It doesn't seem that long ago that I started on C25K, although it's about a year since me and Laura first hit the streets together and I thought I was dying because I had to run for a whole minute - so how come I signed up for one of the most beginner unfriendly (according to Runners World) Half Marathons around? The short story is that I missed taking part in our union branches annual sponsored walk and foolishly said "I'll run the Potters Arf for you next June." Fool.
Sunday 8th June was the big day - number 462 pinned to my vest, gels and jelly babies in my belt along with a bottle of sports drink and coated myself in sunblock ready for the off. 10 am found me doing a mass warm up in the town centre before moving to the starting line at 10:20. Everyone shuffled down onto the Potteries Way and jiggled about in anticipation and at 10:30am we were off!! Running through into the town centre at the start is tough as its a downhill/uphill combo with everyone bottle necked and you're just praying that the elites and good club runners will get a wiggle on and make some space.
Headed out of town down a long slow bank, smiling and waving to the cars that were held up to let 2000 people through. Long slow uphill so a lot of us took it steady. One foolish driver was heard to say "I don't know what the fuss is about, a half marathon isn't that far is it?" and I was tempted to pull her out of her seat, stick my shoes on her feet and ask her to show us how it's done. Never mind.... water station at mile 4 so one bottle for wearing (it was hot) and one for drinking....into Longton and onto the first nasty hill. Told myself I was a third of the way round so it was fine. Hadn't done too bad for time to 5 miles so power walked the bank and had a gel. Down the other side and into Bentilee...long slow downhill...trying not to think about toilets and wondering if I could nip into the bushes....caught up with a friend dressed as a pink gorilla and played at overtaking each other for a mile....7 mile marker came up and I told myself I was over the halfway mark. Locals out with jelly babies, water and hosepipes - I danced into every spray I could to cool down as it was a bit on the warm side! 8 mile marker - told myself I was almost two thirds of the way round....still felt good, breathing great, legs getting tired but really enjoying myself.
9 mile marker and I tried to pick up speed as much as I could so that I could make best use of the flat. The next 2 miles undulates, with a long slow bank leading to the 11 mile marker and the signpost saying "200 metres to Heartbreak Hill". At this point my heart sank a bit but 2 ladies from the Stafford Harriers joined me in a power walk up the hill (which is steep and seems to go on for ever because it's almost half a mile up and over) and once at the top I knew I was on my home run.
Slower than I would have liked at this point - gone over 2 hours but pleased that I hadn't stopped at any time - but determined to make a decent finish out of it. Down the hill on Hanley Road, round onto Town Road and the Potteries Shopping Centre became visible. Half a mile left...there was a girl crying whilst she was running and saying she couldn't do it because her foot hurt - I told her that in half a mile there was a sports massage waiting and they'd help sort her out and she smiled and picked up the pace a bit.
2 hours 34 and a bit minutes according to the Garmin - I decided that there was no way I was going in past 2 hours 40 and picked up the speed....could see the finish line coming up and gave myself a stern talking to.....and passed the finish in 2 hours 39 minutes 18 seconds. Hubby found me and was really proud that I'd done it - although I was complaining about my time!!
It tells you how hard the course is when an Olympian won at 1 hour 8 minutes and told the press that his friend hadn't told him how tough the course is and had failed to warn him about Heartbreak Hill. It certainly made me feel better about my time and now I'm looking forward to doing it all over again next year!