Sunday had arrived, race day, I’m up early and fussing around the house, checking and rechecking that I’ve got everything I need ready for the race. Do I eat this, do I eat that, what should I eat?? Christ, I’m not ready for this!!
I look out of the window and even approaching 7am there is not a cloud in sight and the temperature is creeping up. Why oh why is it forecast to be the hottest day of the year on my first ever half marathon. Why on earth have they organised it with an 11am start, madness I tell you, madness!
I’d better drink something, but not too much, I don’t want to have to stop to relieve myself continually. What should I drink? How much? What if that’s too much, oh I don’t know. I’m sure it will be fine. But it’s going to be a scorcher. Oh noes what do I do?!!
Honey, have you moved the ferry tickets? I stuck them to the fridge, they’re not there now, what have you done with them? Honey!!!? Oh they’re in your handbag, can I have them back please so I can stick them in my sports bag so I’ve got everything in one place!
Sunblock, where’s the damn sunblock. No no no, not the factor 12, I need the kids factor 50, I need something that isn’t going to sweat off in the first 10 minutes. If I apply a layer of this now and again when we get there it’ll be a great base layer, right?
You’ve just got to love race day jitters!
Travelling down to Gunwharf Keys, ready to get the fast cat over to Ryde the jitters were being replaced with a sense if purpose, anticipation, the beginning of a journey and the culmination of all my training. Yes, I am ready for this, I’ve lost 5 stone in the past 11 months and run over 500 miles since April, what’s another 13.1 miles to add to the list.
Queuing with our tickets, nerves jangling again, I hear an ‘excuse me, are you racing today?’ from behind, I turn and find that the question is indeed being asked of me. This replaces the nerves with a sense of elation, I’ve been recognised as a runner by another runner. It’s quite something for someone with the inner turmoil of being overweight, unfit, unprepared and carrying an impending sense of failure with them. All of those feelings are replaced with a sense of pride, the fact that all my hard work HAS paid off and I’ve been recognised as a runner!
We, my partner, my 2 year old daughter and I, board the fast cat and head up to the sun deck seeing as its such a glorious morning, the views across the Solent are going to be spectacular. Also it’s a nice way to gather your thoughts. It’s my daughters first ever boat trip and she is so so excited, a welcome distraction.
What a great way to travel to your first ever half marathon!
On arrival we spot other runners milling about and heading in the general direction of the rowing club where registration is taking place. We head on down that way and mill about with the others. I get changed into my running gear and check and recheck everything again, though why I’m doing this I don’t know as I’ve already done this many times over the course of the morning!
11am approaches and all the other runners head back the way we came, along the promenade, I’d better join them! I hand my bag over to the missus, give them both a kiss and pose for a picture before the off!
The start itself was an odd affair, what with everyone loitering on the promenade and cars still driving down the road we are all about to run down, holiday makers furiously trying to navigate through 3-400 runners. It was a bit on the shambling side looking back at it, but at the time it was of no consequence, I had a race to run and that was all that was important.
We were off, now I knew that this course was going to be hilly so I’d thrown in some hills into my training runs, just to be on the safe side. Within a couple of minutes we had hit the first hill and I was starting to think that my hill work during training was someway less than what I was going to need to get through this! I was now starting to wish I’d done more investigation into the route, but then again if I had I may well have bailed out at the last minute! Boy it was tough, especially for a first timer, especially for a 16 stone 30 something first timer!
The hills kept on coming and being a road race, without any road closures, so did the traffic! Junctions were marshalled well, but irate motorists were a common theme throughout. Traffic also made things a bit of a nightmare on hills, I found myself getting stuck behind other runners and having to change pace/stride to sit in behind them until safe opportunities arose to go round them. This lost of momentum and running at other peoples pace took its toll, I never thought running slower than my usual pace would be quite so knackering!
The water stations were well positioned although the helpers weren’t always ready for you when you arrived sadly, and given that the temperature was up in the 30’s taking on fluid at each stop was essential! So some minor fumbling around there.
What was a welcome site were the sponge stations! These were well positioned and a god send. They seemed to be on hand just at the right time, when I was feeling like I was going to blow up from the heat there was one to cool me down!
The hills kept on coming, but I’d run a solid race (for me) up until mile 10, I had a little jump for joy when I reached double figures, but that’s when things came apart a bit! They appeared to have started putting hills on top of hills! My mile times started to head towards double figures at this point, the consistent 8-9 minute miles then became 10 minutes then 11 minutes. I was cursing the course designer for being a sadistic bastard at this point, but I soldiered on. The last 3 miles were tough, but I think what made it worse was the lack of signage and the lack of marshals, where was the course, on a couple if occasions I had to wonder if I was still on the correct route! Luckily for me I was and next thing I know I was on the downward stretch towards the finish line, my rubber legs carrying me ever forwards towards my goal.
I crossed the line in 2:07:17, my first ever half marathon completed. I was filled with a sense of elation as I was handed my finishers medal. That wasn’t the only feeling I had, I also had an insatiable thirst, but could find no water station at the finish line, luckily my partner was on hand with some much needed fluids!
What an experience, I have to say that was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve put my body through to date!
Will I go back and do it again? Quite probably, not for the organisation or scenery as neither were particularly great, but for the personal challenge of it. Those last 3 miles almost killed me, I know I can do better!!!
In the mean time I have my 2nd half marathon coming up in just a few days time, I really didn’t look at the dates properly when I entered that as well, but I’m sure it will be fine! It’s an off road undulating/hilly trail race called the Stansted Slog, it will be my first ever trail race. Having completed the IOW half, hills and all, the next one can’t be that hard, can it?