Finally, after months of planning and training and a couple of weeks of dodging bugs and illness, the day of the Bath Half Marathon 2016 arrived.
And what a beautiful day it was.
Bath was blessed with clear blue skies and bright Spring sunshine which, having trained through countless cold, wet and windy days and not having planned for a shift in the British weather with Spring arriving overnight, threw my planned running outfit into complete mayhem.
Other worries ensued; fueling, toileting and hydration.
Fueling: The race started at 11. I usually run at 9. My solution? I had a pre-breakfast of two slices of toast with Marmite at 6am followed by my usual breakfast of muesli and soya milk at 8am. That still left three hours so the obligatory banana was consumed at 10am with a nervous chomp on my Nature Bar at 10.20am.
Toileting: I usually visit my bathroom, pee and shoot out the front door. Race day obviously throws that routine into disarray. As I had reentered my estimated finishing time a couple of weeks ago I had been moved up to the white starting pen which is known to be less hectic to get into thus leaving more time to hang around in the running village and visit the toilets. Which I did. Twice in succession. Just because.
Hydration: In training, in the cold, I had reached 12 miles consuming no extra water en route. Race day was significantly warmer and having hydrated well in the days running up to Sunday I was still a little panicked. I don't particularly enjoy taking on water whilst running but knew that the increase in temperatures meant I would probably have to.
After arriving at the Race Village with my family in tow at around 10am I visited my charity tent, the RUH Forever Friend's Appeal, to relax and have a runner's photograph taken with Ted himself. Then it was time for the aforementioned fueling, toileting and hydration and it was a quick goodbye to the family, with a double check of where they would be on the course, and it was off to the starting pen on the beautiful Great Pulteney Street.
Heading out of Great Pulteney Street and down the gently sloping Pulteney Road was the perfect start with a great crowd setting us on our way. I knew my family were along this stretch so kept scanning the crowd and it was so lovely to finally spot them as I turned the bend. My boy had the Run Mummy Run banner clutched in his hands whilst I yelled, "Hello babies!" The husband 'encouraged' me on with his words, "Not long to go!"
Here was the first incline on the course, approaching Queens Square, made easier to take hearing the amazing steel drum band at the top. Then it was round the square, down a welcome stretch and onto the Upper Bristol Road.
A gradual incline took us to Newbridge Road which saw lots of families armed with bowls of Jelly Babies and 'Power Up Here' placards.
The crowds began to thin as we left the city behind us for the loop back over the river. A quick look at my watch told me I was running at an 8:35 minute mile pace - far quicker than I had trained and I knew I couldn't sustain that but was happy to kill off the miles quickly.
Back towards the city centre along the Lower Bristol Road. Here there were limited crowds so I was glad of the Battle of the Bands stationed at this point to give us a boost.
The amazing crowds were back again and at this point I was feeling fantastic! It was also along this stretch of the race I found myself awestruck as the elite racer, who went on to set a course record of 1:01:44, Robert Mbithi came flying past us all ready to head back to the finishing line.
Approaching the 10k marker I peeked at my watch, looked at the race timer and with some quick maths realised I had just done a 10k PB. Possibly not the best time to do it running your first half marathon so I thought maybe I should slow up a little now to conserve some energy for later. I was desperately scanning the crowd again for my family as they had planned to be along here somewhere and I mentally slumped a bit as I thought I had missed them. Then I heard my husband shout, "Run Mummy Run!" to send me on smiling again.
Back onto the second loop and the incline up to Queen Square was a damn sight tougher this time! As I ran down the exiting hill I had my first moment of doubt knowing I was heading out of the city again getting, geographically, further away from the finish line. Letting out some kind of gargling hurumph noise I caught the attention of a passing 118118 runner who asked if I was okay. The sight of them all, and the fact that someone thought to check on me, perked me up straight away and with a few high fives from the spectators I was on a high again.
It was getting really warm now but I was happy with my stride and glad that my mind had been, mostly, positive for this long. My TomTom was saying my pace had slowed up to 8:49 but I was still under the 9:05 minute mile pace I had set myself in order to try and finish at a sub 2 hour time. With that in mind I dug in knowing I was heading towards my least favourite stretch.
This loop back over the river again felt never-ending and even the smiley local radio girls and the Battle of the Band contestants couldn't make me grin. I now needed a drink and was so glad to hear a race marshal shouting, "Drinks station ahead." Approaching it my heart sank. It was Lucozade. Which is lovely but having never drunk it whilst running it didn't appeal so I held off recalling a water station further up from the first lap round.
I was now hitting the wall with huge doubts creeping into my mind. My knee was beginning to niggle and my pace had dropped to a 9:04 minute mile. My inner voice was talking to me; "This is it. I can't do it. I'm not doing the Hackney Half. Why on earth did I book another two halves having not even completed one? What will I do if my knee goes? I can't cry in front of all these people." Then I heard a lady shouting to everyone in a really calming voice; "You can do it. Come on!" I wished I had shouted back, "Yes I can, thank you!" I didn't quite have a renewed spring in my step but her words definitely shut up the voices in my head. I grabbed some water, as I had finally made it to the station, took a few sips and tipped a load over my hands and arms to cool me off.
I didn't enjoy this mile at all. That's all I need to say.
The crowds seemed to have doubled from this point on but they didn't make me go any faster. That lovely gently sloping Pulteney Road on the way out was now a drag of pure hell. My TomTom was telling me my pace had now slumped to 9:19 and I felt that I couldn't muster up any more energy to drive home. Then Greg James ran past me carrying me an inflatable boob on his back in support of the charity Coppafeel and that was the spur I needed. If he could do it carrying a blow up tit then so could I. I passed the 13 mile marker and turned the last corner back onto Great Pulteney Street. Seeing the gun time ticking past 1:59:00, and even though I knew I had a couple of minutes spare on my chip time, I thought to myself, 'Sod it, I want a sub two hour gun time.' I dug in and kicked strong and with one knee telling me I would regret it in the morning I crossed the line with my watch pace starting with a 7.
I then leant against a fence to try and stretch.
And promptly cried.
TomTom time: 1:56:50
Official chip time: 1:56:49
So that was my first half and another thing ticked off my 40 things to do before 40 list.
I loved it, I then liked it, I then hated it and finally I loved it again.
Roll on Hackney!
x x x