Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alice Holt Parkrun & The Gosport Half Marathon

Support Crew Extraordinaire
I haven't done too much since the summer of bicycle accident madness, but I've been ticking away at the running and have bizarrely found myself keeping a fairly decent level of fitness whilst doing very little. Gosport Half Marathon had been on my radar all year for an attempt at a fast (for me) half and in the last few weeks, I started to believe I might be able to do it.

A bit foggy..
The weekend started with a warm up at an extremely foggy Alice Holt parkrun. My ever-prepared sister was an amazing one-man support crew all weekend and as a result, at any time I could have had any type of layering system, a selection of shoes, snacks and hot beverages in a range of flasks. We had unwittingly timed out visit to Alice Holt on their birthday, which meant there was a higher-than-normal amount of fluorescent clothing and lit-up parkrunners on display. It also meant there was plenty of cake, always a bonus.

The people at Alice Holt were a very friendly bunch and we chatted away before embarking on a backwards version of the course. A version that seemed to include a bit more up for your down. It was a nicely undulating, slightly mucky trail run around the forest and was really well supported. The only bad thing I have to say is that it's too far away to run it every week!

In vogue...
Onto Gosport Half. My virtual pacer was set and I was determined to try to stick to it and get as close as I could to a 1:50 finish. Shortly after registering, the skies opened and the 1500 or so runners huddled under any shelter they could find. It was torrential. My expert crew supplied me with a bin bag jacket but the rain stopped just in time with ten minutes to go before the race start.

I meandered my way through the crowd and found my fellow Salisbury bods, they were easily located by looking for Andy who is - conveniently - about a foot taller than everybody else.

After using stealth questioning techniques to establish who my main competition was, I realised I was only really in competition with myself and wished everyone a good race. It took just over a minute to reach the timing mat, after which the excitement kicked in and I ducked and weaved through the pack. It's very easy to over-compensate when you feel 'stuck' behind the masses. I convinced myself I was losing time but actually I'd started off plenty fast enough. I continued to over-compensate for the first six miles, ending with a turbo-boost of energy as I ran past my sister for the first time. 

Still in a very happy place at this point..

Shortly before the turnaround point which leads into the second loop, I had an energy dip. I ended up waving frantically at my sister for an energy gel as I ran back past her. Suddenly everything was hurting, my foot felt blistered and my knee was niggling and soon enough my belly felt a bit sick from the gel. The dip lasted for about a mile and a half before the sugar hit me and I found myself behind a very nice bottom where I decided I would stay for the time being. It's the little things that jolly you up when you're struggling in a race. The steel band that we passed definitely gave me a lift as did the smiliest marshal in the world who was telling everyone how amazing they looked. For that brief moment I actually believed her.

The sugar didn't last long, at 10 miles I was swiftly losing my advantage over the virtual pacer and my knee felt like it was going to fall off. Just after 11 miles, I was struggling to hold the pace and dropped behind. It wasn't until the 12 mile marker that I gave myself a firm talking to and tried to get the legs going again. In my tired state I completely miscalculated the push for the last 500m, going a bit too early. I was aghast but also glad to see the sign for the final 400m and on turning the corner, found a little bit extra once I could see the finish gate. I was delighted to come in just over 1:51.

The goody bag of every runner's dreams
The race was brilliant; a great route, well organised and superbly marshalled. The best bit though, was the goody bag. There's nothing more disappointing at the end of a race when you are knackered and achy, than looking excitedly into your bag of treats to find a stack of leaflets and an iron supplement. As my sister very wisely observed, who could possibly want one vitamin pill?! Gosport Road Runners left me with no such disappointment. My eyes widened as I peeked in the bag and saw exactly what every runner really wants, a bag full of food! Well done GRR, I will definitely be back.

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