My Mini adventure - the Oxford Half Marathon

My Mini adventure - the Oxford Half Marathon

On Saturday I celebrated it being a year since I graduated C25K. Yesterday, Sunday, I completed my first ever serious race, the Oxford half marathon.

I woke up with a mixture of excitement and nerves, got ready, managed to eat most of my breakfast and headed out with hubby to pick up my friend who was also running it. We casually remarked on the weather: “Isn’t it great that it’s not raining...”

By the time we reached the start line it was pouring. My friend queued up alongside the 1:50 pacemaker. I decide to take my place further back at the 2:15 one. Well I didn’t want to hold her up, or the other super fast runners near the front. The rain came down, the wind got up and the gun went off. We were off! The route had a long slow incline at the start, weaving round the edge of a housing estate then on through the Mini car plant. The route went between the buildings within the plant, (great for having a nosey) and the staff came out to cheer us on. There were cars on display from the plant’s 100 year production history, to add a bit of interest to the route, including old Austin cars as well as Minis from different decades. I felt strange. My legs and lungs were fine, but I felt a bit sick and had a stitch for the first few miles.

As we left the plant we went past the first band, a group of drummers, then onto the ring road. At this point there is a wide flyover, where you can (usually) see for miles. Not that day unfortunately. Despite being battered about by wind and rain, it felt novel to be running along an empty dual carriageway. We looped through into Iffley road, one of the main routes back into the city centre and past another band. At the race halfway point, I passed the track where Roger Bannister ran the first ever sub 4 minute mile. Respect to that man!

Past Magdalen college, into Christchurch swamp, oops I mean meadow! By now with all the rain, it was like an orange bog. Deep puddles and extremely muddy. It was hard work. Then I saw the rain sodden faces of my parents who had come to cheer me on and it really perked me up. I gave them a huge grin and a slightly manic wave and continued on my way past Christchurch college, past another band, and onto the path next to the river. Now I was in familiar running territory, I was feeling better, I’d had a couple of jelly babies and it felt comfortable, but I was hindered by it being a little too narrow and slippery to get past people easily. Another mile or so along, we went back onto the road and people around me were starting to flag, but I felt I was staying strong, until 18K, when I started to really tire. I had been hoping to speed up for the last few K, but I couldn’t. My clothes were so heavy as they were drenched through. Every step was squelchy. People around me were stopping to walk, and I found it off putting, yet enjoyed passing them one by one as I determinedly carried on. It became a mental battle as we returned to residential areas for the last mile or so before finishing up in Oxford United’s Kassam stadium.

As I approached the stadium, I saw my husband waiting for me next to the 13 mile sign and a great rockabilly band. He cheered as I went past, and I managed to puff out “I hate it honey, never again!”. The end was in sight, I turned into the stadium on my own, and did a final sprint along the side of the pitch to the finish line. My word, that moment felt gooooooood! Hubby had appeared at the end, put his coat round me, I picked up my medal and went hunting for my goody bag and my friend.

Unfortunately my friend had got injured about 7 miles in and so had hobbled/jogged the rest of the way. By the time we met up with her she looked awful. I’ve never seen someone so cold. She went to the first aid tent to get it looked it. While she was there, I started shivering. We had originally planned to shower, change and go for lunch so we had spare clothes on us, so I headed off to get changed and was directed to the away team locker room, ooh my, how exciting!

So my time. My official time is 2.29.25, which I was disappointed with, but given the conditions, I should just be happy to finish without walking. However, there does seem to be a little controversy around the times and the course distance. According to Endomondo, I ran nearly 1K more than an HM distance, 21.91km (13.6 miles). Now I appreciate that free GPS tracking apps are not totally accurate, and there is some discrepancy with having to weave round people etc, but half a mile difference seems a lot to me. Others have also complained of the same thing. Looking at my speed, it was identical (6.51mins/KM) to my practice HM in much flatter, better conditions so I’m happy that I matched that. Was the course too long or have all my stats been way out all this time? It throws everything into question :(

That aside, it was a great experience, and a great way to celebrate a running anniversary, though it totally put me off running a marathon! I couldn’t imagine doubling that distance. I will do one, one day for sure, but I’m totally in awe of those of you who are going for it. I learnt a lot during this run, about not needing to take my own water which weighed me down, that I should really put a bit more effort in, rather than being scared of not being able to make it round if I do, and that support from your loved ones is the best, it makes all the difference. Oh and maybe it’s time to put a Garmin on my Christmas list...

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38 Replies

  • Wow ,well done ! A great time, especially when weighed down with wet, cold clothes. Three cheers (and more) for you :-)

    Out of curiosity, I've just had a look at my stats for the Black Country HM and that was 13.61 according to my Garmin, which you would expect to be more accurate than a phone app. I did notice on one run a few weeks ago that one of the apps a friend was running with (can't remember which one it was) was almost a mile out over a 6-ish mile run - I was quite astounded. I had the opposite on a run earlier in the year that was supposed to be a 10k and I was in sight of the finish line when my Garmin showed just over 9k - I was worried I'd missed a loop ! I do notice differences in Garmin times with friends at running club sometimes so even the Garmins aren't 100% consistent - they should still be more accurate than an app though.

    I think it's rather cruel when you're expecting to see the finish line at 13.1 and then have to run an extra .5 in those conditions.

  • Thanks!! The whole app distance thing does niggle me. Maybe I've not done a sub 30 mins 5k? Who knows? Is my PB really 27 odd?

    I was relying on the app telling me the distance as I saw hardly any of the mile markers. If I didn't have that, it would have really dragged. I hate not knowing how far there is to go!

  • What a great description of your run! I love the details about going through the Mini plant and the boggy field. It sounds great and miserable at the same time!

    You did a fantastic job to keep running all that way in those conditions. You'll do well I'm certain if you decide to go for the big marathon in the future as well. And yes - I don't think any GPS is quite as accurate as it should be - my Garmin thinks the Parkrun course here is rather less than 5k which is very annoying as it therefore won't record parkruns as a 5k pb. Not that you're bothered about short strolls like 5K any more :-)

    Ann x

  • Thanks Ann. I am definitely still interested in shorter distances. I'm so glad to give the long distances a rest for a bit and work on my 5k time. I also want to do a sub hour 10k soon.

  • Oh wow Hilary, WOW!! I am in awe of you! A superb description of the day and I had both a grin and a tear as I was reading this on the train home :) You did amazing and yes a nice garmin would be a wonderful way to celebrate a year from graduating and a HM!! I think santa will look after you ;)

    My graduation anniversary is in a couple of weeks time but nothing as grand as this in way of a celebration; maybe just try and get a 10k PB instead...

    Hope you have recovered now and just enjoy feeling real smug at what you achieved. Fantastic! Sue x

  • Aw Sue, thank you so much! I'm pretty achey today actually, but feeling fab! A great memory, and making my family proud was so special.

    Good luck with the 10k! I can't believe how the last year has flown by!

  • What an achievement that is, running in rain all that distance, be proud Hilary very proud, well done you. Hope you are none the worse for getting so wet and your legs soon recover. Smashing read too, you really brought it to life what it felt like, loved the bands playing and your sprint finish. :) Your a star all that and in just a year too. :)

  • Thanks oldgirl! I have been hobbling around the office today, but everyone at work has been so supportive and positive, it's been lovely. :)

  • It sounds like a snorkel might have been a good idea! Congratulations on the run and the anniversary.

  • Thanks, yes at the very least i should have been wearing a wetsuit and flippers ;)

  • Hilary! WELL DONE! I really enjoyed reading about it. You are a star!

  • Thanks Delia! Hope you are well :)

  • Wow Couch to HM in a year is quite an achievement. Loved reading the details of the route. It's amazing how important the landmarks become on a long run.

  • Thanks wilma! You're so right, the landmarks were so important in breaking up the run, which made it much more interesting.

  • Not sure that's a Mini adventure - sounds more like a Maxi adventure to me! That's a really good blog which captures the spirit of it all very effectively. You've done very well in tough conditions so Big Respect for you. And all this only a year after starting. cool!!!

  • Thanks Ned :) I was really disappointed with the time, but honestly thinking about it, my first race, horrible conditions, with inclines, it could have been so much worse! :)

  • Well done that is amazing, I would like to be fit enough to do it next year. I graduated on Xmas eve last year and have only managed one 10K since .......

  • Oh I bet you could do it! I had only done up to 10k continuously before I started training for this 6 weeks ago. Like c25k, your body adapts so quickly week by week to longer runs. :)

  • Well done, Hilary. I'd think you did fantastically to run all the way despite the rain and the numerous extra hurdles in your way. The rain itself added extra stress/effort, but with the mud, narrow paths and walking runners to contend with as well, you did brilliantly.

    I recognise you feel you were not able to fly along as you'd have hoped, but *you* know you can go faster/stay strong for longer and you'll be able to prove it next time. :-)

    Meanwhile enjoy your rest and satisfaction from completing this run. You did well. :-)

  • Thanks swan, sound advice as always. :) I have a benchmark now, and will just have to do more HMs to knock the minutes off! :)

  • Congratulations.... Well done and that's a great time and an amazing achievement in such difficult conditions....!!!

  • Thanks juicy! Nearly time for yours huh? :)

  • Amazing!!! Well done on such an achievement in such horrid conditions. Great job!

  • Thanks so much Sarah! :)

  • WOW fantastic time and a great blog many many congratulations :)

  • Thanks magster :)

  • Superb effort Rollertoaster and well done for battling the conditions. Hope you have an opportunity to celebrate somewhere drier and warmer :)

  • Thanks so much! I celebrated with a shower then a nice long bath.. so warmer, but not drier! :)

  • YOU ARE A M A Z I N G!!! Well done Rollertoaster. :-D Talk about facing up to the challenge! You ran a half marathon, in the rain no less. :-O Give yourself all the credit you deserve - remember to look at your achievement with the same eyes you would have a year ago. ;-) Yes, that really was you that just did that. 8-)

    Very big congratulations. You deserve a special c25k medal for being such an inspiration. :-) xx

  • Oh legion, of course you're right. A year ago, actually make that 2 months I would have scoffed loudly if you'd said I would be running the half. Wowsers! :)

    Great new profile pic by the way :)

  • Well done Rollertoaster! Your time sounds great given the conditions :-D

    I'm looking forward to our local HM in June next year, which will be around 10 months after graduation for me, so hopefully I've got plenty of time to prepare. Currently working on increasing my distance (with the assistance of Silky Steve thanks to JuicyJu) and enjoying being out no matter what the weather is like. The Potters 'Arf has 2 notable inclines - one long slow one in the first third of the race and then a short and nasty one at about the 12th mile - which apparently DOES sort the men out from the boys. At the moment I'm not even hoping for a time, just that I finish!! Hope that I do as well as you have on yours x

  • Thanks mrs mozzer, you have loads of time to really smash that HM! I only signed up 6 weeks ago, so didn't have much time to build up from 10k which was my max distance before.

    Make sure to get some hill training in and you'll definitely be THE man :)

  • I need the time to train! At my age everything works slower than it did, so having so much training time will come in handy lol.

  • Definitely! You'll be able to really smash that half! :)

  • Wow Rollertoaster, that is a brilliant achievement!! I had tears in my eyes when I read your is so great to do a run in such bad weather. Congrats!!! x

  • Thanks mini, it was pretty brutal weather this Sunday in Oxford huh? Sure if I can get through that I can do anything! ;)

  • I am so pleased for you, great post telling the highs and lows of a half marathon.

  • Thanks burstcouch! What a rollercoaster! Rollertoaster on a rollercoaster! ;) it certainly felt that I'd travelled more than 13 miles :)

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