Running: A Team Sport & My Next Half.

ImageSo I had one half marathon under my belt and of course I thought I was an expert. Until this race I had no idea of how social runners are, of the structure of our sport and rules of etiquette. Compression socks at the ready!

The Ipswich Half Marathon 2012

This was my first solo run. Training had been constant but I had lost ground to make up.

I took a month off after my first half marathon in May thinking the break would do me good and found that I regressed substantially. Not that I learnt my lesson, I’ve done this since even though I KNOW more than two weeks off and my times are shot to pieces.

My running partner had intended to enter the Ipswich Half with me but picked up an ‘injury’.

It had dawned on me by this point that he had ‘other’ reasons for our runs than fitness and after I made it clear that I was not willing to date someone over ten years younger than me his interest in the sport dwindled quickly.

I’m more careful about my choice of running partner now. We have a saying, ‘What happens on the run, stays on the run’. Because you find yourself talking about everything and anything. You motivate each other to go further than you know you could achieve on your own. That can create a false bond, so I don’t especially blame him for his inappropriate affections.

I’ve never been a part of a running club as I’ve always imagined them as serious places full of crazy neon clad runners sprinting off into the horizon whilst I wheeze and puff to catch up. As I’m getting more confident I’m sure that’s not true. I do miss the support of other runners as there is no doubt that they push you to go further and faster. They offer support through the bad days and convince you to keep going. More and more I think that I need to join the ranks of the crazy neon to sample the social side of running.

Although the Ipswich Half Marathon was my first solo race, it was time I had any real interaction with other runners. And I’ve got to say (if you’re reading this chances are you are a runner) you are a great bunch.

The army of family that normally accompanied me to races was severely scaled back, since it was no longer a novelty. So I had no marching band, firework display or big screen with my face on. No seriously but, for once I wasn’t running a race where I was forced to dress in pink or my supporting family outnumbered the finishers. This race was NORMAL!

And to this day it’s my favourite.

It was a warm day at the end of September. I’ve never had a race that didn’t end with tan lines, I must have picked up a gypsy curse somewhere along the road. One of these days I’m really gonna screw with Global Warming and book a run on Christmas Day.

I took my usual place at the back of the pack and felt like Bambi on ice for the first four miles. But hey at least this one was on tarmac, local tarmac at that. At mile four I was adopted by a elderly JAFFA. No not a mouldy orangey biscuit but a member of a local running club. We then picked up another girl and the three of us ran together the rest of the way.

The girl was like me, a novice runner, but with a few more half marathons under her belt, where as I had completed more 5k and 10ks.

The Jaffa was an old school runner who in his long career had run more races than I can imagine. He was approaching 80, and not only am I amazed that he still has his knees but that he is still competing.

I’m officially never going moan about being too old for any kind of physical activity again. At 30 I’ve no right. When I ‘grow up’ I want to be just like him.

At mile 10 we had caught up to pair of men and our group grew to five. We worked unconsciously like a pack, taking turns at the front.

However I noticed a strange phenomenon. I wasn’t tired. The course has a number of hills and it turns out I take a hill just as well as I take a bottle of Shiraz on a Saturday Night! Good times! I soon ended up permanently at the front of this running ‘party’ (bring a bottle of red…..powerade that is) pulling them a long. We stayed together until mile 12 where we all went for it and I sprinted off. Yes sprinted.

This wasn’t the fastest race I’ve ever run, and because I’d been chatting away at a lazy pace I pulled negative splits, and my last mile my fastest by far. My finishing time was 2.50 slower than my trail run seven months earlier. When I crossed the line I knew I had been lazy but it was the most fun I had ever had with socks on!

This was the race when I knew that I wasn’t a 5k-10k runner anymore, and this fad of mine wasn’t going anywhere. Plus it was a beast of a medal.

The volunteers on the day definitely made this event, organised, enthusiastic and the event ran slicker than the Vaseline on Haile Gabresaille’s inner thigh. I learnt important lessons about overtaking and being overtaken (get out of the way if you’re slower) and which side of the road to run on (in to the traffic) from these marshalls without feeling like I was being herded or patronised. The race has reasonable numbers of around 1,500 and this would have been a much better first race for me. The route is changing this year, but I’m sure the spirit will still be there.

I’m hoping for a less sedate time, but if I have as much fun as I did last year I’m sure I won’t care.

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