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Running the same race more than once comes with a range of pros and cons

Pros

  • you know the route
  • you know you can do it
  • you have the opportunity to improve

Cons

  • you know the route…and know which bits hurt and which bits are boring
  • you know you can do it…but perhaps you were fitter last time and won’t this time
  • you have the opportunity to improve…but what if you don’t?

Now I have run the Roding Valley Half Marathon 4 times now…or is it 5?

Anyway, its an event I love.

It’s a small race, with a field of 550 runners mainly from local East London and Essex running clubs. Its a tough half though, known locally as the “13 hills in 13 miles” half, I’m always too shattered and preoccupied trying not to die to count them…I will one day though.

Preparation for this race has not been great, I did a strong and fast 10 miles a few weeks ago attempting the Circle Line route, and I did 8 miles in Hyde Park a fortnight ago, but I also quite frustratingly managed to pull something in my back shortly after that, so for the last 10 days all I had managed to do was some yoga and a bit of swimming…so I wasn’t even sure if I would get to the start line.

On Saturday though my back was feeling a lot better, so I tested it out with a parkrun, which although slow, was not painful…so I thought what the heck, I would register on the day and attempt it. It was two laps so if anything wasn’t feeling right I could always stop and go home after the first 7 miles.

The night before the race I was not exactly enthusiastic in my prep, OK so I had a reasonably carby dinner and drank some extra water, but I didn’t get any of my kit ready…I think I was in denial that I was actually going to do it…I think I also dreamt that I slept through my alarm too, but no such luck.

7am and I was wearily fuelling and getting dressed….I think if I hadn’t encouraged some of my ladies to sign up for this race, I might have pulled out myself.

A quick 20 minute car journey on completely empty roads later and I was at Ashtons Athletics Track with plenty of time to spare. Now this is where I do my speed sessions with my traditional running club The East London Runners who were out in full force today with 51 runners…so it all felt very relaxed.

I registered on the day which was relatively easy and then stood around chatting with ladies from The Clubhouse and some of my other running pals, it wasn’t long before we were heading onto the track…it’s what I love about these smaller running club led races..no fanfair, no fuss.

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I didn’t even here the starting gun or horn, just sensed people were moving. I started off strong keeping up with the runners around me, half a lap of the track and then through the car park out onto the main road and then right up a very long hill, like seriously it went on for the first mile. I ran it all but could see the field spreading out even at this point.

My legs felt heavy, I had no speed in me at all.

So, my goal was to simply enjoy it and to not get too disheartened about my time.

The route is a great one, its very unassuming. Through small high streets, passing the posh footballers houses in Chigwell, across the M11 passed a Rugby Club and along huge swathes of residential roads…I don’t know why I love it so much, I guess because it just feels like a training run but with the added bonus of friendly stewards and regular water stations.

I power walked up a hill with Liza (who is training for her first marathon) for a bit while I took my jacket off, I ended up running in my Too Fat to Run vest despite it being quite damp and miserable. Those hills were making me overheat. As we chatted for a bit, two muslim girls overtook us, with the best t-shirts ever

This is what a runner looks like

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They were incredible. Ahead of me the whole time, I never once saw them stop and walk.

They looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties, such an inspiration, and great to be smashing stereotypes so boldy in a local race like this.

I hit the 5 mile mark in just over an hour, which is pretty good going for this course for me. I took on a gel and then braced myself for the most challenging section…not hilly as such, but just goes on forever with not a lot to see. By this point I put one headphone in and listened to a new audiobook “Thank and Grow Rich” by Pam Grout, not about money like the title suggests but more about how by being more grateful for what you already have, you can bring abundance in its broadest sense into your life.

It did indeed make me feel very grateful.

  • Grateful that I get to do fun things like races
  • Grateful that I could actually run after having such a bad back earlier in the week
  • Grateful that my daughter was at her Dads for the weekend
  • Grateful that I had thousands of women wishing me well from afar (my Facebook page had reached 20K likes that morning)
  • Grateful that I wasn’t developing blisters
  • Grateful that my kit didn’t annoy me

In fact I found myself in a cheery mood pretty much the whole way round. I was particularly thankful for the faster runners who still had the energy and the good will to congratulate me on my efforts as they flew by…it really kept me going.

The last mile was a breeze, I mean it really was. OK so I wasn’t going fast…but I was going.

When I pulled into Ashtons I knew I was close to 3 hours, slower than I had ever run this race, but I didn’t really care. I had achieved my goal and was happy just to finish. Even the fact the marshals were taking down the finishing tunnel didn’t annoy me…it had to come down at some point…and there were only a few runners after me.

I finished in 2.58.13…after a final dash to ensure I dipped in under 3 hours.

Turns out I was actually second to last, with 10 runners not finishing the course at all…I told you it was a challenging one.

Me and Liza and our medals

Me and Liza and our medals

Today I am feeling quite proud of myself, I am not the biggest fan of hills and I wasn’t in the best shape to run a challenging half marathon like that yesterday, but I did it nether the less and with a smile on my face.

I even managed to get to CrossFit this morning much to the astonishment of the other guys there. One bloke said his flatmate did the Brighton Half yesterday (along with a bunch of my ladies that did incredibly well) and he is struggling to even walk today.

I guess I am stronger than I look sometimes hey?

Next up the Jeruselum Half in a couple of weeks time, which I am sure will bring with it its own unique challenges….a 6.45am start being one of them!!!

A massive thank you to the organisers of Roding Valley Half, a great deal of effort is put into the organising and hosting of this great little event. Put it in you diaries for next year, it is perfect if you are training for a spring marathon.

See you in 2018.

Also a massive thank you to my pal Stuart from East London Runners who captured this picture…I rarely get a race photo I love…and I do seriously love this one…you might not be able to tell but this is at the top of a hill, with loads of pedestrians watching..I was already in 3rd or 4th from last at this point with 10 miles still to go!! 

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