A year and two halfs

This time last year I was well underway with marathon training for marathon number 1. it’s crazy to think i’m now sat here obsessing over number 5. I’d signed up for two half marathons as part of that initial Brighton Marathon training plan and low and behold I was doing it again this year; in some ways feeling completely different and in others completely the same.

Worthing Half was my A Half Marathon race this year, thats where I was going to get my sub 1:50. I’m pretty big on not getting obsessed over times, but this was mentally so important to me, as I wanted to be sure I could do this before attempting Sub4 again.  In the lead up, much like the previous year, life had been hectic. My pace had dropped since Dark Star Marathon and I was overwhelmed with doubt which is pretty much my comfort zone these days it seems! The Wednesday before the race at PT, Kev and I went out for a Half Marathon Pace 5k and I struggled at times to hold it. On the morning of the race I was not feeling confident, I told myself over and over just go hard. I didn’t want to run strong but miss out. I wanted to push hard, that do or die approach which is probably not advised!

I love racing in Worthing the route is not my fave, but I just love the hometown vibes. I saw so many people from run club, parkrun, the general running community; it adds pressure and removes it in equal measure!

As the gun went off I went fast, maybe a little too fast, but hey I had the guts, i just hoped my legs and lungs did! I was honestly surprised how easy I was finding it, I felt super strong as I sat comfortably on 8 minute mile pace. I kept thinking this is going to get tough, but it really didn’t. I had quite a few supporters out on the course and as mile 4/5/6 came I saw them loads! I was getting a little cheer squad speed boost on every mile and it helped no end! I also had just clocked my fastest ever 10k! I kept telling myself to bottle the feeling because I’ve done this enough times to know it won’t last forever. When my pace dropped i needed to have that feeling in my back pocket, a little reminder of how smug i’d felt for what was now 8miles and counting.

It wasn’t until the turning point at mile 10 that i felt any drop in pace or mood. We turned back towards the main prom and the headwind picked up. I was clock watching like no other, which I don’t enjoy doing. I was getting swept up into my own head about numbers and figures and stats. The guy next to me said “don’t worry we’re way ahead of the 1:50 pacer”. I laughed half for nerves and half for embarrassment, said thanks and went on my way.

 i just kept repeating “just hold on” “just hold on” over and over again in my head! By the time I was back on the prom I knew I’d done it and happily shouted “i’ve only gone and bloody done it” to all my people, and some random and rather bemused spectators!  I couldn’t have imagined crossing that line in 1:50 just a few hours earlier let alone in 1:46 and I was the happiest pint sized runner you ever did see. 

I had a cry as I was so incredibly proud of myself. A year before I ran a 2:01 and thought there was no way in the world i could ever be a real runner, complete a marathon, or feel like I belonged in a race. Boy how wrong I was. In that moment I realised what an incredible year it had been, not only for running improvements, fitness and strength. More importantly for my sense of self, my place in all of this, and the incredible people that are in my life because of it.

Fast forward two weeks and i turned up at the start of Brighton Half. I promised myself this was not a PB run, I had tired legs from a hilly 8 mile race the day before, and I had marathon number two for #clareruns12in12 in just a week. I’ve never felt more anxious! It made no sense whatsoever! I was meeting up with one of my fave insta runners, Emma! As we stood nervously on the start line we looked at each other and said who are we kidding let’s go for the PB. I told Emma I’d hang on for as long as i could as i didn’t know how my legs would respond but she was to go for it!

We ran together for 8 miles and it was honestly so much fun! The weather was atrocious but the brightonians came out in force as they always do with the best support around! I was surprised my legs had it in them, and it wasn’t until that 8 mile marker that I had any doubts I wouldn’t be finishing this thing strong. My legs started to tire and my calves were cramping, my normal right hip issue reared up on cue and i just knew I had to slow it down if I didnt want to get an injury. I dropped my pace and gave Emma the knowing nod to keep flying! I kept saying to myself this is not a PB run for you, you have 11 more marathons to do this year, 1 of which is in a week, but if I’m honest none of this outweighed the voice in my head that said you should have kept pushing, you should have tried harder, you’ve let yourself down.

As I saw the bright pink vitality finish sign i summoned everything i had to push for the sub 1:50, if i couldn’t PB then at least that would be solidified. I came in bang on 1:50:00, and I had a little sigh, and I’m still not sure if it was for relief or regret.

A year earlier I had PB’d with a 1:55 on a much kinder day. This was a 5 minute course PB in pretty awful running conditions.

i personally have spent the last year working to improve as a runner, that’s why I do all the work that I do, why i put in the miles and the training hours. That’s been and is still my goal. I’m desperate to run sub 4 hours at Brighton this year, where it all began and really that’s what all of this is working towards.

I have to keep tabs on the fact though that I am my biggest critic and my own worst enemy. when I run with no pressure I tend to have my best races. When I build everything up I get lost in my head and can’t focus on the very real fact, which is that I do this because I love it, and I would and will be doing it for as long as I’m lucky enough to do so. when it comes down to it, it really is about that and nothing else.

This week in the lead up to Steyning Stinger Marathon I’ve promised to give myself the rest that I need, not only for my body but for my mind. So much has happened in the past year, and I don’t think I’ve given myself any time to process that. 2017 is turning out to be so amazingly full of experiences, and I don’t want to rush it through, always focussing on the next goal the next challenge. What I’m doing is big, and I don’t think I’ve realised that until right now. I want to give every achievement whether it be a PB or just making it to the start line in one piece the time it deserves.

Be proud of everything you are doing because on some days just getting out the door deserves a medal!

As always a huge shout out has to go to my people who come and stand on freezing cold streets to shout my name for about a second, and never complain about my absence both physically and mentally from things due to this crazy pursuit I have! To all the other runners who inspire me no end, I am so privileged to run with you!  And to kev for working with me to make my crazy runner dreams come true.


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