The Big Half and Beyond

Posted on: 28 Mar 2019

I’ll never be a real runner but...... that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying 😊 Apologies in advance for the mixed emotions of this blog and its length! Those ten miles alongside HD last year in the London Ten Mile will always be my greatest achievement in my eyes - something I thought I’d never be able to do and I totally accept now that they possibly will never be repeated. I’ve been chewing that over in my head for weeks and it’s really been pulling me down but I’m finally sort of at peace with it now. As long as I enjoy what running I can do then that’s all that will ever count - any running is a huge bonus 😊 

Yet another month has flown by since I last blogged and then I was just a few days away from the Big Half, my first road half marathon. Although I’d really pushed the fast walking post hip-op, I’d only been able to start trying to run again 5 weeks before the race so I wasn’t expecting any miracles. As usual, I’d pushed that too hard as well and although the hip held up pretty well with just a bit of soreness, the ankles, feet, left knee and neck made it all too plain that they weren’t happy with training. I decided to abandon the custom orthotics for the race - although they made the feet more comfortable, I swear they made the ankles much worse! As for the prescribed ankle brace, it was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard in terms of pain reduction 😂😂 Thank heavens for KT tape then 😁 I wouldn’t be able to do anything about the neck but everything else would be pretty much taped up to the max on the big day 😂😂 

For the first time ever, I wasn’t at all excited about an event. When the race number came in the mail my heart actually sank. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give it my best, that it would be a huge mental battle and all I could do was make the most of what the body would give me on the day. I’d even entered the Vitality Mile to be walked immediately after the Half when I signed up pre hip injury 😂😂 I figured with a 0900 Half start and a 1330 Mile start, I could do that - I was super-positive and confident when I booked those places last year. I’ll be 60 this year and I really wanted this to be the year I became a proper runner. 

So, to the Big Half, four months post-op! I’d had a final physio appointment the day before the race and she advised that I wear my Altra trail shoes as they’d give me the most protection from impact on the tarmac (as trail shoes they really don’t have much grip anyway - very small lugs!) and since they’re my most comfortable running shoes, I was happy to go with that 😊 The only thing I really wanted to achieve was to finish in under 3 hours. Such a small goal for most but a flipping great huge one for me in current circumstances. The plan was that Richard would drive me to South Kensington Station where I’d get on the tube and only have a few stops to travel to Tower Bridge. We got there faster than expected, I managed to get a tube train within a minute of arriving on the platform and arrived at Tower Bridge a good 15 minutes sooner than I’d planned. A few other runners were on the tube but unusually, none made eye contact. The weather forecast for the day wasn’t exactly the best - chance of early rain and very gusty winds. When I emerged from Tower Bridge Station, a few runners were trying to shelter from the wind in the entrance but it was like a wind tunnel in there and absolutely freezing. 

My worry was that I’d be freezing cold before I even started because I was early plus we’d have to be in the start pens by 8.45 for a 9.30 start. That’s a lot of standing around! Although I was wearing an 8 litre race pack (smallest one I own), I was only carrying a thin fleece and a thin waterproof top and enough drink and snacks to get me around without having to stop at all. So, the first priority was to get my kit bag with my warm clothes for afterwards on the luggage truck then find a hot cup of tea and a bit of shelter. No queuing for the luggage truck, that was super efficient 😊 A longish queue for the cup of tea  but it was worth every second of the wait. I took my steaming cup of tea off behind a hedge and squatted down out of the wind as much as possible. Max messaged me that she was on her way so as soon as the tea was finished, I went to stand in front of the luggage trucks to wait. Great banter with a few other runners now 😊 Then the heavens opened! Thank goodness I’d got one of those disposable knee length macs on me or I’d have been soaked as well 😂😂 

Absolutely fantastic to meet up with Max. We were in different start pens but Max joined me in mine until nearer the start time and we had a great catch up 😊 After Max left for her own pen, I was at the front of mine where I wanted to be. Then, my recalcitrant innards decided to give me hard time (predictable I guess as was the long queue for the sani-privies 😂😂). I did the horribly embarrassing thing of then emerging from the loo, walking five steps and having to make a hasty return - at least it was warmer and out of the wind in there though! When I finally emerged, the pen was almost empty with people already having started the walk to the start. My face must have been an absolute picture but at least a fast walk was a welcome warm up 😂😂

I finally crossed the start line at 0937 and my brain was already doing somersaults trying to figure out if I could really make the start line of the Mile as well afterwards. Ah well, no point worrying about that until much later on! I was also worried about making the set cut offs - it was going to be hard enough without trying to battle through pavements of tourists and supporters as well! The start was very crowded and took a while to thin out enough to have elbow room. I went out a little too fast so Mile 2 saw me dropping to 50 paces of fast walking and 200 jogging. I’d kept my thin waterproof/windproof jacket on as I really do feel the cold pretty badly. When we entered the tunnel in Docklands, I thought I was going to expire of heatstroke! Taking it off would mean stopping though and that wasn’t going to happen! So I got way too hot, then when the wind hit again at the end of the tunnel, there were a few minutes of pure bliss as I cooled down again before my internal thermometer once again decided that I was freezing cold again. At least it got me jogging more again  😂😂 

The wind around Canary Wharf was blowing me all over the place and it times it felt like I was running on the spot. So many times my leading leg was blown hard into my trailing leg and it’d have been hilarious if it hadn’t been such hard work! I really felt for the chap dressed as Big Ben and the one outfitted as a Jukebox as I think they had to be rescued several times as the wind caught them. I really began to envy those dressed I furry suits at one stage 😂😂 Ben, my youngest, had made me a surprise playlist for the day and made me promise to put it on shuffle. At times, the tracks that came on were just so suitable that it really made me smile. All had a great beat and really helped me to keep putting one foot I front (or because of the wind, occasionally beside) the other. I don’t usually listen to music at all while running or walking but I’m  a firm believer now that with road running, it really helps. 

          

I remember so little about the course in retrospect. I didn’t have the chance to look around very much as I was concentrating so hard on the road surface. Despite being hypermobile in almost all joints, my ankles have very little upward mobility so I easily trip on the slightest bumps. A few years ago I re-educated my feet to pick themselves up a little higher while walking but I hadn’t managed to get them used to doing that quite so well while running yet so knew I had to be be a bit careful. I really hated the fact that it was a race with water bottles at the water stations and runners were encouraged to throw their bottles to the side of the road when they’d done. With the wind, there were plenty of bottles in the middle of the road and I rolled my right ankle twice on those - fortunately only temporary discomfort because the ligaments in both ankles are chronically torn anyway so don’t react to rolling much any more 😂 

Wapping High Street was a memorable experience - I admit I hopped up on the kerb as soon as I saw those cobbles. I never expected the multiple sections of them either! One part I’ll never forget though is running across Tower Bridge, with supporters yelling for everyone - that was magic 😊 So far all cut offs had been made and now I was over halfway - that felt good. Many of the mile markers had been removed because of the high winds so I really didn’t have much of clue of how I was doing time-wise. I was wearing my Garmin and remember feeling disappointed that after Tower Bridge I kept seeing my average mile pace beginning with 13 or 14 so in the end I stopped looking and ran where I could and fast walked when the joints protested too loudly. There were still loads of supporters out in parts and all around the course, the most wonderful bands and choirs - all of whom got a round of applause from me. 

                        

After Tower Bridge it’s all a blur now. Supporters were thinning out a bit and while some of the marshals were super-encouraging, others seemed a little disengaged. I was a bit  surprised twice when marshals stopped me to let cars cross from one side road into a side road on the other side despite the roads technically still being closed. By the last couple of miles I was definitely questioning why I thought I could do a road half and how I’d never do one ever again (except I’m signed up for the St Albans Half already so there goes that plan 😂). I was still trying to keep up a regular jogging and fast waking rhythm but the walking breaks were becoming more frequent and longer. I really felt for those I overtook while they were jogging and I was fast walking. On and on through suburban streets but eventually that final glorious corner hove into view. Loads of people lining the barriers still, shouting encouragement and smiling. One more turn and I’d see the Cutty Sark and that glorious finish line. One final push and I ran the last 50m with everything I had left (which wasn’t much to be honest) and then it was done! A look to the sky, a silent prayer to my Pops for helping me get through it. No great feeling of elation though as I was disappointed that I hadn’t managed to run more than I did. I was so relieved overall though that I forgot to turn off my Garmin for several minutes afterwards so still had no idea of what time I’d done. I didn’t have long to wait though as within a couple of minutes my finish time came through by text - 2:57:03. I’d achieved my goal and yet felt strangely empty. 

         

A slow walk through the finish tunnel to collect my medal and goody bag and that’s where I met up with Max again. Off to the luggage trucks to get something a bit warmer on. I still had time to make the start of the Mile too and that made me happy. As I reached for my drinks bottle I was quite shocked to see that I’d only drunk 50ml during the entire Half. That might explain why I found the last few miles so hard. Must do better! The Vitality festival had been cancelled because of the high winds which was a little disappointing. So, no free massage, no changing area, no food or drink stands 😕 Max hung onto my kit bag while I scooted off up the hill to try and find the start of the Mile - I even jogged part of it! When I finally found it about a mile further on, the start/finish arch was being disassembled. I asked a chap what was happening and he said “Didn’t you get the e-mail, the Mile has been cancelled because of the weather”. I may have been just a tad sarcastic when I answered that yes, I always read my e-mails while taking part in a Half 😂😂 

Ah well, jogged across the top car park, got pelted by a sudden hail shower and met Max again just starting up the hill. We’d had to get changed in the sani-privies as there wasn’t much choice really. Then it was off to find a hot coffee and warm up a bit. After a good look around, we eventually found a Costa with a free table. Amazing what a giant latte and gluten free chocolate brownie can do for you - they certainly put a big smile back on my face 😁 I was so absolutely chuffed for Max - what an achievement that day and so very well deserved as she’s worked so hard for it 😍 

          

Finally warmed through, we caught the DLR back to Tower Gateway (I think!) and there we said our goodbyes. I got the tube back to Embankment then enjoyed a steady walk back to Waterloo and it finally began to sink in that I’d achieved what I set out to and that it didn’t really matter that I’d had to walk more than I thought I would. Another huge latte was bought before boarding the train home. I can’t usually tolerate coffee but one bonus of exercising hard is that I can get away with a couple of coffees. The train home was so packed that there were no seats. Did I care? Not a jot - just parked myself on the floor, medal round my neck and smiled. After all that caffeine I didn’t even feel tired any more either so that was a bonus 😊

I slept so much better than usual that night and was pleasantly surprised that I had no muscle soreness at all next day. I did however have a banging headache for three days afterwards. Having looked at the race photos afterwards, my running posture is grim and I really have to improve my neck posture while running! With a bit of luck, headaches after running will rapidly become a thing of the past 😊 

Out for short walks on Tuesday and Wednesday before spending Thursday and Friday preparing for a trip away.  Six days after the Half I was on a plane to Geneva, heading to the French Alps with my youngest (Ben) for a week’s skiing. The journey was tedious - flight delayed by high winds, so we didn’t arrive at our apartment until gone midnight! I was most certainly looking forward to skiing though and it didn’t disappoint 😁 -17 and snow on day 1 - bit nippy that but the snow was excellent (there’d been a 40cm dump the day before our arrival). Then a day of snow showers then four gloriously sunny days getting gradually warmer. On day 2 I inadvertently went down an unpisted black slope. It terrified the hell out of me standing at the top looking down at this icy monstrosity full of moguls but I managed it without disgracing myself thank goodness. My app reckoned tut was a 62 degree slope and I can certainly believe it! 133.5 miles skied in 5.5 days (we had a bit of a lie in on day 1 after the late arrival) and a new top speed PB of 55mph (10mph higher than my last top speed) and this time it didn’t seem quite so scary.  😁 Ben absolutely smashed his speed record, reaching a massive 81mph on the same slope - he started right at the top of the long steep red and went down it like a greased weasel!! He also videoed it and having seen it, I don’t aspire to going that fast ever 😂😂 

         

         

So, back all in one piece and the ankles and feet seriously appreciated the ‘rest’ in ski boots and settled right down 😊 I couldn’t muster the energy for a run/walk on Sunday, but did manage to get out on Monday and Tuesday doing 5.85k and 10.2k respectively. The legs and glutes feel stronger for the skiing but they also definitely feel heavy and quite tired. Monday’s run felt almost like starting all over again but Tuesday’s was better. The ankles woke up quite smartly during Tuesday’s outing so now it’s time to be sensible and not run every day. Next up for me is a 50k in 6 weeks time. I’ve registered as a walker but who knows, a little joggling might not be out of the question 😊

On Saturday I’m being trained up as a Race Director at parkrun then the Saturday after will be my RD debut - ever so slightly terrified 😂

Those big Spring marathons are getting awfully close now and I hope everyone’s training is going to plan 😊

 

 

 

Tell us your story

Inspire and be inspired by sharing your health or fitness journey. Your blog will provide you with a permanent record of your progress, with the added bonus of motivation and encouragement from our members along the way.