Done and dusted!
I really do need to get into a habit of writing more regularly, and given I’ve had quite a productive week let’s kick off here. I’ve got a few unpublished drafts, some musings written on the bus that need fleshing out, so here’s number 1.
In October I took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon, first time I’ve done any formal race apart from a few Parkruns. I wrote previously about my preparation, and the reasons I was running for Child Bereavement UK, but didn’t post anything more. I’m happy to tell you that I finished the race, so for posterity, and for anyone who might be considering a race like this, here’s how it worked out.
On the Friday afternoon before the race, I went for a sports massage at City Sports Massage in Holborn, recommended by a family member who races several times a year. Whilst I was initially apprehensive (and skeptical to boot), the venue was relaxing and welcoming, and after a brief consultation with the masseuse about exercise, preparing for the race, and stretching, she got to work. She also showed me some new stretches for the parts of my legs that had been niggly and that I’d obviously been missing. It did leave me feeling kneaded and poked, particularly in the calves, but I would highly recommend it.
The Runkeeper plan I’d been following had been tapering off for the last two weeks, reducing the risk of injury and probably alleviating boredom for the big day. For a final thrashout to get the blood flowing I did a short fast run round the block on the Saturday night, a hot bath and then early night.
I was aiming to get up early to get down to Hyde Park and meet the charit reps, and the other family members and friends who were running. Snoozed a bit and the tube was heaving but got there in plenty of time for a 9am start. Had a simple slice of toast before setting off, and then just before heading to the line, a foul tasting carbs & caffeine gel. It actually took over 20 mins to get from the start area to the start line, so do bear that in mind. Like most blokes, I took the opportunity for a quick wizz behind a tree.
The sunshine was glorious and the temperature just right. The race was fine, stayed quite congested all the way through so you do have to concentrate compared to long solo runs. On the plus side when you find the right pace you do keep going with fellow runners.
Normally I have some fastish dance tracks, or just a podcast to listen to, but I’d put on some rock & metal stuff as well this time. I was hoping to have time to compile them properly, but in the end it worked out really well, sometimes with unexpected songs popping up just at the right time. Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls (the one
from the start of Zombieland) came on just as I was passing Big Ben, for example. Sometimes I was so into the song that I was almost singing as I ran. The singing helped to regulate breathing, I think.
The crowds were huge, and there was no real way to look out for your family especially if you don’t know where they’re going to be! I saw my wife & kids for a split second coming back into the park but barely had time to register before being swept on. The crowd here was fantastic, so many people cheering everyone on, keeping you going past the half way mark. At this point I had the other carb gel, which was a much tastier cranberry flavour.
I expected people to spread out once we got into the park, but it remained quite tight. I was doing fine until about 2km before the end when I stopped to pick up some water and my knee started to hurt a bit, sorted with a little stretch and a nice downhill run to the final straight. At this corner I saw another guy with the Child Bereavement vest, really flagging, so in my annoying jolly way I tapped him on the shoulder and said “keep going, so close to the end now!”. He said afterwards that that really picked him up, and I would have run along with him but was on that runners high with the right songs so could not stop. About 50m before the end, I saw my girls, waved over and then broke into a sprint finish, looks mad on the race video but, again, you just get so into it!.
Result & Analysis
Finish time was 2:01:09, respectable for a first time, I think! I’m happy with that, and looking at heart rate I was pretty much at the full lactate threshold all the way through, rising gradually over the park section and obviously the last km. If I had pushed any more earlyier on I’d probably have struggled. Dan the marathon man finished about 8 minutes before me, Terry with his dodgy knee about 30 mins after, and last family member Jodie finished at 2hrs 51.
After that we walked a mile or so (knee stiffening up now!) to a pub near Green Park with all our family runners, had a lovely couple of pints, pie and mash, got the tube back home. Achey the following two days obviously, mostly tops of thighs, but nothing to stop me walking home from work. I’d definitely go for it again, though I don’t think I have any need to go for a full marathon. Preparation just takes up too much time and I think will mean I start to dislike running.
Best of all, I raised around £1400 for Child Bereavement UK, and hopefully helped raise their profile a little. I think my Dad would be proud of that.