Reigate Half Marathon recap

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.img_5066I 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).img_5062We 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).reigate-half-marathon-race-villageIt 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.img_5069Now 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.img_5078I also managed to fan girl a bit about Kelly Holmes being on stage literally right next to us.img_5075She 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.splits

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.splits2It was nice knowing my dad was at mile 10 so it broke the race up nicely.img_5103It’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.img_5108I spotted him literally under the mile 10 sign and we smiled and waved and I shouted, “just a parkrun to go!”.img_5102I 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.reigate-half-elevationIt 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!splits3(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.img_5081My 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.img_5089Happy days indeed!reigateBy 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.img_5090I 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.reigate-half-race-villageIt 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!img_5097Then my dad and me headed off to refuel, Nando’s-style.img_5115Standard 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.img_5119And 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**

How to survive a long run

One of the main differences between marathon/half marathon training and training for a shorter distance, such as a 10k, is the long run. For half marathon training this is usually 10-12 miles. For the marathon, it’s 18-24 miles.

You don’t normally run the entire distance mainly because the recovery time usually outweighs the necessity. You don’t want to blitz the next week’s training because you’re still getting over the long run. If you’re quite a seasoned runner who’s run a few half marathons, or indeed full marathons, then when training for a half marathon this isn’t as risky. But certainly you wouldn’t usually go over 24 miles when training for a marathon. Personally if I get to 18 miles I’m quite happy.

There is the genuine fear that you don’t know if you’ll be able to “make it” in the actual race, but usually, as long as your training has been reasonably good, this is unfounded because on race day you’re tapered, fuelled and have weeks of training behind you. Plus you’ll have the adrenaline and crowd that will help push you along.

But during those weeks leading up to the race day, those long runs can feel really tough. You’re reaching distances you might not have reached before, or haven’t been around for weeks. Your body isn’t used to it. You’re not as fresh because you’re deep into training and the mental fatigue of, “here we go again” is strong.

*Waves* that’s where I’m at. Mental fatigue. Dreading the long runs. De-motivated. Tired.

I’ve learnt from experience though that this is all part and parcel of the marathon (and half marathon) game. Even if I wasn’t doing Chester, I’d still be training for the Reigate Half and the long runs would still be hanging around each weekend, waiting to be ticked off my training plan. So how do you survive the long run?

It’s all about preparation and mental trickery. Preparation is fairly simple (for those of us who don’t have children, of course). Get enough sleep, eat enough good food, drink enough water before, during and after. OK a lot more goes into it than that quick sentence but for this post I want to focus on the mental trickery. It might not work for you, but here’s what works for me:

Using the same route

For each long run I pretty much have the exact same eight mile base. From there I can turn around and go home (10-12 miles) or carry on (15 miles plus). This might sound counterintuitive, but I often find that by running this same route each week can really help make things fly by.

I guess this is because I’m so used to the route that my brain just switches off. I don’t have to think about where I’m going, how to get the miles or do any mental calculations. I just go through the motions. The route is so familiar to me that my brain doesn’t really process it anymore and I can zone out.

 

Switching up your route

And entirely different to the first point, perhaps choosing a completely new and different route will help you get through. If the same old route just seems so boring to do again, perhaps you need a change of scenery. Choose a route that has interesting features and things to look at. This doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful views or nature though. For example, there’s one road I love to run down because the houses are huge. I love being nosy and looking at them and just marvelling at how much they must cost. This takes my mind of the run entirely. But make sure you have your route planned out so you can just follow it without having to think, “where can I go now to make up the miles I need?” as this can be frustrating and exhausting when running.

Keep close to home

I find that if I choose a route that goes so far away from home it feels so much longer, whereas if I do a winding route closer to home it doesn’t feel as bad. It’s like psychologically I know at any point I can just go home. If I’m miles and miles away from home it feels like such a journey to get back. The distance literally stretching out ahead of me.

Special long run playlists or podcasts

I have a special “Running Playlist” on my phone. I won’t listen to any of the songs on that list other than when I’m running. If one of those songs comes on the radio, I turn it off. Yes, it’s that strict. I find I’ve associated ‘magical running powers’ to these songs that I don’t want to waste on a non-running scenario. Though this sounds like fluff science, it’s not. Association is a powerful psychological tool. I’ve associated speed and hard efforts with those songs that I don’t want to mess with.

I also only ever listen to the BBC 5 Live Film Review podcast when I’m on a long run. I won’t play that podcast any other time. It’s one of my favourite podcasts to listen to and I look forward to each episode. So by using that happy association it helps me get over the dread of the long run. Instead of thinking “urgh I have 15 miles to run” I can swing it around and think “but at least I get to listen to the new podcast”.

Milestones

Give yourself some milestones to look forward to and break the monotony that’s going on. I don’t use gels when I’m training, but during a marathon I’ll look forward to mile eight because that’s when I get to have a gel. It’s not exactly party-time but it’s something different from what’s been happening. Choose a gel (or whatever fuel source you might be using) that you actually enjoy. There’s a Salted Caramel flavoured Mulebar gel which literally rocks my world (similarly a Clif one too) and it’s like liquid caramel. That can really improve my mood when times are tough.

 

Add a parkrun or race

Merging a long run with a race or a parkrun can definitely help as well. It breaks up the long run nicely. I did this last year for the Southampton Half where I ran 5 miles beforehand, the Netley 10k where I ran 12 miles beforehand and the Winchester parkrun where I ran 15 miles beforehand. Instead of thinking, right time to knock out X number of miles it reframes the run to two separate events. It also means you can enjoy running with other people or, in a race scenario, have a catered long run with the drink stations (and a medal at the end!).

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m really feeling the long run drudgery. I have 18 miles to conquer this weekend and I decided instead of cracking that out myself, I’m going to run 15 miles Saturday morning and then do Fareham parkrun. It means I’ll be forced to get up early (parkrun starts at 9am) so I’ll beat the heat and the rest of the weekend (hello Bank Holiday!) is stress-free and I can relax. I already feel so much better about the run!

Likewise, adding in a race to my diary in the near horizon has meant I have a mini-goal to head to as well. Doing the Reigate Half will keep me on my toes and break the normality up. Eating the right food the night before, getting up early and eating breakfast then heading to the race start. It’s all part of the fun and adventure that you don’t always get with “just another long run”.

How do you survive hard workouts?

What distances do you get up to when training for either a half marathon or a marathon?

Do you use the same routes to run or like different ones each week?

I also have some more long run help HERE.

Marathon Training and Reigate Half

So my next marathon is the Chester marathon. Obviously nothing is a given with my track record for injuries, but I’m hopeful as ever Winking smile

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Ideally I was going to really go for it and aim to get near my PB from Liverpool marathon (3:24:06) but after the hamstring debacle and only recently getting back into some normal running I think it might be wise to just give it my best with no pressures (I think this is my mantra for most races if I’m honest). I don’t want to plod around it easily but I don’t want to kill myself in training or in the race. So we’ll see.

In terms of the details of my training… Well, nothing much will really change compared to previous marathon cycles. Four days of running: one speed session (hills/fartleks/tempos/intervals), one easy run (for mental sanity), parkrun and a long run. Ideally I want to get to 18 miles and do that distance twice.

I also only have one race in the lead-up to the marathon, a half marathon (my second favourite distance to run). A half marathon race is usually quite standard in the lead-up to a marathon so I’m always happy to schedule one in. I’m taking part in the Reigate Half Marathon which is two weeks before Chester (18th September). So, depending on how my training is going, it will be a nice one to blast out some speed or test out my marathon pacing.

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The course is a good one in that it’s one lap of a fully closed route that goes through some nice rural countryside and picturesque country lanes and it’s relatively flat. It’s chip-timed with a technical t-shirt and medal. Yep, sounds good to me!

Intersport Run Reigate organise both a 10k and a half marathon and has raised over £150,000 for charity since 2014 which is pretty fantastic, right? It’s also achieved silver in the UK’s best half marathon category in The 2015 Running Awards. Pretty cool.

I’ll be running as part of the Run Reigate blogger team, which is fairly exciting as you can imagine. The half is about five weeks away which is nice as it means I can continue to get in some good solid training and be more than ready. As part of the blogger team I get a very nice goodie bag to help me with my training which includes:

  • A Fitbit Surge (super excited about this as I’ve previously had a Fitbit but they’ve since hugely upgraded them. I love that it has an in-built HR monitor and gives phone notifications)
  • Brooks running top and shorts
  • Brooks trainers
  • A spa day at Nutfield Priory (including spa treatment, use of facilities / gym / pool / sauna and lunch) – because that’d be very much needed during marathon training!

I also get to write a few blogs over on their blogging page.

This is obviously all amazing in itself but I’m actually really excited to have a half marathon in my diary as I haven’t done one in a while now, and especially one I’ve never done before. I’ll be about three weeks out from Chester so it’ll be really good to see where I’m at with my training and test out things like nutritional decisions (number of gels) and what I’m going to wear (i.e. avoid the dreaded chafe or over-heating).

I’ll continue to keep you guys updated with my training as always and also if you fancy reading my posts over at Run Reigate I’ll let you know when they’re up Open-mouthed smile

What’s your favourite distance to race?

Do you like to plan in certain races as part of your training?

Do you use a fitness tracker?

**Full disclosure: Run Reigate have offered me free entry into the race with the goodie bag in exchange for writing about my training on my blog and their blog. All opinions and training decisions are my own.**