Running 2011 – Silverstone Half Marathon

Sunday, 6th March 2011 – Silverstone Half Marathon, Silverstone

  • Double espresso drunk with predictably horrible if welcome results (if you’re not a runner, you’re better off not knowing).
  • Porridge eaten.
  • 1 litre of water downed.
  • Serious stretches done…
  • Body glide applied to sensitive areas (armpits in this case)
  • Temporary Cancer Research tattoos applied.
  • About to try and pack running capri pocket with iPod, tissues, Lanacane and a small bag of dried fruit.
  • Heart rate monitor in place and ready to record.
  • Less than 3 hours to go!

Not having ever run a half marathon before, I was a bit twitchy in advance of it, and didn’t need the alarm to make sure I woke up at 8:00 this morning. I was awake 10 minutes ahead of the game, so I dragged myself out of bed, hauled downstairs, drank a pint of water straight off, and then slung my bowl of pre-soaked porridge, sultanas, and linseeds into the microwave. While that was cooking I made a double espresso to make sure my bowels got themselves moving (no runners’ trots for me please). I then retreated back to bed and sat and ate my way through all those oats, and a second pint of water, before finally getting up around 9:00. I did some stretching and some foam rollering and pottered about in my office to very little effect and before I knew it, it was 10:30 and time to get in the car and go. The decision to drive to Silverstone via the back route proved to be a very sane one, as the A43 was chockablock with cars as we sailed over the bridge and into Silverstone village. It meant we only sat in a queue for the last mile to the car parks, and we were parked up by 11:00. I left Lynne with most of my post-race kit and walked in to the paddock area where the garages were being used as bag drops, changing areas, and race offices. It was bitterly cold (around 2.5C at this point) and I was a bit reluctant to drop my stuff off as I knew I didn’t want to run in anything but the basic capris and running vest, no matter how cold the weather. I knew I would get far too hot, and I didn’t feel inclined to dump items of clothing all round the track – though clearly a lot of other runners had no such qualms; I swear if you’d gone round behind the field, you could have picked up enough kit to equip an entire running club and still have spares.

I hung around for a while inside one of the changing garages, because it really was too cold to be outside for too long without moving, but eventually had no choice but to head out. I was in two minds as to whether to run with the Runners’ World pacers, but figured I would simply go at my own pace. I suspected that 10 minute miles would be too fast but I knew 11 minutes would be too slow. In the end I slotted in with the runners who reckoned they would run around 2:15-2:30 and got ready to set off. Just as I thought I was going to regret leaving my sweater in the bag drop, the sun came out and by the time we set off it was under clear, blue skies. I stuck my iPod onto random rock music, and started my HRM as we oozed towards the start line – the size of the field meant that by the time we got there it was around 4 minutes into the race. I’d lost sight of the 10 minute mile pacer anyway, so I did what I said all along I was going to do, and set off at a pace that felt good to me. Running without my glasses means I can’t see what sort of time I’m doing anyway (watch face is too small) so I was a bit surprised to reach the first mile marker and clock and realise that I was well inside a 10 minute mile. I had a quick mental tussle as to whether I should or should not slow down a bit, but I felt fine and reckoned I could keep that pace up for a long time if I needed to, and besides, I’ve been stung like that before and ended up running slower than planned because I’ve worried about my pace in the early stages. I finally convinced myself that if it didn’t feel too fast, then it probably wasn’t. And anyway I’d lost the giraffe by then (don’t ask), so I could concentrate (it was also round about then that Spiderman whizzed past me).

Mile 2 was still fine, and still inside 10 minutes a mile, and it was lovely being able to just keep going on territory that is very familiar to me after all the time I’ve spent there. It was lovely to be cheered on by my fellow Silson Joggers AC members too, as many of them were marshalling the event. I loved being cheered on by name by them, but I also knew I couldn’t fail because if I did I’d not hear the last of it at Wednesday night’s training session. Anyway I kept right on and at 3 miles grabbed a water bottle and took a slug before discarding it. It felt bad to be disposing of an almost full water bottle, but I really didn’t want that much and I didn’t feel inclined to keep carrying it either. The mile markers seemed to keep coming very steadily although I was a tad apprehensive as to what would happen after mile 6. After all, I’ve never raced that far before so I was now getting into unknown territory. Additionally, the organisers clearly thought it was funny to sling a bridge at us at around the halfway mark, and I wasn’t sure I could actually go uphill that steeply – my iPod thought differently though, and it was amazing how helpful Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” proved to be. I was over and we were now heading onto the circuit perimeter road. I was still going strong at the 7 mile point, and the clock was still friendly, with 1:10:23 showing that I might actually be on track for a sub 2:10 run. If you’d asked me in advance I would have suggested that 2:15 was just an impossible dream and 2:30 would be more likely. If I could just keep going.

I suspect that all runners have moments when they think there’s something going wrong and that moment appeared to have arrived when I got a sudden twinge in my left ITB, and then my right hip joined in. I shook my arms out and tried to relaxe my shoulders and the twinges vanished as quickly as they had arrived. This was looking unfeasibly quick now. However, the perimeter road is deadly dull, and quite unduating and it was now feeling as if someone had moved the mile markers. The 8 mile one seemed to take forever to hove into view, and the 9 mile one was playing very similar tricks. I was still passing people though (because that’s what happens when you either get in the wrong group or go off too fast), and the clock was STILL on my side. More importantly, the last 2 and bit miles were back on the race circuit and there were lots of spectators cheering people on which helped. I passed the 11 mile marker and at least knew I could now finish the race. There was definitely enough left in the legs… whether it was speedy I didn’t know. And that was the moment when the iPod did its stuff again and kicked off with the Leningrad Cowboy’s version of “LA Woman”. I was suddenly in some sort of unexpected overdrive, running smoothly and comfortably and even singing along as I dropped down past the new pit straight. It felt amazing and I even clawed a few more seconds off my mile time.

I paid for it later though and really struggled after the 12 mile mark, legs feeling leaden and my shoes feeling as if they had no spring in the soles. I wasn’t going to give up that close to home though especially as I knew it would eventually stop sloping upwards and that I just had to get under the bridge and I would be within a maximum of 10 minutes from home. In fact it was closer than I thought, because I’d forgotten that we didn’t have to run all the way back to the start/finish line and would in fact end at Copse corner, exactly where we’d started. And now I could see the finish. The legs came back to life and I kicked hard for the last few hundred yards because I knew I needed to cross the finish line before the clock said 2:13 or so if I wanted a sub 2:10. And I did want it by then. I was so overcome as I crossed that line that I couldn’t stop my watch and I burst into tears, which was bad news given how hard I was breathing. I nearly kicked off an asthma attack, but was able to pull myself together though it took me a while to stop crying. I waited in line to get my timing chip removed and grabbed my finishers’ bag, containing a small bottle of water, a couple of sports bars, a large bottle of Lucozade sports drink and a “one size fits no-one” t-shirt (XL which is probably much too big for most runners).

I fought my way back to the bag drop, retrieved my stuff, and met up with Lynne by the Silverstone Diner. We escaped down to the pub where we met up with Martin, who had also been running the half and who finished well before me, but who ended up stuck in traffic trying to get out and thus was behind us getting to the pub. Two pints of beer, one of water and a large Sunday lunch later I’m now back at home, having scarfed down a portion of last night’s blackberry crumble and another pint of water. I’m clean, very tired and I doubt I’ll stay up much after 9pm.

And now, having checked the online results, I note that I was well inside 2:10 with a time of 2:08:40, with an average of 9 minutes 48 per mile. It also meant I was 14th in class, 853rd woman home out of 2205 who registered a time, so that’s good too.

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