If you don’t have bad runs you can’t have good ones. I have been telling myself this a lot this week! I certainly set myself up for a bad one last weekend.
My decision to take part in the Robin Hood Half Marathon was based upon a bad 8 mile run. I spent the whole summer cycling to train for the Coast 2 Coast in 1 Day and only doing a minimum amount of running. Once the C2C and a sprint triathlon were over new challenges were needed. I popped out to try running 8 miles one morning, and found it a real struggle. My feet, which had never been problematic before were painful and my body felt reluctant to keep moving. Some people may have decided to proceed with caution at this stage but I took it as a sign that I should sign up for a half marathon!
I thought the aches and pains were just coming from a lack of practice. Surely if I ran more things would get better, right? Wrong! As the few weeks I had to prepare ticked by my feet hurt more and my body screamed at me to stop each time I pushed it. I eventually decided that new trainers were in order (and some new ‘go faster’ clothes) but this meant breaking rule one of running: Never run a race in new trainers.
I managed three runs in the new trainers before half marathon day and my feet certainly felt better for them. I also tried to give my body a fighting chance by having a week of no alcohol. This is no mean feat for me and was not made easier by a certain running club temptress (you know who you are if you’re reading this!) offering me regular glasses of wine. And come race day I thought that I felt good, I decided that I may yet beat my previous half time of 1hr 47mins and set my Garmin to update me on my progress.
I’m not sure that the stress of the portaloo queue really helped my pre-race nerves. Whilst thousands of people were taking part in the pre-race warm up a few hundred of us were warming up by jiggling on the spot with crossed legs. I sprinted to the start point just as my section set off and for the first two miles I felt great. Then it all started to fall apart. By mile four I was getting behind pace and my mind started telling me to stop running. The realisation dawned that I would be slower than my previous time and I found that hard to deal with. As the pace runner for the 1hr 50mins racers drew level with me through the Boots site I was at least treated to a moment of humour. The Boots site is notorious on the Robin Hood half and full marathon for being a fairly uninspiring part of the race. The pacer announced to his group that ‘this is the most demoralising part of the race’ to be answered with ‘I think you need to work on your motivational speaking mate’; it did bring a little smile to my grimace.
On I plodded and it really felt like I was slowing down. I kept looking at my watch only to see that I hadn’t reached mile six yet. My spirits were sinking fast, it forever since the five mile marker…and then I saw the seven! My watch had stopped working and my miserable little mind just hadn’t registered this. I was over half way but only one thing was stopping me from stopping now…the long walk home! If I stopped running, if I dropped out, I would have to walk and that did not seem like a good option. I would have to walk on the course and endure the sympathy of the wonderful people of Nottingham who had turned out to cheer us on. Or I would have to leave the course and walk back through quieter streets whilst trying to style it out in my running gear ‘Me, in the half marathon?! No I always go for a walk through Notts on a Sunday morning dressed in luminous clothing with a number attached to me, honest’.
At this point I would like to say well done to the students of Notts, some of whom had made fab posters. When I spotted the two young ladies holding their piece of cardboard emblazoned with ‘For power hit here…’ followed by a big star I just had to hit it. I would take anything I could get at that stage!
It was wonderful to run through the streets of my home town, down roads which you would generally be hard pushed to even cross. And at mile ten I heard someone call my name, that always gives you a boost. I couldn’t think who it was but later found out it was one of the lovely Twitter folk I communicate with. He was there to watch his son run but kindly gave me a couple of words of encouragement too (still would have liked that gin though!).
Now I knew I could finish, if I could run ten miles I could run three and a bit more. But the Notts half has a final sting in the tail. You have to run past the finish and then keep going away for it for almost a mile before you turn for home. Luckily one of my awesome friends had turned out to cheer me on and blimey she has a good pair of lungs on her! I finished, collected my pretty medal and foil blanket and then took a moment to sit and pull myself together. it had taken me 1hr 55mins, ten minutes slower than I had hoped for. My toes were covered in blisters and two toenails are now turning black ( I refer back to the breaking of rule number one).
It has taken me a while to turn this around in my mind. Since Bob died I have been fighting to achieve things, whether it be getting through the funeral, cycling the Coast 2 Coast in a Day or driving without crying. This half did not feel like an achievement, it felt like a failure. I was slow and it was not fun. But despite that I did finish. I was injured and mentally tired out but I finished. And, if I was slow, I can be quicker next year! I’m sure I am on track for a personal course record in 2015. I made mistakes and went in unprepared but I will learn from this…mainly I will learn to look a little more closely at my watch and notice when it is stuck for nearly two miles.
There are only so many battles you can fight at any one time. Eight months on from Bob taking his own life I am still battling each day with complex feelings and emotions. Battling with the unanswered questions, battling with what was lost. ‘What was lost’ is a phrase which circles in my mind often. So much was lost on that day for so many people. We are all still scrabbling around on the ground trying to regain the pieces. And so each time one of the people Bob loved and who loved Bob back stands up and achieves something we put a piece back. We start to rebuild a map and see our courses on it once again. My course is bound to have wrong turns but eventually enough pieces will be regained and I will know where I am going again.
If the half marathon was a little battle lost then so be it. It was one I could afford to lose.
Be More Relntless.
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