Bournemouth Half Marathon

I’ve done the Bournemouth Marathon twice before, but never the Bournemouth Half Marathon. And it seemed like a great race to do the week before the Chicago Marathon. A last long run. A catered long run with a medal!

Considering how my training hadn’t been exactly how I would have liked it, a sharp build-up and not as many long runs as I wanted, I decided to do three miles before we headed off the half in the morning. Sadly this meant a very early alarm as the race was to begin at 8am and it would take us an hour to drive there. Ooof.

Happily (?) I woke up before my 5.40am alarm at 5.30am and decided to just get up and give myself a bit more of a buffer. It was warm outside (15 degrees) but dark so I grabbed my hand torch. The torch (from Nathan Sports) is fantastic. It has a front and back light, a rape alarm and attaches to your hand so you actually don’t have to hold it.

The run went well. As it was so quiet I ran mostly on the road (it’s a very quiet route in general) and saw several cats and a fox, who just stood and watched me run past. It was all very peaceful.

Then I got back, quickly swapped into some new running gear and my parents, Kyle and I headed off to Bournemouth. Kyle’s brother, Zack, was also going to be running the half as his first ever half marathon (and first actual race I believe) and him and his family were already down there staying in a hotel And happily my friend Emma was running as well. So lots going on and lots of friendly faces!

My parents dropped Kyle and I off and we headed to the portaloos where we met Zack, his mum, his sister, Lucy, and his other brother, Adam. The queues for the loos were huge and seemingly not moving. With only about 15 minutes before the start I was getting nervous. Eventually I gave up and found a well concealed bush nearby. Whew!

Then we headed to the start. We heard over the speakers though that the race had been delayed until 8.15am (we later found out due to the grim police investigation of a dead body).

We spotted Emma and wished each other well which was nice. Then it was off to our respective waves and then the start.

Kyle was planning on seeing what he could do, so I let him run off while I kept to my own more gentle speed. I remembered the course well from the other Bournemouth races I’ve done (the half follows a lot of the similar marathon route, but of course less of it). I had music going and just zoned out.

The first three or so miles went by nicely and I saw Kyle on the switch-back going the other way. I also saw Zack looking relaxed just behind me. He was aiming for a sub-2 hour half, but with a bit of sketchy training and a problematic toenail it was going to be a push.

As we got to around six miles I started to feel like things were harder than I wanted. My pace felt less relaxed and I suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired. As soon as I recognised that feeling I couldn’t get it out of my head. Like a niggle in my brain, all I kept thinking off was “I’m so tired. This is so hard”.

The temperature was increasing but not crazily so. It was a lovely clear day and the crowds were out in force. Annoyingly there was a head wind directly against us as we headed down the promenade. I felt this chip away at my good vibes and the demons set up camp in my head. What if Chicago felt like this? I felt a deep dread in my stomach.

To be honest, I ran this race badly. I wasn’t racing it but my strategy was appalling. It was meant to be an easy run and I (wrongly) associated pace with effort. My watch was saying 8-8.20 and I found it bizarre that this felt hard, but I didn’t slow down. I realise I should have just backed off and actually reduced my pace to the real easy pace for that day.

Easiness can change – the weather, the course, how you feel, how you’ve slept etc. etc. can massively impact what pace is easy for you. But like a newbie I ignored it and pushed through. I knew my parents, and Kyle’s family, would be mile eight and I got a horrible déjà vu from when I ran the marathon the first time and ignored my dad at this point saying I should stop because I felt a lot of pain in my knee. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t suffering any niggles, but I was feeling so drained. Should I stop?

As I got to my dad I did stop. He looked very worried – I don’t normally do this during a race. I said how I felt and how hard I was finding it. He suggested maybe I drop out? Or walk a bit? But I was resolved to finish. I had a little cry, a big hug and then headed off. This hugely helped. I felt like I’d had an emotional pick-me-up gel. A hug in a gel if you like.

Then I was hit with the hill that I was very familiar with during the marathon. Thankfully not the 18 miler hill which is horrific, but a shorter and less sharp hill, but tough nonetheless. I felt a new lease of life and pushed on up, smiling as much as I could remembering reading an article that smiling triggered happy feelings in your body. What a loon I must have looked like.

Then it was a lovely downhill which I fully embraced and a long slog to the Boscombe Pier. The sand underfoot that had blown over from the beach made for an annoying running path… the wind dead against us… the sun in my eyes… it all felt so very hard. But I spotted Kyle’s dad and he gave me a big cheer as I headed onto the pier, then back down the other way to the Bournemouth Pier. Now the wind behind us and I felt strong and picked it up a gear. I was almost done!

I finally managed to overtake people (having spent most of the race being overtaken) and whizzed along the pier and to the finish. Done!

I was so glad to stop. I felt exhausted. 1:45:58.

I collected my medal and saw Kyle. He’d finished in 1 hour 40 mins and 12 seconds, sadly about 20 seconds off his PB. He had had a hard run too. But still, a fantastic time. Zack finished in just over 2 hours 1 minute and 18 seconds – oh so close!! He was happy though, as well he should for his first half marathon.

I also saw Emma. She’d had a tough race too but, like me (or like I’d planned anyway) had used it as a last long run before Chicago.

For my race, in retrospect I should definitely have slowed down. My ego got in the way and I paid for it by having a miserable run. I was pleased to have gotten 16 miles for the day though – my last long run before Chicago. And I will definitely relax the pace if it starts to feel like that. Lesson well and truly learnt! Chicago is about getting to the finish uninjured without issue. No heroics or pushing through anything crazy.

We had a few photos, celebrated finishing and then headed home. Whew! I was tired, hungry and mentally drained.

Next stop now, Chicago.

Have you ever run a mentally tiring race?

Have you ever done the Bournemouth Half or Marathon?

Southampton Half Marathon 2019 recap

I won’t lie, I was properly nervous about this race. Though I do of course get nervous about marathons, it’s not that same.

With a marathon the nerves are more “ooof it’s such a long way, it’s going to be boring at times and mentally tough at others”. I don’t fear the pain or the exertion though. I know I can cope.

With a half marathon it’s different. I know I can run the distance, but it’s more can I run the distance going a lot faster? For most of a marathon I’m “plodding” (a very relative term him – plodding for me varies greatly according to my training), so it’s actually not that tough. It gets tough, of course, later.

If I want to “go for it” in a half marathon it’s a whole different bag. I can’t let my mind wander, I have to focus, I have to hold on to the speed, keep my legs pushing, embrace the pain. Something I hate doing.

So I was nervous. I had no excuse not to race this half marathon. I was in relatively good shape, I had the mileage under my belt and nothing in the near horizon to be careful about. As I rarely ever “go for it” during a race, this would be an ideal opportunity.

Though I knew I’d never PB and realistically I wasn’t even certain I could get close to a previous PB (1:34ish). But 1:37? This could be doable.

Kyle was also going to race it. It was a bit of a question mark for him how well he’d do. His only other half marathon had been during ridiculously windy and stormy weather along a coastline and he got 1:48ish so on a better day but a harder course? He much prefers short distances so who knows! He did say though, rather perceptively, that the race was too short for me and too long for him. It was all to play for.

Kyle and I headed out early and drove to Southampton. I forwent breakfast as I wanted more sleep. This was an error. Though all my long runs are done fasted, this was going to be a sustained effort and not fueling myself correctly was stupid of me. I don’t know quite what I was thinking.

We’d planned to park in the Solent Uni car park but had a quick change of mind as we thought we could sneakily park in a road outside of the city and then not be stuck with delays getting out. Another mistake. We parked somewhere that the course ran straight past, meaning we were deadlocked until 2.30pm!

Anyway it was nice to have a 30 minute walk beforehand. I hate driving to a race and literally just starting. My legs do not appreciate this. We hadn’t actually planned to have a 30 minute walk so this did leave things a little bit rushed though. Kyle still had to pick up his bib and we realised we’d need to go to bag drop as his dad wasn’t arriving in time for us to hand over our coats and bag. And of course we needed a final wee!

We literally had 5 minutes to get to the start funnel. We had to jump over the barrier which was all very dramatic. But actually nicely done as we ended up right next to Martin Yelling, Marathon Talk podcaster extraordinaire and someone I consider a friend after all the various times bits and pieces we’ve done together. I also saw my friend Dave and another lovely girl who I knew through Instagram. A nice friendly bunch!

We chatted and I mentioned I was too far forward but Martin assured me I was fine. He mentioned that he entered the race literally last minute that morning – he was just going to support his friend. Blimey!

Then we were off. Martin wished us well and zoomed off into the distance. I cranked up my speed and went for it. Far. Too. Fast. I was 7 minute miling. Ooof.

The first few miles have a few nice downhills and with big crowds cheering us on I just got carried away. Before the race I’d hoped to be 7.15-7.20min/mile pace… when I saw my watch I just decided to hang on. I felt good! (Two miles in feeling good, haha of course I did).

There were also some cheeky inclines as well. But I was riding on a fantastic wave of crowds cheering and adrenaline from the frantic start that we’d had. As I started to settle down I realised I might have overcooked it.

Mile three saw us going over Itchen Bridge which was grueling. A long incline that seems to just go on forever. But thankfully a decent downhill to loosen the legs after. I spotted some people I knew which was nice and tried to keep a smile on my face.

We ran past the water near Western Parade and it was lovely and flat for a moment. The weather was chilly and slightly breezy but otherwise perfect.

Mile 5 I was worrying now. I’d been running next to a fellow Hedgie, who I didn’t know. He looked to be running strong and running next to him pushed me on. But as I realised I’d gone out too fast and the hills seriously started sucking my energy he started to drift away from me. He kept looking behind him as he pulled gently away as if to say “come on, keep up” but I couldn’t.

Then back over Itchen Bridge again. I’d grabbed a water just before as I started feeling the heat. It was one of those pouch things and for the life of me I couldn’t work it out. Eventually I managed to tear a small hole in and squeezed out a tiny stream. Better than bottles or plastic cups though!

As I hit 10k and saw 43:xx it really hit me that I was running too fast too soon. I wasn’t going to sustain this. My official 10k PB is 42:52!

Mile seven and we were going through the Southampton St. Mary’s football stadium. It was a fantastic part of the race. Obviously I’m no football fan (though if I had to choose it’d be Liverpool I’d support because of my dad) but this was quite an experience. We ran into the stadium and along this very bouncy red turf. It was very quiet as no one was in there (asides from runners) and almost eerie.

Then we were back out and into the crowds again. A great thrill! As I headed off though that moment drifted away and I was back to thinking “oh God this hurts”.

We crossed another bridge and ran somewhere near Bitterne. My legs were tired now and my brain had fogged over. Negative thoughts clouded my mind. I’d screwed up. My pace had dropped. I also ran past the road the car was parked on and realised we wouldn’t be getting out anytime soon. Oh dear.

After a couple of miles of inner grumblings about how I hate running fast, hate half marathons, hate my stupid over-excitement… I realised how stupid I was being. I could claw this back. OK 1:37 might not be on the cars but who cares? Don’t give up, you lemon.

It also massively helped that on mile 10 as we ran through Riverside Park I saw lots of friend cheering friends. I slapped a big smile on my face, picked myself up and thought “just a parkrun to go”.

Then mile 11 happened and my god that was horrendous. Literally all uphill. It was so hard. I was familiar with the area so I knew just how long this godforsaken hill was.

When we finally reached the top I was onto mile 12 and recovering from the grind. My friend Mike breezed past and asked if I was OK – I said I was dying. Then as he overtook me, my brain kicked into gear and went “TWO MILES YOU CAN DO THIS”. The legs got on board and off I went.

I was able to scrape back some decent pacing and just road the “nearly finished” enthusiasm. I overtook Mike (he was marathoning, what a champ) and caught up with a guy from work. I spluttered “well done” and pushed pushed pushed. Someone yelled it was all downhill now and that spurred me on. Sub-7 minute miling! I was on fire. My work friend caught me back up and sped past – power to him! And I tried to keep up but he was long gone. That’s cool though as I wasn’t fading.

Finally got to the finish straight and WOW what a finish. The crowds were SO GOOD. They were banging on the barriers in a rythm that just got my feet going even faster. I knew Kyle’s dad, his partner, her son and Zack would be in the crowd so I smiled hard and tried to ignore the burning fire in my legs as I got myself to the finish.

WHEW. 1:35:44 – how on earth I have no idea! But what an absolute grind. I really had to fight for that. I walked to the medal and goodie bag area – spotted the brother of my lovely running friend Jo and had a nice chat and then hung about to wait for Kyle.

Kyle turned up not long after. He SMASHED his PB by almost 10 minutes by getting 1:39:52. Considering he wanted a sub 1:40 he was very jammy (this seems to be a trait for him with his 42:59 10k PB and 3:59:35 PB).

We had a lovely coffee with Kyle’s family and then headed off to see if we could try and get the car out early. After a 30 minute walk back down there we were told (very poitely) we couldn’t. It was our own fault so I wasn’t mad. So we turned around and walked back to go and get some food (after all the walking we did over 40,000 steps that day!!)

Kyle had a KFC and I had a naked burrito from Tortilla which was CRAZY GOOD. It was full of rice, pulled pork, pulled chicken, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and salsa. My god it was good.

We were pooped by the end of the day! So many steps! I have to say, I was quite surprised with just how hilly the Southampton Half was but it was well supported, well organised and a fun day.

I’m over the moon that I got the time I did – it was far faster than I thought, even without knowing how many hills they’d be! Not sure I’m tempted by the marathon though…

Have you ever done Southampton Half?

Have you ever made a parking mistake with a race?

What do you prefer to drink out of during a race?

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2019 – part 2

On to the second part of my Marathon Talk Run Camp recap.

Catch up with Part 1 HERE.

After a fun evening I was up at 7am to get myself ready for the Carsington Water Half Marathon, which most people from the camp were doing too. To get in some extra miles, a few of us decided to run there. It was about 5 miles away so this would make a solid long run.

It was very misty that morning and a bit chilly, but I knew it would clear up and get warmer later so I decided to wear a vest and arm warmers. Though it was quite amusing that the guys I was going to be running with had somewhat overdressed, the wusses 😉 They regretted it within a mile!

I forwent breakfast and had a black coffee – as is my usual pre-long run standard. And then we got going. The first part of the run was back up the giant hill that we’d done hill repeats on the day before. It went on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. We tried to maintain a jog but it turned into more of a walk as the hill goes on for a fair way (we only did a small section of it during the session).

Then we got going properly. We ran down the long trail which was, for the most part, flat. As the trail had originally been a railway, it cut through hills and there were pockets of cold and warm air, which were very bizarre to run through.

Top of the hill

Eventually we moved off the trail and onto the road and then across a field with a giant hill on it. Dave’s magic route cutting off a corner of the road, I think I’d have preferred the road 😉 The views, however were beautiful.

We got to the race start area and I picked my bib up and met up with the others who had driven there.

We had a quick photo of the Marathon Talk group and then everyone headed to the start.

I sort of wanted to run with my friend John but I was getting vibes from him that he wanted to do his own thing, and no one likes a clingy hanger-on that you feel you have to politely run with 😉 so I decided to just run however felt comfortable.

The resevoir

The Carsington Water Half Marathon is one loop around the reservoir and then a 10k out and back bit. It was described as undulating and compact trail underfoot. It was dry and quite warm now the mist had cleared. It was very scenic – such a perfect day for it (albeit a leeeetle warm after being so used to cold weather).

I started running and got myself into a nice rhythm of around 8 min/miles. After 5k runners who were doing the 10k started coming back the other way as it was an out and back race for them. It was fun watching them come the other way – it’s like people watching but for runners: “ooh love her leggings”, “wow look how he runs” etc.

But then I got a bit bored. I didn’t have my music, I wasn’t especially pushing the pace and I really wanted to talk to someone to take my mind off the monotony. Sometimes I feel like a fake runner when I feel this way. I don’t always rely on music or podcasts to run but sometimes running is DULL and I need some external entertainment. Yes it was beautiful and peaceful, but I was bored. Though admittedly this is good training – training the mind for the monotony of a marathon.

I heard a man catch up with another man behind me and start chatting so I was able to listen in to their conversation (somewhat creepy I guess) and found they were both at the run camp too. This was interesting! And then one of the men pushed on… and I dropped back to chat to the other man (who I later found out was called Gareth).

Ahh and what a relief! He was happy to chat, we were running the same speed and now the miles were flying by. It’s amazing how much two people can waffle on about running having never met before.

The undulations were fairly hard going but with someone now to distract me it went a lot easier and quicker. I was hot and my lovely arm warmers were now annoying me and causing a bit of chafing. I worried we were going to have to do the entire loop of the reservoir again but then realised no we would do an out and back section.

We then started to see the faster runners heading back towards us and knew it wouldn’t be long. I cheered on lots of people from the camp – including the very speedy Sarah (from Art of Your Success – her designs for running goodies are amazing FYI). It was also INCREDIBLE to have Dave Moorcroft (and his lovely wife) cheer us on too. As well as Tony Audenshaw give us a cheer as he ran past (what a legend).

Photo Credit: Paul Andrews (thank you!)

As we go to mile 11 I could feel myself speed up. I was going into race mode without even being aware. Gareth wasn’t quite in that mode and told me to go ahead. I felt a bit bad but I thanked him and headed off. I put the hammer down and felt ready to stretch the legs a bit.

It was amazing to run to the finish feeling strong (some might say because I sandbagged 80% of the race… but heyyyy ;-)) . I finished 1:42:41 which I am so pleased about considering I’d run the miles beforehand (and the day before!), it was warm and hilly and I hadn’t been trying particularly hard until the end.

Holly Rush came first female (I mean she’s just incredible) and Sarah came third, so very well done indeed to them.

Thank you to Max for this photo 😉

John very kindly gave me a lift back to the centre and I was able to grab a shower before the masses and so actually have hot water. I was also then one of the first in line for lunch… priorities eh 😉

Jacket potato, chili, cheese and salad

I also found the stack of chocolate cake – I mean WHAT.

All in all the weekend was so much fun -as always. I’d fully recommend people to go to it if it sounds like it’s something they fancy. It might be basic accommodation but it’s really not the point of it. It’s the least important part.

Martin, Tom and Holly

Having gone to the different events over the years I’ve gotten to know so many other runners. And actually meet people I only really talk to via social media (like the lovely Anji Andrews – she’s an incredible human!).

It’s just so nice to spend time with like-minded people who you can have a giggle with, run with and talk running shizz with. And with these camps, as always, it’s not about the running – that’s kind of additional to the fun of it. On to next year I say!

Have you ever done a run camp?

Do you ever get bored while running?

Gosport Half Marathon 2018

I was all of a quandary for the Gosport Half Marathon this year.

Last year I ran it with my friend Martin, trying to help him PB and had really good fun. I mean, I guess he wasn’t having quite as much fun as I was as he was going for a PB time whereas I was using it as a long run but I hope it was a good day regardless for him. I did try and get Kyle a place last minute but that failed so he gamely said he’d support instead.

This year I was coming off the back of some solid marathon training and some speedy 10k training runs… so I could be in with a shot for a good time. A PB? Hmmm unlikely. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in that sort of shape (1:31:06! I still don’t believe it). That said, a good solid full-on effort could possibly get me 1:33-34 if I was really pushing it and the weather was kind to me.

But I was in a quandary. Firstly, the weather really does make a huge amount of difference for this race. The course runs twice up and down the coast – literally next to the sea. It’s a route I regularly run for my long runs so I’m well aware of how the coastal wind can really punish or help you. As you run up AND down, it can be a game-changer. If the weather played ball, it could be a great opportunity to give it some welly as the course is very flat, but my problem was that I wouldn’t really know for certain until the day.

Secondly, I was feeling myself wussing out (as I always do) and decided to potentially shoot myself in the foot and make it into a long run regardless by running four(ish) miles to the race start in the morning. In my head this was a solid warm-up, (though realistically too long a warm-up necessary for a half marathon). Basically I was covering my bases if the run went badly then at least I’d gotten in a 17 mile run – miles in the bank, as it were.

The morning of (still undecided on how I would run) I woke up feeling very sick. This is the second time in a few weeks this has happened to me. I’m generally quite a healthy person and rarely get ill. I pride myself on my stomach of steel. I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d eaten that would have caused me an issue. The only thing that I could connect the two mornings where I felt sick was the fact that the day before I drank a can of Monster energy drink. I don’t normally drink energy drinks but I’ve found myself quite enjoying the taste (and after doing a bit of research found they wasn’t actually that much more caffeine than my regular Starbucks coffee). However, I don’t think they agree with me because the only two times I’ve drunk them has made me feel incredibly sick the next day. That’s the only thing I can think of. It might not be, but who knows? (No, I’m not pregnant – big lols to that).

Anyway, whatever the reason, I felt sick and it woke me up an hour before my alarm. When my alarm eventually did go off (I lay dozing in bed fretting and not particularly having a good time with my tummy) the major nausea had passed and I thought I might as well attempt the four mile run there and if it went badly I’d can the race.So off I went. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee, just a bit of water. Normally if I was aiming for a PB I would have had both (can you tell I’m getting in the excuses early? ;-)) The 4.6 miles (whoops longer than I thought) actually went surprisingly well. My stomach felt fine and by the time I reached the final bit I found myself running 7.30 min/miles and not feeling it too much of a strain. The wind was a leeeetle breezy along the coast but nothing catastrophic.

I knew I wouldn’t have a stellar speedy race – the lead-up and sickness just hadn’t set me up for it and my mindset was of “ehhh I’m just not feeling it”. But I also didn’t want to waste an opportunity of decent weather and a good course. I decided to compromise with myself and aim for 7.30min/miles and no slower. That would be a solid tempo run – and with the 4.6 miles at the start, a good long run. The temptation to run with my friend Mike (who was aiming for 8 min/miles) was strong but I knew I needed to woman-up. I was in good shape, it would be a solid training run.

So I collected my bib and headed to the start with some of the other Hedgies. It wasn’t that cold (well I wasn’t anyway considering I’d done the run before) and it was lovely and sunny. As we started, I made sure to head off quickly to avoid the temptation of ditching my plan and running slower.Because I’d started a fair way back it was really tricky at the start to weave in and out of people. And then when we got onto the road it was just packed. Only one side of the road was cordoned off and this made it tricky to get properly going.

The race has a strict no headphones policy (even stating no bone conducting headphones) as it is only partial road closures. That’s fair enough. I obviously didn’t wear any so let my mind wander and listen in to other people’s conversations.I stuck to my aim of keeping around 7.30min/miles or under. To be honest it was a little dull…I’ve run up and down this exact road so many times as it’s literally where I do all my long runs, but in that respect it did make the miles disappear quickly.

At Lee-On-Solent, near where the parkrun is held, I saw my top support crew: my parents, Kyle, my sister (!!), her partner Mike and my two nieces Megan and Ellie. They whooped and cheered and I was boosted along. This is actually the first race my sister has ever come to support me at so it really was a lovely moment (she works a lot of weekends and has two kids to look after so I’ll let her off). I also saw the lovely Rebecca who cheered me on – always so cheerful!

I ran past the water station. They were using plastic pouches which I think is great in terms of dropping on the floor you won’t trip over them like bottles. However, the use of so much plastic is still bad. So much waste. However, to be fair to the organisers they did mention this on their website that they were conscious that the use of plastic wasn’t ideal but because of the wind they’re unable to use paper cups as they just fly all over the place. Tricky.At around 4 miles you get to Hill Head and turn around. There were lots of marshals and supporters cheering which was nice. I saw lots of familiar, friendly faces. (Thanks to James for the above photo. And Martin Lewis for the below photo).Then it was back up the coast to head back to where we came from. The only difference was now we were on the promenade bit rather than the above pavement next to the road. I saw my support crew again who really pushed me along. I was managing to maintain my sub 7.30min/mile pace but it wasn’t easy. It was a sustained effort. And urrrgh to do this all again, it felt very taxing on my brain.The nice part is as you run back to the start you have the faster runners coming back and you can watch them and cheer them on – and sometimes get cheers back from people who know you which is nice. I got back to the start and did the turn around. Right, just one more time!The wind was pushing us on in this direction (I wouldn’t have said it was that windy but you could feel it – and certainly feel it against you on the way back). I tried to smile when I saw people I knew but it was an effort. I definitely did not feel that amazing joy I felt during New York, and it just further reminded me of how much I love marathons and how much I dislike all other distances 😉 The pressure to go faster makes it tough (yes, the pressure that I put on myself!)Kyle mentioned later that when he saw me I looked like I was having a tough time. I was. It felt hard. Though looking at my paces this would make sense.And though I felt like I was getting slower and slower I actually wasn’t doing too badly. It felt like everyone was overtaking me but realistically I wasn’t dropping behind. I guess everyone around me was just doing a lot better! Though mile 12 was definitely a GRIND.I managed to pick it up towards the end and the final long sprint was tortuous but speedy (for me). What a relief to finish! I stumbled along and was handed a goodie bag, a chunk of cake (wheeeee!), my medal and a cold drink of water. Much better.What a difference of a race from last year! Happy smiling and loving life last year (though not racing) with a time of 1:46:40 compared to this year attempting to race in a sustained effort sort of way and getting 1:36:10 – 10 minutes quicker but probably 10 times less fun 😉What was nice was having my mum, dad, sister, her partner, my nieces and Kyle there to support me. It really was lovely. It’s such a local race to me and running a race round the roads I normally do my long runs is quite bizarre. It’s a little dull, yes, but it’s a good course with good support. Lots of my running club do it as well which makes for a friendly and fun run too. And of course there is good cake 😉

I’m glad I didn’t wuss out completely but I’m also glad I did the miles beforehand. I feel like I got a really good (but tough) long run in. I don’t often use a long run as a proper training run (to be fair, I don’t often do training runs…). Happy days.

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?

Hatfield NT Half Marathon

I signed up to the Hatfield Half Marathon because my lovely Marathon Talk friend, Kate, was organising it and mentioned it to me. Hatfield is quite a distance from me (about 2.5 hours away) but as it was towards Ipswich way it made sense (to me anyway) to combine the two in one weekend to limit potential future driving.

The half marathon sounded really nice as well. Running two laps through Hatfield Forest National Trust, fairly flat but off-road. I wouldn’t be aiming for a time, just a nice scenic plod round. My friends Michelle and John were joining to run as well so it would be a nice housemates reunion (we all stayed together in a lodge in February in the Sandy Balls Run Camp).

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d helped Kate and her husband Chris do some of the course set-up the day before and had enjoyed a very tasty Domino’s Pizza for dinner. As their house was about 15 minutes from the forest, it meant I could actually have a nice lie-in on a race day. Chris and Kate, with their kids, left a lot earlier and being so lovely let me sleep in and come later. It was very strange getting up in someone else’s house without them being there…and trying to work out how to use the shower (I don’t usually shower before a race but I felt I needed to freshen up after the day before) and their coffee machine. Not easy feats I tell you!

The race started at 10am and at about 9am I left to head to the race. I’d like to add that I left WITH MY TRAINERS.I feel this is an important point to make due to past experiences with my previous half marathon.
On arrival (parking was great and £3, so super cheap) I walked a short distance to the race HQ area and met up with Michelle to grab our bibs.
It was nice to see Michelle. She’s coming back from injury but is still super speedy. John arrived shortly after. John, likewise, was coming back from some time off so wasn’t aiming for a speedy time. It sounded like we were aiming for around the same time so we decided to run together, which was nice.
I overheard someone say that you really wouldn’t know you were near an airport (Stansted) if you were just teleported into the forest. This was so true, except for the occasional plane flying overheard it was like you were in some deep forest far away from civilisation. It was so scenic and pretty. A really love place for a race but also a lovely place to bring friends and family and spend the day.Kate was zooming around the place doing last minute event organiser business but she did the welcome announcement and start.It was cool to see someone you know starting a race for over 300 people. And so we were off!I feel like I mentally nodded at and was grateful for every sign that I saw. It makes me realise how much effort it really is to set a course up for a race (or in fact, the organisation in general that goes in to it all!) after being a tiny part of that the day before.John and I ran nice and easily, chatting away and catching up. I couldn’t really have gone much faster to be honest. Not at the start. It was hot and sunny and despite being in a forest a lot of the route was actually out of the shade. The ground underfoot was tricky as it was basically dry grass (due to the hot weather). In fact, it did look a bit like the African savanna at times.I was really glad to be running with John because running didn’t feel particularly smooth or easy today. It felt a bit of a grind. The scenery and company certainly helped!There were a few water stops on route (cups) and young little helpers armed and ready with water pistols to squirt anyone who shouted for it. It was a lovely welcome relief! John and me walked through the water stations to grab a drink and drink properly. We were in no hurry. This was just a “bimble”.There was a lovely section that went through the woods which was really nice because it, obviously, meant being out of the sun. It was a bit easier underfoot as well. This then led to a stretch out in the open and over grass with a bit of undulation before we reached the first lap. So this would mean a tough finish. Though our pace was still fairly easy at around 8 min/miles.Now we knew what was to come. We continued chattering away about life, the universe and everything and gradually our pace became a bit stronger and faster. It was very hot though. The marshals were fantastic, cheering us along and being super positive. One of the water stations even had a Mexican theme with sombreros and fake mustaches which was amusing.

As we got back round to the lovely wooded area a guy running near us asked what time we were aiming for. As we weren’t actually aiming for any time (or really had an awareness of what time we were going to be finishing) John replied, “not really aiming for anything, just bimbling round” (this is my new favourite word by the way). Then realised how that might sound and clarified that we were just running for fun rather than pushing for a certain time. It turns out it was the man’s first half marathon and he was aiming for a sub 1:50. We worked out we’d probably be finishing under that time so told him he was welcome to stick with us.

As we got to the last two or three miles we had gradually begun to speed up without really knowing. John helpfully told the guy running with us that we’d unintentionally sped up. And with that increased speed we gradually left him behind. As we got about a mile and a half away I felt myself building a bit more speed up. John told me to go on. I felt bad leaving him but equally I wanted to finish strong. Plus I would have been more than happy for him to have done the same to me had it been reversed.The final mile was tough going in the heat of the sun and slightly undulating (well, a bit bumpy but not hilly per se).I managed to overtake a few people which helped keep me motivated I saw the finish, heard them shout my name over the speaker (they got it right for once!) and sprinted to the end. I saw Kate at the finish which was lovely. And then John finished soon after. Sadly the guy who ran with us just got over 1:50, but he seemed happy enough with this time for his first half.My time was 1:48:24 and 3rd in my category position (but I believe 4th female). I will happily take that! Michelle was 2nd female, the speedster (just under 1:42).After finishing the three of us chilled out a bit on the grass enjoying the sunshine. I took my trainers and socks off ready for a free post-race massage. How good is that! Though they did accept donations (as I had no money on me Michelle kindly donated for me).I was then keen to head off home. It was about a 2 hour 15 minute drive and I just wanted to get on the road and get back. I wanted to be home at a decent time so I could chill before work the next day.This was a fantastic race that I really recommend. Not necessarily a PB course but beautiful, friendly and good fun. Thanks Kate!

Do you ever do races just for fun?

What’s your favourite surface to run on?

Do you like a post race massage straight after?