Today was the Harewood House half marathon. As I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t have the pre race nerves I often have in the run up to any organised event. I was a little more anxious this morning but nothing too bad. Nerves kicked in when I saw Kath’s Facebook post.
We set off shortly after 8am, got there for just before 9am, went to the loo, had a wander around. It was cold, really cold! Kath bought herself a coffee and we sat in the car for 20 minutes or so. Then I went to the loo (again, obviously) and then we bumped into another Run1000miler Stuart (Hi Stuart!). It was lovely to chat briefly (and to now know that he had a great run and was lucky enough to see deer – how brilliant!) as we all stepped from foot to foot to try to stay warm(ish). When Stuart went to drop off his jacket in his car, we walked around the grounds a little trying to stay warm. Then it was time to line up and set off. I took my fleece off and passed it to Kath and then I was off.
I was quite happy with my 2 minute run, 30 second walk intervals. The field we were running through was springy and I giggled. I settled in at the back of the pack. The views were gorgeous, there were red kites circling above, the sun was coming out. We swept left and had a downhill road section. As I slowed for my scheduled walk break, my calf tightened. Really tightened. No, no no. Just no I thought. This can’t be happening. Briefly I thought about what Kath would say if I rang her now having to pull out or what I would say and write. The tightness had barely eased when the next run beep came. I ran anyway. It was niggling and tight but I kept going. Mile 1 had come and gone, Mile 2 wasn’t far behind. I sort of felt ok but the calf niggle was, well, niggling. I’d been running quite well uphill – I’d just been sticking to my 2 minute/30 seconds where they fell but around mile 3 I decided to stop trying to run them and nurse the calf. Instead I ignored some of the walk breaks on the downhill.
So after the first 3 miles I slowed down considerably aware that my calf would need nursing round the course quite carefully. I was ok though. I soon lost sight of the next runner in front and there were a handful of people behind me but quite some way away so for the next few miles it felt like I was alone on the course – in fact it was like that until I briefly joined the 10km route around 8 miles. In a good way. In fact I loved it. I saw rabbits and maybe a hare but it could have just been a big rabbit, it moved fast. I saw lots of little birds and whenever I came out of a wooded area into open fields there were red kites to watch. What stunning creatures they are. The views are amazing on this course. It’s hard to describe – just different at every turn, wood, fields, rolling hills, Harewood House (in all sorts of odd light), just stunning.
I had a few good little wins along the course. I have mentioned my fear of downhill, slippy, icy etc before. I don’t think I mentioned I discussed this with therapist the other day – more on that another time – but some of the things we talked about really resonated today and instead of hesitating at the top of a steep grassy downhill I just kept moving; instead of trying to find a ‘safe’ way through a boggy bit I just went for it and bounced through and instead of whimpering at the sight of some of the muddy sections, I shrugged my shoulders and just went for it. And you know what, I slipped and you know what else – nothing happened. The world didn’t stop turning, I didn’t even fall over. I found the next somewhere for my foot and the one after that and after that and then the ground was less move-y.
So even though I had slowed significantly and was walking lots and my calf was very definitely grumpy I had a great time. At some point just before mile 7 I suddenly remembered that there was a cut off time for the 8 mile water stop. I couldn’t remember whether it was 2 hours or 2.5 hours though. I had a quick look at my watch and decided that either way I’d be ok. Somewhere between mile 7 and 8 I noticed that I was hungry and also beginning to feel a bit tired. I hadn’t really felt tired until now. I decided that at the 8 mile point I’d stop briefly to get a bit of Kath’s home made cherry and almond flapjack (you need these in your life – I’ll share the recipe when I get chance) and have it with water. As I did that the last people still behind me came past in a mass of 10km runners whose route we were briefly sharing.
I walked until my flapjack and water had settled. I felt better. I had a little jog and did my best impression of a dressage pony through a boggy muddy bit and power walked up the hill and jogged down the other side and kept plodding and then something changed in my calf muscle. It didn’t snap or pop or anything but the niggle that I’d sort of got used to changed to pain. Not serious STOP NOW sort of pain. Just an ‘excuse me, you’re pretty close to breaking me’ sort of pain. Hmph. Ok, no matter, I’ll walk a bit.
I walked a bit. I was now last, not by far -there were 3 people within about 15 metres of me, but last. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like. Honestly, it was fabulous! The sweeper was keeping his distance on the bike and I was left to my own thoughts and the views, goodness the views. I tried running a bit more. My calf protested. Ok. Well, I’ll walk a bit more. I walked until just after mile 9. Then I tried to gently jog a downhill slope and my calf said no and my hip flexor said ‘Hi, remember me, I’m here and you knowing that is probably not a good thing’. I made the decision. I called Kath to let her know that I’d be pulling out. I’d let the sweeper know already and he said that if I could walk the best thing would be to simply make it to the next checkpoint. I was quite happy with that really although I didn’t realise it was another mile to go. Throughout that last mile my calf didn’t get any worse but my hip flexor got really quite sore. As I saw the 10 mile marker I briefly felt like a complete idiot for deciding not to go on. It’s only the sheep loop, only a parkrun, only a distance I can easily do…. But it would have been idiotic.
I stopped at the drinks station just at the 10 mile marker (although my Garmin says I did 9.82) where there was also an aid station and I could get a lift back with one of the off-road ambulance vehicles. Thanks to James and Jonathan for the ride! I literally got a lift back to our car where Kath was waiting. I nipped into the first aid centre and asked for an ice pack which I stuck down my pants onto my hip flexor for the drive home. Everyone was lovely and asked if I needed them to look at my calf or whether I needed treatment but I really just needed an epsom salt bath and some stretches.
As things are now I am happy with my decision and proud of myself for once in my life having made a sensible decision. I don’t think I’ve done any damage. I think it was a useful reminder that my calf muscles need much much more and consistent strengthening and stretching. Ideally I’d also like to be a bit fitter and trained on hills for next time – although I was happy with how I felt walking them (I remember not being able to walk uphill without setting off heart rate alarms).
So I might not have finished but I’ve had an awesome day. I enjoyed all of it – even the last mile really. I might have been in pain but it really wasn’t that bad, particularly as I didn’t have to try and go any faster at that point and the course was still spectacular. In fact it is a course that makes you want to do it justice. I’ll be back next year. Loved it.