Sunday 8th May. Weather forecasted as 25 degrees. The hottest day of 2016 so far. What a fantastic day to chill in the garden with some Prosecco soaking up the sun.
Except I wasn’t doing that. Instead I was taking part in my second half marathon!
Leading up to the event; I did everything right. I got the training runs up to 11 miles, I cut down on boot camp sessions to ensure my legs were fresh for my runs and I hydrated until my body couldn’t take any more water.
The day before the event itself Run Hackney sent out a warning; due to the high temperatures coming our way participants should not expect a personal best. Now I knew I would not be hitting a PB. After my ailments this year I am still not up to strength – so simply managing to take part and complete the race was my goal.
Which is what I did. Hands down, the Hackney Half Marathon was the hardest race I have faced to date. From the get go I struggled with the heat; drinking all the water I had within the first 2 miles. It took some time to find my pace (or trot) too – which seems to be a common occurrence on race days for me. During training I have no problem, I just trot away. However; as soon as I am surrounded by thousands of runners the trot goes to pot!
That said, I managed to find a slow and gentle pace once the crowds had thinned out, slowing down to a fast walk when the heat was getting too much then back to a run.
I stayed with this walk/ run pace throughout the race. Pushing myself when I needed to and slowing down when it was a bit too much. And and times it was a bit too much. It was a really tough race.
However, it has to be one of the most enjoyable runs I have experienced. The community spirit was amazing. Every street was lined with Hackney residents drinking outside their houses and pubs and bars; offering Jelly Babies and shouting words of encouragement to all runners – not just those they knew. Around the Hackney Empire the streets were bustling. Steel drums were being played, choirs were belting out some tunes. They even went as far as connecting hoses to spray us as we went past. Such a simple thing to do, but such a welcome relief from the heat. Every runner was running through the water – myself included. The residents deserve medals themselves as their encouragement gives the run such an amazing atmosphere.
Around mile 9 I had my own cheering squad – something that I have never had at a race before. My two friends, Rachel and Charlotte, who live locally were on one of the quieter streets cheering other runners whilst waiting for me. Seeing them in the crowd was so uplifting – giving me the push I needed to keep going at that point. After taking some Jelly Babies they offered I was on my merry way again (choking back a little sob for seeing them).
The sights I saw after mile 10 were shocking and makes me thankful that I listened to the advice Run Hackney had given as well as listening to my own body. The number of runners who had passed out, receiving medical treatment from the 10th mile through to the finish was unbelievable. The majority seemed to be those who looked super fit, people you would not expect to fall were dropping like flies. St Johns Ambulance had their hands full and deserve a great deal of credit for their work that day.
When I finally made it back to the Olympic park the heat was something else. With no shade, runners were totally exposed. At this point (around mile 11-12) there were more people walking than running.
Me? I kept trotting. At every water station I made sure I took two bottles of water; one to sip from and the other went over my head. So soaked from heat to toe I got through those last difficult miles slowly and sensibly – finally passing over the finish line in 2 hours 46 minutes. 26 minutes over my previous half marathon; but after so many thought I would not be able to compete I was extremely happy with the effort.
There are not many races that I would run again; mainly due to the fact that I don’t like to know what’s coming, but the Hackney Half Marathon is definitely one I would repeat. I have already pre registered for next years event. Hoping to train hard, get my strength back to where it was at the end of 2015 and improve on my time.
With such amazing community spirit in Hackney, not running the Half Marathon next year would be missing out.