Its been a weird day today. I’m sat here trying to think of the words to explain myself after this mornings shocking performance at Stratford Half Marathon today and I’m struggling. I’m not one for excuses, so please don’t think thats what I’m doing here, I just want to tell my story of what was the hardest race I have ever done. Bear with me, I’m just going to go for it.
I was ready for this race. I had two half marathons under my belt this year and had pb’d at both of them, and in training had been averaging nearly a minute faster a mile, everything was consistent and I was confident going into the race that I was going to have a good time, and knock off another few minutes from my pb. Today was all about practicing pacing and fuelling ready for Outlaw 70.3, no biggie, no pressure. I made sure that I kept hydrated in the few days running up to the race, and also that my nutrition was on point, I’ve never been one for carb loading, I prefer to start a few days earlier and just up the intake a little bit, so far, this approach has worked for me, rather than the one time I did carb load and spent the entire night waking myself up farting and the race running into every portaloo!
Anyway, enough of my intolerance’s, the race! I had a strategy in mind for today, to pace myself at 10 min/miles for the first 7 and get over the hill and then see how I felt and drop the pace to 10:30 if I needed to, maybe taking the 4:1 run/walk approach again and I was looking at finishing in 2:15….ish. As I waited at the start I was really relaxed, I’d met up with Daz and Greg and I felt fresh, hydrated and ready to go. Soon enough we were off and Daz and Greg were off and gone by the time I had run to the first corner, I knew I had to keep an eye on my pace, I’m crap at running to feel so for the first mile I held back a bit and kept an eye on the watch, but something felt wrong, I ignored it and carried on to mile 2, yeah, something was really wrong, already I was dropping off pace by some margin and it was feeling hard work and I didn’t know why. I knew that the most important thing today was finishing, so although sooner than planned, I switched to the 4:1 run/walk that I had planned to use later on in the race.
Usually, the weather would have been perfect for me today, but with the pollen count through the roof the damp weather was making it difficult for me to breathe, I don’t carry my inhaler anymore, I’ve only used it three times since I gave up smoking 5 1/2 years ago, so soon enough, I found myself at 4 miles, stepping off the road, race belt off, in tears trying to work out how I would get back to the start. I was way off pace, and still had 9 miles to get through where I was struggling to fill my lungs and I felt it was an impossible task. I went to call a friend and saw a message from Neil wishing me good luck, so after an exchange of messages I decided to take a gel and carry on, see if I could get a little further. Now I have hit a wall before during half marathons, but never, NEVER only 4 miles in, this was going to be a long morning!
I got to 5 miles where there were some marshals directing traffic, I was still in tears, and again, I stepped off the road and sat on the verge, I told the marshal I was done, I read the messages coming in from Neil and Pilla, who by now had turned into my very own support crew, I cried a bit, then I just got up and ran off (in the right direction!) with the intention of getting to mile 6. By the time I got here my form was awful from running so slowly and I had stomach cramps. If I scrunched down the stomach cramps would go, but this was killing my lower back, if I sorted out my form and pulled my shoulders back the stomach cramps came back and I would double over again. To put it bluntly, I was having a shit time and I was doing more walking than I was running and any strategy that I might have had was out the window. I felt completely defeated and felt so embarrassed. I’d no idea what was wrong. Now, I don’t know swimming or cycling very well and I ask lots of questions, but running? I know running, but today I felt like a complete beginner, whatever it was that was happening to me, I didn’t have the answers and I didn’t know what to do.
Neil was checking in regularly and sending messages of support, I can say now that I wouldn’t have got through had it not been for this, so Neil and Pilla, you are quite simply amazing, thank you. I’d also sent a message to Daz who by now would have been finished to say I was having a shit time and that I would catch up with him soon, he sent me some words of encouragement which also helped me get my head down for a couple of miles. At 9 miles I had a toenail issue and my runners had started turning pink, ok good. Seriously, why running gods did you chose today? Did you pick me and chuck ALL your shit at me for fun?! Grrrrrrrrr!
I turned a corner onto the Greenway with 3 miles left to go and saw Regency Runner Jodie and her boyfriend Chris, I burst into tears and ran over to them just saying that I couldn’t go any further, everything hurt, I was on for my slowest ever time and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. They were great, they promised to be at the finish and they reminded me how close I was and sent me on my way, in tears, again.
I can’t really remember the last three miles, apart from that they hurt, a lot. Jodie and Chris were at the finish line as promised as was Jo who had a fantastic race with a pb!
So yes, today was the hardest half marathon I have ever done, it couldn’t have gone worse, and I don’t have any answers, I just wasn’t good enough on the day; it just wasn’t my day for running today. I learnt a lot about myself, the old Loz would have given up at 4 miles, she would have walked in the opposite direction and gone back to the start and then felt shit for weeks, the new Loz didn’t do that, she carried on when she hurt so much she could barely shuffle let alone try and call it running. She ran through all the tears and she avoided tantrums, she listened to her friends when they told her that she could do it and she finished the race. She thought she was done 9 miles before the end of the race and she still finished, nothing did that but her and her gutsy determination.
I know that the half marathon at the end of Outlaw 70.3 is going to be tough, I’ve always known that, but today I got a taste of just how tough it is going to be. I’m going to hurt all the way around, I know that, so if I can do that for 9 miles, I can certainly do it if needed for 13.1, and within cut off time which is a bonus. What could have been a negative today has somehow been turned into a positive, I’m pleased that I have been able to do this, again, the old Lozza wouldn’t have been able to. Yes, admittedly I had a tantrum when I got home and I let out the sillies on the phone to Saz as we tried to work out what happened, but I am comfortable with it, I did it and I can’t change it and I can’t hide it. It is what it is.