Last weekend, Greenwich Park turned a minty shade of green as 19.000 runners competed in Run To The Beat, Nike’s music half marathon. Last weekend, I did what no one ever expected me to do (including myself) and finished my very first half marathon. By the time I crossed that finish line, dragged along by my lovely Camille who grabbed my hand and ran those final metres with me, I was sobbing my eyes out.
Why? Well, I’d just finished a half marathon, something I never thought I would or could, let alone barely 6 months after taking up running. I was also crying because I couldn’t help but feeling bitterly disappointed by my performance, knowing I could have done so much better and that my time (3h00 49secs) didn’t reflect the work I put into getting to this point. Circumstances made it impossible for me to do any training whatsoever over the last 3 weeks, which meant I was completely unprepared for this huge challenge.
Some of the tears were because I’d never actually run this far. Ever. 14k was the closest I’d come during my training, so seeing 21k on my running app was huge. And last, and most definitely not least, some tears were caused by pain. I was in absolute agony, my whole body hurt and an old hip injury returned with a vengeance. I could barely walk by the end. Those final few steps, where I gave literally all I had left, were the most emotional steps I’d ever taken. So yes, I cried like a little baby when I crossed that line – it was a big moment for me.
The Run To The Beat course, starting and ending in Greenwich Park, was equally wonderful as it was terrible; whilst the many steep hills completely threw me off my pace, the incredible views along the Thames, the O2, the historic park made up for it. Run To The Beat is also a music event, so DJ’s were placed along the course to entertain the 19.000 runners (personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the music – extremely loud drum ‘n bass type music, so I just turned up my own headphones to ignore the noise), with a special performance by Jessie J at the finish festival.
My personal performance may not have been great, but that wasn’t helped by a number of problems along the course. A vital water stop by the Royal Artillery Barracks got completely blocked, which caused a jam and meant we were forced to stand still for almost 10 mins (I heard some people even waited for 15 mins), throwing everyone off pace. I was then told to skip the water stop altogether and that my next drink would be in 2 miles. As it started off being a hot day, I needed that hydration, so myself and a lot of other runners had to resort to going inside a pub or shop to get our water bottles refilled. A number of other bottlenecks caused further delays, which the organisers have since apologised for. So my 3hr time may not have been great, but I’m sure I could have done a lot better if it weren’t for these issues. I also don’t really agree with handing out coconut water along the course instead of water or a sports drink, just because Vita Coco was a main sponsor. Back at the festival village, the atmosphere truly fantastic, but I definitely feel like Nike’s We Own The Night back in May was a lot better organised.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with my first half marathon experience?.I learned a lot. It’s hard. It’s emotional. It’s a very, very long way to run and no one who can get you to the end but yourself. I gave everything I had but I walked far more than I wanted to, which was definitely disappointing. But along those final 3 miles, it was the locals who got me through: the lovely elderly ladies handing out Haribo sweets along the streets, the little kids screaming encouragement as if they hadn’t been standing there for 2 hours, the smiles, kind words and claps from people who didn’t know me but wanted me to succeed. There’s a lot to be said about the support along the course and without them I definitely would have given up, so thank you so much for all who came out and cheered us on. Also a big thank you for all of your tweets, messages, emails and to those who sponsored my run.
Will I do it again? Hell yes! I’ve already signed up for priority entry next year, and you can bet I’ll be training my ass off to do a lot better next time. If you’re a newbie runner like me, you can do this too – it’s not easy, but it’s possible, that much I proved on Sunday.
p.s. Last but not least, a big congrats to Camille, who ran this one like a boss!