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I am often nervous going into a half marathon.

Thoughts of wether I have done enough training or perhaps I’m carrying a slight niggle, its human nature to be a little apprehensive but yesterday morning as I made my way to the start of the Richmond Half Marathon I felt physically sick with dread.

The race had been in the diary for a while, as a few months ago I recruited a whole bunch of ladies from the Too Fat to Run community to help train in The Clubhouse (our online running club) for it, but a knee injury 2 months ago has pretty much seen my running plans go out the window.

I have of course been running (cos thats what I do), but not as consistently as I normally do and not the distances that I would like to have done in preparation for a half. Plus my knee is still not 100% right, but I figured I would meet my ladies at the start line and just see what happened. I could always just get the bus back to the finishing area and music festival right?(Did I mention there was a festival with beer at the end??)

So I arrived at Kew Gardens at about 8am along with what seemed like a million other runners arriving by public transport. I worried I wouldn’t be able to see my girls, but what was I thinking, they all came in their TFTR attire so they were real easy to spot. It was so amazing to have a big crew together, with a number of ladies coming down from up north for the occasion and many of us meeting in real life for the first time.

We even had our very own one person cheering squad in the name of Sandy, who had travelled down simply to support us. Now that is what you call commitment, and it was very much appreciated I can tell you. So thanks luv.

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The 6 half marathon runners and Sandy (in the middle) just before we got started

So at 8.30 sharp the 10K runners went off, as I stood there thinking “Why the hell didn’t I just do the 10K instead”, there were thousands of half marathon runners hanging around waiting for the wave to start but the remaining TFTR ladies decided to watch the 10K runners loop back round the course, using our nervous energy to cheer everyone on. We were the only runners doing that in fact, but at about a mile and a half in the people at the back were really appreciating the support especially if we called them out by name (having your name on your shirt really helps guys) but when we saw our 4 TFTR ladies come round the corner all hell broke loose, there was whistling, whooping and a high pitched zulu noise I can’t even make from Sandy (she must have done this before) A few other runners and spectators were thinking “Who the hell are they?” and our shirts got some quizzical looks too.

But then, then (sob) it was time to run.

The mucking about cheering the others on had been a great distraction leaving little time for nerves, and the starting process had been very relaxed with no pens, so it made for a very swift transition into the actual running. But I did still have to run. the slow realisation of that soon shut me up and I went a little in to myself as we walked towards the startline.

And then we were off.

My knee started hurting literally the moment I started running. The problem is actually muscle imbalance so although I had the knee strapped up I wasn’t sure how it was going to cope. Last weeks parkrun had been a slow and steady affair with just a little pain as I attempted a sprint finish, but I hadn’t run more than 10K in over 4 months. I seriously thought I would get to around 5 miles and have to call it a day.

After a while though the pain disappeared, or maybe I just got distracted by the sight of my ladies doing their thing around the course. Being able to spot them in their branded gear made me feel like a proud mother hen and it was fun watching the reactions of both other runners and the marshals to their “Don’t Judge, Just Run” and “Walking is part of the race plan” shirts.

Kew Gardens was spectacular and the weather was awesome with lovely sunny weather but not too hot either. Before long I was along the river front and realised I had been running for an hour now. My pace was not great, but it was consistent. Soon I could see other runners on their finishing straight heading into Old Deer Park, boy were they speedy. I still had more than half way to go.

The route is quite a lonely one, especially when you are at the back of a race like this. But the scenery more than made up for it. At about mile 3 I had decided to listen to an audiobook to keep my mind occupied, and that seemed to work quite nicely. At about 8 miles I stopped and walked up a slight hill and took on an energy gel. My legs were starting to ache a little now and I knew I still had a long way left to run. But I decided to take my own advice and only ever walk for 60 seconds at a time and only when I needed it. I even managed to pick off a few people and overtake with this methodology.

The last few miles seemed to drag a bit, but I got some welcome encouragement at about mile 11 when a stewards decided to run with me for a bit. At first I thought he was just having a bit of a laugh but his support lasted for about half a mile and at a pace which was a little to swift for me. But it did make me laugh and take my mind of the pain in my legs.

My fitness felt ok actually, so clearly my swimming and cycling and yoga while off running due to injury had obviously kept things ticking over, but by about mile 12 I was all out of energy gels and was starting to feel a bit fatigued (and dare I say it hungry). The waterfront of Richmond had pretty much gone back to business as usual now all the speedy runners had come through, and I felt a little bit like an inconvenience. One plonker shouted out “Get a move on, you’re last” to which I responded with two words that started with F and finished with Off even if it was only loud enough for me to hear.

Thats not what you want to hear after 2 hours and 45 minutes of running.

I was almost there though, I could hear the music of the festival and knew I was close to the 3 hours mark. would I be able to nip in just under? And then I saw it. The tapped off markings of the last mile of the race. It literally looped around the festival site in front of the main stage and then around a field…how cruel. I did run some of it, but by this point my motivation was somewhat gone.

But then to my delight I saw a sea of pink and blue shirts and some awesome cheering and I knew I was nearly home. I looked at my Garmin and I relaised I had less than 2 minutes to get to the finish line if I wanted a sub 3 hour time and I told my legs to get a move on…some how they did as they were told and I whizzed past the ladies giving them a few moments of Jazz Hands (The TFTR secret sign of support) and dipped across the finish line in…get this…2 hours 59 minutes and 44 seconds.

What a day?

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After collecting our medals (Fab medals when put together look like a pizza) and goodie bags with a very funny “All the Gear No Eye Deer” image, and the most important item of course, a can of London Pride Beer, then we just sat in the glorious sunshine wallowing in our own awesomeness. It had been an incredible days work for The Clubhouse ladies….I mean just look at these times…

  • Fiona 3.06.21
  • Laura 3.20.59
  • Sue 2.51.06
  • Louise 2.49.45
  • Henna 2.47.12
  • Liza 2.45.05 (a PB by about 3 minutes)
  • Amy 2.39.06 (a PB by 31 seconds)

And then our 10K ladies

  • Egle 1.26.15
  • Lauren 1.29.23
  • Elinor 1.34.47
  • Carrie 1.34.48

Wow, wow, wow.

Now I ran this race in its inaugural year back in 2013 (you can read about it here) and I thought it had great potential then, but by my accounts its just got better and better. The stewards were friendly, the organisation was fab and the festival was an awesome way to celebrate especially as we were so lucky with the weather.

But I tell you what, nothing comes close to the difference it made having the women from my tribe there at the same event, running alongside me and cheering me on from the side lines. It had such an impact on my mood, motivation and sense of achievement for completing this race.

logoI would like to say a massive thank you to the Richmond Marathon Festival who gave me a free place and organised a VIP area for us, we’d love to come back next year with an even bigger team if you will have us and also to the 10 ladies who formed our biggest ever race meet up yet, you seriously made me swell with pride.

To keep up to date with the details of the 2016 Richmond Running Festival click here

Watch this space peeps…this is the future of running for plus size women in the UK, friendly folk to run with, supporters to cheer you around the course, and women to share a beer and a debrief with afterwards!!!! Our next big meet up is October 4th for the Race for Life Half and Full Marathon where we will have TFTR banners and all sorts…come and get involved.

If you would like to become a member of our awesome tribe over in The Clubhouse click here and make a proper step towards becoming the Athlete we know you are.

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