So, after many months of complete under-preparation, yesterday was the big day. Run to the Beat, 13.1 miles of music-powered pain around the mean streets of London, what joy. I’d gone from being super excited when I signed up, to panicking about my gammy knee being healed in time, to being filled with dread about starting a half-marathon basically healthy and capable, but completely lacking in adequate training. I’ve only been running since March this year, and with only 12 miles under my belt in the previous MONTH, how would I fare over 13.1 in one single morning? There was only one way to find out.
I prepared for the big race as any elite athlete would: by stuffing my face with pasta and chicken, and playing several rounds of Left 4 Dead 2 with my brother (also my running partner). A quite rubbish night’s sleep and Weetabix-y breakfast, and we were on the tube with hordes of purple t-shirted runners, making our way to the O2. I was nervous, both about the run and about the toilet queues, visions of the 10k race I marshalled where a girl actually shit herself and CARRIED ON RUNNING filling my mind. If this should ever happen to me (heaven forbid), you can be sure I’d hurl myself into the nearest bush rather than power on bravely to the end. Nothing is worth that, except, perhaps winning the London Marathon. And that is never going to happen to me, is it?
We wended our way to the pens, clad in our Beating Bowel cancer vests, looking at the amount of people in each category and wondering idly who was being overly optimistic about their start time (7,000 people in our 1:40-2 one and 10,000 in the 2-2:30, far fewer before and after). It took an inevitably long time to funnel 20,000 people past the start line, but we were soon off!
The race itself was like an exercise in mental agony. At two miles in, I thought I might die. It was hot and I was a very long way from being in my ‘zone’. I learned something at this point – even when it’s really warm out, and I’m running at close to my threshold, I don’t sweat from my face. Even though my head felt radioactive and ready to burst. I would love to sweat from my face, believe me. But I don’t. So until I hit the first water station at 3 miles, I was about to faint. Not fun. This carried on most of the way round – the music stations were a welcome distraction and the water and Powerade stations a lifeline, though each sip of Powerade was punctuated by recurring visions of the above-mentioned toilet incident. Sport drinks and particularly sport gels can wreak havoc on digestive systems unused to such chemicals. But the minerals in the drink were much-needed, so I risked it, luckily, without any unwanted side effects! I had to stop around five times to stretch out my sore hip and calf muscles, adding precious minutes on, which I thought would make us miss our target by a long way, but I just couldn’t help it. The pain!
After 8 miles, I had the added mental barrier of the fact that it was then the furthest I had ever run to overcome, and the pain in my legs increased with every mile thereon. By the final mile, I was just pushing myself with sheer willpower and my brother encouraging me every step to ‘keep going, we’re nearly there’, and, ‘you’re doing amazingly, keep it up!’. He physically pushed me along with his hands a few times, too.
The feeling as I ran over the finish line is indescribable, a sense of massive achievement and sweet relief. The time said 2 hours 13 minutes from when the race started, but we didn’t dare make a guess at what time that meant for us, since we didn’t know if it started on schedule. When the text result came in, I was floored to see that we ran it in 2 hours and 2 minutes – a mere two minutes off my original goal time, and several minutes slower than if I hadn’t stopped to stretch along the way. If I can do that time with so little training, a barely-healed injury and a cold, imagine what time I can do next year! This shows beyond a doubt that the human body is a remarkable piece of kit! And that I seem to be genetically predisposed towards being pretty alright at running.
I couldn’t have done it without Guy, so thank you bro, you’re an absolute star. If it wasn’t for him, I would have collapsed and died about a quarter of the way in. Well, walked a lot more, probably. He’s amazing, and the best running partner I could have hoped for… though without him I probably wouldn’t be in so much pain today! I can barely walk, and I don’t mean that in a dramatic, ooh my legs hurt way. I mean I have to hold on to the wall to stay upright. Worth it though, and no permanent injuries I think, only muscle soreness. Severe, crippling, muscle soreness.
I think running endurance races is like childbirth (probably), it hurts like hell when you’re doing it, but afterwards you forget as you bask in your smug self-satisfaction (ignoring the twinges of pain in the nether regions). I will be back and even better next time. Once I can walk again, that is.
I’m pleased to say we smashed our target for the Bowel Cancer charity we chose, raising £638 so far, and that’s without the offline donations promised by my technophobe best friend, parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents. Hurray! Thanks to everyone who chipped in. You’re all amazing.
Now excuse me while I crawl into another bath. Happy Monday!
PS. If you’re interested in sporty things, then do hop on over to the Boutique Sport site. They have taken me on as one of the Glambassadors of sport, and I’ve written a blog about city cycling which you may find interesting!