If you'd have told me 3 years ago I'd be writing a blog about my experiences of running a half marathon I'd quite frankly have laughed in your face! But here we are; yes I ran a blinking half marathon!!!
So it all started back in May when I was studying for my finals, struggling with a plateau and needing something to focus on other than theories of criminal psychology!! In a moment of insanity I ran downstairs (shocking pun I know!)& asked my equally insane housemates if they fancied running Bristol Half Marathon which was at that point about 6 months away...which seemed like a lifetime away..and they agreed!
Now I still don't class myself as a "runner" when I signed up we were running a couple of times a week but only about 3 miles each; I'd done a 10k run for Cancer Research about a year before but that was it. Running 13.1 miles was going to take some serious commitment. I don't think we fully understood quite how far 13.1 miles is when we signed up to this!
My first training run I think we tried about 4 miles; with a bit of walking but I honestly thought there was no way I was going to get around the half marathon route without dying. I kept getting stitches, couldn't breathe and generally looked like a beetroot! But we persevered and slowly built up our times, distances & routes. Before I knew it we were running 10k (6 ish miles) with "ease". I say with ease as physically I knew I was capable and building myself up I had it in my legs & lungs. The hardest part to overcome was my mind. I never imagined running a half marathon would be a mental challenge as well as a physical one. I'd get to a point; usually around 5.5 miles, and tell myself I couldn't run any more, that I was too fat, that I wasn't a runner, that people are looking at me & thinking she can't run. So I'd stop. Just like that. This is where I have to thank my amazing friends Hannah & Sarah (the insane ones who agreed to run the half marathon with me) if we weren't running together we were texting, tweeting or face-booking to see how each others training was going and the competitive part of me knew I had to keep pushing myself as I didn't not only want to let myself down, but I didn't want to let them down! So thank you girls; you are amazing and will never know how thankful I am for you pushing me when you probably didn't even realise.
So fast forward a couple of months; I'm now in full swing of training; even when I could have stayed in bed cuddled up with my electric blanket I dragged my ass out of bed to pound the pavements. Running about 4 times a week usually 3 "shorter runs" of about 5-6 miles and one "long run" a week; these long runs are the ones where I gradually built up my distance. The feeling of getting back from a run & checking Map My Run to see how far I'd gone & how quickly was rather exciting; having to walk up three flights of stairs to my flat wasn't quite so!
Sponsorship started to roll in; I ran for The Meningitis Research Foundation which is a charity rather close to my heart; with people giving money there really was no backing out now. With 4 weeks to go I went on holiday & even took my running gear with me (another thing if you'd told me 3 years ago I'd be running on holiday I again would have laughed in your face). I then started to get excited about running this half marathon; something that kept me going whilst out training apart from music like "Don't stop me now" was imagining that feeling of crossing the finish line, being able to tell people "I've run a half marathon" I couldn't wait for that! My friend Hannah and I had run some of the route to get a feel of how it was; not to hilly which is always good for running! I was raring to go!
Then disaster struck; I started to get a cold so dosed myself up on decongestants, you name it I took it. But nothing worked. With only a week to go to the half I needed to get better, I wasn't going to let a little cold come between me and crossing that finish line. A trip to the doctors later (it turns out I actually had a sinus & chest infection) and a course of anti-biotics later I was on the way to getting better....until I had an allergic reaction to the anti-biotics and thew my guts up for a couple of days! (sorry about the gory details). Another trip & another dose of anti-biotics I finally started to feel better (now just 4 days to go!!) My last long run before the Sunday didn't happen as I didn't want to push myself, I was now absolutely pooping my pants. I hadn't completed my training as I'd wanted to & didn't know what shape I'd be in to run!
Fast forward to Sunday; it was D-Day. I was SO EXCITED. I'd hardly slept with excitement, got up early had my breakfast of porridge, bananas and blueberries (power foods galore) and we were ready! Got down the the starting pens (it makes me laugh they call them pens; like we are all animals or something) then queued for ages at the portaloos, there was NO way I was stopping on the way round to empty my bladder!
And we were off! We started off at a steady pace; I didn't want to run off to fast and it come back to hit me later on. By about mile 2 I needed a wee; I hadn't even drunk anything! I didn't stop and by about mile 5 the need to wee had passed! A quick stop at mile 6 to unstrap my toe and I was still feeling in really good shape; we hadn't stopped once and I started to think I could actually finish this! Stopping again quickly at mile 7 for my friend to re-strap her foot up and we were good to go again.
The way the course was miles 1-8 were along the Portway which was quite far out of town (where most of the spectators were) so when we got down to mile 8 the atmosphere changed and it was incredible. So many people cheering you on & willing you to finish. At mile 9 we saw Hannah's mum & then my Dad which gave us such a spur. We were still running at a really good pace and I knew we'd definitely finish in under 2 hours 30, I was just hoping we could carry on at this pace to hopefully finish around 2 hours 20.
Miles 10-11 were so physically & mentally challenging, I nearly cried, until we saw our friends screaming our names and I knew I could run the hill that was in-front of me. I wasn't sure whether everything over whelmed me there; the fact of how far I'd come, losing almost 6 stone, running 11 miles and was so close to finishing, something I could never have imagined or the fact my shins were in so much pain I didn't think I could finish.
When the finishing line came into sight I think I broke into a slight smile, I tried a sprint finish and pushed my legs as much as I could. I had no idea what our time was but we did it. I'D FINISHED THE HALF MARATHON. Me & Hannah had a massive hug at the finish line and I welled up, if I'd seen any of my friends & family at that point I would have cried! Walking through the runners village collecting our t shirts & medals made all the pain worthwhile.
The atmosphere was so incredible on the day, when people say the crowd keeps you going it really does. There's something so humbling and encouraging about complete strangers cheering you to keep running, telling you how well you've done and that you're nearly there.
My official time came in at 2:19:41. I bloody done it in under 2 hours 20!! HELL YEAH!!!
If any of you are thinking that you'd like to start running, DO IT. It's not easy at first but build up your pace, distance and time slowly and you'll be amazed at what you can do. When I was almost 17 stone I'd have never thought I'd start running, let alone run a half marathon. I guess this makes me a runner?
Despite the pain the day after I've already signed up to my next half in March!
A massive thank you to everyone for your good luck messages, those who have sponsored me and generally everyone who supported me!
Here are some photos from the day:
p.s sorry for the long winded post;)
Lots of love
I'm also entering this blog post to a competition from over at Where Are My knees So thanks Chris! (http://www.moneysupermarket.com)