A builder told me about the P6 abbreviation once: Prior Planning Prevent P*ss Poor Performance. I was thinking about that as I was queuing for a portaloo for a p*ss less than 5 km into the Birmingham half marathon last Sunday. Talk about bad planning!
Back to the beginning. I started my c25k training in March, and the day after graduation I signed up for the Birmingham half marathon. It felt like there was loads and loads of time, but with the wisdom of hindsight, 33 weeks really isn't a lot of time to go from hardly being able to jog 60 seconds to running 21 km (C2HMi33w = Couch To Half Marathon In 33 Weeks). There has been some blips along the way. Like when I spent 3 weeks in July just not being "in the mood". Or like injuring my hamstring a month before the race so that the two weeks pre-taper where I was meant to build up to peak performance instead saw me thawing frozen vegs on my leg and becoming best friends with a physio therapist. Or like catching a cold the week before the race so that I again couldn't run, meaning that I managed a total of 4 runs in the last four weeks before the race. At least the fever symptoms had gone away for race day, but I never felt quite "at the top of my game".
I was staying in a nice hotel 15 minutes walk from the start line, so could get up and have a nice breakfast (porridge with nuts and honey) and a couple of cups of coffee (that's probably the bad planning part... coffee) before leisurely strolling up to the baggage area and depositing a sweat shirt and a pair of long jogging bottoms. The slow runners (of which I was one) were starting on both sides of a dual carriageway, and by pure chance "my" side was the last. I was towards the end of the field with maybe 100 runners behind me and the event had sold out all of its 20,000 places. So there was around 19,900 runners ahead of me.
This turned out to be a downside for two reasons:
1) while I'm sure people from Birmingham love to cheer on runners and while the organisers had arranged several bands to play music to the runners and charity busses with cheering folks, the novelty of seeing someone moving at long distance running pace had clearly become a bit old hat at some point while the first 19,000 runners had passed. So the streets were, if not empty, then at least tired and without much cheer. A few hard core hold outs were calling out names (it gives a GREAT buzz to hear your name being shouted), a couple of the bands were still playing, there was a biscuit stall handing out bisquits to anyone wanting them and twice I passed people giving winegum bears away. Of course the official water stations were still manned. But all in all, it felt very much like we were at the end of a very long field, and like people who did stay to cheer were only doing so out of a desire to stay till the bitter end.
2) I had arranged to keep the hotel room until 3pm, but while the last wave of runners did start at 11.07 as shown in the paperwork issued beforehand, it took the best part of an hour before I crossed the start line shortly before 12. Add 2.5 hours running and time to collect my sweat shirt and wobble back to the hotel. I had time for a quick bath which her Ladyship had run for me when I called to say I had finished (bless!), but the nice, leisurely checkout I had imagined didn't happen.
The course has a looooooooong hill from the 17km mark to 20km. Evil to plan a route that way. Even if it wasn't as steep as I feared, running up hill for 3 km is tiring. I made sure to take it easy and hold some energy back in reserve for that hill which turned out to be a good decision. I must have passed at least a thousand folks walking uphill, and while I was running quite slowly by then, at least I was till running.
I don't know what I feel about the race. As mentioned, the last month beforehand had been a bit crap, but the 6 months prior to that had been good enough that I was never in any real doubt about my ability to keep running all the way. So there wasn't that "yay, I made it!" euphoria. And since my fitness had suffered from not practising enough, there also wasn't any "yay, that was fast" euphoria. My official time was 2.23.30, although Princess Garmin claims it took two minutes longer. Maybe the start and finish wasn't quite where I thougth it was. It's a respectable time, and very close to what I told people I expected (I was aiming for 2.15 plus/minus 5 minutes), but almost meeting expectations is not cause for feeling ecstatic.
It's been a few days, and I was hoping the meh-feeling would give way to this huge feeling of satisfaction I had expected. But it's still blah or meh. Sure. I'm proud that I *can* run that far, but I sorta proved that to myself 6 weeks ago when I had a 20 km training run. It was meant to be the culmination of half a year's of training. Never mind. Upwards and onwards, yeah?!!