Yup, another half-marathon PB in the bag!
As always, the journey to the start of a Sunday morning race in London is as challenging as the race itself, so I found myself on a freezing cold platform – thankfully with a friend – at silly o’clock with an epic journey ahead. The heat of the tube is always sleep inducing, so a brisk walk to the start of the Richmond Half-Marathon was welcome! As we were cutting it fine, I didn’t really have time to take in all the things on offer, focussing instead on the queue for the loos and the sign for the baggage tent. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Having volunteered recently in the baggage tent at the Winter Run, all future baggage tents will seem pale in comparison…this one was a bit DIY: show your number to a (very smiley) marshall, find a table/area with your number above it, leave bag. It worked though, but I certainly wouldn’t leave anything of value!
After a few more last minute nervous adjustments, Jacqui and I looked for the 1.50 pacer flags, having a brief chat and ‘good luck!’ with another friend Ronnie who was pacing the 2 hour group (well done to the pacers, it must be hard work running with a great big flag bobbing around). I was feeling a little nervous and also uncertain about how this would go, after my uncomfortable and slightly unhappy race in Brighton a month ago, so decided I would just see how I felt and, if things felt good, I would aim to beat my Brighton time. The pacers headed off quite fast, faster than 1.50 pace and I soon lost sight of them (and Jacqui!). This race has a very varied course and the roads are not closed (though carefully marshalled), so you do find yourself negotiating kerbs, shop signs, bus-stops and so on and the first section is not exactly scenic. We skirted around the high wall of Kew Gardens and passed by Kew Bridge then took to the Thames path. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear trail shoes, but this whole section was pretty rough under foot, with gravel and the odd raised rock, so my imagined views of rowers gliding across the water were forgotten as I concentrated hard on the path ahead. It did become quite congested here and I saw the first of the four falls I witnessed throughout the race.
I was feeling good, and my pace was steady, it was quiet, with everyone concentrating hard, just a thud thud and the heavy breathing of other runners. There were whole sections where friends and family had come out to cheer and the support was great, I also found the marshals very friendly and encouraging. I had decided to stick to the same fuel strategy as Brighton Half, and had two gels stashed in my pocket, one for the 10k point and one for the ten mile point, if I needed it. The water stations were frequent enough, but the water had been poured into cups, not so great! It’s so much better if you can grab a small bottle and sip as you go, washing down a gel if you need to, but the cup means you either drop it, squish it into the air or throw it at your face (I did a combination of the above). I got through though, but could have done with being a bit more hydrated later on as the sun came out. There were some nice wooded areas and some running on grass, which I think some people around me struggled with – it’s a good idea to include this kind of running in your training for this race, so you don’t find yourself stumbling as you get tired and lose form.
As always, I had missed a few mile markers along the way, so was delighted as the miles seemed to tick away nicely and we were soon enough heading for the Old Deer Park and the finish. I picked up my feet and kept the pace steady, trying to catch up with a woman ahead as a goal. All of a sudden we found ourselves running through a working car park to a little tunnel under the road, then onto the grass of the park and a ‘400m to go!’ sign. Thinking this sounded really short, I picked up the pace then noticed the course looped and turned and the finish looked miles away! Here the crowds were excellent, really pushing us along to the finish, one last push and I was pausing the Garmin at 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, so three minutes off my Brighton time :)
I had had a feeling the goodies might be good, and was chuffed with my medal, t-shirt (fitted, one that you can actually run in!), buff and a Whole Foods bag with a selection of snacks and not one but three drinks: water, juice and coconut water! Perfect to sip and snack on as you stretch and recover.
I’m really pleased with my time, but mostly pleased that I actually enjoyed it and have recovered really well – I do think I was coming down with a nasty cold before I started running at Brighton, so not the ideal situation. Now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get under the 1.50 mark, now that would be amazing!