife to get a photo in front of the palace (nearly tripping up as I climbed onto the photo stand!). It took me a good half an hour to get from “I’m never doing this again” to, “I reckon I could have gone faster, when’s the next one?!” this time, so it must have been quite an ordeal I guess.