Since I started my fitness journey over 2 years ago, I was determined to do a half marathon during that first year. However an upper body injury threw my chances away. I swapped running and weights for yoga and Pilates. Fast forward 2 years..
One of my goals for 2017 was to finally achieve that half marathon finish. Having missed a few sign ups and planning my holiday for the Hackney Half, I set my sights on the Leeds Half Marathon. The fact I didn’t know anyone taking part or cheering didn’t bother me. This race was for me.
I’d done well to keep myself injury free since picking my training back up last Summer. I was comfortable knowing my limits and making adjustments to exercises. In the gym, I focused my training on strengthening my weak areas, such as my pesky shoulder. Through resistance training and speed work, I was able to work on improving my 10km time. This gave me the possibility of running the half in a sub 2h time frame.
In the 3 weeks building up to the Leeds Half, I’d gave my legs a beating through running and walking on holiday. So I took it easy and rested up the week of the race. Unfortunately, I was ridden with a cold. Friday and Saturday I took it easy to help me recover. Saturday morning I woke up feeling better than the day before, this to me was a positive because mentally I was okay with myself running the Half.
I stayed with a friend overnight in Leeds to make the commute much easier on Sunday morning. Mentally, I was still on track to start this damn race. I got up early had breakfast, and made my way down to Millennium Square. The sun wasn’t out yet and I’d already put my bag in the bag drop; I’d gone and done the thing I usually remember not doing too soon! After queuing up for what felt like an eternity for the toilets, I walked around the square and voila, the sun makes an appearance! Great for keeping warm, but then I realised it wasn’t exactly the best condition to be running 13.1 miles in.
Like piggies in a pen, the warm up was not so complete. I attempted to do what I could given the space I had and lack of visuality of the live warm up session. I wasn’t the only one frustrated by this. We soon started to make our way down to the start line. I started to doubt myself running this, whether I should have run with my earphones or wished I packed my FitBit, just to name a few. The one thing that was crystal clear was that my race plan was out of the window. I forgot about times and now my main goal was to cross the finish line.
Once the start commenced, I found myself in a battle for space. Perhaps half a mile in, I actually had some space to run. Also, the heavens had opened. Totally not a good sign! This was confirmed at mile 1. As I was approaching that first distance post, I realised my body was running on empty. What was I going to do for the next 12 miles?! I was chasing for shade under the trees and dropped my pace to 6min/km+. I even switched to survival mode and reached out for a few gelatinous sweeties to keep me going. So not only was I running for water at this point, I was running for fuel.
The sexy pace definitely helped my body get through each mile. As did all of the cheering from the locals! Some residents even took matters further, by bringing out their bad-ass water hose pipes! Literally I’ve never been so thankful for water! Or power shower shall I say.
Mile 8-10 was when I felt most comfortable. Yes it was going uphill but there was a lot more shade but I actually had some fuel in the tank. As with every climb, there has to be a descent. This one would gradual at all! Once we were back into the sunshine, the battle to finish was back on. With no more water stations, sugar and shade were my best friends. My legs wanted to give up and rest but my head so no, keep going. Now it was mind over matter above all else. I was strong enough to start the race, I knew I was strong enough to keep going.
Passing that mile 12 marker was some what a relief. I was almost “home.” Once we were approaching the slip road, I knew I didn’t have long to go until I crossed the finish line. Even though I felt like absolute crap by this point, the smell of that end point drove me home. Miraculously I managed to pick up my pace and the home crowds’ cheers helped me to keep that up. As I came round that last corner, I could see the end of this long tunnel. I was grunting, grimacing, whatever else you can name. That dreaded nausea was experienced too. My thoughts now were to not throw up in front of everyone! THANKFULLY that did not happen!
I crossed the line in 2:09:31. Considering I was running with a cold/post cold, I’ll 100% accept that time. My decision to run in the state I was in probably wasn’t the wisest of all choices, but for me that was my challenge that I wanted to complete. I’d worked SO hard in my training. Reflecting back, if I’d thrown in the towel to me that would have been a failure. I’m completely suffering from the side effects of my decision. Sympathy isn’t required. I had nausea, change of appetite and lethargy. By the amount of dry food I was eating, one would have thought I was carb loading for another race.
I took on another rest week as my body was in dire need of it. Without sufficient energy, I didn’t want to put my body in another deficit. Thanks to the love I’ve given to my mind and body through time out, I’m back onto my usual flavoursome diet and starting to get back into training.
I enjoy learning how to understand my muscles and joints from an exercise perspecticve, but even more so now that I need to loosen and strengthen particular areas which are more evident post half marathon.
A few more challenges are in the pipelines. I’m excited to be training towards these goals and achieving them!