Failing to plan…..blah blah blah ! 

So taped up with my new blue kinesiology tape and route memorised, woeful build up firmly at the back of my mind, Ellie and I decided just to go for it and test out the new Robin Hood Half Marathon route. So that’s a 10 miler at the end of May, assorted 5kms to 10kms in between around the dodgy knee ( OMG I’m still on about it !!) , 9 miles last weekend and 13 miles this weekend …….good to go ! We said 11/12 miles this weekend, but ‘what the hell!’.

What can I say, respect the distance, follow a plan, build up gradually, don’t build more than 10% on to your distance each run. That’s all sensible, sound advice……..or if you’ve been injured and you’re middle aged and stubborn, just say “fuck it” and go for it!! You won’t be surprised to read that the sensible advice is right. I now know the route, dread the route, dread the event and wish I hadn’t bothered entering ……but I’m still not prepared to pull out ( seriously, how pig headed? )

First 2.5 miles are mostly up hill. I’ve never heard the pair of us huff and puff so much as our route passed the famous bronze of Robin Hood looking smug on his podium and headed up to Nottingham Castle. I do believe the two finger gesture evolves from holding an arrow on your bow ( yes I am a mind of useless information in a pub quiz), I really felt like returning the gesture too him as we neared the castle gateway. To think earlier this year we ran 10 times up and down the evil gradient of Selby Road like it was desert flats !


Two fingers to you mate as we struggle up the hill passed you

I had the roads in ‘The Park’ written on a piece of paper as its a while since I tried to navigate through this little urban enclave of paradise that is a hidden utopia on the edge of the city centre. Looking at the immense and beautiful Victorian properties, admiring the original and stunning architectural features couldn’t take our minds off the fact it was hilly as f—k! ….yet more middle aged huffing and puffing !

Relief down Derby road, let’s face it, what goes up has to come down at some point. We agreed though that the down is more painful than the up on decrepit knees and off we turned into Nottingham University’s wild and wacky Jubilee campus. It should certainly be eye catching for the the visiting runners. At that point Ellie informed me of a pending foot operation that she’d kept quiet. I knew she’d been having pain on long runs and it turns out it’s inherited ‘hammer toe’ apparently requiring surgical correction. How will we both cope with her lay off?

From there to Wollaton Park and the imposing Wollaton Hall ( Wayne Manor of the last Batman film no less) another one for the visiting runners. We inwardly freaked out at the thought of the scary hill up to the hall, but actually no sooner have you glimpsed the hall, you head out the park by a side entrance. Runners take a quick look at the hall,you barely get a glimpse!


Ellie was looking a bit swifter last time she ran by Wollaton Hall

Then it’s on to the main Nottingham university campus and the beautiful boating lake park. It’s the last hill of the route to as you head into the campus up a hill and back down again into the park, it’s an odd way in. The park marks the 10 mile point, the longest I’ve run since the end of May and the hardest I’ve pushed my knee for a few weeks. I was knackered, my legs felt very unpracticed at the distance…..we gave in and had a ‘walk in the park’ as this last practice session was proving to be anything but ! Ellie rustled up a gel which I normally refuse for just half distance but the mere suggestion that a little tube of orange gloop might just perk up my flagging energy levels was incentive enough. I’ve perfected the art of biting the top off, not dropping it and not getting the gloop on my fingers. It’s so sticky that if it ends up on your fingers, you can catch insects on them like fly paper for miles after. For a half, unless it was hot, a swig of water at the 6 mile mark is usually fine.


Well it is a lovely place for a walk !

We resumed the trot as we came out of the park detemined to run to the end. It’s that 10 mile mark where you have to keep thinking ‘just a 5km now,that’s easy !’ It’s a double back route now, retracing your steps towards the city centre and the last segment is the same as in previous years. Never before have I been so relieved to see my car.

I’m not sure the dry run was a good idea, my knee held out but it brought my overall fitness into question. I never normally feel any need to run a route ahead of a race. I might read a route synopsis, or glance at a map but I’m happy to take what comes on the day rather than stress about the bits I didn’t like and don’t want to repeat. It’s made me dread the actual race more, I wish I hadn’t entered let alone tried the new route.

In 2011 I ran my first ever half marathon in a respectable 2.11 and I was really pleased with last year’s PB of 1.54. Let’s just say Saturday’s effort was slower than that very first time, I’m too embarrassed to say what. When I entered, I was fit, ready and enthused. I put us both in the red pen with the club runners. Now we have the shame of actually having to start there, up front and watch those around us and probably those in the pen behind, thunder past. I should have been (contraversial terminology alert) in the rabble pen at the back. I’ll be the slowest representative of HPP, I can’t hide from the published results but I’m not wearing the vest, although any supporters will have gone by the time I pass.

Tempting is to risk a first outing of the ‘purple’. I finally purchased a Notts Women Runners vest ( my second club) to wear as a helper at beginners sessions, it’s tempting to run in that, I know the ‘purple army’ are going to be out in full force and definitely a supportive crowd, I might need every cheer to keep going.

So there’s no more long runs, I do know not to make that mistake and cram the miles in in the final fortnight. Ellie and I won’t talk during the real thing, that might help, apparently if you talk it deprives key muscles of oxygen. We hadn’t seen each other all summer so had loads to catch up on. Maybe it slowed us down.

The weirdest thing of all is that my knee on Sunday and Monday has felt the easiest it has done in weeks ? What’s that all about ? Did the kill or cure approach work ? Am I in denial, did I push it so hard the adrenaline is still masking the pain ? Is blue KT tape more effective than black ? Will I wake up with a knee like a balloon tomorrow ?

I just want it over and I’m not entering anything else to my knee and my mind are in a better place. Robin Hood I shall raise my two fingers to you !

Categories: Half Marathon, Ladies of a Certain Age Running (LCA), Race Reports

Tags: , ,

10 replies

  1. HI Justine,
    I’m glad you posted this.
    I’m running the RH 1/2 and it’ll be my first having only ever run the 10k Movember last year at Wollaton.
    I was curious to know which bits were hilly and despite living in Nottingham and knowing the route, nothing stood out as particularly hilly to me… until you mentioned the very “obvious” run up to the castle / Park! lol.
    I’ve been doing 8/9/10 mil runs more recently, not over concerned about the distance but want to do it in under 2 hours.
    Also pleased to read about gels because I’ve never used them and wasn’t sure if it was something I would need, seems I probably don’t!
    I’m told it’s “taper” time now and I understand what that means just not specifically what I should be doing so if you feel like talking about that to save me Googling and getting confused with what will no doubt be a tonne of info, that’d be awesome! (No pressure, you’re just my “go to” read for running! 😀 )
    Keep on running and good luck!


    • Hey glad to hear of another running addict. If you’ve run 10 miles you’ll be fine, under 2 hours is an impressive first time. Taper now means no more than 10km this weekend and a couple of 5 km trots next week. Trust your training. Mine is pathetic which is why I’m in a panic. If you feel the need, a couple of jelly babies will keep you going. Good luck !


      • Thanks for the reply!
        I’m typically banging out runs with a pace of around 8:35/mile with an overall elevation of around 400-500ft so I hope sub 2 hours is reasonable expectation.
        I’ll be sure to keep my runs more moderate this / next week, thanks for the info.
        Just wondering where I can stash some jelly babies now 😀


      • Impressively speedy ! Wave as you pass me…….and I can shout ‘is that a jelly baby in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me ‘
        Enjoy the atmosphere, it’s a good one.


      • So how did it go ? Are your legs ok ?


      • Long story, sorry.
        I was warned by a friend that has run 12 RH marathons that last year he struggled with the water pouches and 200yards from the finish line collapsed due to dehydration.
        With this in mind I made sure to drink plenty days before hand and took water with me on the day.
        I do not like sugary drinks so Lucozade was not going to be an option for me, not unless being sick was part of my plan!
        So you can imagine how this story is going to end. 😦
        The first water pouch opened with a fight but gave me the smallest hole ever and managed to turn in to a water pistol version of Russian Roulette.
        The second I confess to using my teeth on and it exploded, the opening was huge, water covered me and I managed one mouthful before it was gone.
        The third was as bad as the first.
        I ran out of water (i think), on the stretch up to the university grounds.
        I felt fresh, my legs were great, I felt “a bit thirsty” but doing fine.
        Strava announced mile 12 and I felt a burst of joy knowing I was on the final stretch, one mile to go!
        Then I woke up on my front on the floor with 4 or 5 people stood around me having been dragged off the route to save me being trampled.
        My ribs hurt like hell,
        My chest felt like it was going to explode.
        My calves felt like hot hard lumps were moving in them.
        My left foot over the front felt like it was broken and was swollen.
        I thought I had been hit by a car.
        I couldn’t raise myself up.
        I asked nobody in-particular to get me in to the recovery position, fearful I was going to vomit.
        Some minutes later I managed to unlock my phone and ask someone to call my wife.
        It sounds dramatic, I know, but in all seriousness at one point as my breathing slowed and I could feel my heart beat slowing I honestly thought this was it, I was going to die.
        The marshals had no walkie talkies to radio in my predicament.
        A member of the public phoned 999 and they routed the call to St Johns (I can only assume, that detail is lost on me).
        Almost 20 minutes later an ambulance arrives and I’m taken to the 1st aid tent.
        I was extremely confused, could barely talk and in extreme pain… still only felt “a bit dry”.
        Dehydration was the diagnosis.

        After several bottles of water and a dreaded bottle of Lucozade I was fit to walk.
        I gathered my things, changed and walked all the way to the Royal Centre to catch the tram to P&R where my wife and father in-law were waiting to drive me home.
        So, I know from Strava I managed 12.2 miles, I know that I would probably have come in at about 1hr 46.
        I now know that dehydration is waaaaaay more uncomfortable than imagined and that it can suddenly catch you out.

        I’m concerned that the pouches have been used 3 times now and that last year a guy slipped in to a coma and another died.
        Any water dispensing system that requires a PDF to explain how to get in to it and use it must be a bad idea in the first place I’m thinking.
        Why could the marshals not communicate with 1st Aid?
        Why did none of the 3 around me seem to have even basic 1st aid training?
        These are some of the questions I need to try and ask the organisers.

        I said to the ambulance driver it was probably my “first and last marathon” but I’m determined, now the dust has settled to beat it next time.
        I am signed up for the Movember run at Wollaton and WILL be running that, just need a little rest and get back in to my stride once I’m hydrated.

        I feel I’ve had the rug pulled from under me and felt incredibly distressed by the whole thing, I wanted to return home with a medal and my wife and children to be proud of me 😦
        No medal, no time and I even paid for the tab insert, useless.
        I received an email form Ikano yesterday congratulating me for finishing with a time of “blank”. Yay! Go me! lol.

        The only clear positive is that I raised £261 for the British Heart Foundation in sponsorship though it felt awkward apologising for not finishing!

        Sorry, I know, “War and Peace”!


      • I’m so sorry to hear that Neil, that’s the nightmare stuff you read about and it’s terrible when you were doing so well. It did make a huge difference when the sun emerged at about mile 9. It felt a lot hotter than it probably was.
        Worse still is the response from the race team which is worrying. Marshals gladly volunteer and give up their time but you hope would be able to do more in an emergency.
        Glad to hear you are ok now and unbelievable to hear you might even put your running shoes back on.
        If you ever need a running buddy as you get your nerve back let me know, although I’m probably not quick enough. Holme Pierrepont go out Monday and Thursday evenings from 7 for about 10km if you fancy the support.
        Keep me posted how things go.


      • Hey Justine, thanks for the kind words of support and run buddy offer, apologies for the delayed reply!
        Last Saturday I went to Colwick Park Run. I avoided Gedling as it’s a beast of a run, the second hill is a killer.
        I took Isla along, she’s 10 and pretty active (Blackbelt Kickboxer), but only ever run 2.5 miles with me about 18 months ago around Arnold.
        This mean that I was a) doing a short distance b) doing it on a flat course (for a change!) c) slowed down by my daughter.
        It was a dream run, seemed soooo easy compared to my recent training runs and 1/2.
        I’m now looking ahead and wondering what to do next, I think perhaps a 6 mile run and build up from there to about 10 miles ready for next month so the 10km is equally comfortable.
        I’d be up for visiting Holme Pierrepont sometime, would have to be a Monday due to the 2 older children doing martial arts on Thursday, 4 year old sitting duties for me 🙂
        Do you have to be a club member or is it open to anyone?
        Have a great day and thanks again.
        (Hi to Angelo!)


  2. Hi I’m doing my first half marathon and although I feel a little nervous I’m looking forward to the day. Sometimes when I run I end up walking some of the way, does this still count? I generally do a 10k in an hour and a hm in 2hrs 30min but I’ve never done a official hm. Thanks


    • Hi William, of course it counts. Entering and arriving at the start are huge achievements that most of the population wouldn’t contemplate. Completing the course and crossing the finish is a major achievement no matter how long it takes. The medal will be well earned and should be worn with pride. Good luck


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