June 9, 2014
I have always said that anything longer than a half marathon or bigger is worth travelling for, and anything shorter than that hardly seems worth the hassle.
Southend is only an hours drive from me in East London but we still decided to make it a bit of a road trip, we being myself, and my good friend Natalie who has recently got into running.
Now I have to tell you a bit about Nat, or Airbags as I like to call her. She is a bit of a party girl and not necessarily the poster girl for clean living but she has been training for this her very first half marathon.
We have run a race together some years back, I blogged about it before in a post called The Outrageous 10k I almost forgot. Well our behaviour wasn’t as bad this time round, but for a moment I wondered if it was heading that way.
We arrived in Southend at about 3pm on Saturday, checked into the hotel and headed into town for a spot of people watching on the beach. The sun was out and it was a lovely relaxing way to prepare for our big day, even if I did end up with sand in my knickers. We stopped at a local establishment for a drinky poo joking that there was carbs in beer, but we only had the one before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
However, next thing I knew we were sharing a bottle of Rose’ over dinner, I told Natalie I would call this post “why you should never run a half marathon with your bestie” but I’m being mean. By 9.30 we were in bed watching BGT and settling in for an early night.
I slept well apart from being woken too early by some over zealous seagulls and the daylight coming in from the window, we had a lovely sea view and stupidly didn’t draw the curtains.
After a good breakfast we headed out to make out way to the startline. A bit of miscommunication between us meant neither of us knew where it actually was, so we googled it and headed in the general direction. The sun was already quite hot and the race volunteers were getting set putting out water and sponges. They informed us the start was about 2 miles away.
Three miles and a 2ltr bottle of water later we arrived at the startline with only 15 minutes to go. It was a little stressful cutting it so fine, but also adding 3 miles to our day in weather that was already too hot to be walking in. The start area was buzzing with excitement though and there were clearly more than 2000 competitors.
A quick visit to the loo and the following selfie with Nat and we were good to go.
The officials on the PA made a few announcements about the charity we were all supporting and also some health and safety messages about the heat. “No PBs please” It’s a shame really as I wanted to go for a sub 2.30 but I knew it would be tough in this heat.
And then we were off.
We had agreed to run the first 5k together as Natalie is a faster runner than me, and although she tried to run at my pace you could tell I was holding her back, so I told her not to wait for me and to just do her own thing.
The route was pleasant although not that interesting seeing as it was an out and back route which had 2 loops, but the support was good and there were plenty of water stations which were needed in this heat. I passed the 5 mile mark at just shy of an hour, which gave me confidence in getting a reasonable time after all as I didn’t feel like I was going that fast, and just after mile 6 I spotted Natalie up ahead and managed to catch her up. She was struggling and even said “I want to give up” to which I simply said “No you don’t” and I carried on going. We were now on our second lap and I somehow found some speed in my legs pulling gradually away from Natalie. I tagged myself on to a few other groups of ladies that were running consistantly, and I also had a few followers cheer me on around the course including one lady who shouted “Well done Fat Girl” to shich a fellow runner said “I hope she is a friend of yours” it really made me laugh.
By about mile 9ish the heat was starting to get to me and I looked forward to each and every water stop and the kind Southend Folk with thier hosepipes to cool us down. I reached the 10 mile mark in 1hour 59 so all I had to do was run 3 miles at sub 10minute miles to beat my goal. But it wasn’t going to happen, those 3 miles were so tough and the sun was so strong now as we hit midday. I ran as much as I could but had to walk a fair bit too, the final 800 meters or so were unbareable but the crowds were great.
I finished in 2hours 39 something, which conscidering the heat I am happy with.
I collected my medal and a bottle of water and waited by the finish line for Natalie, I knew she wouldn’t be too far behind me and then she came bolting round the corner, where she got that sprint finish from I will never know causing the guy next to me to swear, words to the effect of “Geeze she’s really going for it”
We laid on the floor for a bit trying to recover and then we headed off to find some of our other friends that had run the race. The thought of having to walk the 3 miles back to the hotel and the car were playing on our minds, but it had to be done so after some post race banter and talk of when’s the next one we headed off back along the course to make our way home.
It wasn’t really until I got home and walked through the door that I realised the damage the sun had done. The look of shock on my parters face and my daughter saying “hot, hot, hot” every time she touched my skin. When I took off my clothes to have a bath I still looked like I had a race vest on. I hadn’t put sun block on as I had forgotten to pack any, and didn’t have time at the startline to find anyone to borrow some from.
A little while later I heard the terrible news that someone had died at the finish line today. So incredibly sad. Nobody yet knows why this happened, but I am sure the heat was probably a factor. My thoughts go out to his family of course, but also to the race organisors and emergency crews that dealt with him.
Thinking about this last night I realise I am often quite flippant on this blog about my lack of training and haphazard race preperations, I guess that needs to stop and I need to be more responsible by leading by example and offering more detailed advice about keeping yourself safe.
Last year I ran a half marathon in Portugal and by mile 12 I felt so ill from running in the heat, it took me over 3 hours to complete that one and I felt delerious and close to passing out in the aftermath.
Running long distance is no joke, and we must all take personal responsibility for understanding what we are capable of and really importantly the conditions. Personal Bests are exactly that they are your ability to cover a distance at your fastest but also in the best of conditions. Knowing when to hold back or call it a day even is a real skill.
Well done to everyone who ran races in the heat yesterday and a huge thank you to all those volunteers keeping us cool and hydrated. If the weather reports in the UK are anything to go by we are in for a hot summer so take care.