I did it. I really really did it. I ran/walked my way round 13.1 miles. Just in case you were wondering – it’s a long way. It was an amazing weekend really. We drove down to Nottingham yesterday to stay with our friend Bex. We had a lovely day just chilling and chatting and being spoiled rotten. I drank so much water that I might as well have just stayed sitting on the loo while pouring more in at the top – but that super hydration yesterday really helped today. Bex made the most amazing lasagne and just being there and chatting really helped me to not stress out about the run. This morning I got up and dressed and then timed my porridge pot for roughly 90 minutes before the start of the run – that seems to work well. Bex dropped us off just a short walk from the start. I wondered around, looked at the finish line and tried to visualise me crossing it – couldn’t really see it.
It was a cold foggy morning in Nottignham and standing in the starting section next to the river Trent was a little chilly. 9.30am came and the elite runners set off. Slowly the rest of us made our way, section by section, to the start line. Off I went pressing the start button the the Garmin as I crossed the line just to be met with a beep and then a blank screen. Bother! No intervals for me then. I’d have to go by feel – something I have no experience of really.
The first mile was amazing. I kept thinking ‘I am actually running’. The first mile was also far too quick. I don’t know but I suspect it was less than 11 minutes based on what people around me were saying. I consciously slowed a little. The 2nd mile was less fun. The 2nd mile had hills – not just a little slope – a hill. Here’s the route so those of you who know Nottingham will know what I mean!
I saw the hill, walked for 20 seconds before it and then powered up it, then walked for 30 seconds. I was fine. Onwards. The Garmin had come back on but only on the watch setting so I could sort of do the intervals and I tried to settle into them but it just doesn’t work as well when you have to keep looking. I often missed the walk breaks and they ended up being a bit random. I got some water at the first water station and was briefly cmpletely flummoxed by the little water packs. I had to ask how you opened them – there’s a little flap the the top you can tear off with your teeth and then you can squeeze water out easily. Really I just kept plodding like this until roughly mile 7-8. I tried to keep track of roughly how quick each mile was and I do wonder if I went a bit fast as I seemed to be hitting 12 – 12.5 minutes roughly. The 7-8mile was slower and my calf muscle was beginning to niggle. I started walking a bit more. First dropping to 2.5 minutes running and then 2 minutes running but keeping the 30 seconds. Eventually running for 2.5 – 3 minutes and walking for 1 ish. Then I saw the 10 mile mark (this is an odd course where all the mile markers seem to be located arounf corners so you can’t lock onto them from a distance). 10 miles! I slowly ran past it and kept going for about 4 minutes. Then my calf muscle popped. I pretty much stopped dead (I did check behind me first). I tentatively put my foot down and winced. It hurt – a lot. I was pretty much in tears. I’d got to over 10 miles and it didn’t look like I could finish. I took another step. And another and it didn’t get worse. Another step and then a few more and I thought I might be able to walk it. I was over 10 miles already – it was walk or wait for the sweeper that wouldn’t come for ages yet. I kept walking very slowly. Very very slowly. And then it was easing very slightly and I looked up and kept walking. Gritted teeth, a few tears but walking. I could see the 11 mile marker. 10.5 to 11.5 took over 20 minutes. I began to realise that while something might have twinged in my calf, the pain was just cramp. They just happened at exactly the same time.
Very tentatively I ran a few steps. My legs were tired but ok. I played games then to get myself to the end – 15 second runs folllowed by 30 seconds walk, just running to the next bus stop, catching up with someone I could see in front…Then I passed mile 12, then I could see the embankment. I’d been walking with a group of girls and we set off to run the last mile together. Two dropped off imediately, two of us kept going – I got cramp again and urged the other girl to keep running. She was going to walk with me but she looked strong and I told her to run. I only walked a few steps and then I followed her. I’d not been on the embankment long when I heard the shouts of encouragement. Bex and Abi had got the bus back down to support me. It made all the difference. It made me keep running. Abi ran alongside me in the spectators area and I think if she hadn’t I would have walked. My legs really really wanted to walk.
Then I turned right onto the finishing stretch. The realisation hit that I might actually do this. One foot in front of the other. I have never ever wanted to walk so much and yet kept running. As I turned round the last corner I could see the clock. It said 3.18.45. I pushed. I wanted to get there under 3.19. I didn’t know exactly when I had crossed the start line but thought that I might, just might sneak under the 3 hours for my time if I did that.
The official results took ages to appear online – ages ages. As the Garmin didn’t work I had no idea whether I made sub three hours not. It was driving me mad, totally mad. I’d decided that I probably hadn’t made it and was cross at myself for walking as much as I did throughout. I was second guessing where I could have pushed a bit harder, where it was mental and not physical… Then I logged on and saw this:
Yep – sub three hours. Sub three hours by quite a way! I know I have been treating this all as a complete new running adventure but just for context: My half marathon time three years ago was 3 hours 29 mins 17 secs, I took 33 minutes and 28 seconds off that (Is that maths right, someone check, I can’t do it tonight!)
I want to say thank you to Kath for always always keeping me going. I also want to say thank you to Bex and Abi because I don’t think they have a clue how much of a difference they made today. I could only be awsome today because they are. When things got tough and I was walking at snails pace wondering if I could finish I remembered Donna telling me I was still lapping everyone on the couch however slow I was going. That made me smile and with every little smile the pain got a bit less.
I am always hugely critical of myself but today I think I did well. Did I enjoy it? Hell no. But I do absolutely totally love having done it.