Up until 11pm on Sunday 22nd March, I had never run a half marathon. A confession that, I assure you, is much easier to write than admit out loud when working at Women’s Running. I’ll set the scene.
In the midst of anxiously jotting down instructions on everything from connecting to the server to how to use the coffee machine, the Editorial Director casually asks: ‘What’s your marathon PB?’ Panic set in. How could I possibly confess I’d only ever run 10K to a room full of ultra-runners? A little red-faced and my heart thumping out of my chest, I sheepishly made the confession.
Four months later I’m on the start line of the Salomon Citytrail Richmond Half Marathon, heart thumping as it was on day one. As it happened, the Women’s Running team embraced the fact I’d never run further than 10K, supporting my training and making it my challenge to sign up to a Half Marathon. They succeeded.
The race took off from Richmond’s Old Deer Park at 9am, by which time I had already committed every amateur mistake in the book. Too much water, excessive porridge consumption and overwhelming anxiety had inevitably led to too man trips to the portaloos. The irony being I had interviewed an expert on sports nutrition and hydration just two days beforehand.
After joining the back of the toilet queue a steady three times, I was on the start line with my partner Zak, who, to my frustration, is a seasoned pro in the half marathon business. To give you a little background, our running relationship is somewhat fickle. When the run is going well we’re great, but when it’s one of those ‘bad days’, we’re dreadful together and don’t stop bickering! Miraculously though, after eight weeks training together, gradually building up the distance of our long run every Sunday morning, we’d both made it to the start-line.
Following my strict instructions, Zak jokingly assured me he would not talk too much or push me too hard. But I knew he would. And I was secretly glad. Though I’d not set out to run the half marathon in a specific time, there was an unspoken expectation from not only Zak and my work colleagues but myself that I wanted to achieve sub two hours. With the sun shining down on us, we set off, passing the beautiful Ham House and gradually veering down the Thames path. As the race took place on unclosed roads, the first 5K felt a little slow, with so many of us cramming onto the footpaths. But with over 3000 runners, what can you expect?
The atmosphere was fantastic with a real mixed bag of abilities. After hearing a couple of friends announcing they were aiming for the two hour mark, we tagged onto them as pacers for the first 7K and were kept very much amused by their exchanges about their relationship problems….
At 7K there was a silent agreement between us we were both having a ‘good day’. Giving each other the thumbs up we swiftly passed our pacers, putting our heads down and getting into a steady pace in front of them. Our heads were lifted around 12K by an immense flurry of crowd support. Sat on a stone-brick wall outside a pub, hoards of supporters pushed us on, cheering and waving banners. The marshals were equally supportive, cheering us on and motivating us at every water station.
It was at around 14K I started to lag. The 21K mark felt so far away, my energy levels dropped and my calves were starting to burn. Knowing I was losing pace, I anxiously looked at my TomTom. ‘Just think of that ice-cold beer and paella tonight,’ Zak whispered. ‘Now sub two hours!’ he said. I knew if I didn’t finish in two hours I would be angry with myself, I had trained hard for this. Plus that ice-cold Corona was getting closer with every step. It was time to put my headphones in and get going.
Though the last part of the race was a bit of a blur, I remember the varied route to be a welcomed distraction from my weary legs. While the route started on road, the course was very much a trail route, veering off-road down the stony Thames path and weaving through patches of parkland. Although the route was flat, tarmac was a rarity, so if you’re looking for a flat urban course, the Richmond Half might not be for you.
Giving it a last push once we’d reached the 10-mile mark, we finished the race in 1.58.41. I felt overwhelmed, particularly at the point I saw my parents right at the finish line. In a euphoric daze, I proudly picked up my medal, finishers-tee and goody bag. Stashed with organic goodies from Wholefoods, including Chia seeds and Trek bars, I was well and truly in my element on the way home.
Great goody bags, unbelievable organisation and a fantastic course, I couldn’t fault it. Thank you SALOMON CITYTRAIL™ for an unbeatable first half-marathon experience.