Its April 26th 2015 and marathon fever has hit everyone, of course the buzz surrounding the London marathon is unbelievable, I whizz through tweet after tweet, Facebook post after Facebook post and article upon article all about London and the amazing stories surrounding it. I have to admit, I am filled with an insane jealousy for all the people lucky enough to get a place and then I realise, I couldn’t run it if I tried! This brings me to todays post…
The Southampton half-marathon
I might only be half way to marathon point but I still have my own demons to face and lets give credit where credit is due, a half-marathon is certainly no easy feat, and today I would remind myself of that by taking part in APB Southampton’s first ever half-marathon event, and what an event it was!
I missed the boat to enter for my own place so I managed to take someone’s place last minute and I would now be known as Sara for the day! I was rather nervous as I hadn’t run a 13 miler since November and had a spout of Injury which had taken me the last month to get back my fitness. It was scary, the longest run I had done was 8 miles since the Gosport Half, I wasn’t sure my body could do it, but me being me, decided to enter anyway! What’s the worst that can happen…? Another injury which could set me back weeks? Oh yea…
The preparation started with a week of carb-loading (will be glad to see a salad I can tell you)
and race day started with an interesting train journey with the amazing Fareham Crusaders, with chats about breakfast, coffee and the most important morning routine on race day, the obligatory morning toilet trip! After a few giggles we arrived in Southampton to such a buzz, race village was brimming with runners, it was all very exciting! I think it was the biggest race I had ever been involved in with around 4300 runners arriving on race day.
We collected our T-shirts, had a quick toilet trip and did a bag drop ready to set off to the start line. It was difficult to get a space and even more difficult to figure out whereabouts in the start line you had even placed yourself. I think we estimated that we started in the 2 hours 30 group, which was a mistake from the offset, but it was too crowded to get through, so we gave up. Little start line selfie and we were off!
The gun sounded and all crusaders dispersed, I was then left to run my own race, keeping my eyes out for any crusaders on the way. The route started in town, I ran past my university and through some streets I had never even seen before, it was all very exciting. I had planned to pace myself at 9.30 for the first 6 miles, but it appeared all the carb-loading paid off and I kept hitting the 9 minute mark and feeling great so I kept it at between 9-9.15 which was hard as my body definitely thought it was in a 10K and wanted to push me faster! “NO! I must not speed off, I will die in the second half” I said to myself, and so I tried to slow down, my body eventually won!
The 5K mark passed us and the dreaded Itchen Bridge loomed… “You can do this” I pleaded with myself, and so I approached the bridge like a soldier and went for it, remembering not to go too hard (Thanks Roger) and to dig in my heels (thanks Jim) and was astonished that my pace remained at 9-9.15! I kept my eyes peeled for Crusaders the other side of the bridge coming back over, which kept my mind at ease. We waved and cheered, it was so nice to have support, I cannot tell you how much of a difference it makes to a race. Finally reached the top of the bridge and it began to decline, I used this opportunity to gain some pace, I took every opportunity to do this, then it was back up and over again and it was actually fine. Let me just put it out there, I was chuffed to bits I had conquered the bridge but let me tell you, whilst concentrating our efforts pre-race on this bridge, we all neglected to look into the rest of the course, which was about to be underestimated in a big way!
The next couple of miles were nice and flat, we headed over the Quay which I had never seen before, it was certainly one of the nicer points even though there were a couple of narrow points, which made it really hard to overtake the slower runners. I even whizzed past the first water stop and was feeling great! I was thinking, if I carry on at this pace I will absolutely smash my time.
I got prematurely excited, and then they began…. another bridge, ok, I wasn’t expecting that but it’s fine, we can manage a few hills, I popped a little glucose tablet and kept going, then they kept coming, slowly at first but they crept up, getting steeper and steeper. By mile eight I had hit the metaphorical wall that every runner dreads, and the next two miles can only be described as hell on earth! I must have taken about three glucose tablets during this time with hill after hill and I’m talking steep and long. I remember turning a corner and seeing one that looked like it went on forever and thinking “Are you kidding me?” My pace dropped dramatically to 10.45 in parts and it felt like I was doing a slow jog. I clawed back my pace at every down hill opportunity and I didn’t stop, I didn’t walk on any of the hills and I didn’t stop at the top, I kept going and I am so proud of myself for that!
My legs became tried, but I remembered a valuable tip I heard from a Runner Academy podcast which said, at specific points in your long run if you feel your pace drop its because your muscles are getting tired, so pick up the pace slightly for 30 second bursts and you will return to your natural pace, and so I did this, every now and then and I managed to eventually claw back my pace. Can I just say, thank god for the crowds, the Marshalls and the entertainment on those hills, you cannot begin to imagine just how much we need that support to focus on when we feel like there’s nothing left in the tank!
Mile 11 arrived slowly and we eventually made it to the beautiful Southampton common, I was thinking we only have two miles to go, you can do this!!! The scenery and the flat surface made this last stretch possible for me, I think I paced around 8.30-8.45 to get my pace from 10.43-9.25 average in the last couple of miles which I was really proud of, all I kept thinking was, finish strong!
Somewhere within me I found my fire and kept pushing and pushing and managed to over take people as I went. We got back into town and passed the 12 mile marker and I just kept on pushing. It was so close now I just wanted it to be over, I just kept running and running and then we got round one of the last corners which was another bloody hill! What are you trying to do to us??? Thankfully just after this I saw the lovely Crusaders at the side shouting for me that the finish was just around the corner. I sped right up and over took a few more people, nearly taking someone out in the process, oops! Then I got to the finish and oh my god, what a relief! I crouched over to catch my breath then slowly hobbled over to collect my medal. It was emotional, my legs had completely seized up, I couldn’t wait to stretch them as I feared I might not be able to walk tomorrow, so I just did it at the side-lines. It was a slow walk out of the finish, crowds of people were trying to collect their goodies, but I didn’t care, I had finished, and it felt AMAZING!
We were gifted a foil blanket, New Balance draw string bag, awesome medal, bottle of water, some crisps and the weirdest tasting pink carb drink I have ever tasted! Not a fan! The bananas had gone I believe, but I didn’t mind.
I finished the race with a PB of 2:03:28, from a flat half course of 2:10:11, with a pace of 9.25 overall, and could not have been happier! I placed 703 chip time out of 1743 other women and 2583 over all out of 4258! Can’t grumble with that for a second half-marathon! The other Crusaders smashed it and we all came away feeling on top of the world!
Today, I type this from my sofa, I can hardly walk, but you know what? I would do it again in a heart beat. The feeling you get when you finish a race is something I can’t begin to explain, so I can only imagine how it must feel to finish a marathon.
Today, I am feeling proud to be part of such an amazing club and I know that I wouldn’t have got here had it not been for the support I have received from the Fareham Crusaders. I am feeling #unstoppable.
Well done to all the amazing London marathoners for yesterday and to all the amazing people who took part in Southampton, #we beat the bridge!
Until next time….