Anyone who knows me will know how much pressure I put myself under. They will appreciate that I have been training hard to achieve a half marathon time under 1 hour and 50 minutes. They will also know that if they had told me that I wouldn’t even achieve a new PB, I would be in tears at the end of the race. That I would be beating myself up, and that I would have entered the Loughborough Half, in three weeks time, as punishment, and in desperation.
So the fact that I was being told off by The Bloke, for sarcastically dancing (yes, it’s possible) to ‘Stayin’ Alive’, in the finishing enclosure, as we made our way out, having finished 20 odd seconds off my PB, might surprise some of my nearest and dearest.
If you live in the UK, you’ll know just how naff the weather has been. As spring has broken, so has the constant rain. Instead, we are seeing all types of weather in one day, on some occasions! I’d been monitoring the weather reports for race day, and they changed over the week from dry, and calm, to wet and windy. By Saturday, the reports said that the winds would increase throughout the day, and there would be a significant wind chill factor.
It said the same for Saturday, though.
We walk to watch Leicester City, a four and a half mile stroll to the pub, before watching the game. Although there was a frost in the morning, it was sunny. It was warm. It wasn’t that windy. It was, for all intents and purposes, perfect running weather. It did get cold in the second half of the game, as the sun set, and the clear skies meant there was a spring chill in the air. If race day was going to be like that, then I would risk shorts and t-shirt. But the wind chill niggled me. Not literally. It was still Saturday night.
Sunday morning, race day, was sunny. It was warmer than the previous morning, and it looked still outside. But the weather reports were now showing stronger winds for Silverstone. Do I run in tights, or shorts? Long or short sleeves? I opted for my knee length capris, as a compromise. I took my shorts and t-shirt, just in case, and wore a long sleeve top.
We travelled with our friend, Lou, who will be running next year, even if I have to chase her the whole 13.1 miles! The weather was okay.
However, when I opened the car door in the car park at Silverstone, it nearly blew out of my hands. Not only that, it was freezing. Thinking back to the recent Parkruns, I started to worry. My asthma hasn’t been coping with these kinds of conditions. Would I make 13.1 miles?
It’s hard not to worry. I needed to click my ankle into place, and a tiny bit hoped it was serious enough not to run. “Snap out of it”, I thought, as the bones snapped back into place, leaving my ankle totally pain free. The weak part of my brain weeped. The strong part told me to behave.
One thing I was looking forward to, was meeting more of the Leicester Twitter Runners, who had joined me on the Jantastic challenge. I also met some other tweeters, who weren’t part of the team, but who I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with over the last few months, and years.
It had taken me ages to pluck up the courage to put my outer garments in the bag drop. It was horrible, even in the relatively shaded area around the garages. I stood there, chattering away. It must’ve been bad, as The Bloke offered to share his body heat with me. It’s not fair, he’s like a radiator, whilst I’m like an ice block!
It started spitting as we stood there. That’s all I needed. Being cold, and wet. Luckily, it never was more than drizzle, throughout the day. The wind? Well…
As we were lining up in the starting area, it did look like the sun was trying to get out. It was short lived.
A few of us were aiming for sub 1:50, and it seemed like a good idea to stick together, and drag our way around together. The first kilometre was apparently my fastest, which surprised me, as it’s normally the worst one for trying to find a rhythm. I found it, and along with the lovely Stu, part of team Leicester Twitter Runners, we plodded along together, at the right pace. The Bloke decided to charge off. I felt comfortable, although listening to the announcer saying David Weir had just finished, not long after we’d passed the 5 mile marker, wasn’t encouraging! I heard Weir saying that these were the toughest conditions he’d ever raced in. It was only going to get worse.
On a good day, Silverstone would be great to race on. It’s not too hilly, but there are some inclines. I’d cope with them much better, if I didn’t have the wind blowing in my face. Silverstone is very exposed, in places. Some of the gusts were the sort that take your breath away. Or my legs. Despite this, Stu pointed out that we were gaining on The Bloke.
We passed him just after 9 miles. He wasn’t happy. I foolishly offered him the bottle of Lucozade Sport I’d picked up (I hate the stuff, it’s got aspartame, which gives me migraines, but I hate running with bottles even more, and I needed the little sugar it does contain. I found, from my marathons, a couple of sips is fine. But what a waste of drink/plastic!). I should know by now to leave him be. Will I do this next time? Of course not!
When we passed The Bloke, we were in a sheltered spot. Once we got back out into the open, the wind had picked up significantly. It was horrible. I am amazed, my lungs have behaved, but it was hard, very hard. I noticed our times were dropping off. By 11 miles, I couldn’t keep up with Stu, and started slipping back. We were now outside 1:50 pace.
But I wasn’t broken.
I fought back.
I got my head down, and tried. I nearly overtook a chap, who turned and said, just after we’d been blasted by the wind, “this is bloody horrible”, but he pulled away again.
At this point, I started relying on my Nike Sportswatch. “19km, only 2km to go”… “That’s 12 miles…” “1km, that’s just over 5 minutes…”. I’d promised not to look, and I’ve been really good with my outdoor runs since buying it, and not looking at it, and just running to how I feel. But this race was tough. I just wanted to finish.
I caught up with Stu, who had stopped. “Don’t stop for me!”, I shouted. Sadly, he’d stopped for blisters. I carried on. Yeah, I’m that much of a team player! I hope he understood.
As I flagged, I heard Neil, my elected No. 2 Leicester Twitter Runner, urging me to keep going. My lungs were starting to rebel against the wind. They’d gone 12.5 miles, and thought now would be the time to give up. Just as the crowds of spectators started to show up. I have to say, they were brilliant. It was bad enough running in those conditions, but to stand in them? I take my imaginary hat off to all of them. Lou, and John (thanks for the photo), part of our Twitter team, who couldn’t run due to injury, were great. They were there, at regular intervals, shouting us on! At one point, joined by a random woman! I can’t thank them enough, for braving the elements to cheer us all.
I saw the finishing line, and for the first time ever, I nearly managed to speed up enough to call it a “sprint finish”. I have never been so relieved to have finished a race. It was by far the hardest one I’ve run. I earned my medal. I didn’t get a PB, let alone my target time, but I never expected the conditions of that race to be like that. It’s the first time I’ve finished running, and my arms were aching. My shoulders were in agony!
Neil brought the Leicester Twitter Runners home. I couldn’t catch him. Stu followed me, but there was no sign of The Bloke. I didn’t know what to expect. He isn’t the sort of bloke who likes being “mithered”. I spotted him, heading towards the finish. I’m sorry, Bloke, but I was shouting for you to finish. He had some problems, not long after we overtook him, so I’m proud he finished. Darren, another Jantastic team member, appeared, as I was stretching. Steph, managed a PB, which is fantastic in those conditions. I also send out a massive hug to Lester, who finished his first ever half marathon, in probably the worst conditions you could expect to run in for your first race. I hope he appreciated the cheers to the finish!
Massive congrats to to the other tweeters I met, Keely, who I think pipped me on the line, and Russ, who is training for two marathons in a week.
I have my medal, and I’m proud. I’m more proud that I’m not beating myself up, and accepting that sometimes, times are tougher than I would like them to be. Sometimes the challenge isn’t breaking records, it’s battling through adversity to reach the end. This is why I was dancing my way through the finish enclosure; the weather didn’t stop me from finishing, and neither did my dodgy lungs. I can do this.
I have been showing everyone my medal today. I would like to think that in more ambient conditions, I’d would have finished much quicker than I did. Next time will be a PB. Although, according to my Nike Sportswatch…
*winks at her readers*