Half-Marathon; challenge completed! (for now…)

halfmara1

Feeling suitably anxious before the off...

On Sunday I achieved a challenge I set myself around 18 months ago – to complete a half-marathon.  I took part in the Coventry 2009 Half Marathon which was a ride of pure hell and utter exhaultation, comedy moments and aggressive self-doubt, blisters and jelly babies.

I picked up running most recently again around July this year, after having fallen off the wagon in 2008 with a back injury and succumbing to the evils of smoking once again.  I had entered the half for 2008 but pulled out after I knackered my leg tendons due to a wonky pelvis (medical term, that). This year, participation was threatened two weeks before the event by a behemoth of a blister on the sole of my foot which became infected and meant that I couldn’t walk for 5 days and subsequently I messed my legs up by hopping about like a looney. (If you would like photographic evidence of said blister, click here. It ain’t pretty).  The blister was caused by trying to run 10 miles in a pair of shop bought orthotics which I bought to correct over-pronation which was giving me considerable discomfort and pain on any distance over 2 miles.  Being as bloody-minded as I am, I ran through the nagging tingle of a baby blister forming on my sole, and kept going when this sensation had graduated to feeling like someone was holding a lighter to the sole of my left foot. Not my most genius moment and it goes to show the old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ is a load of codswallop and bunkum invented by sadistic dunderheids.

It had been at least 12 years since I last faffed about with safety pins and a running number and the experience of pinning the number to my front brought back PTSD type flashbacks of throwing up with nerves before athletics meets in the 90’s.  On the morning of the race two things struck me as alarming : that I was awake at 6.30am on a Sunday and also that I still couldn’t walk without discomfort in my legs. I placed myself at the back of the sheep pen  in between Scooby Doo and Elvis and hoped that the combination of Scholl Sports Orthotics, Vaseline, Compeed and a tubi-grip would see me though. And I prayed to the gods of running that I wouldn’t get caught up by the demonic sounding ‘sweeper’ van who picks up all those too slow and/or lame to finish the course in time.

The most surprising thing about the race was the amount of people in their late 60’s and early 70’s, belting along at a pace I can only fantasise about. I think by the time you get to 70, there isn’t much resistant cartilage left, so it looked more like exaggerated walking than running, but fair dues; they all whooped my ass. The last 3 miles were the longest miles I have ever known. I’m not joking when I say at one point I was overtaken by somebody who was walking. I thought I was running; turns out by this point what had actually happened was that I had been transplaced into another dimension where time and motion had been stretched out twice as long. Obviously.

I did finish. My time was awful, but all things considered I think I did rather well. I have never been so exhausted as when I stumbled over the line;  I swear I had pins and needles in my teeth, my fingers had swollen up to resemble bratwurst and I was making breathing noises like an over-zealous telephone sex pest.  The first words I could get out (after “Banana!”) were, ” I am NEVER doing that again! That was horrific!” as I slumped onto a plastic chair and dribbled  down my front.

4 hours later I was searching for the next race. I think I may have an illness….

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22 days and counting…

Whoops.  I signed myself up for a half-marathon – 26th October, in Coventry.

Marathon shoes

The furthest I have ever run before is 8 miles, which I managed (miraculously) one week ago and didn’t die. (just).

So now I am slightly concerned that in 22 day’s time, I will find myself standing alongside 2000 ‘fit’ people with lean, beautiful leg muscles,  washboard stomachs, clad in hard-core runner’s vests and skimpy shorts and I will feel like I’ve gatecrashed a party consisting entirely of models from “Runner’s World” magazine. The reason for my confidence crisis is a vestige from my teenage years, when I was a member of an athletics club; in order to gain points in the league table, the coaches would enter me into events like “Senior Women’s 200m hurdles”  where I would gallop and limp around the track with all the grace of an elephant in leg calipers (I was off the day they “did hurdles” at school) and drag myself across the line as the other competitors looked on with expressions of concern and confusion.

There wasn’t a single athletics meeting I went to as a kid where I didn’t feel like dissolving into pure nervous energy; even PE lessons had my stomach churning for 2 hours before it started. Anything less than winning just wasn’t good enough for me; I put FAR to much pressure on myself to come first. I’ve had to learn to be happy with just taking part, after-all, run-walking for half an hour at 11-minute mile pace may not be the height of athletic achievement, but it’s a hell of a bigger achievement than sitting on the couch watching When Fat Pets Go Bad.

So this ‘race’ is going to be a HUGE learning-curve for me; learning to really run for myself, and not compare myself to others despite being surrounded by a crowd.  All I want is to get round the course without walking. Time and speed do not matter, just the distance.  Looks like I have a mantra there.

This week’s ‘long’ run/stumble/crawl…

I set out with the intention of running 7 miles…and managed to, eventually! Had to stop and walk twice, for a bit – and the massive hill at the end of shoesmy run was pretty testing, but I did it. Amazingly, I finished with no physical injuries, just incredibly exhausted and thirsty (depsite having consumed 700ml during the run).
However, one week later and I reckon I have what is known as shin splints; basically pain in my shin muscle/tendon area. Scheduled for tomorrow is my first 8-miler, and I seriously doubt I could run even one mile at the moment. Damn, blast and poo-pants. S’not fair!

I’m hoping a combination of stretching, ice-pack and ibuprofen will get me through it – I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my whole life and mentally strong – trust my body to let me down…