Yep, it’s finally happened. I’ve managed to stay in one piece for long enough to actually complete a race.
The Bupa Great South Run, no less. A monster of a race (25,000 entry), odd in distance (10 miles sets it apart from other more traditional events), flat and well attended by the international community.
Training has been, if you’ve seen my blog before, varied. Injury was almost overtaken at the end by a cold I picked up a week and a half ago. None of the usual “5 day” affair, as it turned out, either. It never became a monster, just enough to fill my chest, stop me breathing and make me use about 12 handkerchiefs a day as my nose went from runnning to blocked as the seconds passed.
Rubbish, considering my training had been going well.
Still, Saturday arrived and Jogblog sat in the back of the car (she’s petrified of travelling in a car with me but when in the front won’t take her eyes off the road. Even to look at a landmark or something I point out.) to play with her new electronic gadget and hopefully arrive slightly less than a wreck.
It worked. We found our hotel easily, I re-acqainted myself with Portsmouth as we found somewhere to eat and the afternoon and evening spun past before trying to decide if all our electronic devices would adjust for Grenwich Mean Time or whether I needed to manually adjust them, only for the alarms to be late and we’d miss the start.
I needn’t have worried. Nerves had me up and alert at 4am (5 the day before , so not too bad in reality!).
A hassle free drive to my desired car park saw what I think the only hiccup in otherwise flawless organisation. The suggested car parks were found by luck/intuition; it might have been so easy to print a supplementary sign with the advice leaflet numbers referenced. Maybe next year. Maybe sat-nav is becoming so common I really am a dinosaur. Still, it was a tiny hassle/worry.
The crowds making for the start were slight, as early as we turned out to be. The start area was buzzing, though, as were JB and I as we went to the BUPA vip tent (I love going out with running royalty!) to find ourselves rubbing shoulders with Iwan Thomas and Sally Gunnell. A coffee and banana later and I was making my way to the start area, desperate not to be too far back in the crowd that a decent run was scuppered by traffic.
A jovial bit of banter between three of us (one hoping for 1.20, the other hoping for 1.10, me realising my cold would probably place me somewhere between) eased the worry about the cold and that I seemed to be behind millions of shirts until the gun went and we walked over the start line. Yep. Walked. Bah.
Still, we were rapidly up to speed. A bit of a slalom around the inevitable walkers/fancy dress artists found free space around half a mile in and all settled well. I selected a pace that didn’t stress my chest and ignored my Garmin (I set the screen on virtual partner, 7.15/mile pace, locked the bezel and ignored it for two miles).
First course impression? Fantastic. All Portsmouth’s landmarks in a mile and a half! Ships, buildings, the naval base. Pretty much everything of interest.
On looking at the Garmin I was amazed to see myself 30 seconds up on time. So endeavoured to see 45 seconds by mile 3, especially as I realised the route had given all it had of interest in those first two miles.
Second course impression? As the crowds wane away from the seafront, there isn’t much on offer. Dull, to be fair. I guess a big run needs wide dual carriageways and that but they’re a bit dull for me, to be fair. Good job I had a breathing rate/ease of progress/monitor the people arund me routine to concentrate on.
As mile 3 came and went I’d gained a few more seconds on targetted target. Mile 4 saw a bloke I’d been stalking slow a bit. As I came onto his shoulder I spoke up, let him know I was pacing steadily and he’d just come back to me. He thanked me and said he’d hang onto me for a while. That while was very nice. A few more banter exchanges with a few other runners and before I knew it he was alongside at the 6 mile water station. Asking how he felt, he said fine. A little surge saw him move a few yards ahead before dropping behind again suddenly; I didn’t see him again. Ah, well.
Mile 7 to 8 was the dullest. Passing 10k in a new race pb (I really must enter a 10k race sometime!), still feeling perky as hell, unstressed and comfortable, I was nonetheless worried about the “last two miles” that everyone had banged on about when asked about the race. I didn’t believe it could be as bad as the last 3 miles of the Hastings half, but was being careful with pacing in case it was; I didn’t fancy having to stress my lungs.
7-8 was, in fact, horrendous. Dull; featureless; too much time wondering if I might surprise myself with a reasonable time overall; bland.
All too soon we were on the seafront and at mile 8. Splendid! A slightly gusty head-ish wind but not too harsh. Not enough people around to tuck in amongst them, I simply jogged it out. The BUPA motivation station was something to run towards with the sea of blue banners and jackets and the music being carried on the wind was a nice touch.
Mile 9 saw runners around me start to speed up. I resisted until 800m when a little spurt saw the timeclock come in to view. 1.09.11 with 400m to go. 49 seconds to run 400m if I was to dip under 1.10. Except I walked towards and across the line at the start. And my Garmin was locked on virtual partner. And I hadn’t taken the shortest route…how far over distance was I…how late over the line was I…was the 3.03 ahead of pace I was showing enough to be under 1.10 on corrected time?
Not wanting to miss out on a decent result by a few seconds, I decided an uncool sprint was better than a life of disappointment. So I kicked. Those around me did, too. So I kicked harder. An unseemly lunge for the line and I stopped my Garmin. A more unseemly wobble on my legs as I coughed up a lung, a focus on unlocking the watch and swapping screens…and a time of 1.09.53 was revealed. Phew! Were it not for the push, I reckon I might have been down to the last second.
And do you know what? Despite the accomodation being ace; despite the weather threatening to be evil but really being ok; despite the race going well and pacing myself sensibly considering my health? I wouldn’t want to have missed out on a little landmark time and threaten to come back next year; the race isn’t really good enough, I don’t think.
My memory might change it, I suppose. It was a good day and a fun enough race. But boy, oh boy would it benefit from being run in reverse; put the bands on the dull beginning bit where you’re in traffic and fresh and not in need of something to take the mind off the run; give something to look forward to in the middle; give a massive boost at the end from the naval base, the ships and the Spinnaker Tower.
Overall best bit? Not a hint of an injury. Fresh(ish) muscles; perfect feet (my New Balance 890V2’s are unbelievably good.); happy countenance.
I’ll have a few days off running now. Then settle in to keeping my fitness with some fun runs around the house. Dark evenings will prohibit some of my country lanes but I’ll find a way around it somehow.