When it came to my second attempt at Tewkesbury Half Marathon I really thought about how I was going to approach it in terms of speed and pace; knowing that I could get swept along at the start and probably get a personal best 5k but then suffer later on. Or even really try for a sub 2 hour at a 9 minute mile (this year there were pacers for 2 hours, 1 hour 45 and 1 hour 30 mins – a 2 hour 15 minutes would be great in future races please) – instead I opted for a sensible 10 minute mile – which would still mean I would finish with a PB for my Half Marathon time but would be less likely to cause an injury and an opportunity to pace myself.
I found it really hard at the start to run that slowly (and it ISN’T a slow speed to run at anyway!) but somehow I managed it. There were 31 of us running from Running Group and the lady I had done 10 of my last 13.1 miles with was going to attempt to run with me; unfortunately I started off faster than she would have liked and we both ended up alone, which is a real shame especially as in the end there wasn’t much difference in our times. Then I found Ollie who seemed to be pacing himself around just under a 10 minute/mile really well. I managed to chat to him a bit and he was amazing having recently done a long distance race and more very soon. Soon we had only gone just over a mile and the speed felt fast.
It was really hot for me and I had decided to run with just a bottle of Lucozade. I always get hot by the first mile no matter the weather but the sun was definitely out that day. People have suggested that the race be an hour earlier but then others have said about how early some of the organisers have to get up anyway. Just before we got to 3 miles we reached the water station where my husband and son were helping out. Usually people don’t want water by this point but it was SO hot (plus I hadn’t been brave enough to try shorts and had a tutu on). I told my husband I loved him and hugged our son (I felt very proud of him, and that was without knowing that he had been referred to as a girl by the head marshal a lot without correcting him).
As we approached the 3 miles I felt proud that this time I didn’t need to walk. I had discussed with someone else that this is the point where you realise you have been going too fast. I had heard people already struggling to breath and I checked a lady was okay as she walked over the motorway bridge. The other side of the bridge I saw my teen and the youngest (wearing his jacket and hood over his head, sensory issues) and some of my neighbours had come out to support. I then ran around my local area and it was amazing to be cheered on by so many people I knew – including people from my running group.
In fact the next water station was quite close to the last and I was really grateful for it. Then I did something REALLY stupid – I sprinted up a hill because I stupidly thought I saw someone I knew! I went from my nice 10 minute mile to an 8! And of course it wasn’t her! That was it though the heat, the inexperience with drinking Lucozade and running just hit me big style! I felt SO sick. There was a long straight road ahead and I tend to run it too quickly usually, but I struggled. In fact I didn’t even get to the end before I had to WALK! Failure really hitting me now because I had put it in my head that I could EASILY run a 10 minute mile! I had my Garmin set so that I didn’t know how far I had run or for how long – but someone stopped to check I was okay (see this is what I love about Tewkesbury Half) and she told me she was trying not to walk until 10K – then I knew I hadn’t hit 6 miles yet. I said I was alright and managed to catch her up when she was walking – and she kindly shared her jelly babies with me. I then ran with her a short while but decided to walk up the bridge because the sick feeling was through the roof. I was just constantly drinking and feeling like I was overheating.
Then I got to the part of the route which isn’t where I live or visit so is unfamiliar but it had definitely changed since 2017 and seemed to have more people around. There was another water station too which was very welcome. I don’t know how long I had been running by this point but I really felt like giving up already. This was much harder than I had anticipated and I felt very foolish believing I could run it without training. I thought about what my running buddy Mia would be suggesting if she was with me and so I walked and had some flapjack. Three people from running group past me by (checking I was okay as they did so).
I managed to carry on but jeffing it – which felt really disappointing. I suddenly remembered that I should take an energy tablet around mile 9 ½ and I was just desperate to feel anything other than sick and tired. All alone I just carried on, occasionally meeting someone new (and kind) helping me along the way. There was a guy that had his music on a loud speaker and I tried to keep up with him, and did for a while, as the music was really motivating. But by now my hips had started to hurt and I felt such a failure and mentally just couldn’t keep running. I wished him luck with the rest of the race and walked some more.
We must have been around mile 10 and a friendly face cheered me on and took my photo. Told me how well I was doing and I managed to slowly jog on. Then I came across a couple of girls and I could tell the one had such a tight calf muscle and I suggested it might be better if she stopped to stretch. Her friends ahead disagreed and thought she should just suck it up. I am not sure which was right but it made me realise that there was absolutely no-one around.
As I got closer to mile 11 I felt a reason to push on knowing that there was the cheer point with my running club. As I got closer I felt really emotional. I was still far too hot, in pain and feeling like a complete failure. I needed to just let someone know I guess. As I got there I just burst into tears! They were holding out loads of sweets but I couldn’t see any Percy Pigs – silly I know. But they quickly found me some, made sure I was ok and told me I was doing brilliantly. But then that’s when I knew how long I had taken when I was told it had only been two hours. A quick calculation meant that if I didn’t get a wiggle on then I would not get a PB at all.
With Percy Pigs to go I ran along stuffing them into my mouth. I caught up with one of the ladies from running club and then went past. I checked my watch and realised that I had probably gone off too quickly and slowed down a bit again. I saw a lady in the distance I knew but was careful not to try and catch her up. I remembered just how broken I felt and that I wanted to finish, preferably strong! And there it was the high street. How I under-estimated how far along it we had to run to the finish! But again I was checking my watch and not running off too fast too soon. Then there it was 13 miles, now it was time to use up that leftover energy – where it comes from I have no idea! There were about 6 people in front of me all heading for the finish – and I just sprinted to the line (my Garmin said at a 4.59 minute/mile). There was just one more person to beat but I didn’t have the energy for that final push. And then it was over. I had a new PB but not by much (officially 4 minutes).
I hugged the 2 hour pacer (yes I do know her at least) and was just SO emotional. I couldn’t see my husband and just needed him so much. My friend found me and congratulated me and I collected my medal and t-shirt and had a little walk (and checked my Garmin did the right distance before I saved!).
I queued for a short time for a free massage and the lady said that my legs were pretty okay. Not bad considering I just ran a half marathon in barefeet trainers that were falling apart. But then she proceeded to tell me that I needed supportive trainers – it has confused me.
I am really surprised at how much I didn’t hurt in comparison to last time. I have had no problems going up and down stairs and no black toe nails! I just feel a little achy in my hips. In fact I am ready to sign up to my next half marathon – but don’t think I would ever do one again without training. Next is the marathon in less than a month – walking but lots of hills and definitely a course that has been described as an endurance.
Did you run the Tewkesbury Half Marathon 2019? What did you think?
Tewkesbury Half Marathon gave me free entry into their race, thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.