11 Year’s ago my mother turned fifty and was determined to tick some things off her bucket list. Now whilst I wasn’t able to help specifically on her life’s passion to see all of the UNESCO world heritage sites (one of those of course being the wreck of the Titanic) one of the things was to do a half marathon.
This was a completely ridiculous idea for many reasons but I couldn’t say no and so we signed up to our local home half marathon. I was living away at the time and was training in between studying for my masters but literally was only 5km here or there. My mum on the other hand totally underestimated what she would need to do and continued to walk the dogs daily but did limited other training.
As the day arrived we got to the starting pens and ‘excited’ was one word the other being f***ing terrified. We crossed the line on Palm Sunday, March 2007 and embarked on a route we largely knew well but had never ‘run’. We got probably a couple of miles in and then it was walking for a bit and that was then the process for this half marathon. Oh we were getting round. In whatever state. Just not very fast.
Through a water stop manned by an ex-boyfriends mum and several of Kent’s most rather quaint and lovely country roads and even a pub (mum wasn’t a fan of a nature wee) we got 2 miles from home and I thought…my god, we are actually going to do this. We were being overtaken a lot and I admit (and something I am sorry for) I got very cross with my mum as I was desperate not to be last. I had made a promise we would cross the line together and I couldn’t break that. Although it felt like it was killing me.
About a mile from the end my dad met us and willed us on. The finish of this particular run is in an industrial estate (how salubrious) but even though we were bringing up the rear, quite literally, the support was still amazing. With 100m to go I grabbed mum’s hand and even though she kept telling me she couldn’t I dragged her and me across the line. We finished very near to the end in 2 hours 40 minutes. I vowed never to do anything so silly again.
Yet 11 year’s later having done the 100km London to Brighton twice and cycling 132 miles in 3 non-stop challenges in 2 years I found myself on a ‘rest’ year and in the need of something to focus on so I decided to book in my home half marathon after a lazy prosecco fuelled evening (always the best). When I hit ‘go’ it finally dawned on me what I had done and my first thought was…crap. I keep telling myself I’m a runner for fun and fitness, which I am, and definitely not for races because I am ridiculously competitive with myself. I didn’t used to time myself because then I couldnt ever be disappointed if I had an ‘off’ day. Yes I know this is ridiculous!
I told people my aim was to do this half marathon in less than 2 hours. That meant a 9:09 per mile pace or better. I knew I could smash that over short distances but over longer distances…that was new territory. I had no idea.
I’m a firm believer in doing these types of things for your own personal gain but not at the expense of totally ruining your life as well e.g. living and breathing it, unless of course that is what you want to do. It’s difficult enough as it is when you work long hours not to beat yourself up about not always having the time to train. Yet I continued the same training rotation I had for the last 2.5 Years exercising at least 5 days a week and just changed the exercise I did to suit this new challenge.
I ran when it was hot, raining, sleeting, even snowing to train for this run under the firm conviction that the only way I was going to be able to do this was to work my arse off to prove to my harshest critic (myself) that whatever happened I would have done my best.
I knew I could run 5k. I’ve done it loads of times, I had even started running 6.5k more regularly but that was it. I hadn’t tried further. The first time I did 7, 9 then 10miles I was pleased to see that I had matched the pace I needed but I also was wondering if I could actually do that last 5km. The furthest I ran before the half marathon was just under 10miles.
I’d had problems with my tummy. If I ate before a run then it made my stomach hurt so bad I couldn’t run, didn’t matter if it was an hour for or 3hours before. Could I actually do this? I knew a lot of this was psychological but still it was playing on my mind.
In any case race day came. Mother’s Day (one of my favourite days) 2018. My parents were even coming to see me finish and my other half was there to drop me off hang around and generally be ridiculously supportive as usual. I had done all I could and I knew I was as ready as I was going to be. I was boosted by the heap of congratulatory messages, videos and the card that dropped through my letterbox from my wonderful friends in Australia who sent the best good luck card I have ever received entitled ‘Run Charlie Run’ – even if it was adorned with multiples of my own face as they had stolen half my instagram pictures.
I broke two traditions on that run. I ate before the run and I drank water during it. I was hoping that wasn’t going to come back to bite me.
The race started well and I was feeling good. I knew very quickly however that I went out too fast. I smashed through 5km without really blinking and as the weather heated up I thought I needed to slow down otherwise I was going to struggle. I normally run solo so running with people started to make me more competitive.
At 5miles the route does a loop up and back on itself which adds 2miles total. It’s a horrible feeling when you know you are running up and people are already 2miles ahead running back the other way – particularly when one of those guys is in a wedding dress! As I got past 7miles I was flagging and I admit I had to walk for a little bit…I told myself off and got myself going again until about 8.5miles where I was flagging badly and the gentle slope in front of me felt like a mountain. I decided to walk it.
As I started walking I heard this voice behind me telling me I had to run. This guy (lets call him Steve as I didn’t know his name) said he had been behind me for the last few miles and he wasn’t going to see me quit. Steve told me to come on and run with him. So I did and Steve got me past the mini wall and talked to me, told me I was on course for a sub 2 easily (I had been too scared to check). He was probably early fifties and this was his fourth Surrey half and he was doing his second marathon in May. For the next 2 miles to the water station we chatted and I kept his pace then I diverted for water and he didn’t. I didn’t think I would catch him again.
By that point I knew it was less than 5km left. I could do this. I could actually do this. I almost burst into tears at that point.
The support was amazing, with your name on your number you get everyone shouting for everyone and it’s makes you smile every time someone says your name. Until you turn around at one point and realise there is another Charlotte behind you and you realise that it was most definitely her they were cheering for. Bugger.
At 12.75 miles I finally caught up with Steve. He was struggling and he told me to go on. That last 0.25mile was probably the hardest I’ve ever run, as I ran down the final stretch massively fighting back the urge to vomit I could see the clock and it was under 2hours, well under. My final official time was 1:53:34 seconds.
Turns out my parents didn’t make it to the end. They got lost trying to park (apparently they don’t read emails correctly) and my boyfriend was on the phone to them as I crossed the line so the first official picture of me crossing the line is this one after Steve had just congratulated me and told me I must be really happy with my time. I was. I really was and I still am.
I celebrated with an inordinate amount of food that day including a roast dinner that came with a cottage pie on the side. No joke. And perhaps some prosecco.
I told myself I would only do that one half marathon and then relax
But I think its inevitable I will do another. Maybe. Probably. Definitely.
I never thought I would be a runner, I never thought I would enjoy running but I really do. I know its not for everyone and it took a lot of hard graft to get to this point but it just shows how much determination (and Bishop stubborness) can pay off.
For me it was the genuine dislike for paying a gym membership that got me running and indeed cycling and doing indoor aerobics. Why pay for the gym when you can do so much outside (or in your living room) in actually any weather if you are brave enough and can motivate yourself to do it?! Little bits at a time really make a difference and for those that prefer the motivation of others there are plenty of beginners groups for any sport at any age out there and for those that prefer the freedom of running solo….then what are you waiting for??
You may even surprise yourself. I know I have.