Southampton Half Marathon recap

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.IMG_0419

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.

IMG_0422After 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).

Capture Not the whole gang, but looking quite focused

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).

IMG_0433 Photo credit: Stephen McPhillips – thank you!

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 😉

IMG_0423 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.

20 Replies to “Southampton Half Marathon recap”

  1. I did the same with the Liverpool half this year, ran 5 miles to the start and then ran the race at non-pb pace, which was quite strange cos I am usually gunning for it in races! It was great though, it flew by and because it was local there was loads of support from club members not running and loads of fellow penny lane striders running too, so it was lots of fun. (except for the rain and that I was so soggy by the end!). I would definitely do it again or look at a 20 mile race as part of a marathon training plan.
    Helen recently posted…Greater Manchester Marathon – the difficult second marathonMy Profile

  2. Sounds like a a great race. I quite like combining races with training, keeps things interesting. Is it cramp he is suffering from? If so, I would def say yes to Magnesium, epsom salt baths, and magnesium spray are good too, I would also consider electrolytes. I suffered from calf issues last year for a bit, I could run for a mile or so but then they became so tight and heavy, I couldn’t continue- I think it may have been a bit of compartment syndrome, it went away when I stopped running for a while, which is not really an ideal solution. Well done on the race, and long run.
    Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) recently posted…London Marathon WeekendMy Profile

  3. I think if I were to ever run a race, I would definitely want to do it with a group of people! And in the swag bag I would totally want a cupcake. Or a candy bar. 😉
    KAT recently posted…[WIAW] 4.29.15My Profile

  4. Love the shots where it is looking like your club is dominating the race! There are a couple of local events round here, where all you can see in every photo is a sea of green from our club green vests, and at races like that the club support is superb!
    It was really nice of you to stop and stay with Mike. Luckily I have never cramped during a race, but after Shires and Spires last year I was in tears writhing around on the floor it was so bad! That was because I hadn’t taken enough electrolytes on board and what I did have had been diluted by water.
    For the last three years I have run Oakley 20 as a training run – my last long run before my marathon. It’s a good race to use as a training run as it falls three weeks before London, the support is good, it’s a two lap course so you can leave anything you might want later and all water and jelly babies are handed to you on the way round!
    When I was training for my first marathon I was told that if time was tight, and I couldn’t get my long runs in it was better to split them up and either run morning and evening, or late one night and early the next morning with the two runs making up the total distance. I did a lot of this when I was training for the ultra through Women’s Running mag as well.
    Mary recently posted…VMLM this year as a spectatorMy Profile

    1. There’s a local(ish) 20 miler a few weeks out from London that I’ll definitely aim to do in preparation. It’s always nice to have a race to use as a training run – a lovely supported catered run!
      Oh good to know about the splitting of the runs thanks!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Southampton Half Marathon recapMy Profile

  5. Brilliant stuff- well done! I didn’t realise you were there for the 10k start- that is super early! (And I would have looked out for you!).
    You are doing so well with your training now- and I think even though you had a gap between the runs, the gap isn’t big enough for any recovery so it will stand you in good stead.
    I thought it was well organised too- especially for a first one. I loved the cheerleaders and scouts on the way around. I went to ask if I could get my t-shirt at the end as I didn’t bring a bag for the drop, and didn’t want to carry it, and they had piles left- I did think I was gambling a bit as most of the HM runners would have collected theirs by the time I got there.
    I like some sort of food in a goody bag, but the best thing is a banana- I don’t like them before a run but I love one after. I also like a bottle of water because then I can add a nuun tab and hopefully combat any headaches coming my way.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Southampton 10K- don’t think about the bridgeMy Profile

    1. I did try looking for you as I knew you were doing the 10k but didn’t spot you (or my friend who was running it too – just a nightmare to find anyone in a big starting pack!)
      I saw people eating bananas but I couldn’t find any – luckily though I had one at home so I could munch on it while getting ready so I wouldn’t be absolutely famished before lunch.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Southampton Half Marathon recapMy Profile

  6. Well done that looks like a lot of fun and I bet it was nice for it being more relaxed. I’m totally crapping myself for the GNR, I’ve never had a race as a training run but I might make the GN10K part of my training instead of actually trying to race it, although for me right now the idea of racing anything is laughable 😉

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