As part of my ongoing #18in18 Challenge this year I’ve been trying to fit in a half marathon if I’ve been in a particular location.
After enjoying it so much last year, I decided to travel back to London for the Westminster Mile/London 10000 double header.
That, of course, meant that my original plan to run the Newry Half Marathon the same weekend had to be scrapped so I looked for an alternative in London.
Step forward RunThrough and the Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon on Saturday.
This was perfect for me in many ways.
I’ve long wanted to try out a RunThrough event but the timing was never right for me.
This time it fell perfectly, wouldn’t mess with my schedule plus it was being held in the Olympic Park at the Velodrome. As a big cycling fan this really couldn’t have been much better!
With things kicking off at 9am, and my hotel in South Wimbledon, it meant an early start to make it across to Stratford in good time.
In the end I made it with plenty to spare, even allowing for a bit of a mix up as to how to get there.
I’ve been to the Velodrome a couple of times, and whilst I knew how to get there I did get momentarily confused as to the best way.
Given the forecast I wasn’t disappointed that it was drizzling slightly as I was getting prepared, but that soon went much to my cost later in the race!
A half marathon is a distance to be respected, and despite this being my fifth in a couple of months I was still a bit apprehensive as I lined up.
The route concerned me, 13 laps of a circuit designed with cyclists in mind. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The small field afforded me no room to hide. I knew I’d be near the back but with a number of other races of different distances starting at staggered times my position really wouldn’t become evident until the end.
I intended to start off slowly, to ease myself into it and get a feel for the course for the first couple of laps.
That didn’t go very well.
My first mile was two minutes faster than I expected. Not that I was complaining. I felt good, but I knew I had to slow it a bit.
I managed that on the next couple of laps, but they were still faster than I had thought they’d be.
However, I decided to try to embrace this.
Handily, the start/finish area loomed after every half-a-mile so I aimed to get to it in a certain time every lap to keep my pace up.
I managed this for eight miles before I really started to suffer.
The early drizzle had long since disappeared, it was a baking hot day on an exposed course which offered only a little shade.
I began to feel sick and queasy and, for the first time in a race, I considered pulling out. There was no point risking my health with two more races ahead of me this weekend.
Coming round to finish mile nine I completely misjudged how much I’d done. I was convinced I’d only done seven but I looked at my Garmin and felt a sheer wave of delight mixed with relief wash over me when I saw I had ran further than I had expected.
Boosted by this I decided to take a comfort break. The great thing about this was that I was able to use the facilities in the Velodrome itself, no portaloos here!, so I took a few minutes to gather myself, splash copious amounts of water over my face and return to the race.
I felt like a new man. I was thinking more clearly, I felt reinvigorated and mentally able to tackle the remainder of the race.
I should comment at this point on the course itself. It’s a mile loop outside the London 2012 Olympic Velodrome and, as you’d expect, is designed for cyclists which means undulating terrain.
I wouldn’t call them hills, but there are enough short, sharp climbs to make it quite challenging after a while. Granted, what goes up must come down, but the downs never seemed to balance out the toughness of the ups!
Back to the race, at two-thirds of the way round mile nine I saw this girl being treated by the medical staff on site.
She seemed quite distressed and although I wasn’t sure what her injury was (did she fall? was it the conditions?) it did make me consider my own health again.
I felt ok, but I constantly monitored how I was.
I was concerned about the girl, and as I passed her on each lap I tried to see how she was without rubbernecking. She was being well cared for and seemed alert, which was comforting. Quite a few other runners showed concern too. It could easily have been any of us in different circumstances.
Happily I can report I witnessed her being pushed over the finish line in a wheelchair, arms aloft, so I hope she’s on the road to recovery.
As for my own race, as I said earlier I was going ok for the first eight miles but after feeling ill and so on I opted to stop worrying about time and just get this thing done.
I knew, barring something going really wrong, that I would comfortably make the 3-hour cut-off time so I just counted the laps down.
My time wasn’t awful considering my issues, and I improved on my last two races which was good.
Despite the heat, the up and down nature of the route, and my own dramas I really enjoyed it.
I’d heard RunThrough were friendly events and so it proved. The marshals, stewards and staff made everyone feel welcome, amazing free photos on Facebook and the bling wasn’t bad either!
My only disappointment was forgetting to buy a technical t-shirt afterwards, and by the time I remembered the staff had started to pack up.
I’ll get one next time … and there will be a next time! If you’re in London and have the opportunity to take part in a RunThrough event then I urge you to do it!
That’s five of the 18 completed, a busy couple of months await but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
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A massive thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far.