Injury check: Nothing prohibitive.
Running buddy: Katie.
Sunday, 17th March, 2013. My first (and last?) half marathon. There are no photos of the event*; the rain and the cold pre-empted any plans for photo opportunities, I'm afraid.
Apart from the rain, this was a good run. It was a fairly interesting course, with twists and turns and variety in the roads; there was a bit of uphill but nothing too steep or too long; it's very nice to have people on hand offering you water and Lucozade; it finished in a football stadium with crowds watching and cheering. And I got an awesome time.
But the rain... oh, the rain was horrible.
Also, I had to get up before 6am. On a Sunday. (Yes, 6am does exist on a Sunday morning - who knew?) I drove to Reading, ate a second breakfast in my car before scoping out the area and meeting up with Katie, and then popped back to the car to change.
I then wore a bin-bag to the start line. With a hole cut out for my head. I know: so stylish. I'd actually been advised (by my dad) that many serious runners do this on wet runs. I was ambivalent about the idea, until I was actually out in the cold and the rain in my running gear, and having to bimble around in the 'race village' and behind the start line for some time before we could actually run enough to warm up.
(As Katie remarked, seeing dozens of bin-bag-swaddled people bobbing on the spot to keep warm, in the rain, in the queues for the portaloos, really brought home the ridiculous nature of what we were about to embark upon.)
The running itself wasn't actually too bad, once we'd got going and warmed up. Allow me to present a recap of the key points (I'm not promising they're all entirely in chronological order):
- Mile 3 provided the only real gradient in the whole race - a bit of a slope but it wasn't a killer, and we were still relatively fresh at this point.
- The church along the route into Reading centre that was playing pumping dance music was definitely a surprise. But a welcome one. If I was going to join a church, it would be one of the kind that plays pumping dance music to bedraggled half marathon runners.
- My parents were watching for us between the Mile 6 and Mile 7 markers. They'd printed (and laminated) a sign with our names on it, and were waving it proudly on a five-foot bamboo pole. (This was to help us pick them out from the expected crowds. Due to the unrelenting rain, the watching crowds were somewhat reduced...) I may never have smiled so much while running as I did when I saw that sign.
- Only slightly further down the road we passed Katie's family, although I was looking in the wrong direction at the time and more or less missed them entirely. Apologies and a belated 'hello' to them.
- Throughout the course of this race I splashed myself in the ear with Lucozade. Twice. Note to self: re-cap drinks bottle properly when running.
- Mile 9: Katie leaves me behind. Up until now I'd kept up with her pace but at this point my bad knee was twinging and I needed to stop, fiddle with my knee support and walk for a few minutes to work out the niggle. I was a little afraid that this might mean my pace would start to slip - not actually because of The Knee, but because I no longer had Katie pacemaking for me! However,the splits (oh yes, Reading Half emails you the splits as well as your final time) don't show much of a drop off, which is brilliant - especially given that I was running a little faster than my usual pace up until this point.
- During Mile 10 I chatted briefly to a guy called Simon, encouraging him back up to a run from the walk he was at as I passed him (I was having an enthusiastic, let's-talk-to-a-stranger moment). We didn't really get into introductions, but I learnt he was called Simon when he got the random "Go on, [insert name here]!" cheers from some onlookers who spotted him approaching. He pulled away from me, then I passed him a bit later, then he passed me, then I passed him... Eventually I passed him when he was walking again and that was the last of that game.
- Musing: the number of people I saw with their name on the back of their shirt thoroughly confused me. If you've already passed someone before they can read your name then a) they are no longer looking at you to cheer you, and b) you're less likely to hear the cheers anyway. Put it on the front, guys. But also: I am absolutely having my name on my marathon shirt. Well, a version of my name that people can pronounce at a glance, anyway.
- Mile 11 was a long, boring, straight section of A road. By this point I was just trudging through the metres, picking random people out ahead of me as either pacemakers or 'you're the person I'm going to pass next... and now you're the person I'm going to pass next... (and repeat)'.
- Either side of the Mile 12 marker was a dogleg along the north edge of the stadium. This was my lowest point, and luckily it lasted a very short time: I got caught out of breath again and had to slow to a walk, breathing deeply. At which moment Katie - who was now a little ahead of me and already on the return section of the dogleg - spotted me and shouted some encouragement! I took a few more deep breaths and started running again...
- And finally I entered the stadium. Finally, the end was in sight. I put on a sprint over the last few dozen metres, put on a
grimacesmile for the cameras, and gave a high five to one of the cheery volunteers as I crossed the finish line. And fantastically Katie had waited for me a few yards over the line, at which point we soggily celebrated our survival.
|13.1 miles - 2:22:06|
I sat in the car, ate some food and had a hot drink from my thermos flask while watching the rain continue outside. Eventually I drove home, had a hot bath, put an ice pack on my bad knee for a while and then rolled into bed. And thus ends my tale of the Reading Half.
I'd like to send a final thought out into the ether thanking all those strangers who braved the rain to cheer on those of us slogging through it. The normal Reading Half crowds might not have been there, but those hardy souls who had made it to the kerb and huddled under umbrellas, shouting encouraging words at strangers, really did help.
P.S. I have to add a word of praise for my Tune Belt arm-band phone holder: despite the neoprene and plastic being drenched for 2.5 hours, it transferred none of that to my phone, which emerged entirely unscathed - hooray!
*There are, of course, some photos of the event. But only my nearest and dearest are going to get to see them. Maybe.