Monday, 24 March 2014

My Second Half

Yesterday I finally completed the second half marathon of my life. I wanted to do some last year but a combination of recurrent tonsillitis and laziness prevented me. So sat in McDonalds (of all places) me and some friends decided to spur of the moment sign up for the Loughborough half. We began training on the 31st December building back up from 0 miles. The day came around sooner than I expected but was another incredible experience.

 Saturday 22nd March

I woke up far calmer then I was for the last half. In fact although I felt nervous it was nothing compared to last year’s half marathon sock drama. I had my kit all ready and I packed by bag very slowly whilst watching an episode of Location, Location, Location (I am addicted to Kirsty and Phil).  As it got nearer to the time I would be leaving I took myself for a short walk to a cafĂ© and sat and read for a while as I was feeling jittery by not doing very much.  Alina, who was also running the half marathon with me and lived near to where we were running picked me up at 6 to stay at her parents’ house.  By this point it was really sinking in that we were running the next day. We knew we had trained well but the whole time I had been saying I didn't care if I beat my time but at this point a strong competitive feeling with my old time began to creep up on me.  We had a pretty early night so we didn't feel exhausted and I went to bed blissfully unaware of the route I was about to run.

 Sunday 23rd March

It is official the day has arrived and I wake up with the flip-floppy stomach churning feeling that is purely nerves. I am getting more and more worried about my time (deep down I knew I would be slower having taken a whole year off running before I started). We ate a nutritious if somewhat large breakfast of porridge and drove to a hotel near the Market Square were Alina used to work and they had generously offered to let us park there. We walked towards the square arriving when we thought the warm up started. It didn’t start so instead beat the queues to nip to the loos. For those thinking of running the Loughborough half the loos are fab proper toilets no porta-loos in sight.  We did a few walking laps of the square and attempted to join in the warm up. Sadly it was just too squashed to have room to move at all. For me personally I felt the start was a bit haphazard, it literally all of sudden happened. If there was an announcement I didn't hear it.
We were off; we knew we wouldn't be running together as Alina is much faster than me. It started well and I was running pretty fast and then the first of the many hills hit. I literally had no idea how hilly this route actually was. I am not a good hill runner, I dislike them truth be told and find them very difficult. After the second of the many hills I faced facts accepting that there was no way I would beat my time but as long as a ran the whole way that was good enough for me.  I had practiced running with energy gels this time and they definitely made a difference. I was expecting one from the Loughborough half team at 6 miles but they were nowhere to be seen so at 7 miles I gave in and ate one of the ones I had stashed away. I did stumble upon them at around 7.5 miles but just ran past at this point as I was already chowing down on the one I had.  I would recommend gels as they really do help. I didn't use them in the last one but with how hilly it was the glucose boosts were a life saver. I was not really aware of what my pace was as my watch was not picking up the miles the same as the distance makers so I ignored it and just tried to keep myself running a steady pace.
Around the 8.5 mile marker things became seriously tough. I have never turned a corner and actually wanted to cry. I think I actually said out loud ‘you are joking’ to no one in particular as I began to run up a steep, muddy hill that nearly finished me off.  I kept running though and the whole way up repeated the mantra that I wanted to run it all regardless of the time.  When I made it to the top a wonderful spectator congratulated me on running up the hill and that the hard part was over. At the time I felt blissful relief but of course she may not have known the rest of the route. There were more hills and it was not downhill the rest of the way but I managed it. This time I did not have the same loss of energy I had around mile 10 but I took on another energy gel at this point and they do really make the world of difference.  Mile 12-13.1 was by far the world’s longest mile. That final mile just dragged and I felt I was lugging my body towards the end.  The end was finally in sight and I dug deep and attempted to pelt towards the finish line to be met by Alina with the most delicious bottle of water I have ever seen in my life.  My official time hasn't come out yet but I think it was around the 2:29 mark.

Pretty amazing that we are in a photo on the Loughborough Echo website.  I am clearly smiling so I assume this was at the start. One of my reasons for running the half was to get back to running. Now with this distance under my belt again I do not want to stop running so I am already planning to sign up for the Leicester Half. I think that this beautifully flat course with only slight inclines here and there (and that last mile) will be the proper opportunity to beat my earlier time.
My legs ache and I have struggled to walk at work today but it has been so worth it. I am still raising money along with Alina for Mylo’s fund so please considering donating to this very worthy cause.

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