I wanted to set myself a challenge to finish 2017, so I booked the MK Winter Half Marathon on 10th December 2017. It would be the longest distance I would have run. My training was really over short distances of 6 miles leading up to it and personally I have run 10 miles on my own before, but this would be the largest race and longest distance to date.
As the day came, it was cancelled due to the snow. It was a bit annoying as you think of all the training you have done, but when you realise the safety aspect for the organisers you can understand. You can look at it that this then gives you extra time to get some more training in, but you then also have to contend with Christmas indulgence and the colder weather.
During training I ran with a friend and also the club and particularly Fartlek on Wednesdays which I found really useful as it builds up your endurance to quickening the pace when needed. As race day started to get nearer I started to become a bit apprehensive, but with the reassurance of my friends and fellow running club members my confidence was better.
The evening before race day I did what everyone else usually does in putting everything out on the table just to ensure that I had everything I needed from energy drinks, gels, parking money and even breakfast. I found trying to find the right sort of breakfast hard as I don’t like the normal porridge, but I found some porridge bars which I can eat.
On race day it was a case of just packing everything in my bag and off I went early to ensure I got a parking space.
Once parked I went and joined the other runners in the waiting arena and met up with some of the other club members. As we gathered we did the club photo shoot and as the time drew nearer for the start we all went to find our starting places.
I was working upon the idea of running between 1h 45 min to 1h 50 min and the organisers had set up pace runners with signs advertising the running times so I went and joined in the 1h 40 min group. As I stood there I will admit I was nervous. The time came to start and on goes the timer on the watch and then off we went and as I crossed the start line I set off the timer.
The first mile was a slower pace than I wanted, but that was really down to the large group of runners. As we went onto the second mile the group thinned out and I started to get my pace in order. I was warned not to get too distracted from the spectators wanting the usual high 5’s.
All through the running my watch kept telling me my pace which allowed me to keep within the pace time I was looking for. I regularly took some of my energy drink until I reached the 10 mile marker where I got rid of the plastic bottle at the water stop and pressed on. I did notice that at 10 miles my legs were starting to get tired so I used the gel I had brought with me as I was told at 10 miles it is only a parkrun distance to the finish and that was the best time to use the gel as they usually last only 20 minutes.
As I approached the finish I started to pick up the pace and when I reached the final stretch I had the urge to sprint for the finish which I did. Once you cross that finish line and get that medal it is such relief in that you’ve finished. I can understand how when you see the athletes on television that the emotions are running high. For me personally it was that I had run my first half marathon, my time was better than expected and when I got my print out of official time and position it was that I was in the top 300…I was expecting to be way after that!
It does make a difference when you have your friends and family there to cheer you on. I was lucky to have my LFR friends there to support me too. I was surprised how quickly the time flew. It did not feel like 1h 41min, even though I was checking my watch at each mile and I reckon it was the atmosphere of the whole event from people cheering you on at the roadside and at the finish made it a really enjoyable experience throughout.
Regarding recovery I would definitely recommend eating a couple of small meals to fuel the body afterwards and regarding training I went for a slow pace run the next morning just to see if my legs had any issues. I looked online later that day and they recommend having a week off to allow the body to recover and to do low impact exercise like swimming or cycling. I regularly do cycle and that has helped with the recovery as well as walking. But I think at the end of the day it comes down to the person and how they are feeling after running that distance.
My after thoughts are if you want to run the distance, definitely keep to your pace, not others. Go out running with someone as it helps with your pacing and especially if doing long distance you have the company. Plan your race and finally…believe in yourself.