I was both excited and anxious about the Reigate Half Marathon. I was excited because I it was a switch-up from the usual long run grind I’ve been doing week after week, but I was anxious because my runs lately haven’t felt amazing.
I had a terrible run on the Thursday evening before that made me seriously doubt the sub 1:40 goal I had in my mind. Running at 8 minute miles for 6 miles that evening was a struggle. It was a really warm evening so this probably had an effect but it mentally knocked me. The parkrun on Saturday helped relieve some of my nerves but I still didn’t like going into a race without a real plan of attack.
Reigate is about an hour and a half away from my parent’s house, where I was staying the night before. My dad had kindly offered to drive me and support me and we planned to make it into a fun day with Nando’s afterwards. We left at 7am and I had my porridge and black coffee en route.
We were actually a little close to the mark of timings as we arrived and parked at 8.45am (the race began at 9.15am). Parking was easy to find and there were loads of car parks – and only £3! We then walked the short distance and got momentarily distracted by a very cool looking McLaren car. This was the lead vehicle! (Though my dad pointed out what a terrible journey that would be for the driver going less than 10mph for just over an hour).
We arrived at 9am at the race village. It was quite chilly that morning so I was glad to have on my new Brooks leggings over my shorts and the Brooks long-sleeved top but I started panicking as I realised how little time I had to get into my running gear (take leggings off, put compression socks on and attach bib to top).
It was fairly overcast for which I was grateful for. A nice cool run, I was hoping. The race village was really quite impressive and set in the lovely Priory Park.
I quickly got myself in gear and said goodbye to my dad, who was on a mission to find some good spots to stand and cheer at over the course.
Now it was 9:05am and I wasn’t even in the right wave yet, argghh. I quickly squirrelled my way through people past the different Xempo paces (saw Susie Chan pacing 2 hours, she was very friendly) and then spotted my friend, Matt who was pacing 1:45.
It was a very quick hello as I was still needing to get a bit further forward.I also managed to fan girl a bit about Kelly Holmes being on stage literally right next to us. She was giving lots of encouragements and advice (and had done the warm-up, of which I’d missed of course).
And breathe. I was in the right spot, my phone was tucked into my armband holder and my music was ready to play (my playlist was basically three albums I’m enjoying at the moment, picked purely for enjoyment rather than to get me to run fast as I wasn’t sure if I would be running fast but didn’t want to listen to nothing or a podcast).
The race started with a rather long incline that I wasn’t expecting. I suppose it helped stop me begin like a bat out of hell (which I do so often and shoot myself in the foot). After the incline (not really a hill, but definitely an incline) there was a nice decline and then I settled into a solid rhythm. I saw my dad within the first mile and he said he’d see me at mile 10.
And then realised I needed to pee. I HADN’T HAD MY PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY WEE. And it definitely wasn’t a psychological one either. I knew I’d left drinking my coffee too late. I tried not to think about it but realised I was inadvertently looking at bushes considering my options. I decided to forget it but if a loo appeared then I’d stop. Happily at the first water station (mile 3?) there were a row of loos and I dashed inside.
Honestly, I’m amazed at how fast I was in and out of there. I spotted the girl I was running next to up the road (bright pink shorts) and aimed to get back there – not by sprinting but by running probably 15 seconds faster than I had been. I just fixated on those pink shorts (not in a weird way…) and got back to my original area of people.
At this point I was consistently running around 7.30min/miles. It felt fishy. This was a pace I’d been running at parkrun lately (my best times being around 22 minutes at the moment). And yet 7.30s were feeling comfortable (not a breeze, but comfortable). I was wearing my Fitbit (I wear both my Fitbit and my Garmin when I run) and checked my heart rate. It was 170 which I didn’t think was too bad. I decided to keep at the pace I was at as it felt fine but I’d monitor my heart rate. If it went up I’d slow down.
Actually I did have to keep slowing myself down a few times, reminding myself I had a long way to go. In the back of my mind I wondered if the pace I was at was too fast and that I’d pay for it later but I thought, “what the hell, just embrace it”.
The course runs through beautiful country roads. There are a few undulations, but after every incline there was always a decline. Along the way clusters of people were standing on the sides cheering or handing out jelly babies and it felt very friendly. The marshals were all lovely and it just felt like a nice race, you know? A lovely run through the countryside ticking off the miles.
The sun did come out though and this made things all a bit sweaty but it wasn’t humid or overbearing. It also wasn’t crowded but there were enough people that you were usually running alongside two or three people at all times.It was nice knowing my dad was at mile 10 so it broke the race up nicely.It’s always nice knowing where your supporters are roughly going to be as it meant from mile nine I could start looking around and this took my mind of running. I spotted him literally under the mile 10 sign and we smiled and waved and I shouted, “just a parkrun to go!”.
I then switched my music to my parkrun/speed-workout playlist as I was ready to go-go-go. Sadly the course wasn’t quite optimal to put the hammer down as some rolling inclines increased in frequency and the most horrific hill appeared at mile 12.
It was a BEAST. A few people walked it and fared the same as me running it (I say “running”, the motions were there but the speed was not). Then there was another equally sharp hill afterwards. A lovely marshal shouted “it’s a short one!” which really helped to know. Then a sign saying “Caution Steep Decline” appeared and it was like party-time for my legs to speed up and goooo! (Well, in my head I was going speedy!)
I kept pushing and finally reached the race village area and knew it would be over soon. A marshal shouted at me that I was in the top ten females and that pushed me on faster. I smiled all the way to the finish and was greeted by lots of people cheering and shouting us in. It was a fantastic finish line.
My time was 1:37:45; I was not in fact in the top ten females ( was 14th (or possible 13th if Matthew made a mistake…) as it’s chip-timed of course so I might have been top ten gun time but not chip time – hey, I’ll take 14/13th position! I was SO pleased. Yes I’m like three minutes off my PB and over a minute off Weymouth Half earlier in the year but honestly I was so chuffed. I felt in control of the race (besides the hill) and comfortable. I wasn’t dying at the end either. It really has given me a HUGE boost of confidence exactly when I needed it. I was floating along happily, getting my medal, water, banana and perfectly fitting technical t-shirt.
Happy days indeed!
By now it was very warm though! It gave me a good excuse to show off my lovely Brooks sports bra which by the way is fantastic. Do you know why? Because you can undo it from the back exactly like a normal bra. This means no sweaty-almost-getting-stuck-horrific sports bra removal process. It’s just a quick unclasp and boom, done. It’s also very comfy and supportive (though I’m hardly the most blessed in this department to be the best judge).
I also nipped into the massage tent and a truly fabulous 10 minute FREE massage as well. I was still sweating as I laid on the bed which was, erm, pleasant.
My dad and me had a wander round the village and saw loads of amazing food tents offering loads of different foods, like Indian cuisine, burgers, Italian food, etc.It was a great atmosphere. I also bumped into fellow blogger,Beki (aka Miss Wheezy). She’d run the 10k earlier. We had a nice little natter and it was lovely to meet her in person!
Then my dad and me headed off to refuel, Nando’s-style.Standard whole chicken with a side salad and endless Diet Coke. I was heaven.
I thoroughly enjoyed this race. It was well organised and good fun. It had the feels of a big half, like Reading, but with a better and more picturesque course (and not as crowded). I went away with a smile on my face.
And what was lovely was that the design of the medal had been done by a clearly very talented five year old boy. Lovely touch!
What makes a race a good one for you?
How do you know a race is going well for you?
Do you like to travel out for races or prefer to stick to nearby ones? I love going to different and far-away places for races as I get to see other parts of the UK (and the world!).
**Full Disclaimer: I was given a free entry into the race as well as further products to help with my training and racing. All opinions are my own honest ones. I fully recommend this race and would happily enter it myself another year**