On running my first half marathon

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Well, we did it, and Sister-in-Law (to be) and I have spent the rest of the day congratulating ourselves on basically how amazing we are. We ran something with the word marathon in the title. I did! Freaking fantastic! And we didn’t die. And we even did it faster than we expected (about 2:17). Did I mention we were amazing?

So in summary, this is how this absolutely fantastic feat was achieved by someone who was still trying to finish the obstacle course at primary school when they were setting up the next race, and at senior school gave sport up as soon as possible in exchange for Ancient Greek. Note, gentle readers, moving fast does not come easily to roaringkate.

  • Training: I would have died without this. This superduper half-marathon training plan was surprisingly achievable, and the final week of easy 30 min runs/”rest” cancelled out in my mind the struggle I’d had trying to do the 2 hour run – the longest in the plan – a couple of weeks’ before. So by the time today came, my runner’s knee had subsided from previous exertions, my twingey hip had stopped twingeing, and I basically felt reasonably normal.
  • Food: last night’s carb fest of pasta with roasted veg (SiL is veggy) plus Nigella’s pear and chocolate pudding did the job in that department. This morning, after a brief deliberation as to whether or not to change my routine, I had cereal and toast as normal, about 2 hours before, and then a banana about half an hour before. Everyone on the running blogs had also mentioned GU food gels as key to any long distance running, and we’d bought a couple each yesterday when picking up our registration gear. My 3-year old, who was stationed at the 4mile/9mile points (the route was a double loop) was charged with handing them out as we went past. I have to say they are pretty disgusting, basically sachets of sweet thick baby food, HOWEVER I do think they helped me keep my pace up once the first hour was over (I had lemon and orange flavours which were palatable; SiL had strawberry and banana but couldn’t eat it..). They were certainly better than the jelly babies people were handing out. I adore jelly babies, and nearly over swerved and fell over once I saw they were on offer, but as I also breathe through my mouth when running, trying to chew and swallow and breathe and run all at the same time was pretty tricky, and not worth the angst.
  • Runners IBS and Other Problems in That Department: again following other bloggers’ tips, I took an Imodium Instant just before we set off for the start, which successfully prevented any cramps through the race (and probably for the next few days…). No such luck in the pelvic floor department however – which frankly is pretty nonexistent despite endless clenching. Just relieved that on a day to day basis I am not leaking like a sieve.
  • Pray for the right weather: We were very fortunate in that we had fantastic weather: coolish and cloudy. Had it been hot and bright, the experience would have been completely different, and there would have been a lot of sweating and swearing and quite probably abandonment.
  • Run with an appropriate partner: I had been afraid that SiL was going to pelt off without me once the first, manageable, hour was up, but actually we established a pretty reasonable pace (for us, not the winning runners, who managed to lap us) (we were averaging 10.x min miles), and we definitely kept each other’s momentum up.
  • Get support: I never imagined I’d be as pleased as I was to see DH and the DSs (the younger of which had been hauled out of his cot with chicken pox and was less than impressed). Their waving and cheers were just delightful, and when DS1 pelted out from the crowd to run over the finish line with me it brought tears to my (slightly lunatic, see below) eyes.
  • Find your pacemakers and the opposition: For the first half of the run we kept in our sights two young blokes who were running in t-shirts and cargo shorts and looked like they’d just got out of bed, and who seemed reassuringly amateur. We eventually passed them. The rest of the run was focused on beating a non-athletic looking lady in a Slimming World t-shirt and her fitter running companion. We’d singled these two out because they kept on stopping to walk, which did not seem fair, AND THEN WOULD RUN PAST US. Eventually we made a tactical push when they paused at a water station, putting what we’d thought was sufficient grey tarmac between us never to see them again, until the fitter one overtook us with about a mile to go. By that point though I Did Not Care, and resigned myself to eating her dust. However, they did serve as an approriate incentive to keep the pace up through the second half.
  • Run for a reason: I can’t actually remember why SiL and I decided to do this (most I’d ever run before ‘competitively’ was a 5k), but when people asked if they should sponsor me, and I said no, they asked why I was doing it then. But yesterday I thought I should do it in recognition of a friend’s father, who has just died in very tragic circumstances, and was a lover of life, and that felt entirely right. And indeed, when it all got really hard work, after about 10 miles, I thought of them both, and it kept me going. More profoundly motivating than the pathological desire to beat Slimming World lady…

So that’s about it. The race was started by a canon which gave us all a bit of a jump (unlike the Great North Run today which began with a Mo/Bolt stretch routine), and we were slightly alarmed to see that it was indeed a race. No fun run here my friends – no one in fancy dress, or happy to amble round. In fact when we went to find our ‘pen’ at the start line (ie to bunch us in with all the other guys who were looking to do a similar time), our target time (2:30) turned out to be the final one available. We were right at the back. But did not finish last! Did I mention we were amazing?

My final observation is that however fit and slim and athletic you think you look, in practice you (at least I) look red faced, in need of at least 2 more sports bras, and covered with still a substantial amount of what I like to think of as baby fat, but is more like roaringkate fat. And I need to work on those lunatic expressions…

PS When I next saw my mother after this event, I asked her how amazingly she thought we’d done. She commented yes, very good, but how curious that SiL looks as fresh as a daisy, while you… hmmm… perhaps it’s the hair..? Yes alright mother. I was wearing my lucky headband, and I get a red face. I’ll go and rock to and fro in a corner now…

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One response »

  1. Pingback: On starting intermittent fasting: Day 1 « Roaring Kate

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