The Royal Parks Half Marathon
So, tomorrow is the big day, its finally arrived & here I am, calmly drinking coffee at Hollybush, post run with SLJ (post run for them, not for me – my morning has largely consisted of getting my nails done so far!) listening to encouraging words from the coaches and other ladies (“you’ve got this”, “all that training will pay off tomorrow”, “you’ve worked so hard – remember to enjoy it”, “Good Luck” etc..) & on the outside I’m smiling, nodding & making all the right noises in response desperately trying to carry off what I hope is a cool, confident & excited look. Inside my head however… “Ohshitohshitohshitohshitohshit!”.
Don’t get me wrong, I AM looking forward to it. I’ve trained hard, I’ve raised money and tomorrow is what it’s all been about – it’s the ultimate milestone for me, something I never in a million years thought I’d be doing. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be & I’ll be part of a team of 108 runners all striving for the same goal which is help Jess, David & Holly and everyone else involved with The Anna Lewis Brighter Future Fund to hit their fundraising target of £250K.
I know in my heart of hearts that I can do this. I’ve done the training, I’m not injured & that cold that’s been lurking seems to have retreated to sulk in a corner somewhere since I threatened it with Beecham’s & Berocca. But try as I might I cannot totally silence those last traces of worry, spawned by the fear of failing.
What if it’s not enough? I’ve trained to 11 miles which was the recommended distance for a half, but I’ve never actually done the full 13 miles. Everyone says not to worry, that I have the miles in my legs – but what if don’t?
The big day has finally arrived. We’re London bound on the train & I’m a bag of nerves!
I’ve not had the best night’s sleep to be honest – despite going to bed early, I just couldn’t get to sleep right away as I had so much swirling through my mind, so it was almost midnight by the time I finally dropped off. I then proceeded to wake up every 15-20 minutes from 4am as I was worried I’d missed the alarm (despite checking it about a dozen times last night to make sure I’d set it right!)! I’ve had my porridge, I’ve braided my hair & now I’m looking enviously at those around me drinking coffee – much as I’d like to have one myself I just can’t risk it as I know I’ll need a wee every five minutes!
Hyde park is absolutely packed with people – it takes us a while to find the GOSH charity tent & unfortunately we miss the majority of the photos for TeamAnna100 – I think we might just have got in at the back during the last few snaps – but never mind! There are queues everywhere for toilets & bag drops, not to mention at the start line itself! For once my luck is in & the queues I choose for the toilets and the bag drops move pretty quickly & I manage to get both done! I’m hoping this is a good omen for the rest of the day! The weather is perfect – the sun is shining & most importantly, it’s not raining! There is a sea of colour in front of me as we queue to start – its wonderful to see so many different people, supporting a huge number of charities – if there’s something we do really well in the UK it’s charity, and it seems that there is literally a charity for everything imaginable!
Before I know it, we’re across the start line & we’re off! I have a goal in mind of finishing in 2hrs 30mins – in all honesty the real goal is simply to finish, but I do have quite competitive streak and I can’t help but set myself a time target too. We’re quite far back in the purple “wave” of starters and I can see the two 2hr 40 min pacers ahead of us in the pack, with the second 2hr 30 pacer just about visible in the distance.
For some insane reason I convince myself that if I want to finish in 2hrs30 mins, I need to catch up to the 2hr30 pacers?! It never occurs to me that it is still possible to finish in that time if I simply keep an eye on my own pace – especially as I crossed the start line several minutes behind them - doh!
This combined with the adrenaline, the cheering crowds of people & the other runners around me means that I set off at quite a pace, and it’s some time before I realise that it feels quite fast – however, by this time my legs are used to it & try as I might to slow things down, my legs don’t want to cooperate – they seem happy as they are so after a while I give up trying to bring the pace back down & I just go with it.
Before long I’ve passed both the 2hr40 pacers & the 2hr30 pacers are in clear sight and it doesn’t take me long to catch up with the rear 2hr30 pacer, before I know it I’ve passed him and I’m approaching the front 2hr30pacer! Once I catch him up I stick with him for several miles until somebody complains that he’s going too fast & he checks & confirms that he is indeed a few minutes ahead of where he should be – so he slows down. Again, my legs don’t like that idea – so I keep going as I am.
All is going well – I take a quick toilet break at mile 5, taking advantage of the fact there is no queue – when I come out I see one of the pacers has overtaken me again but it doesn’t take me long to catch up & pass him again.
I have my first “wobble” somewhere between mile 6-7. I see my family who have come up to support me – all it takes is for my Husband to tell me how proud of me he is and that’s it, I’m a blubbering wreck and all of a sudden I’m feeling very overwhelmed. I keep running but it takes a while to get the emotion back in check & before I know it, there they are again at mile 9 – but this time I just wave & keep going!
Around this time things start to get really tough. I can feel I am starting to tire, my legs are beginning to ache and strangely two of my toes on my right foot feel most odd! Almost as if something is rubbing & blisters are forming. I should be taking another gel at this point, but for some reason, goodness knows why, but I don’t.
By mile 10 I am in a world of pain, and half a mile later I have to stop running & start power walking as my legs are hurting so much. I start running again at 11 miles, but it isn’t long before I have to slow down & walk again. At this point things get very low for me – the first 2hr30 pacer passes me, and try as I might I just can’t keep up with him. Then minutes later the second 2hr30 pacer goes past too, taking with him my hopes of finishing at my goal time.
By now I’m sobbing, in pain, feeling like a failure & the finish line seems unreachable. I honestly don’t think my legs will get me there & I’m about ready to give up when I hear somebody shout “Come on Amanda, you can do it!” – some stranger has seen that I’m clearly struggling & they want to give me a boost and then, suddenly, everyone is shouting out encouraging words to me – it’s like I have my own personal cheer squad! I’m now crying for an entirely different reason (I’m even tearing up now writing this at the memory) and I find that somehow I’m still putting one foot in front of the other and then I see it, one of the most glorious sights ever to behold – the 12-mile marker!
Somehow, I summon up some determination from somewhere and I decide I am going to finish this, and I’m damn well going to finish it running! So I run! Then comes the 800M marker - I can’t quite see the finish line yet, but still I run, legs screaming – and finally here’s the 400M marker & the finish line is within reach & I find myself driving my poor legs as hard as I can, pumping my arms as I sprint to the finish!
I’ve done it! and despite the final 3 miles from hell, I somehow still managed to achieve my goal time! Bonus!!
Finally, the best bit of all is that TeamAnna100 hit absolutely SMASHED their fundraising target & The Anna Lewis Brighter Future fund have achieved their target of £250K – it feels amazing to have been part of that!
So the journey is over! I am no longer an aspiring half-marathoner, I can officially say I AM a half-marathoner!
I want to thank everyone for their help, support & encouragement over the past 6 months not only with the training but with the fundraising too – I really couldn’t have done it on my own. Plus thanks to those who have taken the time to follow my blog – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it!