Sunday 19th February saw me run my second race of the year, my first Half Marathon of 2017, at Hampton Court.
A flat, “fast” route starting at Giggs Hill Green in Thames Ditton, this was a great route to aid my training for the London Marathon.
As with most races you are required to put yourself into a pen based on your estimated time. Not wanting to put pressure on myself about time, I placed myself in the very last pen, preferring to be able to over take others rather than being overtaken.
Looking at those in the pen in front, including the pacers, I thought that I had perhaps underestimated myself. But I decided to stick to the safety of the slower pen regardless.
The first three to four miles were rather frustrating. Not only were the roads not closed off, but those runners who put themselves in the faster pens were rather slow. Therefore the first miles required either over taking the slower runners via the busy road or simply waiting it out. I did a bit of both, overtaking when there was space to do so and following slowly behind when overtaking was not possible.
Eventually the runners starting to space out, allowing me the space I needed to concentrate on pacing and form. That said, we still had the roads, pavements and cycle paths that were not free from obstacles. After a while I managed to zone these out and get into my head space.
Running along the River to Kingston upon Thames was a treat, lovely views, great running weather and I generally felt quite at peace. Whilst others were stopping at water stations I was trotting on past, regularly sipping on my electrolyte infused water – therefore not needing to hydrate.
I pushed through for many many miles before I started thinking about taking on an energy jelly. In my 14 mile long run a few weeks prior I stopped half way through to take this on. This time round I kept asking myself “how to do you feel?” “do you really need this yet.” I did not feel like I needed it, though I forced myself to break into a fast march at mile eight, telling myself that it was the sensible thing to do. I still had 5 miles after all. I am glad I did after hearing that others had passed out at the finish line.
Around this point I was back along the river heading towards Hampton Court. A nice flat stretch with plenty to take in. Before I knew it I was at the Hampton Court Palace garden gates and low and behold I spotted a white flag in front……a pacer.
I kept my eye on that flag over the next few miles and noted that it was getting closer and closer. Or rather, I was getting closer and closer. To the point where at mile 11 I was on their heels and five minutes later they were a distance memory. So overjoyed at my accomplishment, I was swept away with emotion for a brief moment, before remembering I still had a couple of miles to go.
So I pressed on, wanting to stop, but knowing I can overcome that feeling in my mind. So I kept running and did not stop until I passed that finish line.
Seeing my good friend Jo ahead with the medals made me weep a little, all the emotion I had been bottling up or trying to bottle up almost spilt over. It was when she asked me my time that I realised what I had done.
Not only had I over taken and beat the pacer back, but I had also run the half marathon 22 minutes faster than the race at Hackney in May 2016. If I had knocked off another 5 minutes I would have also come in before the the 2:20 pacer…..a goal for next time perhaps?
I left this race on an extreme high. It proved to me that I have the power to control my mind, to push myself through and that the training I have been putting in is having a positive effect on my overall endurance.
This was a great race for me. Not only has it boosted my confidence in myself and my ability, it has also made me realise that finishing the London Marathon is starting to become obtainable.
I just need to keep believing.