Sorry for the delay on this one! It’s been a busy time recently as I settle into life of the Unemployed. You would’ve thought that it would be the other way round, but it’s funny how suddenly having an unstructured life can make you really lose track of time and become very unproductive! But that’s for another post. I have also been trying to transfer this blog to a new webhost and have been having a lot of difficulty with this. %^$&£! Lot’s of swearing and it’s still not sorted.
But anyway, back to running related matters.
You will know from my previous post that I completed 95 miles two Saturday’s ago, and was all set (or not!) to do a half marathon on the following day. From the severe lack of fitness-related posts as of late, you may also have guessed that I was going into the weekend woefully underprepared.
I woke up on race day with some sore and stiff legs and arms. As expected, this was not going to be an easy race. The one good thing I could think of though, was that the start of the race (at Knightsbridge / Hyde Park Corner) was essentially just a short 25 minute tube ride away. As I wasn’t planning on checking in a bag, I could rock up and head straight to the start line, meaning more precious time to sleep and recover.
After a quick breakfast of warm oats, honey and tea, I headed to the Jubilee line. I experienced a bit of a heart sinking moment when I found out that all trains would be terminating at Waterloo and going no further. I had checked for tube disruptions the night before and could’ve sworn that this did not appear! Thankfully, it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it did mean that I arrived literally just in time for the race start.
I rushed through the part of Hyde Park which had been converted into the food and fitness exhibition area for the race. There were also charity tent areas and porta loos set up in the area, all looking well organised and spaced out. This was a world apart compared to the Nike RTTB Half Marathon a month ago.
You can just about see the porta loos at the back!
Food & Fitness festival area
I didn’t hang about here for too long though, as I was in danger of missing the start of the race.
The reason there’s not too many runners about is because they’re already lined up and ready to go!
Nearly everyone was in place and ready to go! Thankfully the superb organisation meant that it was relatively easy to find the start area and my starting corral.
The fastest group near the front of the start line
One of the fancier costumed runners
As you can see from the photos, the sun was out. In London? On Race Day? Unheard of surely! It was almost as if Mother Nature knew this was a race for her.
Mother Nature brought out some lovely weather for the race
As I stood for a short while, regretting my decision not to bring along my Oakleys, the race started and I was soon headed towards the start line. Rather oddly, none of the other runners did a warm-up jog towards the start line. It was “walk walk walk, o here’s the start line, now let’s start running”! This was the first time I had experienced this in a race! Everyone was clearly pretty chilled out.
Heading up towards the start line. Why’s everyone still walking??
The route for the race takes the runners round some of the most famous London landmarks and parks. Couple that with the gorgeous weather and this was literally the best race I have ever had the good fortune of participating in. It was a bit of a shame that I wasn’t in top racing form, but this may have been a blessing in disguise as this did allow me to take things easy, run without pressure and really enjoy my race (essentially what I had set out to do when I found out that I got though the ballot earlier on in the year).
After running by Hyde Park, Wellington Arch and Constitution Hill, we headed towards Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. We were about 2 or 3 miles into the race at this point and I was hurting! I tried not to think about the fact that we still had 10-11 miles to go! Eep!
Running up towards Big Ben from St. James’ Park
Doing a loop round Westminster Bridge, with the London Eye in the background
A better, less blinding view of the Houses of Parliament!
The route then took us down and back up Embankment, before we turned right and headed up towards Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column to greet us. Eventhough my legs were feeling tired, I was really enjoying myself. The organisation of this race was top notch, with frequent and consistent sign-posting of the distances covered so far, ample water stations and wide roads which meant no overcrowding and lots of space for all. Like I said, this was the best race I have ever done!
Running up towards Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column
Turning left, back towards Green Park
We were soon back running by the Royal Parks – basically the back garden of the tenants of this place…
Running past Buckingham Palace. Good morning Your Majesty!
I was well distracted by the large crowds cheering the runners on upon our re-entry into Hyde Park. Have I already mentioned how much I was loving this race?
Into the maddening crowds within Hyde Park! It was mental!
I have to say that things were starting to get difficult at this point. My legs were pretty dead after about 12KM in and I had about 3 energy gels in quick succession to try to get some much needed fuel to my legs. I just kept telling myself not to stop at all costs and somehow managed to keep going. I knew that it would pretty much be game over if I did stop, so no matter how slow I was running, as long as I was moving faster than walking speed, I was doing well.
As I started focussing more and more on my personal pain, I stopped taking photos of my surroundings, hence the lack of any further photos of the race from this point forth!
Whilst my pace was clearly a lot slower than that of my previous half marathons, I was still happy to note that I was managing to pass other runners as I went about my merry way (yes, I am annoyingly competitive). Rather worryingly however, I did also pass quite a number of runners who had passed out or collapsed on the side of the road and were being attended to by the medics. I guess the popularity of this race does mean that there are a lot more “novice” / casual runners in participation which might explain the significantly higher drop-outs compared to other races.
In the meantime, I was doing my best not to join their ranks. The countdown to the end of the race was well and truly on!
With two miles to go, the end of the race was well within my grasp and I summoned all my willpower to finish my race strong and enjoy the remainder of the route. The mass crowds in the last mile really helped to boost my spirits and I somehow found the energy to start running strong at this point. The body is truly a miraculous machine.
And then it was over!
I saw the finish line and sprinted to the end. I am happy to say, that contrary to what I thought would happen, I did NOT collapse in a heap immediately upon crossing the finish line. I was in fact, extremely happy with how my race had gone, considering the less than ideal circumstances I had entered the race in!
My final time was 2:01:41 – clearly no PB, but I’m well chuffed with that. I will say that this was one probably the hardest weekend (endurance sports-wise) of my life, but also one of the best. I’m going to remember this race for a very long time to come!
I can now understand the popularity of this half marathon and why it is so hard to get a place in it every year. The Royal Parks Foundation also organises an ultra-marathon race on the same day which is something I had planned to sign up for next year, at the beginning for this year. Based on the recent turn of events in my life however and the uncertainty of it all, I no longer feel like it is the right thing to do now, but having now done the half marathon, the ultra is definitely on my race bucket list!
Someday…but probably not next year
With that ends my 2013 racing season. I am not sure what my next race will be as I am taking it one day at a time at the moment, so let’s see. I feel like I need to regroup and take a bit of a break so that’s what I’m doing for now!