June 24, 2014
Half marathons are few and far between in good old London Town and that is for a number of reasons, but in part because logistically it is very complex and expensive to close off roads in the city that pretty much doesn’t sleep.
But during the London 2012 Olympic games a lot of boroughs learnt a thing or too about hosting large scale events needing road closures and I guess they grew in confidence and the pull of seeing residents lining the streets once again was too much. Especially for East London boroughs who still have the fantastic Olympic venues to show off.
When I first heard about the Run Hackney half marathon I was really excited, and when they agreed to give me a space for FREE I was even more chuffed. A new half on my doorstep, what more could I ask for?
When I wrote my blog post Why you should support your local half marathon in response to people moaning about the entry price I meant every word. Because if local runners don’t get involved, then these races really are not sustainable and lose the all important local vibe which Hackney sure as hell managed to get at the weekend.
My prep for this race was all wrong. Having done the Southend Half just two weeks ago on the hottest day of the year so far I knew I could do the distance and I managed a few speedy 5ks in between too, but an impromptu drinking session on Friday night celebrating the launch of my new Tshirt & Hoodie range and my dreams of a PB were shattered.
That’s even before I knew what the weather had in store.
I spent Saturday resting and hydrating, but the previous nights festivities were playing on my mind all day and I had a terrible nights sleep too, well 3 hours max I would guess. I even dreamed about not making the start line on time.
As the morning arrived I was very excited to be wearing one of my “Too Fat to Run” tshirts for the first time. I guessed it would be interesting to see the response of other runners and spectators. I also met up with two lovely ladies from my running community which was great and we made our way along with 12,000 others to Hackney marshes.
It was already hot at 8am so we all knew what laid ahead.
After dumping my bag and having a quick nose around the start area, I joined the 2.30 pen and prepared myself. It was a shame there wasn’t a 3 hour pen really, as a lot of first timers were stressing about starting right at the back, yet they knew 2.30 was nowhere near their predicted times. Having a further pen would have spread people out a bit and prevented some of the barging around in the first few miles.
The atmosphere was great, but as an ex Hackney resident I knew it would be. The rows of bicycles on site reminded me of why I love hackney so much, but this was also in part because the overground wasn;t working, so loads of people had to use pedal power or come on foot if they wanted to come at all.
I managed to chat to a few followers from twitter and then before I knew it we were off.
The first few miles were quite speedy for me and I was even ahead of the 2.30 pacer for a while but I found it hard to maintain a consistent pace and after the pacer (Martin I think his name was) caught me and run alongside me for a while explaining that he read my blog I kinda felt under pressure and it became quite apparent I would not be able to keep up.
So after just 40 minutes or so I was seriously at the back end of this half marathon, and quite early on I found myself having to walk, dashing to the side of the road for any shade I could find. I would have loved to have gone for a PB at this race, but I came to terms with the fact this was not the race for that and the goal was simply to enjoy it for what it was.
I would have liked a few more water stations, and when I finally reached the one at mile 6 there was no water. I could have cried.
A lovely bunch of people from a local church were doing their best to hydrate us, and then a little way up the road a lady was single handedly sorting us out from a 5ltr bottle which had slices of lemon in it. I had no bottle, so my cupped hands had to suffice.
The lack of water if anything drove me on. But I didn’t feel any pressure to keep to any kinda time. No. This was simply about completing the course.
The atmosphere was good, lots of local residents out and good camaraderie amongst us back runners, including Batman and Robin who kept the kids of Hackney entertained around the course.
When we hit the Olympic Park things changed a little though and I started to notice runners at the side of the road needing medical attention. It was a little worrying, particularly as it seemed like it was every few hundred feet. The medical and events staff were stretched, but they seemed on top of things and very well prepared.
It was a little lonely along this stretch with very few spectators, but I knew my family would be up by the Velodrome so I picked up the pace a bit and tried to encourage some familiar faces on the looped sections to keep going and run strong. I think a lot of us were secretly worrying that we perhaps might end up on the side of the road too.
Seeing my sister and my nephews and then my daughter and partner just near the tumbling bay playground was the highlight for me. So often I run races without anyone close to me in the crowd, so it was nice to feel their support. My partner was wearing one of my “Too Fat to Run” hoodies, in that scorching heat too…talk about dedication!!
I then knew it was only a couple of miles more until it would all be over.
My legs felt fine, as did my hips which often give me pain come mile 10/11. I was just a little tired. My thirst was ok now and I had two gels on the course too so felt alright in terms of my salt/sugar/energy/electrolite levels
The support in the last mile was phenomenal. The Run Dem Crew cheering us out of the Olympic Park and then a corridor of support through hackney wick and towards the marshes, people calling my name…my real name and my Fattymustrun one. But I was a little dazed and confused by now and ready to stop.
My tshirt was getting a lot of attention but I was just super focussed on getting to the end. A lady steward said to me with about 1k to go and a look of real concern “Just walk darlin” as if the thought of me running was ridiculous in that weather, but I didn’t want to walk.
The last few hundred metres was the toughest, at one point I had to say “come on” and tell my legs to work for just a few seconds more.
I crossed the finish line in 2.49.59 just 1 second short of 2.50 my worst case scenario time goal.
Hackney did a great job of hosting this inaugural race in tough conditions, and it has been lovely seeing the response on social media to it. Yes there were a few issues, but on the whole everyone involved pulled together to make it a success.
Roll on 2015
Here is a little video I pulled together…please ignore the spelling mistakes towards the end, I did this last night when really I should have been in bed. It has been an incredibly busy few days!!