REM’s Everybody Hurts was perhaps not the best way to start my half marathon adventure, but it was the first song on my iPod as I crossed the start line. I did have to smile to myself as I thought, yeah, thats true… this is going to hurt.
I didn’t get a lot of sleep on Saturday night, partly because I was thinking that in a few hours I would be donning trainers and running gear to tackle the ‘undulating’ course of the Birmingham Half Marathon. Thankfully however, the rain that kept me awake had just about stopped by the time we began to run. It was cold and windy, but without the rain I was feeling a little more optimistic. The team from Future had assembled and travelled across together, which was good, as it turned out that all of us had not quite done as much training as we had planned! However, some Jelly Babies soon made up for the lack of practice and we all moved to the start line. With 9,000 people running, the start line was pretty busy, and as such, the main race didn’t start until about ten to ten.
In true rowing fashion, I went off far too quickly, and made it through the first mile in about seven minutes. I was aiming for about 10 minute mile pace, but clearly, this pace was going to be a little too quick. The first part of the race took in the delights of fly-overs, which never seemed as when you drive through them! The climb on the way out of the tunnel really made the legs feel hard. By about mile two, I had just about settled into a rhythm, and taking on some water at the first drink’s stop, I started to feel good.
The course then took us through the centre of town and out towards Harborne, which actually went pretty quickly and before I knew it, I had reached the six mile mark. At this stage, the legs began to feel a little heavy, and in my mind, I was calculating at which point I would reach midway. The seven mile marker was where you know that your halfway round and on the way home. The only problem that was at that part of the course you meet runners who are already on the home stretch… three miles ahead of you. This was the tough part for me, and between mile seven and eight I hit the inevitable wall. This was the point where I realised that actually, to run a half marathon you do need to train… at least a little more than I had! My only real training was indoors on treadmills, for an hour at most, and as my legs began to feel heavy, I suddenly decided that should I do this again… I will train properly. Here, you would have thought that my choice of music would have helped, but again, my poor taste let me down. Annie Lennox, Walking on Broken Glass… I know how you feel I thought as I began to walk for the first time.
At the mile 8 marker and up until about 11 miles, I walked and ran in small bursts. I would run until my knee hurt and then walk it off. This took me pretty much to the 11 mile marker, where it became very clear that I was almost home. I grabbed a bottle of free Powerade and felt ready to head for home. The sign ‘Finish 500m’ was the best thing I had seen all day… Broad Street was in my sights. The support throughout the route had been fantastic, and here the people clapping and shouting along the side lines made all of the lactic acid disappear. I had a short burst towards the end, and with the finish clock in sight, headed home in a time of 2 hours and 5 minutes. I was setting two hours as my barrier, but in truth, I was happy to have finished. Laura had come to see me cross the line, and it was fantastic to see a familiar face as I joined everyone else in wrapping myself in a silver blanket and collecting a medal.
When I finished secondary school, I updated my CV with some challenges going forward… one of which was to run a marathon before I was 25. After Sunday, not only do I have only a year left, but I have now also completed half the distance. I am under no illusion that a full marathon will only be twice as hard, but at least I know how I’m going to feel at 13 miles now.
So in truth, my half marathon experience was truly positive one. The Birmingham Future team raised much needed funds for the Birmingham Foundation, and despite some very stiff legs today, I throughly enjoyed the whole day… I also need to seriously think about my choice in music.