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?