I DID IT! I ran my first half-marathon (also my first race) ever in 2 hours and 50 minutes, a whopping ten minutes under my goal of three hours. A million thank yous to those of you who cheered me on during these past three months after I got myself into this mess and I could never thank the fellow widow that I ran this race with enough for running with me the entire race at my pace, giving me the motivation to carry on. I’m sorry I said I hated you at mile 12, I didn’t mean that.
Thank you to those of you who asked me excitedly on Sunday how the race went. It went well, but I was absolutely shattered when I got home. Then the very next day began a workweek that included Open Evening (which meant a 14 hour workday at school), a training course down in London and an observation by my Head of Department, meaning I have worked stupid long hours and had no energy left to respond to any messages and also to write on the blog. Having had a lovely night of catching up on both TV and sleep, I finally have a bit of energy back. Thanks in large part to coffee.
My racemate passed through Northampton on her way to London and kindly offered to pick me up from my house on the way. When she knocked on my door it was the very first time we’d met in person but we’d spent a lot of time chatting via Facebook while we trained. I liked her immediately. She is a much more experienced racer than I am, but has always been really supportive. We chatted in the car for a few hours until we got to the hotel, where we checked in and then drove over to the race course to check out parking for the next morning. We created a master plan to order pasta from room service and eat it in bed before getting an early night, only to discover that there was no pasta on the menu. At all. We then drove to a local Pizza Express and ordered two portions of chicken pasta to go, which we ate in our pajamas in bed. Carb loading is almost enough of a reason for me to keep running. Almost.
The race was set to start at 10:00am on Sunday, so we ordered large cups of black coffee from the hotel and drove to Lee Valley Park for 8:30. We ate some breakfast in the car and then wandered over where we met thousands of other women crazy enough to sign up for this event standing around in a sea of pink.
We had received a race pack earlier in the week that contained a pink Race For Life tee-shirt, course information and a sign saying I’m racing for ______ to fill in. On mine I wrote I’m racing for my Ter-bear. RIP my love XXX. It was really emotional reading everyone’s signs, seeing how everyone had been affected by cancer. I didn’t lose Terry to cancer, but everything I do is for him, including this race.
I panicked as we lined up at the starting line, suddenly surrounded by a lot of really fit looking women who looked like they knew what they were doing. I felt very unfit and very out of place. We set off slowly, as I’m not a fast runner and I didn’t want to burn out quickly and not be able to finish, but I was really discouraged as we were passed by hundreds of women immediately. I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace, but there was a lot of pressure to go faster. Relax, my running partner told me, they probably can’t keep that up either and we’ll pass them all at the end of the race, you’ll see. And so I kept putting one foot slowly in front of the other as the miles passed by.
The first eleven miles went well. My legs felt a bit shaky to start with but they hit their stride after a few miles and having someone to chat to the whole time was really helpful. Just as my running partner said, when we hit the halfway point, a lot of women had begun to walk and we sailed past them, which helped to build my confidence. At mile 11 I had a gorgeous fan holding a sign made just for me and I stopped to give her a big hug when I saw her smiling face. Keep going! she shouted, I’ll meet you at the finish line! That motivation helped carry me to mile 12 where my body suddenly decided that it was no longer interested in running anymore. My knees began to hurt and my feet became really heavy. By mile 13 I was cursing, out loud, the person who had added that extra, miserable tenth of a mile to the race distance. When we approached the finish line and there was a hill, I think I cursed some more, but once over the hill I saw it: the finish line. Everything in me wanted to sprint to the finish, but I knew I couldn’t run any fast without toppling over so I just steadily carried myself up to and across the finish line.
I smiled as they put the medal around my neck and then cried tears of relief and pride. Mostly relief.
Once we finished, we met up with Erin, collected our bags and headed across the road to McDonald’s to celebrate like the Americans that we are. A quarterpounder with cheese and a McFlurry have never tasted so good. We enjoyed a pleasant lunch – the best bit was the sitting down part – and then dropped Erin off at the local tube station to make her way back home to London. Then we drove home.
Once home I admired the contents of my goody bag – a full size bottle of dry shampoo, chocolates, brioche, coffee – did they make this just for me? Then I helped myself to some dinner, drank a sports drink while icing my knees and then literally collapsed in bed, hoping that my legs wouldn’t be too sore the next day at work. They were. I showed my form my medal and they gave me a round of applause.
Again, thank you to everyone who supported me on this impulsive, poorly thought out plan of training for a half marathon in three short months. Mostly thanks to Terry, without whom I could have never done this.
I miss you so much, my Ter-Bear.