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...