Uncharacteristically I am at a loss for words over last weekend. As you will know my half marathon was looming and last minute preparations were sub-optimal at best, what with the hamstring strain, the wasp attack, getting soaked to the knicker elastic bring the mares in during a storm, stabbing myself in the eye on a blade of straw and falling in a patch of nettles. I was not going to ride on Saturday, just in case I fell off and broke something that I might need (like my mind). Having read that REST was the main requirement, I tried to do that but ended up mucking out 5 stables under the guise of "pottering about".
And then the day arrived: Sunday! It began with a 4:30am start - argh. I woke up from a dream where I could not get to sleep, flapping about not getting enough rest before the marathon. In the end I got about 5 hours I think, having woken at 2am and then really struggled to get back to sleep. Not. Nearly. Enough!
You may not ever have pondered the practical requirements of what it takes to prepare for race day but let me tell you this. No matter how much you would rather die than eat breakfast at that hour of the morning, you gotta chug it down. All I could manage was half a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. No matter how much you would rather grab that extra half hour in bed, you gotta get up and move around, drink lots of coffee to ensure all, er, evacuations have been completed. I didn't want to contemplate what getting caught short in the middle of a marathon would look like, and there are horror stories everywhere about runners' trots. Ack. Then there's the hydration - this is good and easy but a matter for serious consideration when you have a bladder the size of a pea. Then there's the energy gels, the protein shakes, the electrolytes - it is a serious business.
So, leave the house at 5:30, drive to work in SE London to leave car, since the earliest train was never going to get us there on time. Arrive 6:40, get train to London Bridge and tube f*ckery meant a lot of additional walking etc to get to Hyde Park Corner before 8am (!) for race start time of 9am. Spend at least half an hour queuing for the loos (vital, this) and in the end leave Sid and Noodal in the baggage queue while I went to my starting funnel (blue). In fact the entire journey could be described as a serious of emergency visits to the loo, interspersed by a variety of transport mechanisms.
So the other thing about participating in a race with 16,000 other people is that it takes ages to get started, as everyone goes off in their various funnels, according to their expected finishing time. I was hoping to finish in about 2:08. By the time we got to the starting point we'd been standing (and stretching and jumping up and down) for about half an hour. It's a challenge trying to keep your muscles warm, as well as trying not to accidentally punch anyone in the face while attending to the warm bit.
So eventually we were off! I had my race strategy mapped out, which was to set off at a steady pace and then move up a gear from mile 7. I very much enjoyed the run around London, past Buck House, through Trafalgar Square, along the Embankment, past the Eye and so on, also enjoying the other runners dressed in outlandish costumes - and feeling a whole new respect for them. It's enough of an achievement to run a half marathon in my view, let alone attempting to do so while dressed as a squirrel, or a giant penis.
Anyway. By the time mile 7 came along I realised that there was going to be no going up a gear and that I would do well to maintain current pace. Argh. I was hoping to be spurred on by the ignominy of being passed by people older or more rotund than me, but all I could do was think elbows and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The last part of the race was through Kensington Gardens - who knew it was so bloody big. This was a real trial. I had to stop and walk twice until I realised that walking was worse, so I just kept on. I saw Sid and Noodal once on the course; they saw me three times :) The thing that really kept me going and digging deep was the supporters, lots of random strangers shouting "come on Rach" that meant more to me than I will ever be able to let them know. Hopefully my smiles of gratitiude were enough to convey it. Luckily I had had the presence of mind to fortify the latter half of the race with a stirring mix of Noisia, Pendulum and Parov Stelar. Even more luckily I realised on Saturday night that I had not yet synched my iPhone and came very close to leaving the sodding playlist behind on iTunes. That would have been very bad.
By the time we got to mile 12 I was muttering darkly about why anyone would do this voluntarily. Then back in Hyde Park on the final straight a runner fell over in front of me, so I had to stop and help her. She was very dazed and upset (I can just imagine) but she was ok after a few moments and carried on. I knew by this point of course that I wouldn't get near my time but in any case I couldn't just pass by.
Eventually, there was the finish line. ARGGGHHHHHHHH. Felt a moment of purest delight and gratitude, which was then swamped by screaming quads. Not even the merest glimpse of an endorphin rush. This from the woman who can give herself an endorphin rush pretty much on demand by the simple expedient of listening to her favourite running tunes while driving home.
Had to then walk miles to find Sid and Noodal - the event was MASSIVE and I must say I resented every sodding step by this point - lol. All I wanted was a coffee and a doughnut but the queues were mahoosive so we just went home. The tube was torture; packed to the rafters with running types and me not knowing what to do with myself, wishing only for a teleportation device. Eventually made it home at 3:30pm, so a very long day indeed. At least dehydration kept the need for the bog at bay.
Most people would have had enough by then but we knew that there was a heavy bank of rain approaching, so there was the matter of prepping four stables and getting the girls in before the heavens opened. And then - finally - some rest :)
My chip time was 2:26:09, so well off my target pace but not really surprising considering the run up. However, I did beat my brother in law Tom's first half marathon time so that is good :)
So long as nobody mentions the R word to me for a while, I'll take some well-earned rest and start to think perhaps about doing another one.
The upshot is that I have raised almost £1000 for the Brooke, so very very chuffed with that!