Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Amazing Hurt

Oowww....... they hurt...... so much!! My poor little legs...

Well, Sunday was the big day. My first ever race. Not only that - it was half a marathon.

I posted before about taking up running to try and improve my fitness, ready for Kili. I also decided to enter the Bristol Half-Marathon so that I wouldn't wimp out from my training. It all went reasonably well in the first few months. I gradually increased the distances I was running from about 5 minutes down my street, to about 10km. The highlight was when I ran to work at the end of July, which took me an hour and five minutes to cover the 10.5km (ie, half a half-marathon).

However, after that life kind of got in the way. My bike had various problems, so I stopped cycling to work. We then went on holiday, which was great for hiking experience, but did not really contribute to my running practice. When we got back from Wales, my left knee started hurting, so I decided not to overdo it by training too much. And then suddenly it was nearly the 17th of September and I'd done nothing to build on my fabulous run to work, and if anything, I had got more out of shape.

Therefore, my strategy for the race was to take it as slow as possible and just aim to complete it. Although I told myself that my time didn't matter, the little competitive voice in the back of my head kept reminding me that in previous training sessions I had managed an average of about 10 minutes per mile, so I could keep that up for 13 and a bit miles, I should be able to finish the race in 2 hours and 10 minutes. Of course, the sensible voice told me that there was no way I could keep that up for so long, so I thought that if I finished in 2hours and 30 minutes, that would be a good result.

The day started very early, as Jon volunteered to marshal, and he was required to be there by 8am, even though the race only started at 9:30. I used the early morning to explore where all the toilets were, where I could leave my bag and collect my free sports drinks. I'd been drinking lots of fluids prior to getting there, so before the race I actually visited the loos three times. The final time there was a humungous queue, so it was only after 9:30 that I actually got out. Still, it was good timing, as the start was delayed and with about 15,000 people in front of me, it didn't matter that I joined the back of the start a bit late.

I eventually crossed the start line at about 9:45, with my Championchip recording my exact start time. The first four miles in the glorious sunshine felt pretty good, and the sheer number of runners prevented me from running too fast too soon. I stopped around mile 5 to stretch my legs and grab a drink, but I had to do this more and more frequently as the race wore on. The route then took us along the Portway underneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge by the side of the River Avon. This was a nice long stretch of road, so I just got into a good rythm, focused on my breathing and got on with it.

My breathing pattern was completely messed up on several occasions though. I saw a couple of friends unexpectedly amongst the supporting onlookers and it was such a boost to the system to be able to shout a few words to each other across the mass of people. There were also some very funny moments, such as running for about a mile behind the guy who wore nothing but some red devil's horns and a black leather thong! The chafing must have been terrible!

Then there were the times when I nearly burst into tears, especially in the last mile or so. By the end, my leg muscles and hip joints were really hurting, but the crowd grew thick and the encouragement from them and the marshals was amazing. I also just couldn't believe that I actually made it all the way round and was just about to complete a half-marathon. This is why I looked so miserable when I was about to cross the finish line.

The fish and chips afterwards were wonderful - all approved post-race meal you understand, with plenty of carbs, protein, fats and salt to replenish your enegry reserves.

However, the worst bit was yet to come. My legs were really, really achy afterwards and despite plenty of stretching, Monday saw me hobbling around the office like an old woman. Even today I can feel my legs being achy, but I can actually walk without limping now.

Overall, it was a really fantastic day. I achieved something I never thought possible, and survived all in one piece. And best of all, my time was 2 hours, 10 minutes and 31 seconds! I'm already looking at registering for the Bath Half-Marathon, which would motivate me to keep training through the winter. If I just train a bit more and practise some longer distances before the race itself, hopefully I'll reduce the post-race pain and maybe even improve on my time... who knows?

So Andy... How about the Jungfrau Marathon next year...?


Blogger Andrew said...

Wow - fantastic achievement, Esther. Definitely putting the pressure on all of us to step it up a gear or 3.
2 hours 10 minutes, eh - Paula Radcliffe, eat your heart out.
Nice arty snaps, Jon ;-)

9:21 AM  
Blogger MRS M said...

Well done Esther! I hope the legs recover soon. I'm beginning to get a bit worried now as there's no way I could run even half a 1/2 marathon! Still, there's 5 months to go....

9:48 AM  

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