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It has seriously taken me almost a week to pluck up the courage to write this post…its OK its nothing gruesome of anything it’s just I imagined writing a slightly more positive race report from this event.

So here goes

Half marathons are funny old things, well they are for me. With a 5 or a 10K you know exactly where you are and what is required of you to do the training and get round the course but with a half you are starting to dip your toe into long distance running, and with that comes a whole heap of stuff to think about.

Of course I am training for the London Marathon, and having a few halfs in the diary is a key training strategy for me, as there;’s nothing like running in race conditions to test your fitness and endurance. A few weeks ago I had run one lap of the course, as my sister/babysitter lives very close and I thought the hills would be good for me.

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This gives you a picture of the hills I am talking about

The Roding Valley half which takes place in Woodford/Chigwell on the Essex/London border is known locally as the “13 hills in 13 miles half” so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I signed up for it, and I had run it twice before so none of it should have come as a surprise…but it did.

 

I had spent the night at my sisters so that I could be close to the start, but sleeping in the bottom bunk of a single bed with a 2 year old didn’t make for good pre race preparation, neither did the bumper bag of toffee popcorn I ate while watching movies. I reckon I got about 3 hours sleep max, so I had a bit of the hump when my alarm finally went off and I went about my race morning routine.

It was a lovely day for it. Chilly but bright and when I headed out on the 2 minute journey to the start it was great to see so many red shirts already warming up…red being the club colour for the running club I am a member of.

I wasn’t nervous, I had run 15 miles the weekend before so I knew I could cover the distance…but I was a little concerned about the no headphones rule…I remember being told off in 2012 for wearing them and this year I had decided to play by the rules and go without.

But you know what that means right?

THE VOICES!!!

The race starts on a running track and seriously after the first 30 seconds I couldn’t see anyone from my club anymore as everyone speeded off and out onto the road. I tried to keep up with Maya my sidekick from the club, but she has more pace than me so I just did my thing and plodded on. Well, actually that’s a lie, the first bit of the race goes up a very long slightly inclined road (traffic still in action) and I decided to push hard to ensure that I wasn’t right at the back all of the way round.

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Me and Charles

As the route turned and headed back to the running track I actually sped up to try and stick with a group of runners slightly ahead. One runner a Firefighter called Charles was explaining to two Sikh runners that he is training for the London Marathon and saw this simply as a training run. He was “a big lump” his words not mine and before long we were having a good old chinwag about being overweight runners and what we love about running London. He had done is in 2012 too.

 

As we passed the running track there is a long gradual hill up a busy highstreet and I simply couldn’t keep up with Chaz, especially whilst talking so I walked for a bit and he head off up the hill. It was at this point I realised I really wanted my headphones, and I was only about 3 miles in.

Up ahead there were two ladies powerwalking, one of them looked a little disheartened, head down looking a bit like she might give up, so I started running again and started a bit of a conversation as we tackled another hill. I explained my 60 second rule about walking, and told her even some of the greatest ultra runners walk the hills. Turns out both ladies were training for London too.

On the down hill section I sped up and started to overtake a few people and before I knew it I was at the water station and heading back to close up the first loop. Now that makes it sound easy, but the truth is the section heading back is kinda boring…picturesque yes, but stimulating…well NO!!!

At about 7 miles the first of the faster runners started overtaking me..one of my running club members in 4th position even sparing some energy to cheer me on, damn they are fast. I stopped briefly to enjoy the hospitality of a little girl who had set up a stall outside her house. The sign simply said “Sweets and Drinks”, she was very happy that I had taken advantage of the orange squash and jelly babies and I told her I would be back in an hour for seconds.

Me struggling at about 8 miles

Me struggling at about 8 miles

The next hour or so of running was tough, not physically but just mentally. I had nothing to think about aside from the fact I had nothing to think about. I started pondering on what I might write about in this blog post and bored myself with every thought on the subject…I was driving myself mad.

 

I was quite hot too. The sun had been out the whole time and I could feel my face was slightly sun burned.

By the time I reached the water station the second time the volunteers were packing up, never a good feeling and as I walked up another one of the hills on a long winding residential road, a lady (not running in the race) encouraged me to run up the hill and I felt bad not obliging so with her words of encouragement I kept going for another mile or so, most of which was downhill luckily.

I had been running for over 2 hours by this point, and any thoughts about a PB were well and truly gone, in fact I had the real sense that I was right at the back now, where as in previous years I had always had people behind me.

I kept apologising to the volunteers, saying

Sorry for keeping you out here

Or trying to laugh my slowness off with comments such as

Who keeps putting these bloody hills here

The last few miles were simply the result of sheer determination. I was shattered physically and mentally, but I could spot a lady ahead of me I had spoken to earlier and decided to try and catch her…I didn’t manage it, but I was pretty close and I think that focus in the last mile kept my mind occupied at least.

As I finally entered the athletics track the sense of relief was fantastic, and I had already spotted my sister, my nephew and my 2 year old daughter rose, all jumping up and down. In fact Rose was pumping her hand in the air in a strange way and as I got closer and closer I realised she was chanting

Mummy, mummy

It was fantastic to have her there and it spurred me on to finish the last 300 meters of the race. My finish time was 2.45, not the fastest half or the slowest half I have ever done…but not a race I am happy with really.

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Getting your head right in training and in races is crucial. Luckily I have been here before and know that one bad race in a marathon training campaign doesn’t mean much. It’s all about clocking up the miles and getting used to being on your feet for hours on end.

Turns out I wasn’t last either there were 4 finishers after me, and 10 DNF (Did not Finish in case you were wondering what the acronym is)

My next half marathon, Reading which is in a weeks time now is supposed to be a little flatter and I can wear headphones…so I am hoping to have a better experience and a better result, after all there are only 5 weeks left to the big day now.

Finally…the Roding Valley Half is a great local half marathon, coordinated by fantastic volunteers and well worth the £18 entry fee, so despite my poor performance I am sure I will be back again next year.

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