It was the Dirt Half Marathon yesterday – the event I’ve been training for since returning from the Alps in August. I’d seen a running coach, trained hard, avoided illness and injury and arrived healthy and fit on the start line. What would the race hold for me? I had no idea how fast I was, how hard it was going to be on my body or what the course was really like. I woke up yesterday morning and thought ‘Yikes’!
We dragged ourselves out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8am – 8am on a Saturday just shouldn’t be allowed! My kit was ready, jelly beans packed, number pinned on and all I had to decide was whether to wear a cap, sunglasses or a buff. The cap won the battle as it was foggy but the sun had potential. I had a big bowl of home made muesli (recipe here) followed by a strong cup of coffee to get me buzzing. After the inevitable faffing we were off. The drive to Leighton Buzzard was short and there was no traffic so we arrived in plenty of time for the 10am start. Parking was a bit of a problem though and we ended up driving over some grass and parking in a school playground – no idea if we were supposed to park there but we just followed everyone else. There should really have been someone to help direct the parking as it was chaotic. I picked up my timing chip and sent text messages to my 2 twitter buddies I was due to meet up with.
We sat in the car waiting for the start when everyone suddenly started walking to a small gate in a hedge and squeezing through. On the other side was a big field and this was the start. I lined up in the 2 to 2:30 hour finish group and eagerly waited for the start gun/horn/bell/whistle. There was no obvious start but we all started moving forward and the race was on. I had decided not to start too quickly this time as I always make that mistake and resolutely stuck to my 10kph pace letting other runners pass. Some of these looked as if they were on their last legs in the first mile, they were totally out of breath, coughing and pounding the path with every last ounce of energy they had left – I have no idea how they made it to the end if indeed they did manage to finish. We did a loop of a water park and then hit the long towpath alongside the Grand Union Canal. There were a lot of elbows along this narrow trail!
I only had my analogue wrist watch for company on this race as I sold my Garmin 305 recently and didn’t want to keep getting out my iPhone to check my pace. I wasn’t too bothered though as I knew what 10kph felt like and knew if I could keep that up that I’d finish in a reasonable time. The race was a mixture of tow path, country lanes and dirt tracks, trails in Stockgrove Country Park with a cow pasture thrown in too. It certainly was varied and I heard a moaning minnie behind me complaining that it was hard to find a rhythm with such variety – but that’s the point isn’t it – much more interesting than running round and round the Silverstone circuit for example.
I loved the trails in Stockgrove Country Park. I was still feeling strong and light on my feet. These trails were muddy, rooty, covered in leaves and hilly – great fun! I did some overtaking here and realised that I was going to finish in a reasonable time. After the fun in the park we came out onto the cow pasture and I overtook a few more people struggling on the muddy steps and bridges. I seemed to overtake or pull away from loads of people on the downhills too – thanks to coach Ian’s advice to just ‘let go’. We popped back out onto the tow path again but at mile 11 I started to feel it. It seems to take forever to reach mile 12 on the tow path and my legs were tiring quickly. I did reach mile 12 eventually and then it was just a lap of the water park to go. I could see the finish line on the opposite side of the canal but in a cruel, wicked twist of race organisers humour the water park lap went uphill and nearly killed me! I eventually stumbled, shuffled, hobbled over the line in 2:13.
Mr R was there to greet me and best of all, I didn’t feel sick and wasn’t crying – always a good end to a race! I’ve spent every minute since then eating and my quads have decided they’re having the day off today and will not be walking downstairs for love nor money!! I was a good race overall with a personal best by 39 minutes and I did another during the race at the 10k mark in 54/55 minutes too.
Things I learnt;
- I don’t like jelly beans
- I must drink more than 2 sips
- I didn’t need my running pack
- I don’t need GPS on every run
- Elbows hurt
- Mr R rocks!
I would have liked to have finished stronger though and will be working on that for the next half marathon which will be in the Alps and will be quite punishing I bet! Next race is a 12k race dressed as Santa in 2 weeks time – that will definitely be a personal best as I have never run a 12k race before – ho ho ho!!