my running adventures – barefoot or otherwise
As those of you who follow my blog will know, I was hoping to achieve big things in this race – hoping to nail a new PB for a half marathon, and simultaneously taking off more than 7 minutes of it and dipping under 1:20.
Well, perhaps the delay in posting this instalment of my blog will indicate how I fared in the race!
My hopes for the race were dealt a blow on the Friday, just two days before the race. I started sniffling and having to blow my nose too regularly for it to be hayfever. I’d managed to pick up a bug, and subsequently, I hear that it wasn’t, as I believed at the time, that I was the only person in the entire world who could be struck by poor timing for developing an illness.
As Sunday approached, I kept my spirits up, expecting the cold to be cleared up just in time for me to run an amazing, fast race. This didn’t happen. I hope up on Sunday morning, and decided (very unwisely, by the way) that as I’d paid about £30 for the privilege of running the Robin Hood Half Marathon 2013 race, I wasn’t going to duck out because of a cold. My pride and stubbornness overpowered my sense and my ability to listen to my nearest and dearest’s sound advice.
My decision to run was also compounded by the fact that in just five weeks time, I was to be a father for the third time, and wasn’t expecting to get a chance to run a half marathon in such fine physical fitness as I was at this time.
I was obviously not thinking straight on Sunday morning, because I committed a cardinal sin (for me, anyway). I ate a bowl of cereal with lashings of milk. Despite eating this more than 2 and a half hours before I was due to run, this wasn’t the last time I was going to see my branflakes, raisins and semi-skimmed milk!
My preparations on the morning even at the race venue weren’t as good as they could have been. I handed my kit bag in before I’d taken my inhaler – bad mistake. I went back to retrieve it, but this was needless stress I didn’t need.
Then, on the start line, excited to be able to see the Kenyan duo who would take the first two places in the race, I was feeling good and ready to give it my best, in spite of the cold I was harbouring. It probably wasn’t a good indication that I sounded like Brian Blessed (deep voice!), and was coughing quite regularly.
Then it happened. The gun went off, we started running, and then, after just 50 metres or so, my mobile phone was knocked out of my hand. It went down in slow motion, before the handset, battery pack, and back cover went in three different directions. What to do?!
Somehow, I managed to recover the handset and the battery pack in the stampede that was following me at the time. What a way to start the race! I ran a bit faster then, to catch up on the time I’d felt I’d lost. But now I was stuck. I had no indication now on how I was doing. This race had been planned. I knew what pace I had to run. I knew I could do it, based on my training (I’d run a sub 1:20 in training just two weeks previously), but I needed to know my progress as I ran. Now, I was running blind. I was so angry and shocked at this awful start to my run. Perhaps it was God telling me to just stop!
I didn’t just stop. I ran on, trying to put the setback behind me, and burying the parts of my phone into my race belt. I didn’t think it was worth messing about with the handset again to get the Strava app working, as I’d probably end up falling over someone and falling further behind schedule.
Fortunately, a runner I know from other events and who generally has a similar speed to me, spotted me and his target was similar to mine – sub 1:20. He was wearing pigtails, a school girls outfit and, as most of the crowd got to see, pink ladies underwear! Sadly, I could only stay with him for the first three miles, before my body started to tell me it didn’t like what I was doing to it!
At the three mile mark, I was bang on course – 3 miles in 18 minutes. My body wanted to give up though. I really and truly didn’t think I was going to see the end of the race, and mentally, this was tough to take. My mind wandered back to all the training I’d done, the hard efforts, the organisation, the fitting it in I’d had to do, sacrificing weekend lie-ins to get my longer runs in.
After a while, I stopped thinking about this, as it was obviously not doing me any good. This race was the hardest one I’ve ever done, and for more than one reason. One of the reasons though, that was completely soul-destroying, was that after that three-mile point, I only overtook one person (and he’d obviously injured himself, because he was walking). For the next ten miles, a trickle, and later on, a steady stream of runners overtook me, and I hated every single occurrence of it happening. I wanted to scream at them that I was faster than I really was showing here. I wanted to stop the entire race and get it delayed for a week until I felt better. But this wasn’t going to happen.
An amazing, surprise family turn out at 6 miles gave me a much-needed boost, but sadly it was short-lived as my body was just struggling to do what I was commanding it to do. It was so wonderful to see my wife and children there at the side of the road, cheering me on and waving. My daughter looked star-struck bless her!!
Somehow, I managed to get to 11 miles, at which point, I got my second compliment of the race (my first was about how cool my trainers were!). A female runner in the crowd shouted, ‘Hey, look at that guy’s form, so light and smooth. Go Tim!’ What a compliment! Again, this gave me a lift when I really needed it, and I was thinking right now that I was going to finish strongly, despite how tired I was. Just a couple of hundred metres down the path though (we were running along Trent Embankment now), I felt completely overcome with nausea and suddenly, I was on all fours by the side of the path being sick. Uncontrollably, unbelievably, just a mile and a half from the finish, I was wretching my breakfast up and I couldn’t do anything but ride it out.
I was helped by a couple of different people, one who I never actually saw, as they simply spoke, and went off to fetch someone else while I was ‘doing my business.’ The person I did see was really kind, giving me a bottle of (sadly, fizzy!) water and helping me to my feet. I found out at this point, that I’d been running for 1:20 minutes (my target finish time!) and so my hopes were definitely dashed. I knew now that I just wanted to finish the race, whether it was walking or jogging. I walked with my helper for a few hundred metres and then carried on, at a much slower pace of jogging, to the end. The finish-line photos tell the story – I was so disappointed.
This was definitely my toughest race to date. Tough because I was so prepared for it physically, but let down by getting poorly. Tough because I knew I wasn’t going to be having another chance to run this distance again for a good six months to a year. Tough because of the sacrifices I’d made in getting in shape for it. Tough because it just wasn’t fair.
However, I did get this cool medal for finishing the race!
I ended up finishing in 1:31:44. My position was 306th (out of 6590). To put this into perspective, my previous best in the race last year was 1:27:32 and I’d finished 180th. I had hoped to get into the top 60 (as it turned out, if I’d dipped under 1:20 I’d have come joint 55th!)
So, a number of lessons to learn and take from this awful experience:
So, if you want to respond to this blog post, here are some things I’d love to hear from you:
What fundamental errors will you never make again because of a bad running experience?
What has been your toughest race so far, and why?