As I sit here typing up my race recap for my third half marathon of 2021 it seems crazy to think that this time last year I was yet to begin my running comeback at all. I am so proud that I decided to go for it last January after putting it off time and again. Not only was this my third half marathon of the year, it was also my quickest with an official chip time of 2:05:20. What a way to end the year of the comeback!
I entered this race on a bit of a whim, wanting to try and squeeze in one more race of this distance before the end of December after being disappointed with my time at the Southampton half marathon back in September. The course promised to be flat and fast, and even though it would be four laps of a 5k course (plus an extra bit on the first lap), I decided to go for it. What I didn’t think about at the time was that by December the weather would turn much colder, paths would be more slippery and storms would be threatening my PB dreams. In the couple of weeks leading up to the race I was wondering if the weather would make me press pause on my time goal…
But the morning of the race dawned with glorious sunshine, hardly any wind and much milder conditions than the previous few weeks. At one point - probably about three laps in - I was wishing I had worn shorts! The fine conditions actually spurred me on to go even faster than my original goal.
Although there were runners taking on 5k, 10k and half marathon distances at the event organised by Purple Patch Running, there was only one mass start at 9am. I was a bit nervous about queues for bib collection and pre race loo trips but we actually got there in perfect time and the free car park was only about a minute’s walk from the start line! Despite all the participants starting together the course never felt hugely crowded, and by the final lap it felt as though we were almost the only ones left. Even before we finished the first lap we saw the 5k podium finishers being awarded their prizes! But the volunteers around the course kept us going and were so supportive from start to finish.
My lovely running buddy Roisin and I set off on the first mile as a warm up, keeping it a bit slower than target pace, but from then on I was really pleased to be ticking the miles off and heading for a sub 2:10 finish time. We chatted our way around the first two laps and before we knew it we were at the half way point. It really made the miles pass quickly distracting ourselves by working out how many laps, miles and kilometres we had covered and had left to go!
During the third lap things started to feel a bit tougher. Our chat turned to the occasional motivational phrase and we kept reminding ourselves of how well we were doing to be staying on track to smash our goal. We took energy gels at approximately 45 minutes and 90 minutes into the race, and, although I admit I should have practised with that brand beforehand, they worked well to give us the boost we needed, whether it was a placebo or not!
On the fourth lap we started to separate slightly from each other and although we had planned to stick together and up the pace for the final lap, Roisin encouraged me to go ahead. I dug deep to push on as much as I could with a sub 2:05 finish time almost within my grasp. I was so chuffed that I had the energy left to make the last lap, and particularly the last mile, the fastest of the day, but it got really tough as I made my way down the home straight towards the finish line. Although it was a relief to be able to see my final destination straight ahead of me I could see it for so long that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it there yet! But it was amazing running along the middle of the olympic rowing lake, and I concentrated on reaching the final bridge. It was decorated with the olympic rings and having that to focus on kept me going for that postpartum PB I so desperately wanted.
It worked! Everything came together and I managed an almost 10 minute postpartum half marathon PB, only two minutes slower than my lifetime PB over this distance. Roisin finished only a minute or so behind me and we claimed our medals together. I love the oars and the colours, but it would have been even better to have a different medal for the three individual distances. We also felt a bit gutted not to be presented with any post race goodies besides a bottle of water at the end of the race - something edible would have been a great addition!
Now that a new lifetime PB is within touching distance I am so excited to push for quicker times and further distances than ever before in 2022 - all with my amazing running buddy by my side. Watch this space as we prepare to take on Brighton Marathon in April! But this week I’ve been enjoying a few extra rest days before training kicks off again.