Well butter my backside and call me a biscuit, if I didn’t just run the Robin Hood Half Marathon after all the summer knee trauma but I added a cheeky little PB to this year’s collection. It’s my 4th Robin Hood, 5th half marathon and my best yet at 1.53.20, a minute ahead of last year.
Big well dones are due to my running bud Ellie who finally went sub 2 hours on her 3rd half (by a country mile, also at 1.53) and to my niece who ran her first half ahead of her planned time at 2.01.
I’m so lucky living about 1.5 miles from the start line, the hubster just dropped the 3 of us off by the iconic suspension bridge so we could just stroll over the river to the race village. I left the teenagers in bed, they’ve ‘been there, done that’ as far as start lines go. But they were under instructions to haul ass out of bed to the finish in time.
Waking up to fog was a bit of a shock but the forecast was good, I just knew it would burn off. Which is good because I optimistically perched my sunglasses on top of my head….I would have felt a bit of tit running 13.1 miles with them stuck there!
The planned pre race rituals went to plan (please tell me, it’s not just me) ….
- Have a wee, feeling nervous
- Porridge, one sachet, two scoops of mixed seeds, one scoop of chia seeds, 6 almonds ( no not 7, that would be madness!) and a handful ( very unspecific by my standards) of blueberries
- Another wee, excited nervousness
- One cup of freshly brewed coffee…..I’d love another but that’s just playing with fire
- Additional wee, don’t like race toilets
- Deploy Vaseline on anything from the waist down that might rub together…..I leave that to your imagination. I naturally want 13.1 miles of frictionless poetry in motion
- Time for a wee before final kit check
- Layer one kit check, ie lucky run pants positioned perfectly, everything harnessed correctly followed by many adjustments to the old shock absorber, no twists, bangers aerodynamically positioned!
- Apply KT tape to knee as instructed by physio, cutting it ‘extra neatly’
- Mini wee……always time for another
- Make up on, yes really, local race, people I know might be spectating, people I work with could be there and really scary, people I don’t even know who go ‘Hi Justine, love the blog’ ….. The horror! I don’t know you but you know I have Vaseline between my butt cheeks
- Weather condition final assessment, short, capris, tights, vest, tee shirt, thumby top final choice and kit on.
- Good to go ……after a micro wee…….why pass a loo right by your front door ?
I did take a bin liner, I’ve learned that trick from many start lines hanging about in the cold and in the fog, it was bloody cold. Ellie and I went to track down the Notts Women Runners (NWR) group as the social media buzz around the event was huge with so many new runners attempting their first half and as many aspiring NWR even newer runners out to support. My NWR vest had its first outing which felt more fitting to my ‘This Girl Can Ambassador’ role than my club vest. I didn’t quite know as many faces as I thought but I said hi to as many ladies as possible and offered reassuring words where I could. My niece located a uni friend who was pacing her and Ellie located the toilet queue…….no portaloos for me !
There was no hiding the red number and red pen up front and centre virtually on the start line. The fog was still with us and you couldn’t even see the farthest pens behind. I reassured Ellie and bet 50% of the runners lined up along that start hadn’t probably done exactly the training they planned to. We were both on a ‘wing and a prayer’ here. Knowing we can do the distance, knowing we were both injured.
I said to Ellie that we’d just go out of the Embankment with the red pen pace (just keep up while there’s such a large crowd) and then knock back the pace…..I lied, maybe I was kidding myself I had no intention of slowing if we were ok. We were out onto London Road at about 8.2 minute mile pace ( not fast for the red pen but good for two undertrained LCAs) and do you know what , we more or less stayed at that pace. We never slowed beyond 8.5 minute mile pace. It was weird to run with the 3.45 marathon pacer into the university park, all we could think was ‘how the f–k do you 26.2 miles at this pace?!
So what did I love about the race this year……
- Running in the middle of the main road and through red lights, I love that every year
- Seeing so many runners I know and saying ‘hi’ reminding me that I’ve made so many running acquaintances being such a ‘run slut’ …..(happy to run with anyone in a pair of trainers !!)
- The big climb from Castle Boulevard, past Robin Hood ( didn’t give him the two fingers) through The Park and out to Derby Road, on my like list because it was just so much easier than when we tried the route 2 weeks ago, you see, my policy of not bothering to try a route first is best. Must be the support. Someone hollered me in The Park, thank you xxx
- The run DOWN Derby Road after aforementioned climb
- Running through the whacky Jubilee Campus although it was rather quiet (like students are going to be out of bed at 10 on a Sunday morning! )
- The new switchback parts of the new course which means seeing runners that you know must be about 2 miles behind you….and feeling therefore determined and confident. But sharing friendly waves too.
- The tree lined path in university park that two weeks ago I’d walked because I felt too knackered to carry on…..no stopping us this time
- The sun coming out at mile 8, shades on, wardrobe choice vindicated, they had a use
- Amusement at trying to count the number of male runners all trying to piss up the same tree in Wollaton Park in full view of spectators……gentlemen, please !!
- Seeing a fellow runner I admire greatly and who with huge support paced me this summer to my first sub 50 10km, within my sights on the home straight. My running ‘frenemy’ ! I don’t need much incentive to dig even deeper. I did exactly the same last year ( different runner). Beat ya, 4 seconds will do na,na, nee, na,na (does anyone else have competitive issues?)
- The NWR support, known as the purple army. They nearly missed me in Wollaton Park, totally missed me in University Park but whoever was at Dunkirk Flyover, outside Wollaton Park, at Abbey Bridge, and the epic team back on The Embankment, thank you all, you’re awesome to support everyone in the way you did. In the words of Ellie ‘ I want one of those bloody vests! ‘
- The epic medal. The best yet, I love it. Please use that designer next year !
What maybe wasn’t so good………..
- Getting funnelled in front of Robin Hood, one minute we had the width of the road, the next crash barriers, I bet that caused an even bigger bottle neck behind us
- The crazy water pouches, they were ‘open’ but you still risk a jet of water straight up your hooter to the back of your eyeballs if you squeeze wrong !
- The sun coming out at mile 8, shades utilised but I think I’d got used to the cooler temperature. I suddenly felt very warm
- Mile 11, I could feel Ellie ‘wavering’ . I know her foot was hurting, she’d dosed up on pain killers before we started. I assured her we were ‘comfortably’ going sub 2 and she’d earned it. She hung on in there but it was so hard for both if us
- That bloody inflatable blue arch that should have had ‘this is not the finish’ in neon letters on it. If you sprinted for that with all you had left you’d have been sunk !
- The goody bag. Woefully empty, hardly worth the carrier bag. A Toffee Crisp , a Fusili Bar and a couple of leaflets? That’s the worst I’ve had at a major event. Kick the sponsorship team….I’ll do it next year !
We stuck together me and Ellie, we surprised ‘the fam’ who didn’t think we were coming in sub 2 but I had got them there just in case ( deep down I knew all along if I was in, I was in 100% ) There were big crowds but I heard them shouting, it’s the best sound ever to push you over that line. My buddy Mena was there again. She’s never missed any of the half maras or the local 10km I run, she’s stood in the freezing cold , biting wind , rain and even when my family haven’t bothered to go. My blog salutes you.
Medal collected, I rushed back round to ensure I shouted my niece in. Couldn’t let her come through all those spectators and not have someone hollering, it makes the finish line feel epic. 2.01, now that’s rocking your first half marathon.
I staggered to the car in what felt like slow motion, didn’t know what to do with my legs all afternoon. I had felt not a thing from my knee all race (adrenaline) until about 3 hours after when it suddenly felt like it had been rugby tackled by the All Blacks. Bring out the peas……they never let me down. So my night was shared with a bag of frozen peas, a glass of red wine and a bag of Reeses Pieces whilst reading the first Half Mara thoughts from all the NWR ladies being blown away by the emotional journey they’ve been on to achieve the finish line. Running is a gift that we all should share.
So what about today? I’m feeling my age but don’t tell anyone. See below for how a day at the office has felt !