Well the lack of nerves ahead of the Wilmslow Half Marathon deserted me in the last 24 hours before the race.
I assume nerves came into play alongside a severe bout of hypochondria on Saturday. I sneezed myself awake and even coughed before breakfast which was a clear sign that during my sleep I had contracted an until now, unknown strain of influenza virus. Despite the flu then deciding to lie dormant for the rest of the day, I then ‘suffered’ terrible injuries to my right heel (a dull ache) and my left thigh (another dull ache), plus an ‘uncomfortable’ stomach (which had nothing to do with the large amount of cheese and spicy crisps I was eating – honest).
Move forward to Sunday morning (race day) and although the flu was still hiding, waiting to pounce when least expected, I didn’t feel much like running a half marathon. Of course, I neglected to consider that I always feel this way the moment I awake, and instead considered it a sign of impending failure.
Anyway, a bit of breakfast, far too much water, a search for safety pins for my race number and off to Wilmslow in the car. “Just another run” I kept telling myself all the way there but as I arrived the place was teeming with supreme looking athletes, every single one clearly many minutes faster than me. Walking to the start didn’t ease my concerns that I was going to be last and would burn myself out after a couple of miles just trying to keep up to see where to go.
As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. I decided on a race strategy when my colleague who I wanted to try to run with decided to set-off from between the 1 hour 40 to 1 hour 50 starts (and too close to the 1 hour 40 marker for my liking). But what the hell, my strategy took shape in an instance – I would set out at under eight minute mile pace, hang on as long as possible and suffer later.
As race strategies go, I guess it was probably not the best, but it did what it said on the tin. I started to slow around 7.5 miles but had already broke my PB for 6 miles and 10k. I managed to hang on to get through 10 miles in a couple of seconds over 1 hr 20 mins (another PB) before struggling through the last 3.1 to make it home in 1:49:11 (four and half minutes faster than my previous best over the distance). After a time damaging pee stop at 12 miles, I even just about managed to punch the air in delight as I staggered over the line in a time I barely dared dream of over the past few weeks.
It was maybe a strange way to run but had I not been struggling so much over the last couple of miles I would have laughed out loud. Over the first few miles I seemed to pass, or at least run with, runners who looked the part. They flowed along majestically, effortlessly and I was among them. As the finish approached, every weird and wonderful running gait waddled, limped, powered and puffed past me and my by now totally ineffective style!
As for the race itself, my first since I was a kid, I thought it was incredibly well-organised, plenty of marshals, and fantastic support around the course – something that really kept me going towards the end. There was ample water available too, much needed as the temperature got into the high teens/high 60s on a beautiful sunny day.
Fun and definitely in my diary for next year. I might even think about planning my race a bit more careully next time.