Harewood House Half Marathon

So remember last year, my DNF at the Harewood House Half Marathon? I said I’d be back and today I was. I have been looking forward to it and I wasn’t really nervous until this morning when I suddenly started feeling really anxious about the whole thing. The course is tough, I’m not.

Anyway I had been thinking about the race and in particular how I would manage to stick to #MyRunMyRules. I knew from last year that my pace would put me at the back of the pack even on a good day. I therefore spent some time really thinking about how I would feel if I was last and how I would feel running last for a considerable chunk of the race. How would I keep myself motivated and moving forward with the tail marker right behind me and the feeling of people waiting for me. I don’t like to keep people waiting.

Honestly I am absolutely fine with actually coming last, what I think I’d find more difficult is having to run last for most of the race, particularly if I lost touch with the pack or runners in front and there was an obvious big gap that would mean I was holding people up. Maybe that’s where some of the anxiety came from this morning. But anyway, we had our porridge, got sorted and set off. We parked, went to the loo, picked up our t-shirts, went to the loo, met one of our fellow #Run1000Mile challengers, went to the loo (nothing like nervous peeing!) and then we were ready to start.

We set off. For the first few hundred metres all I really had was people streaming past me. I smiled. It is quite hard to keep smiling as everyone keeps over taking you. I tried not to mind and I tried not to speed up. Very soon I was last. I could hear the back marker on his bike behind me and I could hear the marshals’ radio conversations which were quite entertaining. Ok, I thought, well, I’ll be doing all of this right from the back. I felt surprisingly ok about that and settled in.

I hadn’t really looked at pace since an early glance which told me that at 11.20 minutes per mile I was going way way way too fast. I thought I’d slowed a fair bit but at the 1 mile beep I was at 12.08. Too fast. I tried to consciously slow down but already being last made that quite hard somehow. I was gaining on a woman in front of me who had been pulling away but by 1.5 miles she looked like she was struggling and I went past her. I hope she kept going – she must have done for quite a while at least because the back marker didn’t catch up to me and I didn’t see him again.

I was still trying to slow down as I saw deer on my left and red kites in the sky. I couldn’t help but smile. I actually saw loads of deer, loads of kites and tons of smaller birds and an odd squirrel or two. I am utterly rubbish at remembering the route or what was where on it so this may be in the wrong order, possibly totally jumbled. Anyway, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I could see a woman in front of me running a stunningly smooth even pace and I tried to keep with her. I was fine on the flat but she had far more power up the hills. Eventually I stopped focusing on the pink of her jacket, did the sensible thing and let her go. She stayed in view for a long time but eventually she was gone. I was alone. It was bliss.

Coming up to 3 and a half miles I had the first walk as I made my way along the edge of a grassy field heading towards the first steep downhill. I sipped some Tailwind and I tried to keep marching and saw two women ahead of me. I was easily catching up with them. We had a quick chat just before the downhill and then I kept going carefully jogging down the uneven and quite steep track. The marshal sent me diagonally down the hill and that seemed like the route most people took judging by the muddy path. However, the actual route seemed to go straight down to hit the 4 miles marker and then turn left. This is probably the main reason the course measured short.

I think we next turned up into the woods and I walked the hills. I was feeling the too fast start and very briefly it crossed my mind that maybe I was totally screwed but that thought went as fast as it came. I saw some more deer and then at some point I saw some lovely looking Jacob sheep – they looked familiar and then I remembered that the flock we got ours from also had some going to the Harewood estate so it could well be the same blood line. That made me smile and reminisce for a while.

I enjoyed the course and I enjoyed being on my own for so much of it. Around mile 6 I realised I was falling in with the pace of two blokes in front. They were running slightly faster but walking more slowly. I caught up with them for a chat just after the mile 8 water station. We marched up the hill together and then met Susan who was struggling a little. Me and her walked and jogged together for a mile ish leaving the two blokes behind us but then I was walking faster again so I powered up the hill and jogged down the other side to the Mile 10 marker.

I felt ok. I slowly jogged along the track trying to stay out of the way of dog walkers. I was gaining on the aid station where I had called it a day last time and was smiling because I knew I was going beyond. I heard a runner coming at some considerable pace behind me. I wondered whether Susan had maybe found her running legs again but it wasn’t her. It was someone just out running I think and she was fast! As she came past me she touched my shoulder and told me I was amazing. It nearly made me cry but it also gave me a boost and I jogged on and turned left back into the woods. Less than 3 miles left. I slowly jogged most of those last miles with just a few little walks thrown in to reassure myself that I had enough left in the tank. As I plodded past the 11 mile marker I had the rest of my Tailwind feeling pretty happy about my fuelling. Although later on I wished I’d saved just a little bit for the last push.

I’m fairly sure the mile markers were out by quite a bit. Mile 13 was, if I got my numbers right, nearly 1.25 miles long and the Mile 13 sign was definitely more than .1 of a mile away from the finish. The last bit is brutal. It’s not a steep climb but it’s one hell of a pull. I walked up the track, passed another woman and tried to encourage her on, then I turned left into the field. I could see the finish now and willed my legs to start running again. They did, slowly and now feeling really heavy but run they did. I saw Kath coming towards me and she jogged a bit at the side of me when I got to her. She had finished in 2 hours 19 minutes and had nearly been taken out by some deer which had decided to split the runners and cross their path. She said she felt them come past behind her. Wowsers.

The nice thing about coming in at the end and in space is that the announcers at the finish have time to tell the world you’ve done it. Of course most of the world has already gone home but it was still nice to hear my name and a well done and a comment on my ‘big smile’ which was actually more a sort of Cheshire Cat grimace. I got my medal and bottle of water and a hug from Kath. We headed to the car and I stripped down to my bra to change out of my sweaty top and into something warm and dry. I felt awesome. Tired. But awesome. I sipped my tailwind recovery drink and nibbled a cheese sarnie in the car. My time: 3 hours and 58 seconds. So those 58 seconds are annoying. I’m going to have to go back and try again to conquer these rather ridiculous looking squiggles on a map!

DNF but not an unhappy one

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.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 16.36.31

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.

Red Kite – Picture from RSPB

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 28500259_915935378586611_1230085131_ohaving 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.


The one where I don’t have pre-race nerves

I should be nervous. I should be anxious. I should be absolutely fucking terrified. I’m doing a half marathon tomorrow. And not just any half marathon either – the Harewood House Half Marathon which is hilly and muddy. There is a cut off time to reach 8 miles. I’ll be on my own because Kath’s ankle isn’t ready for hills and mud yet.

So why am I not anxious? It’s certainly not because I’m well prepared. I’m not. I have no idea if I can do the distance – I haven’t gone anywhere near that distance for some time actually and to add to that I haven’t run in the last 2 weeks really. I was suddenly terrified and tired and busy and I just didn’t go. Always the way isn’t it – when I’d mentally benefit from running most I find it the hardest to get out there. Anyway, so I’m NOT prepared. I could of course just pull out and not go. But I want to go. I actually want to line up on the start line and see if I can get round. I’ll be setting my watch to run/walk and then I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other until someone tells me I have to stop or I cross the finish line. That’s it. That’s my plan.

I’ll let you know how I got on tomorrow.