Saturday night I spent dreaming that I missed the start of the Norwich Half Marathon and had to get my friend to drive me up, an hour late, as I had to run anyway as so many people had sponsored me.
Thankfully it was a dream, not a premonition, and Sunday morning saw me lined up with over 2000 other people, lurking around in the cold, warming up, drinking coffee and looking anxious.
There were several people I knew among the throng. 2 friends of mine had travelled up from Kent to run with us (I say “with” one of them came 5th, so it was really to “drink with us afterwards”) and local runners Ali from Bunn the Baker and Kirk from the Braydeston 5k were also there and a site for sore eyes on a grey morning.
I arrived about 10, with my magic coat that packs down into a sleeve to keep me warm, so no baggage check needed, and nervously made an assessment of my gammy knee, lower back pain, laces that “didn’t feel right” and scanned the sky for rain.
It was grey and overcast, but I decided to run in sunglasses anyway. I hate getting weepy eyes from the wind, and on the off chance the sun came out I’d rather be the idiot in sunglasses in the rain than the idiot running 13 miles squinting in the sun.
So, I lined up by the 2-2:30 hours sign, and then everyone squished forward and I panicked slightly as I ended up in sub 2 hour pen. Eeek! Of course, it mattered not one jot as at 11am 2000 people shuffled over the line to the slightly amusing sounds of chariots of fire and gradually found their own pace.
As a two lap course one of the worst things I found was running past mile markers for the second lap. At about 3 miles, running past a 9 mile marker and the realisation that after I had run another 6 miles I would be back here, with another 4.1 miles to run made me want to drop to my knees and scream. I was pretty happy at that point though, the sun had come out, my Nike+ kept cheering at me so much that I had to turn down the volume a bit as lots of people “liked” my run on Facebook and I was bimbling around a nice country road. Lovely.
A nice speedy downhill at about 4 miles felt ace, and then I stopped for a walk and took my first gel. It’s probably largely psychological, but taking gels every 4 miles helps me break it down in my head. Plus, GU Vanilla Bean gels, YUM! I also use a zero sports drink tab in my water bottle, but unfortunately I put the lid on before it had finished fizzing, so I opened it with my teeth and it went PFFT at the back of my throat and I spent the next 30 seconds coughing at the side of the road.
My thighs had already started to feel tired at this point, which is unusual, but a glance at my watch showed I was on about 10 minute miles, and way ahead of my target of 10:30-11 minute miles, so I just slowed down a little as we headed up a big hill. I am very bad at hills and as I dropped to a walk for 2 or 3 paces near the top someone by the side of the road shouted my bib number. It took me a few seconds to twig it was me, but I was instantly shamed back into a run!
Entering the showground, and approaching a second lap wasn’t the major trauma I expected, despite a strong wind. It was actually quite nice to know what was coming up, and just as I reached half way the lead car, and the winner behind it passed me, and I silently cursed them that they would soon be having a nice cup of tea while I was still running.
I was more or less fine from here up until my next scheduled gel at 8 miles. It was definitely getting a lot harder, and a few times I felt I might just burst into tears randomly, but I was taking one mile at a time, and making quite good time by my watch and managed to hold back the tears! Miles 9 to 10 were a bit of a struggle, despite the down hill, but mile 10 to 11 I flew through. I’d already planned in my head that I was going to walk up that hill at mile 12, but by this time I was really flagging and getting started again after a walk break was getting harder and harder. This was the furthest I’d ever run, and my body knew it and was shouting at me from all corners.
Coming back into the showground for the last time and knowing the end was near was an amazing feeling though, and I even saved enough energy for what felt like a sprint finish to me, but in reality was probably just switching back from “shambling” to “running”. At the end the announcer takes peoples race numbers and calls their names over the loud speaker as they finish, and hearing my name felt amazing, I’m actually going to finish!
(There is another finish photo where my face shows a lot more pain, lets keep that one quiet and stick with this one where I smiled)
Then it was medals, goodie bags, bananas, water and hugs from my friends. No one I knew saw me finish, which I am both proud about and a little sad. Proud because the reason they missesd me was they thought I would take longer to finish, so hadn’t made it back to the finish line yet, but sad because no one I knew saw me finish my first Half Marathon.
But hell, I finished it, in 2 hours 18 minutes and 56 seconds. So a good amount faster than the 2 hours 23 minutes (about 11 minute miles) that I’d thought I’d hit. I was also amazingly proud of Mr Chick who finished in 2 hours 9 minutes, despite totally hitting the wall after dropping one of his gels.
It’s quite a nice route, with lovely supporters, though some of them had mulled wine which was just mean, and well organised, apart from the 45 minute wait to get out of the car park, but next year we won’t drive!
I’ve also raised £616 for Parkinson’s UK. But I want to raise more. The page is open till February, so just CLICK HERE and donate a £1.