Sunday 27th September saw the annual Cheltenham Half Marathon take place in some of the most beautiful parts of the town, commencing and finishing in Pittville Park.
This year, Adam and I both decided to take part in a bid to raise our fitness and generally spend more time outdoors to counteract the effects of the daily grind sat at a desk. Unfortunately for me, a car accident in the spring put my marathon ambitions on hold for this year owing to a back and neck injury and I was advised by my doctor, and subsequently, my physiotherapist that I should not be running at the moment.
To say I was gutted is perhaps an understatement. I was never a sporty child; running was most definitely not my forté and so I was looking forward to pushing myself and finally achieving a goal that had always seemed so far out of reach for me. I will not be beaten though, and intend to get back out running just as soon as I am medically allowed to.
On the other hand, Adam eventually went from strength to strength with his running, and I can honestly say I have never been prouder of him than in the last few months when he has been out running come rain or shine. He has truly inspired me, and [soppy statement alert] I couldn’t love him more for it if I tried.
It seems a bit daft for me to talk about the race day itself, so I’ll hand over to Adam to fill you in on the event and how he did…
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…As Sarah has already said, we entered the race in order to raise our fitness levels and get away from the tedium of the television. I began with a typical enthusiasm; trialing various running apps on my phone, reading running clothing reviews and drawing up a detailed training plan all the way up to the race.
A few weeks later, having maxed out at 2 miles and found that whenever I had planned to run we were either late back from work or we had other commitments, I convinced myself that it would be fine and I would skip a few steps to catch up. My first minor breakthrough came whilst away working away from home; I took my running gear with me with a vague non-commitment to potentially do some training, and somehow ended up doing 6.5 miles, in the dark, in a random town shortly after consuming a huge steak, all the trimmings and a pint of ale. I am still not quite sure how I made that jump, but it certainly gave me a bit of a confidence boost and I came back home ready to train harder and faster.
Fast forward to shortly before the race, and I hadn’t made much of an improvement. I was still struggling to fit in lengthy training runs in and had peaked at 9 miles; this was preceded a few days before by a failed 5 mile run which really knocked me and taught me not to run on an empty stomach.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I lined up in the 2:00 to 2:15 pen on the day. The start of the race was rather shaded and we had all gotten fairly cold waiting to get going, but once the bell rang we plodded down to the starting gate and were off. Within the first mile, I was slightly disheartened to see plenty of people sprinting past me, although looking at my splits, I was about on pace at that stage. A few miles further on, I was starting to feel knee and ankle pain, but tried to blot it out by focusing on the cheering crowd; Sarah and my mum had turned up to support me, and seeing them at several points on the course was a huge boost.
Approaching the halfway point, I learned a valuable lesson. Although I was only just behind the 2:00 pace setters, my attempts to hydrate pre-race had caught up with me and I needed a quick toilet stop. Not wishing to do a Paula Radcliffe, I planned to quickly detour into the waiting portaloos at the 7.5 mile point, however there were only two grey boxes waiting and I wasted a good 5 minutes queuing. I emerged feeling 100x better, but 5.5 minutes behind and with stiff legs from having stopped running. Next year, I will definitely reduce my fluid intake beforehand!
At around the 9 mile mark I plodded into the racecourse and immediately began to see why other, more experienced, runners at the start had been warning me about it. Following a large incline, I could see several miles of runners stretched out before me in a loop; a sight that I probably would have enjoyed as a spectator, but as a runner it looked like a huge mountain to climb. Soon after, I was overtaken by the 2:15 pace setters and despite their best efforts to motivate me, my legs weren’t responding and I resorted to fast walking.
At this point, I figured I had well and truly blown my 2:15 target, and I was just hoping to minimise the damage to my time, but as I crested out of the racecourse I realised with relief that everything was downhill, and there was only a mile to go. Summoning up the last of my energy reserves, I ran hard after the pace setters, and as I rounded the beautiful Pump Rooms, I had them in sight. Spurred on by the brilliant crowd, I managed to catch them; the last few hundred yards to the line seemed impossibly long and I only just held on to the finish. Looking back at my splits, I went from running 12:40 miles around the racecourse to my fastest mile of 8:30 at the very end.
After a quick visit to the physio tent for a massage, I was overwhelmed by the collective sense of achievement shared by the 4500 runners. My official time was just over 2:17 so I will definitely be back again for the Cheltenham Half Marathon next year, and this time, I have promised myself that I will actually train properly and see what I can really do.