As the proverbial bell tolls for us all, so the day dawned yesterday for me to take part in the Swindon half marathon. Regular readers will know I’ve been preparing for this (and dreading it) for some time now and to say I was nervous would be a massive understatement! I’ve run a couple of 10ks before, the most recent of which was something of a nightmare and although I’ve been training for a while, had never actually run the half marathon distance of 13.1 miles.
Fortunately for me I was joined by the lovely Lucy Cartlidge on the day. It was Lucy’s second half marathon in two weeks (!) so I was really pleased to be on the starting line with someone who knew the ropes of this kind of race. I was also fortunate in choosing to take part in my first race in a place I called home for nearly seven years. What this meant was that I had some familiarity with the route and also a small army of dedicated and enthusiastic cheerleaders (more on them later).
The build up
The road leading up to yesterday has been a long one. I have had a half marathon on my ‘bucket list’ of things to do for a number of years. I’m no runner but I get a kick out of the challenge and after completing my first 10k run three years ago, had a half marathon ear marked as my next distance up. But then life got in the way; I got married, I moved house, moved jobs and then started up a new business. So it took until earlier this year to ink the date in my diary and really get training.
I was running around 3 miles when I started training properly. And with some help from some good books, advice from friends and a lot of weekends plodding the roads of West Berkshire, I slowly but surely got my distance up. When it comes to me and running, slow is pretty much the operative word unfortunately. But I like to think that what I lack in speed I make up for in sheer bloody mindedness 🙂 So whilst I knew I was physically ready to tackle the run, I also knew it was going to be a case of mind over matter and probably more of a mental battle than anything else. I was so nervous that I’d convinced myself I was going to come last out of everyone competing and with nearly 2000 runners taking part, I really didn’t want that to happen!
The big day
So after a nice big bowl of pasta the night before, Lucy and I made our way over to Swindon where we were greeted by my amazing friends waving home made banners and proffering jelly babies gallore. The weather was perfect too, dry and sunny but not too hot, hurrah. Then before I knew it, we’d lined up and after a quick Mexican wave through the rows of runners, we were off! Although it starts by going up a hill, the first couple of miles seemed to go by quite quickly, even by my slow standards. Lucy was brilliant at getting me through the first couple of miles which I always find tough, chatting away and admiring the Wiltshire countryside.
Then just after three miles, the ascent began. You can see from the picture the way the course goes up hill and it was pretty brutal. But just as I was getting tired before the five mile mark, my friends appeared from nowhere waving their banner and cheering louder than anybody else. Perfect timing. On I went. Shortly afterwards, Lucy cracked on at her usual (much faster pace) so now it was just me against the road. At about this point on the route, the hills just keep on coming and people all around me started doing a combination of run/walk/run. It was something I really didn’t want to do. I came out with the aim of running 13.1 miles but just as Lucy had warned me, walking seemed to be sort of contagious. It was as though as soon as someone else started walking, lots of other people did too. Not me – despite the fact I really wanted to – I kept on running (or plodding as the case may be).
After the seven mile mark, the course begins its descent back through some lovely villages just outside Swindon. This was a good feeling but despite having got past the half way mark, I was getting quite tired. But behold, my cheerleaders appeared again as if on cue to give me another boost and keep me going a bit further.
The nine mile mark then felt like it would never come. There were some horrid ‘surprise’ hills in this section and I was just really struggling at this point. But I gritted my teeth and carried on. Then magically the ten mile mark appeared. At eleven miles a kind supporter was giving out orange segments and they were like a little piece of heaven! Shortly after that was the last hill. It’s a bit of pig. A long gradual hill that I used to run up when I lived in Swindon. But at the bottom were two more of my friends (complete with babies in buggies) waiting to cheer me on. A bit further up again were my banner waving friends urging me onto the twelve mile marker. Then in the last half a mile, two more friends popped up and ran all the way to the finish line with me. I won’t lie. At this point I just wanted to stop in the road and lie down where I was. But they just willed me on. They couldn’t have done a better job if they’d literally picked me up and carried me to the finish line!
And then, just like that it was all over. I felt a bit light headed, a bit unsteady on my feet, but pretty great too. I haven’t had my official time yet but I think I came in at 2.40 something. Which, as previously stated, is standard plodder pace for me. But the good news is that to date, it’s my personal best over a half marathon distance, because it’s the first and only time I’ve run that far!
As you can tell, the support of my friends, both on the day and in the build up has been massively motivating to me. My family and my fabulous PLN too have joined in with such encouragement and with Mr G away in sunny Afghanistan, it’s been even more valuable. I’ve raised nearly £500 for Help For Heroes which is just brilliant. And if you wanted to, there’s still time to sponsor me here.
But for now I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who chivvied and cheered and helped me through those 13.1 miles before, during and after. I hope to get through them a little quicker next time I tackle them – probably in the Reading half marathon next April – but there’ll never be a time where it meant more to me than this one 🙂