It was so great to finally be at a race that really felt like the events I was used to pre-pandemic for the ABP Southampton Half Marathon. It was amazing to experience that buzz around the race village and at the start line again. I absolutely loved having Max among the crowd and being waved off and welcomed back over the finish line by him. It was a whole new exciting atmosphere for him too, being a lockdown baby he’d never seen so many people gathered together in his entire life! Even though I didn’t quite manage to scrape a new postpartum PB, there were so many positives about the day - along with a few lessons still to be learnt!
I was really excited to finally meet some of the online running community in real life and to run with Chloe (@the.running.psychologist). But I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to race and talk and I was worried she’d be extremely bored running alongside me in virtual silence for 13.1 miles. We found each other in the race village and headed for the start line, admiring another woman who was racing with her daughter in the buggy! As soon as the race got underway we started chatting about running, parenthood and generally putting the world to rights and the first 8 miles absolutely flew by! I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my watch and realised we’d been running for well over an hour!
It was hotter and hillier than I thought it would be and I started to struggle as we approached the last 5k. But as my conversation replies became more and more minimal, Chloe became my personal motivational speaker, reminding me that I could do it. Without her, I think I would have most likely walked some if not all of the final mile. Along with her relentless positivity, thankfully the very last section of the course was downhill to the finish line (after a seemingly never-ending hill from about mile 10), and although at the time I was gutted to miss out on a PB, I’m actually really pleased with my finish time and the fact my pace was so consistent throughout the run.
My original plan with pacing had been to start to push a bit faster after the first 10k, but I kept pushing it back a few miles, or reasoning with myself that I might as well wait until after the next big hill, but I still managed a sprint finish over the line, which compensated (in my mind at least!) for the lack of negative splits. What I still really need to work on for future longer distance races is my fuelling - the jelly babies I’d brought along just didn’t cut it this time! I could definitely do with a bit more energy for the final push for the last few miles.
I was really glad to be able to have a sip of water from my hydration pack whenever I fancied it, especially as it was such a warm day, but I was also grateful for the plentiful water stations interspersed along the course. I loved the fact that the water was in recyclable cardboard cartons as opposed to plastic bottles, and even though it wasn’t cold it wasn’t as hot as the water in my vest became! However, I heard that some of the water stations ran out of stock before all the marathon runners were finished - not such good news if you’re relying on them for a full 26.2 miles!
This race was by far the biggest event I’ve taken part in since before the pandemic began and it was so encouraging to have so many supporters along the course. They ranged from singers and cheerleaders, to people spraying cool water from hoses in their front gardens, to people offering sweets and fruit, to people simply smiling and cheering. Each and every one of them provided some much needed extra motivation, but I particularly loved the inventive and hilarious variety of signs a particular group were waving. One read “Toenails are overrated” while another said “Hurry up my arms hurt!”. I also always love to see children holding out a “Tap here to power up” sign too - possibly my favourite!
It was just a shame that in amongst the crowd cheering us on were several groups of anti vaccine protesters scattered along the course holding big yellow placards. They were claiming that the COVID jab (that the vast majority of us have already received) is a government ruse to track our every move instead of a potentially life saving vaccination, and to be avoided at all costs. When I first approached them I thought I was about to get a great motivation boost only to be bitterly disappointed.
The course itself was really interesting and varied, and the views over the river and the docks went some way to balancing out the hilly sections. I really enjoyed running through the shady parks, but it was fun to be able to run along closed roads in the city centre too. It gives you a whole new perspective of the area, and I was surprised when I suddenly recognised little landmarks and realised whereabouts I was. It was also a novelty to run through the centre of the football stadium, through the players’ tunnel and along a red carpet. This variety of scenery was definitely a good distraction from the distance left to cover!
The full marathon course was essentially two laps of the course I ran. I couldn’t imagine doing it twice as I gratefully followed Chloe over the finish line, but I would still love to run a full marathon somewhere sometime soon - hopefully 2022 will be my year!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you can read more about my other recent races here. Maybe you’ll be inspired to sign up for next year’s events! You can also read more about my postpartum running journey here. Don’t forget to subscribe to be the first to know about any news and updates, just enter your email address at the bottom of the page. Thanks!