At last the day had arrived for me to run my first ever Half Marathon.
It turns out however that getting up extra early wasn't absolutely necessary as I only live 40 minutes away from the park and the race didn't start until 0845 hrs! But still, I was up at just before 0600 hrs to get some hot coffee and porridge in me before I set off. Now I keep using the word 'race' but in no way in my mind was I going to actually race against anyone but myself.
I'd packed my kit the night before and checked (and doubled checked) that I hadn't forgot anything. I was more nervous about forgetting an essential item of kit than actually running. I'd already ran my test 13 miles a couple of weeks before and had done so in 2.02.53 so the thought of running didn't make me nervous. Stupid things like, being late or forgetting my socks made me more nervous than anything. But I knew that everything was packed and ready so the nerves where in order.
So bag packed, breakfast eaten and coffee drank I was ready for the off.
I arrived at Longleat a good hour before the start. The drive from the entrance to the actual start of the race took me down an enormous hill which on the way down I noticed a board with 'Mile 11' written on it. 2 things crossed my mind, 1) at least the finish was on a down hill and 2) but we have to get up the hill first. I had heard that the route was hilly and I had seen the route and the profile which did look like there were a few hefty inclines, but it was a 'cross that bridge' type scenario as hills are always going to play a part.
I headed down to the car park and once parked made my way over to the 'registration area' even though I didn't need to register, I just wanted to get a look around and see what was going on. Glad I did really as I picked up my free t-shirt and some pins for my number. As there wasn't much to see I headed back to the car to stay warm as it was absolutely freezing.
With about 20 minutes before the start I got into my kit, chucked a High 5 energy gel down my neck and headed over to the big red inflatable that was the start line.
I was off!! I had my targets, to finish and to finish in under 2 hours.
The first 2 miles went by with no real problems but as the second mile started so did the hills! We were heading into the Safari Park itself and the first hill was a monster! It seemed to last forever and went on for at least a half mile, but it kept going up too. Thankfully it came to an end and swiftly dropped down hill into mile 3 at which point there was a most welcoming drinks station. I grabbed a bottle and took a few big swigs of water and started mile 3 which was obviously up hill. Again another steady mile or so passed mostly flat or downhill, however I'd started seeing some of the other runners coming back towards me up the hill I was running down. Either the lions had escaped and they were just running for their lives or there was a U-Turn coming up and mile 4 into 5 was going to be a killer up hill section again.
Yep you guessed it the lions where safely tucked away and the marshal stood next to a cone was the indication that the U-Turn was indeed the way ahead and the hill was next on the route.
As mile 7 began so did a hill that will live in the memory of my legs forever more! Now I don't mind a hill, they make you 'strong like bull' but nobody and I mean nobody likes a hill that lasts for 3 miles! It just kept going and not only in distance but up and up too! There was one small section, about half a mile, that wasn't uphill just before mile 8 and then it carried on up and up and up.
I'm not going to lie between miles 9 and 10 I genuinely didn't think I was going to finish the race. My legs were absolutely hammered and the hill was sapping everything I had left. I was in so much pain, my hamstrings felt like they were going to snap. I had to slow my pace down just to get up the hill and keep my legs in tact. The mile 10 marker was approaching and all I could think of was the mile 11 board I had seen on my way into the park earlier that morning and the massive downhill it brought with it.
Mile 10 turned left into the back of the park and along a small track and on towards the main entrance of the park that I had driven through earlier. There was a drinks station, thank god, I snatched a bottle of water and gulped down as much as I could. The main entrance approached and I knew the huge downhill was coming. My legs seemed to have an extra boost in them all of a sudden. I opened up my stride and got my pace back to 7.36 minute miles. As good as this was for my finish time the downhill I had been so looking forward to for the last 3 miles was punishing. It was so steep that I had to really open up my stride to have any control what so ever over my speed. My legs were pretty much dead and on autopilot I was trying everything not to tumble forward and smash my face on the road.
The downhill leveled out and the finish line was on the left with Longleat House on the right. I could see the finish but I had about 2 miles to go and one of them was the same long straight that we had started on. Mind over matter now! I knew there was a tiny little climb coming but I just kept pushing and pushing. I got to the top of the little climb turned left and through the Arch Way and onto the long finish straight. Longleat House was now in front of me as was the large red inflatable with 'FINISH' slapped all over the top of it. I put everything I had left into that straight, but the line felt it was moving away from me. I just kept going my legs felt like they were no longer attached and I was running on pure adrenaline now.
|At the finish with my boy!|
The race was run and I had smashed both my 10k and Half Marathon personal bests and my family were there to see it. I couldn't have been any happier. Now it was time to get changed and spend the rest of the day, as it was Mothers Day, in the park at a much slower pace!
|Official Chip Time|
Only a week now until Challenge 4 so look out for that report coming soon.