If I said the last week leading up to Gosport Half Marathon today was like a roller coaster then that would be an understatement.
I went from doubting I could even run the 5k advised by the Physio 10 days after my fall to contemplating incorporating Gosport into a long training run as part of the 50k training plan to pulling out of the 50k completely to racing Gosport and smashing my PB by nearly 5 minutes!
In fact doubting myself is something I seem to be very good at. For many months a friend of mine, and a much more experienced runner from the club, has been trying to convince me that I am capable of racing much quicker than my PBs suggest. It was no surprise when I said to him after Thursday’s club run that I thought I could sustain a 9mm pace at Gosport that his reply was ‘I’ve been telling you that for ages!’
I was now confident that I would be able to achieve this pace and was secretly thinking I could probably go under 1:55 which was an 8:45mm pace. Until I saw the forecast that is. It was going to be windy. For 13.1 miles. On the seafront. I had no idea what 40km/hr winds or 50km/hr gusts looked like let alone what it would feel like but the sight of almost horizontal trees on the drive into the race was giving me a pretty good idea…bloody tough!
I had arranged to run with another friend (yes I have more than one!) at 9mm pace. I knew that he wouldn’t stick to this so I prepared myself for a slightly quicker start and true to form he didn’t disappoint. First 3 miles done in an average of 8:48mm pace including a congested start and a horrible head wind! But thanks to the confidence that had been previoualy instilled into me I didn’t panic and actually felt very comfortable.
Comfortable enough in fact, and thanks to the very strong tail wind after the first turn, that I manged to sneak in four speedy miles. Not too speedy but comfortably speedy. Miles 4-7 completed in an average of 8:34mm pace. I was wondering if I was going a bit too quick but it still felt comfortable and the only way to find out what pace I could sustain was to do it and see!
It was a two lap race so the second turn was at the half way point. And back into the wind. You can see from this extract of my race splits where the wind got the better of me!
I was told miles 8-10 would be tough and they weren’t wrong. By this point I had found myself running alone as the aforementioned friend had abandoned me to run with someone else (this isn’t actually true, I was actually running well at the time we split so was happy to run alone but by the time I hit the windy part again I wanted him back!). I kept my head down and got myself almost to the final turnaround point when another friend caught up with me. By this point my legs were tired and I was struggling so it was very welcome company.
However he learnt early on that I didn’t see the encouraging side of ‘just a Parkrun to go’ and wisely chose to run in silence with me but kept checking I was still with him. Even though we didn’t chat (I was unable to and he was too scared to) just having him there was great support. As we reached the point at which I had a mini meltdown last year I could start to feel the same feeling again. With just two miles to go my legs were gone and I was exhausted but I was also very aware that I was running with a boy who would probably not be quite so sympathetic as the girl I ran with last year so I chose against the meltdown and instead kept my head down and powered on.
Another friend caught up with us with just a mile to go and I was really struggling by this point but she said you can’t come this far and give up now. She was right but she carried on while I stopped briefly to catch my breath with a stitch that was developing. I only stopped for 2 seconds because a random voice from behind me bellowed ‘move your arse Hedge End!’ Apparently the look on my face was hilarious and further cemented my friend’s decision to remain silent but the random guy scared me enough to start running again!
I managed to pick up the pace a bit in the last half a mile and again on the home straight but I was done. I crossed the line and just stopped. I had given that my all. I stayed stopped for a while until a marshal asked my friend if I was OK. He brushed his concern aside saying I was fine and later joked (at least I think it was a joke) that he was more concerned for the safety of the marshal should he make the mistake of asking me himself!
This was backed up by previous comments made by me in the last mile along the lines of ‘she needs her eyes testing’ and ‘stop saying that’ when some poor marshals said ‘you’re still looking strong’ and ‘you’re nearly there’ respectively (sorry marshals, you were brilliant throughout the whole race). The abandoning friend also noted that I am like a ticking time bomb at the end of a race, which, to be fair, is true. Tears, tantrums and elation have all been known from me and people are clearly learning to prepare for anything that may now happen.
Once I had the energy to receive my medal and goodie bag I noted my watch time of 1:57:38 (official chip time of 1:57:40). I couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated by that wind but once I actually realised I had in fact managed to knock nearly 5 minutes off my previous PB in THAT wind, I was over the moon.
And the goodie bag was amazing! Crisps, cake and chocolate! I ate most of mine before thinking about taking a photo so have stolen someone else’s photo but have since realised the crisps are missing and there is extra cake but you get the gist!
All in all I had a great race and am very proud of myself. I know I did the hard work and no one can take that away from me but I do owe huge thanks to the people that have supported me to get this result today.
The final thought from today is what someone said to me yesterday. The more modest your PB, the easier it will be to improve it next time. So bring on Southampton Half next April, I will get that sub 1:55!