How to ruin a perfectly good half marathon

Sunday dawned nice and bright, a little mist indicating it was going to be a sunny day for a race once it burned off. Good job I drank as much as I could all day Saturday to ensure I was properly hydrated, then.

The Folkestone Half was the race – an out and back along the flat seafront of Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe with a loop in Hythe as the turnaround, a loop on the Leas in Folkestone to start and a traipse down the Road Of Rememberance (about 400 yards of steep, steady hill) two miles in followed by the return up it at mile 12.

What could go wrong?

Ah. Well.

Mum came along to see us off (70 odd years old, 1 mile walk including three hills in just under 20 minutes. Marvellous!) and suggested I sounded a bit chesty. Hint number one.

I bumped into the Folkestone club runner I lost by 2 seconds to in the latest Ashford 5k race on the startline and a jovial chat saw us running most of the race against each other in a thoroughly decent, motivating fashion. The first 3 miles were steady but all well under 7 minute mile pace, he gaining about a 30 yard lead that I pulled back, to pass him by 4.5 miles and gradually stretch ahead. The long seafront stretch was in hot, bright sun reflecting off the bright concrete promenade and against the bright concrete sea wall. The clear stretch to Hythe was a relief (with a bit of breeze thrown in) – not only was the temperature a little more bearable but the shouts of encouragement from the marshalls to “Come on, Folkestone” were getting quieter as I gapped the other runner by keeping a steady pace.

I say steady; I eased off to between 7.10 and 7.18 per mile for miles 5 to 11 to ensure I had a push up the final hill and a sprint along the last flat mile. No-one was behind me to push me; no one was within 100m in front to chase. A steady, comfortable pace was all I could keep up, thinking my 7 minute mile average target was perfectly in range with a push for the last 2 miles.

Then, after a little nip in my left calf at 8.5 miles kept me alert to any hiccups, between 10.75 and 11 miles (oh, SportTracks is a wonderful tool for showing where things go awry!) I lost 20 seconds before stumbling over into the sea wall.

Completely lost my balance and, immediately afterwards, couldn’t focus on running a straight line and couldn’t be sure which side of the marshalls I was supposed to be going.

I identified dehydration. No idea how since I was drinking all day Saturday and sank 750ml of fluid over the run, but my spinning head and lack of coordination made me stop. I wasn’t about to collapse or anything if I could help it so, as bad as it was to have the Folkestone runner pound away from me, I let him go.

A minute or so later I tried a jog and felt awful so ate a jelly bean, drank a bit more and tried a 30 pace jog, 30 pace walk style which got me to the bottom of the hill. And all I was conscious of was the increased pace of people passing me. Why can’t I focus on the important bits, like my long term health, at such a moment?!

But I just settled into a walk up the hill. A little jog at the top was horrible but the shouts of the crowd kept me moving. Two more little walking breaks and I jogged over the line only to be clearly so bad that a marshall grabbed me, dragging me to the end of the finish funnel before I simply collapsed and moaned like a small boy. But not before telling him I was fone first, of course…

I must be honest – I don’t know how I got so bad, nor how I dehydrated, nor why I continued to the end again.

Mark Cadier (bloke I grew up with) crossed the line 16 minutes after me and he’s the first thing I remember. 15 minutes lost in space! Great…

But he was a good focus; chatting to him and his family (while he immeduiately started enjoying a post race Stella!) gave me 20 or so minutes to drink a bit and remember which way was up and then I forced myself to the car to get the camera to meet the others as they finished.

A pair of huge blisters let me know my feet had swollen massively compared to normal (350 miles in my trainers with no sores or anything…must have been the heat and concrete apron) and walking was a problem even without my dizzyness.

But everyone made it home and all was good.

I don’t know how to hydrate for the next race – maybe wait for the cooler days and hope!

The positives? 1.39.31 isn’t a catastrophe but it’s not 1.32, either. At least I know I have consistent pace and just 10 seconds a mile will give me 1hour 30 as long as nothing goes wrong. And I’ll at last be able to beat the bloke from Folkestone who may well be my nemesis!

The negatives? Doubt about my ability to do anything but cock up something I should be better at. And not being able to retire with a 1.30 to my name…at least one more half marathon to go before I can concentrate purely on shorter outings.

Right now I have some blisters to sort.

Good race, though. Friendly, well organised, great atmosphere, excellent start and finish area for spectators. Just a little dull in the middle, being an out and back against a concrete backdrop (odd how that’s the focus, not the expanse of water keeping France at a safe distance!) but even that was eased by the great spectator support.

I might even have another bash next year. After all, if the winner can do it in 1.08 (8 minutes 55 seconds faster than the bloke in second…!), there’s plenty of scope for improvement in my time…

145.52 miles to go.

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4 responses to “How to ruin a perfectly good half marathon

  1. Sounds nasty. I’m amazed that you managed to finish.

  2. Bah to heated Half Marathons – roll on the winter ones!

  3. Pingback: two things at once « RunningAmok

  4. You astound me. You have all these set-backs and yet still manage to finish in a great time! This sounds very similar to my Lisbon experience – are you sure you’re not coming down with something? I thought my sore throat in Lisbon was due to the air conditioning on the flight, turns out I was in the early stages of tonsillitis. Still, hope all is well with you now. You’ll get that sub 1.30 soon and then you can “retire”.

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