Originally I had planned to race this and attempt to come somewhere near my half marathon PB, but after speaking to a few people I realised this probably was going to be harder than I wanted it to be as I didn’t realise quite how undulating the course would be.
So I re-planned what I was going to do. Before the Liverpool marathon in June I want a half marathon that I can let myself go a bit on…but I’d quite like to give myself the opportunity to do well (yes, yes cherry picking courses for PB potential purposes I know). I haven’t actually been able to test myself out on any sort of flat course yet as my local parkrun has a hill you do three times and other runs are either intentionally hilly or are my long slower runs.
I heard about the Hackney Half Marathon (two weeks time) and found it was flat and fast so signed myself up. This meant that I could use the Southampton half as a training run, and with running there I could make it up to 18.5 miles. There would be a time gap between the 5.5 mile run there and the start but as my first 18ish miler I was happy.
I had a High5 Energy Bar after my run there to tide me over and some water with nuun in it. I was also able to put some fresh running clothes on too. I met up with some running club friends and we headed over to watch the 10k start. We cheered them on and then headed to the race village. It was lovely and organised and honestly didn’t feel like the first ever event.
You could pick up your finisher’s technical T-shirt before the race but I decided to leave getting mine until after I had finished as the queue was massive (though this did stress me out a little as I was worried they would run out of Smalls – they didn’t thankfully). There were so many of my running club, Hedge End RC, doing this race that I was just surrounded with red, white and blue vests everywhere which was fantastic. The atmosphere was brilliant as well, but it was COLD.
Eventually we all had to reluctantly peel our layers off and head to the bag drop (nice and well organised). I realised in my bag I handily had my poncho that I’d kept from the Paris marathon (last year!) so while everyone else was donning their black bags I had this huge, quite posh green ponch (with a hood!) to wear. And as we walked to the starting pens I saw someone else had the same poncho so I tapped her on her shoulder and said “snap!”. She smiled and replied “yes but mine is last year’s” and I said “yes mine too!” and we chatted about how much we enjoyed that race which was lovely.
After the standard pre-race selfie with the guys I was going to be running with and hopping around trying to keep warm for a bit we were soon off. I was running with a lovely bunch of running club guys, some of whom were after a PB or was their first half. We’d discussed beforehand a range of paces to stay at and we started nice and relaxed.
In fact, I’ve never run so many miles so easily and with so much enjoyment before on a training run. The miles just flew by! We chatted, we joked, we waved and shouted. It was brilliant! We pushed each other and got pushed on by the brilliant spectators (and swarms of our own club mates who weren’t running).
We pushed each other on when we got to Itchen Bridge, which was a slow long incline up and down and then back over it again. We enjoyed the scenic (sort of?) sights of the Southampton football club. We encouraged each other up the steep Burgess Road hill. We even sung to Matt Le Tissier (old Southampton football player) whom we caught up with. In fact, we got everyone around him singing and he looked quite pleased (though very knackered).
The support from our club was amazing and from the people of Southampton who came out in droves to support us. OK so Southampton isn’t London or the most scenic of places, but it was an interesting course with lots of variation in terms of sights and elevation. A good number of water and gel stops too.
Sadly though the fun times ended somewhat at mile 10 when Mike experienced some horrible cramp in his calves. He had to slow down and stop a few times to try and alleviate the tightness and pain. It’s happened to him quite a few times during races and he doesn’t know how to prevent it or cure it when it occurs. Any ideas or advice would be appreciated! He’s going to try calf shields while running and taking magnesium tablets to see if that helps.
The others carried on but I stayed with him as my time didn’t matter as I was just looking for the miles on my feet. I just wish I could have helped but there was nothing really I could do but try and take his mind off it and encourage him round. He was on for such a good time which was clearly very frustrating to him. But that being said, he still got a good time despite stopping and slowing down (and the course being hilly!) so he shouldn’t be too disappointed at all.
I don’t regret staying with Mike at all as it would have been awful for him to have suffered alone and if anything keeping the pace slower meant my legs felt really good the next day! I wasn’t as tired as I normally am after a long run as well. My official time was 1:54:58.
As we headed to the finish the crazy thought did cross my mind that I felt I could run home but realised that would be tempting fat far too much. Let’s not get carried away! I did feel very good running though and it’s given me a great confidence boost for the marathon. I just need to survive the coming weeks. I have two more 18 milers, but without a break as I realise having an hour and half between the runs wasn’t a good emulation of a marathon experience!
The medal is quite chunky and hefty and the post race goodie bag was a real drawstring bag with crisps and water…and they tried to give me some weird pink protein drink which I managed to duck away from – looked suspect to me 😉
All in all an absolutely fantastic race. The company I ran with was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I just wish Mike’s calves had behaved so he could have had a better race, but (perhaps selfishly) it showed me that being sensible during a long run in terms of my pace could mean quicker recover for me afterwards. I even did intervals on Tuesday morning they felt that good!
Have you ever done a race as a training run or part of a training run? It’s brilliant. It’s catered, you get a medal and you’re with loads of other runners.
How do you deal with cramp?
What do you like to see in a race goodie bag? Generally I like food, but decent food not a Mars Bar or some sugar-filled drink.