ALWAYS make sure you read up on the race you are entering, knowing the date is also a bonus.
So my running partner and I had been training for a couple of weeks for our September half marathon and then a idea sprang into my head.
I’m not sure why people ever listen to my brilliant ideas, they for the most part are driven by a combination of mental instability and over confidence. I had scoured the internet for an October/November marathon and found one just over an hour away in North Norfolk.
I spent a long afternoon convincing my running partner that our progress had been sufficiently amazing (it hadn’t) that we would certainly be able to run a full 26.2 miles by October. My enthusiasm was boundless, and to be fair he didn’t really have much of a choice so by the end of the day we were both signed up.
I’d also not really taken much notice of the race description etc, I had no concept of how the difference in entry size affected a race; the terrain, I just vaguely knew hills were bad.
By April we were running between 16-18km on each run, (around 10 miles, I don’ t really work in Km now but for some reason at the beginning it made it seem like we were going further) and we were both secretly thinking that the half marathon in September was going to be a cake walk. This was despite the fact that 10 miles was taking us around three hours, but hey we had four months until our first half marathon and five months until the big 26.2, plenty of time right?
Or so we thought………………
Middle of April and I log into my hotmail to find an email, with final race instructions for MAY!!!!!!!!!! Our marathon was on the second weekend in MAY! Not OCTOBER but MAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It turns out there are two marathons is North Norfolk, with similar titles, I had signed us up to the wrong one.
We had just over 3 weeks. The furthest we had run by this point was 11 miles.
Of course I immediately got out a pen and attacked the calender (it didn’t occur to me to pull out) and wrote a plan on how we could increase our distance by 15 miles in 3 weeks. It was a beautiful work of art, guaranteeing us success. No not really, it was garbage.
We followed my magical training plan for a total of 3 days before realising it could not be done, and we should be kicking back with carbs on our taper instead.
Plan B was far more logical, I emailed the organisers and asked if we could switch to the half marathon that was run at the same time. They agreed with no issues and our pulse returned to normal levels.
The 4Shore North Norfolk Half Marathon-May 2012
To be honest, this was a beautiful course through amazing countryside and the organisation was great. The chip system they had in place meant we got our chip times within seconds of crossing the finish and instead of the obligatory white t-shirt they gave drawstring bags (good quality filled with free gels and other swag) that I still run with. I would definitely recommend it, however as a first race it wasn’t ideal. It was the race’s first year and it had less than 200 entrants, less than 50 for the marathon. There were long stretches where we were running on our own.
My previous experience in a couple of 5 & 10ks had got me better acquainted with pre race routine and for breakfast I had porridge with banana (evil evil banana) and a powerade to drink an hour before.
I had absolutely NO idea of the route or the terrain. I hadn’t checked and I figured ignorance was bliss. Our training had been 100% on road.
Well some of this race was on road, about 4 miles as you go through Wells. The rest was trail or grass. Turns out its a bit different, who knew? It was also blistering hot, but there were a good amount of water stations and they had every kind of fuel you could imagine.
I picked up a gel at a fuelling station, thinking I’d give it a go, only to discover they taste like arse.
My fuel of choice were a packet of pro plus that fit in my zip pocket , light, small and a good combination of sugar and caffeine which I still use.
I had three goals for that first half – to finish, to run the whole way, to finish in 3 hours and not to finish last.
After I realised there was not going to be much road I wrote off the 3 hour target. Trail felt like running in treacle in comparison to pavement, I didn’t care how much better for your knees it was.
There was two groups of us at the back; myself and my running partner and two girls. Now I am normally quite a supportive runner, nowadays I tend to pick up other runners and drag them with me. NOT TODAY BLOGGERS. I did not want to finish last. I wanted to go home triumphant, I did not want to tell all my family and friends that I was that last one over the line.
Try that conversation with non runners, ‘where did you come?…..Last’.
My running partner was finding the race decidedly easier as I had told him that today he was allowed to run without his usual handicap of a weighted backpack, but he had stuck with me anyway. The girls were slightly ahead of us and would run until they got out of sight and then stop and walk until we were nearly caught up. Safe to say I was finding this extremely frustrating as I wanted to overtake someone.
One of the girls looked extremely tired just 4 miles in so I knew I would get her eventually. Saying that I had my patented red running face so she probably thought the same about me.
I sent my running partner ahead, just behind them to get them to run as much as possible to tire them out. This must have worked because they ended up as a DNF. I did not feel guilty at my underhand tactics as when I passed them at the side of the road they asked me if I needed a lift back to the start.
NO I DID NOT NEED A LIFT! I WAS GOING TO FINISH.
I’d just like to say this is the first and only time I’ve tried to annoy another runner. In general we are a supportive group and cheer everyone no matter where they finish. It was my first distance race and I was still a little bit insecure and a little bit green.
I had no timing device on me deliberately and did not want to know the time, my running partner had his watch but was told to keep quiet. However it felt like the slowest race in the world, I would not have been surprised if the race clock had said 4 hours.
I was starting to get bad stomach cramps and the heat was getting to me (the sun always seems to come out on my races) but we were getting to the end and I was starting to see other runners. People were behind me, not many but they were there!
We turned a corner and we could see Holkham Hall, the end point. As beautiful as it was, it wall all uphill and on grass. My stomach sank, my legs were tiring and I didn’t think I had it left in me to finish.
Then my running partner piped up.
‘Do you want to know the time?’
Me: ‘No, I’ve told you don’t tell me’
‘ Two hours twenty six minutes’
I couldn’t believe it, We had under 2 miles to go. I was definitely going to finish in 3 hours, I was not last. It had felt like I was practically walking.
All of a sudden I had the energy to get through those last miles and my speed picked up. Just before the end the grass hill got really steep and my legs just couldn’t do it, so I walked for 100 meters to get to the top but that was the only time in the entire race I did so. Coming up to the finish we held hands and sprinted, dragging each other across.
I felt like I was going to fall in that run but I saw the end, I saw my family watching and I could not stop. The whole way round I simply could not stop.
The run up to the race had been disastrous but when I collected my little slip of paper with my time on it I don’t think I have ever smiled so much. 2 hours 48 mins. Not lightening quick by any stretch of the imagination, however not bad for a girl who has never done any trail running before!
I got my first half marathon medal. I wanted another one. I walked stretched and then we got into the car to go home…….that’s when my stomach cramps got really bad.
My mum had bought me a sandwich and at the smell of it I threw up, by the time we got home I rushed to the toilet. There was a slight issue because I was not sure which need was more pressing, the need to throw up or to defecate.
The next two days I thought I was going to die. Thanks to a small bathroom the sink is reachable from the toilet, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. Neither food or drink would stay inside me for long. I thought I had some kind of food poisoning, rare disease, allergy to exercise. But no, another informed me this can happen.
I later discovered eating bananas in my pre race routine disagrees with me. All this over a sodding banana! I always knew fruit was bad for you. Luckily I’ve now discovered imodium and never had any trouble since. I lost five pounds in 2 days but no amount of weight loss is worth that!
Me and my running partner with our bling. We did not finish last, we finished in under 3 hours and most importantly we finished.