A couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to take part in the Reading Half, as part of Team Write This Run. For those of you who’ve never heard of Write This Run, it’s a website for people who not only enjoy running, but also writing about it. And cake. There’s a massive correlation between running, blogging and cake. They should really change their name to “Write This Run And Stuff Your Face With This Deliciously Moist Coffee And Walnut Cake”. I’ll just pop that in the suggestion box, back in a sec.
Back. Where was I? Oh yes, Reading. I’ll skip to the start of the race, because I’ve already waffled about the build-up in previous blog posts. Shivering in the icy wind and glancing up at a definitely-going-to-rain sky, I met up with the other members of the team (Chris, Katie, Suzie and Jen ) in the race village. We all had different goals for the day (mine involved a notional stegosaurus and a 1:50 finish time) but were united in our excitement. We wished each other good luck, and made our way to our respective starting pens.
Before I go any further, now is as good a time as any to mention our race kit, which was kindly provided by the folks at Crewroom. To be honest, this isn’t a brand I’d heard of before, but I was genuinely impressed by the quality and design. Looking back at the pre-race pics, I like to think we look like a dodgeball team from the future. As with all products and brands mentioned on this blog, if I think something is a load of poop I’ll say it’s a load of poop*; but I really liked this stuff and it’ll definitely be going on my shopping list.
The race started, and as soon as the pack had thinned enough for me to determine my own pace I kept to a steady warm-up speed for the first couple of miles, planning to then speed up to an average 8:20/mile that would bring me in under my target 1:50 finish time. The first few miles flew by, with plenty of support from the crowds at the roadside. The course profile had looked pretty flat on paper, but there were a couple of hills early on that nearly caught me out. As well as the crowd support (which continued for the entire race) there were also plenty of drinks stations and some nice musical accompaniment. The water itself caught a lot of people out; rather than the traditional plastic cups (from which the water is worn more than it’s drank**) it came in the form of clear plastic bubble things with a weird little valve. At the first drinks station there was a collective murmur of “how do these things work? Did I miss the pre-race training course?” while onlookers were treated to the sight of several thousand sweaty runners attempting to drink from what appeared to be silicon breast implants.
Things were going great, until I was hit with a stitch just as we were coming through the city centre at around mile 7. I don’t often get stitches, but on the rare occasions when I do, I tend to cry and moan and generally throw such a strop that even the most sugar-addled toddler would shake their head in disgust. I tried to push through it, but it felt like fire ants were nibbling at my intestines, so I was eventually forced to walk for a couple of minutes. It subsided a little, and I was able to pick up my pace to a slow jog (by the way, if you think this is pathetic, you should see what I’m like when I get a splinter). Glancing down at the 10 minute/mile pace on my Garmin, I knew that a 1:50 finish wasn’t going to happen now, but after a while I was able to pick up the speed again and get back into something resembling a rhythm.
For the last couple of miles I felt as though I was dragging a tractor tyre behind me (I wasn’t, I checked) but I plodded on as fast as my little legs could carry me and was relieved to see the giant inflatable arch of the finish line come into view.
Note to the organisers: What kind of evil bastard puts a giant inflatable arch a full six hundred metres before the finish line?!?! Do you want to know how many swears you can mutter in the time it takes to run 600m on tired legs? All of them, that’s how many. And some new ones.
But all of that was forgotten as I approached the real finish line inside the Majedski Stadium. I’d heard about races with stadium finishes before, but nothing prepared me for the sense of elation as I heard the roar of the crowd and suddenly found myself looking up at thousands of faces. I was so overawed by it all that I forgot to do any sort of kick for the finish, and instead crossed the line at what can only be described as a “distracted saunter”.
As well as a medal (huge, weighty and beautiful) and a goody bag (Worcestershire sauce and a T-shirt), I collected a foil blanket shortly after crossing the finish. This was a bit of a high point for me as I’ve never had one of these before but had often seen actual proper runners with them on TV, so felt like I’d joined some sort of special club***. Mere seconds after I’d wrapped myself in tinfoil, I received an automated text that told me my chip time was 1:54:14. So while I hadn’t quite achieved my goal, I’d still gained a hefty PB. Incidentally, according to my watch I’d hit 13.1 miles a little bit before getting to the stadium with a time of around 1:52, but that just means I’m rubbish at corners and/or I might have accidentally run in little circles for some parts of the race. In hindsight, I think the reason I struggled a bit towards the end was that, instead of just running on the road, I kept moving up the kerb onto the pavement where it was less busy. Of course, I forgot to take into account the fact that the air is a bit thinner up there, which had a detrimental effect on my performance. That’s science, that is.
I caught up with the rest of Team Write This Run back at the race village and it seemed that everyone had had a pretty good race. Between us we’d managed four (I think) PB times, including a Half Marathon debut by Jen. Huge mahoosive thanks to Liz & Laura at Write This Run for allowing me to be part of such an amazing day, and to the many people who showed support for team WTR on the day. The latest team event has just been announced, so head over to www.writethisrun.co.uk and have a look.
Before I sign off, I suppose I should do a bit of an actual race report, y’know, with facts and stuff.
Clearly-marked traffic-free route
Great crowd support
Regular drinks stations
Medal that could double as an impromptu manhole cover
Post-race queues at the bag tents were almost as long as the course itself.
The race was a bit too far away from where I live. I suggested to one of the marshals that they should consider holding the 2015 Reading Half Marathon in Northamptonshire, but he just looked at me.
PS: Huge commiserations to Scott Overall, who finished in 1:04:44, which meant that I kept running for nearly 50 minutes longer than him and so am a much better athlete. That’s how it works, right?
PPS: You can follow me on the twitter @borntoplodblog
* And that’s swearing. ** Drunk? Drinked? Drankeded? *** Made up mostly of marathon runners and avalanche survivors.