So it’s a few days after the Bracknell Half Marathon now (the race was on Sunday 29 April), and my legs have officially recovered. Phew!
It was one of the mornings when you didn’t want to get out from under the covers, let alone put on your running gear and go outside. Heavy rain, buffeting winds, dark grey cloud cover – even hints of a severe storm warning – could I really race on a day like that? Every other race I’ve done has been held on a day of glorious sunshine, so it was safe to say I was not used to it. For my friend Tania, it was to be her first ever race. She obviously looked out of her own window that day and had the same thoughts as me, as a text came through from her: “Are we doing this?”
By then, though, I was already up, having prepped all my gear the night before, and I’d had a shot of espresso and a peanut butter bagel. The adrenaline was pumping and I texted back: “Yes!” There was going to be no bailing now.
The atmosphere at the start of the race was… well, I think subdued is fair to say. Luckily we could warm up inside the South Hill Park Arts Centre before the race, and because of the size of the race (under a 1000 runners in this one, compared to 12,000 for Bath) I didn’t have to start in a timed corral. Horray!
There were also plenty of clothing decisions to make owing to the weather. Running jacket or no jacket? Number pinned outside or inside? Hat or no hat? Gloves? Black plastic rubbish bag? In the end I went without the bin bag and gloves, which I think was the right choice as by the time we lined up for the start, the rain had let up a little and moods started to lift. I’m fairly certain adrenaline is addictive. And there was time for a quick photo before the race began!
I was determined once again to set off too quickly, but Tania and her trusty running watch really helped me pull back to a 9.05min mile (quite right too!). Soon we settled into a rhythm, only occasionally broken by having to duck out of the way of large puddles on some of the lower pathways.
The Bracknell half marathon route is fairly undulating because of the frequent underpasses, but I appreciated the mini-downhills as much as the tough up-hills. There was one tough section between miles 8-9 where we battled through headwinds on a looong incline, but somehow we managed to make up any lost pace on a gentle downslope. Miles 10 and 11 were probably the best I’ve ever felt at that point in any run – I felt like I was literally flying down the road. I also must give credit to the Foo Fighters and their song “A Matter of Time”, which is definitely my running ‘power’ song du jour.
My watch showed me getting steadily faster all the way up until about 12.5 miles, so I must’ve been doing something right! I started to really feel the pain at 12.5, with the finish line in sight, but around an achingly long bend. Still I looked down at my sportsband (less high tech than Tania’s, but still functional!) and was elated to see that I had at least 8 minutes to make that last 1/2 mile within two hours, giving me that last burst of adrenaline to get through to the finish.
And after all the agony of not managing to complete it at Bath this year, I’m so happy to say that I finally burst through that 2 hour barrier, completing the Bracknell Half Marathon at 1:58:04!! Yay!! Tania picked up even more speed at the end than me, and managed to finish in 1:57.45 - for her first ever race this is absolutely ASTOUNDING (not to mention her injuries that prevented her from really training).
She is coming with me to run the Edinburgh marathon, so all I can say now is: Bring it on!