So we finally got to 28th October 2012 and the Nike+ Run to the Beat half marathon.
It was finally time to put my money where my mouth is and BEAT 2 HOURS !!!
My last post was in the midst of my shortened training plan, 8 weeks training rather than 12 due to a calf tear at the end of July. My concerns were that I was ok up to 10k distance to maintain the pace I was after (9 minute miles or under), but anything above was proving to be very difficult (Averaging about 9:20 per mile).
Following on from my last blog post, I did a 20k run with the CG secret runners group (Thanks to Liz Healy for pulling it together). In short, not good. Again by the time I was hitting the longer distance, past 10 miles, I was in a mess. No energy in the legs at all and just totally exhausted. Post run analysis pointed out that I really needed to be paying attention to what fuel I’m taking on board during the run. I’m not a small person by any means, in fact far from it and having to carry well over 16 stone around whilst running does expend some serious calories. I went out with two 500ml bottles of PoweradeZero and that was it, aside from toast and peanut butter for breakfast with a glass of water and a Zero5 tab beforehand. However, there was one good result of my general uselessness by mile 11 and that was I got to see my wife and her friends on the Strand on the way to her baby shower, so that got a smile on my face to push through the last mile.
So having learnt my lesson, the weekend after on my final “long” run I actually took the energy seriously. I bought some Jelly Belly “sport” beans and took a full “fat” Lucozade sport along with water for a 90 minute run. It worked. Much as my pace wasn’t still up to what I wanted, at least I didn’t feel empty and lacking energy by the end of the run.
After this, it was time to start the taper phase of the running. The final two week stretch of training meant 10k was the maximum distance to be run. So I cut the runs down to two in the week, 10k at CG on Wednesday and then a shorter 3-4 mile run on the Friday lunchtime. In the middle of the two weeks, we had the Croydon Lexus 10k run on Sunday 21st October.
Can’t say I particularly prepared the best way for this particular run, the night before I went to Cosmo with some of the family and sunk a few beers back at home afterwards. I did the run with Bavers and Lol, with a finish time of 55:49, not bad considering a couple of stops on the way round and a good few hilly points along the route. Lol got a 47:04 and Bavers got 51:34, well done to both of them, Bavs in particular as he’d also raised money for the Everyman charity by doing the run !!
So I came away from that run happy enough to have got another race under the belt but with some proper concerns about how on earth I was going to manage to run over double the distance 7 days later.
I took one final 10k run with CG Run Club, alongside David Jury, at a reasonably decent pace on the following Wednesday.
I then didn’t do the Friday run at the end of that week, instead catching up with Pete, Danielle, Mark and the kids in London for the afternoon taking in the Natural History and Science museums. Much as there wasn’t a significant amount of running that week, having some much needed time out with some good friends did help me relax and took the mind off worrying about the forthcoming run.
A nicely relaxed day with Laura on the Saturday, with a decent sized bowl of pasta and mackerel for dinner set me up nicely going into race day.
So finally it was Sunday 28th October, SHOWTIME !!!
An early start, with the alarm going at 6:30 and the clocks having gone back overnight.
A quick breakfast of wholemeal toast, peanut butter and nutella, accompanied by water and a Zero5 tablet swiftly got me to 7:30 and we were off in Steve’s car up to the O2 for the run.
Thankfully the drive was without any problems or significant traffic and we arrived in the O2 car park about 8:15, early enough to make the Nike Run Club groups meet up I’d organised at 8:30. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we were hit with just how cold it was. Accompany that with the wind and it was pretty chilly indeed. Sorry, let me re-phrase that, IT WAS FEKKIN COLD !!!
So we headed over to the agreed meet up point, some of CG were already there along with Run Dem Crew. Great to see some people I haven’t seen in a while. After a bit of time there were a good few people gathered, Everest Million and some from the former Clapham Common FuelStation Run Club who I knew too. I guess most were probably wondering why it had gotten so cold and how on earth to approach the race.
Unfortunately, the group photo got called all of a sudden in a bit of a rush by one of the lead pacers from Niketown, so not everyone was there at the time to participate in the photo which was a bit of a shame. Was also a shame we didn’t get a group CG photo.
So finally, once we’d all had enough of getting cold, it was finally time to drop off bags, make toilet stops and head out for the race. It was here that my only downside to the day happened, the organisation behind the scenes was pretty poor to say the least. We had queues to get to the toilet/bag drop areas, with spectators actually preventing participants from getting through. The bag drop queues were long waits, with queues doubling up in length. Only a couple of people were manned to each section of 1000 runners. However, at least it was inside and a good bit warmer.
So having dealt with all the administration side of things, it was on to the start of the race itself. Walking out to the race pens, we could see the first set of runners already being pulled up to the start line. We get to the pens and it’s all a bit of a mess, everyone just streaming in wherever and even though we were due to be in the 1:40-2:00 time zone, we got placed behind the over 2 hours pace marker.
I’d decided to take an old hoody with me for the wait in the pens and also had an old running hat with some gloves to try end help keep warm. I ditched the hoody by the end of the pens as it would be way to hot to run in. We took it leisurely up to the start and finally got on our way. We were off in a sea of yellow with a good few cheers from the spectators along the starting stretch. Not surprisingly given the cold and fluid intake it wasn’t long before I started feeling the need for the loo, however I managed to keep this blocked out. Getting into a decent enough pace was fairly straightforward and the first 3 miles went pretty quickly, most appeared to be downhill. By this time the gloves and hat had been discarded (about 2 miles in) and Lol had already barked at me a couple of times for checking the watch (Sorry!!).
A quick loop of the Woolwich Royal Artilery Museum and it was up to the first proper incline of the day along John Wilson Street to the Barracks. Up until then pace had been steady and now was the first test, time to dig in. It was hard but I just had to keep the push and eventually we were up to the top of the climb and into the barracks area back on the flat. It was here I said to both Steve and Lol that they could push on if they wanted to, don’t let me hold them back. Lol said we’d wait until we got to the other side of the big hill coming after 6 miles and then make a decision.
The barracks was the second water station and also the first Powerade stop at around 5 miles. We were all ok for fluid at this point so kept pushing on. We were all a bit surprised at the number of Powerade bottles strewn behind just after the drinks stations, however as Lol pointed out the staff didn’t have the capacity to provide enough water for people, so my thoughts are they probably took a bottle for some liquid and then dropped it after a couple of mouthfuls.
After finally completing the loop around the barracks, it was then on to THE HILL.
From my memory of the race the year before, I remember this being the hardest part of the run, probably because I chose to charge the downhill section and then wondered why I was so knackered trying to make it back up the other side.
However, we were all still together and maintaining a fairly consistent pace. With gritted teeth, we knew the uphill was the midway point on the race and statements along the lines of ”Come on boys, we get through this and we can push on” were put out there. Digging in with the incline taking it’s grip we finally got to the top and onto the next stretch of flat.
On this section, I managed to “bump” into Cory @Bitbeefy from RDC West along with Dan Maskitt @RunDemBear, always great to see those guys.
We pushed on through Charlton and on towards Blackheath. By this point I was beginning to struggle a little and thankfully my “motivation” MP3 came on the playlist (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SjbHJ28iec). I told the guys I was plugging in and went into myself for the next 6 minutes. It helped, not much but did help and the words of Eric Thomas “The HipHop Preacher” rang in my ears, I picked up, I was back in the game.
We came onto the open stretch of Blackheath on the road towards Greenwich Park, I was still having to work hard and the need for the loo had returned, this time with a vengance. We got into the park itself and I finally gave in, darting behind a nearby tree.
I hit the hard part of the run here, probably about 9 miles into the run. At this point I was falling behind about 10 feet from Steve and Lol and the legs were beginning to feel heavy. Having the route go up a path and then back round again wasn’t nice and was hard work.
God bless Lol at this point, we’d got to 10 miles and were pretty much dead on 1:30, so we knew there was half an hour left to cover the final 3.1 miles. 10 minute miles, surely do able?? Lol came back to me, seeing I was struggling a bit and said, “as long as you don’t stop you’re going to do it, doesn’t matter if you need to slow down just keep going”. I knew that but having someone actually say it means you also realise it too.
Finally after the snaking around the paths in the park, we got to the final downhill section of the run and I’d managed to keep myself going knowing that was on it’s way. A bit of dubstep sprung to life on the MP3 and I was back in the mood to have a push on. I was quickly brought back to earth when I tried to sprint with a warning sign from my hamstring tightening up, so I quickly dashed the idea of racing down the hill, instead called on the guys to take it steady and we pushed on at a decent pace down the slope, weaving through a fair few people. I think it was at this point that Lol went and made his final push for the end as I don’t remember seeing him again until the finish line.
Passed the observatory and out of the park, it was onto the final slog of the race, over 20 minutes available with 2 miles left to go, it was still on. Was I going to do it?
It was at the 11 mile point, that I spotted the Cheer Dem Crew amassed. If ever you need a pick me up, those guys will do it. It was another of those “down one side and back again” parts of the route, so I’d seen the signs up and knew in a minute or so I’d be passing them.
Again I had a spur to push me on. When I got to Cheer Dem I first saw Darren Sumpter, the first person I met at Run Dem Crew, a quick handshake and hi it was then time to pull out those gun fingers. I think I might have startled the Cheer Dem initially as I’m probably not that well know to the crew as I only attend once in a while. However, after firing off a couple of rounds (with some coming back I might add) I had a massive smile on my face and taking the encouragement from Bangs and the rest of the Crew it was onto the final push back to the O2.
This final section of the race along with the hill in the middle was the other section I remember being really hard from the year before. Simply because it’s that point where from 11 miles on, you’re REALLY tired. All along during my training, I’d known that by this time I would be struggling, yet so far on this run I was still going, hadn’t walked or stopped for breath at any point. Steve was still back with me, although I was slipping and had no doubt in my mind that pace was dropping. Steve was there and kept edging on me on, keeping the reassurance going.
Eventually, I think just after 12 miles, he checked if it was ok to head on and I said yes. Slowly I saw him creep ahead and it was at that point I knew I just had to dig deep and push through to the end, about a mile left to go with 12 minutes to do it in.
So after finally getting through my nightmare of the A206, it was the last roads to get back to Bugsby Way and the final Parkside stretch to the finish. I was managing to hold a bit of a pace (not much admittedly) and where I saw people struggling or walking, tried to gee them up a little bit “Nearly there, keep going!!”.
I got a bit reflective of the run at this point, emotional because I knew I was going to get there.
When I got up Bugsby way and saw there was half mile to go to the finish I was compelled to share that with the world “HALF MILE TO GO GUYS” I bellowed and pushed on.
Finally I was on the Parkside stretch, about 5 minutes spare out of two hours on my watch, feeling absolutely done for and praying for site of the finish line, eventually it came. I didn’t have the sprint finish from last year and I saw the time clock and worrying that I hadn’t done it (All the self doubt flooding back), yet I checked the watch one last time and was at 1:57, I was going to do it. Seeing the cameramen on the lead up to the finish, I cracked my last Mobot of the day (One of several throughout the run) and finally up to the line I raised my hands up to the sky in thanks. How I didn’t break into tears I do not know.
I’D DONE IT !!!
My watch had 1:58.15 on the clock for 13.14 miles. Beat 2 Hours had been a success. Such a relief
Just a few metres behind the finish line were my brothers in arms, no way would I have done this without them!! I had to grab them both for a hug.
Without them pulling me along, I would’ve stopped on more than one occasion and allowed my pace to drop to low at more than one point, giving me too much to make up.
The exhaustion lifted, the legs weren’t tired anymore, the cold didn’t matter and my body physically lifted with the knowledge I’d achieved my goal. The spring was back in my step.
We grabbed some Powerade and it was off to get our medals !!
Another (far too long) wait at the baggage area to pick up the gear and it was time to unwind. The guys headed off in the car and I hung around for the rest of CG to meet up to go for a well deserved bit of food at Nando’s. My word it tasted good !!
Was great to be able to say to everyone I knew that I’d done it and it was lovely to hear that so many people were genuinely happy for me too.
So how do I sum all this up, well I think if you’ve managed to read to this point then you too deserve a medal as I’ve managed to waffle on a bit.
I think I’d just like to end with a HUGE thank you to everyone who’s supported me throughout my running journey this year. I’ve had such a big support all year long from so many people words just couldn’t get near the thanks I need to give to you all.
I dedicate my run to my wife who throughout all of my dithering and stressing this year about this run, has been pregnant and yet still supported me all the way without complaint. You definitely make me the man I am today, thank you so much for being there.
I’VE FINALLY BEATEN 2 HOURS !! Next stop FATHERHOOD !!!
See you all soon guys, watch this space
Rob aka RunOwl