Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Heartbreak Half 2012

The moment we began running in the 200 strong crowd at the start line of the Heartbreak Half, I started having some doubts. Run training in the last couple of months has not exactly been top of my list and whilst I’ve done a couple of steady 9 or 10 milers, I suddenly had a sinking feeling that I hadn’t adequately prepared for the hilly 14 mile off-road epic that was about to ensue. Nonetheless, I had a running buddy, Ruth, so I knew there would be plenty of chat to keep me going.

Almost straight away we were onto a lovely undulating forest track; I had just about settled into a very pleasant, relaxed rhythm when the first big climb was upon us. I was still fresh-legged and optimistic so I bounded upwards; jovially making quips about if this “was just the warm up”.

It was not. That first, fairly arduous ascent set the pace for the rest of the route. Constant up and down was hard going on the legs but it wasn’t until shortly after one of the turnaround points that I realised quite how easily we were taking it. In fact I realised that I haven’t been doing much running hard for quite a long time, I’ve settled very nicely into this comfortable, steady pootle that is just perfect for having a good natter.

We hit another long hill and Ruth said “I might have to meet you at the top of this one”, so I strode out a bit and as I overtook a couple of other women, the adrenaline kicked in. By halfway up the hill I was pushing hard, pumping my arms and eyeing up the next runner to chase down. When I reached the top, I was so excited that I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even look back.

Once I passed the drinks station I started to feel a bit guilty that I’d just left Ruth and run on. But the feeling of guilt was being outweighed enormously by the feeling of pushing the body hard and running fast for once! I was letting my legs go wild on the downhill sections, running only just within the limits of my own control with the carefree attitude of a small child whose feet are going too quickly for their legs. The sun was absolutely beaming down on the ridge, I couldn’t tell if I was actually getting a tiny bit sunburnt in February or if it was sheer exertion emanating purely through my face.

After the next turnaround point I passed Ruth on the return leg and was very happy indeed that she high-fived me on the way past. Phew! She wasn’t mad at me! Now that my conscious had been wiped clean I only had one thing in mind: running as fast as I possibly could to the end. My pace had shot up and I just wanted to try to hold it there for the remainder of the run. The last big descent and ascent felt tough and the home stretch on the road seemed far, far longer than it had done on the way out, when we were casually chatting.

I could barely break into a sprint for the finish and when I crossed the line I couldn’t speak or even lift my leg up (without support) to give back the timing chip. Once I’d had my free soup and roll though, I felt instantly better!

A very tough, but thoroughly enjoyable run.

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