Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon
For Laura (for getting up early to come with me) for David B, David W, Michael G, Steve S, Johan O, Kate P, Alice L, Andy J and Ben M for suggesting the tunes and for the men and women of the RNLI for whom the race raised cash.
So I was like those kids from the Disney advert this morning: ‘Muuum, I can’t sleep’ and was bright eyed at 6am – even though we didn’t have to set off for the race until 8am. I spent part of that time reading the excellent Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire in bed and another part of it reading it in the bath, which I thought would relax me.
All laid out and ready to go
Last night I’d laid out most of the things I needed to take: kit, new trainers, Jelly Beans, carb gel, water, Lucazade Sport, iPhone and arm band, Garmin Forerunner 405 and associated heart rate monitor, Vaseline, race number, safety pins… so there wasn’t much to do except take a picture and load it into my kit bag. I also took a clean tee shirt, hoody, underpants, socks and another pair of trainers as I fancied a change of clothes might make the two-hour drive back to London more pleasant for both Laura and myself.
I finally managed to get the missus out of bed around 7.15 and she dashed in the shower as I wolfed down a banana and a bowl of porridge with honey. I also made sure I went to the loo for number 2s – twice… there was no way I wanted to be caught short on the race.
The trip to Portsmouth was mercifully traffic free – who else is on the road at 8am right? But it pissed it down all the way making me think the race wasn’t going to be much fun… and I was nervous enough as it was. This was my first official race since I did the Athens half, back when I was a skinny little 17-year-old who still bought size 28 Levis…
We made it down to the race start in good time, around 35 minutes before the off but were faced with queues about 20 minutes long for the portaloos. I still managed to go, collect my chip and smother myself in Vaseline with about five minutes to spare though.
As we waited to go, I chatted to a mother and son who have both signed up for London, this was his second half and her first, both really lovely people… I had a look around the starting line up, I was about 3/4 of the way down the 800 people who were running and noticed a couple of things about runners.
And he's off...
What struck me was the average age of people who were there… I’d say around 30+. Sure there were some younger people, mainly students but most were of an age. The other thing is that the older people were all perfectly kitted out in brand name running gear, while the studenty types were all wearing bits and bobs kit. One particularly young bloke near me was running in board shorts!
A nervous five minutes followed until we were off. I decided to pace myself depending on what was going on around me but by about half a mile, you could see some of the fun runners in my personal space were beginning to drop back and by a mile, I was slowly working my way through some of the field.
At three miles, I looked at my watch – 25 minutes – and I realised I was running at a relatively decent pace for me; on training runs I normally do 27mins tops for three miles.
About four miles in, there was a huge loop around a park and I was quite surprised to find people passing me – on their way back! When I looped it, at around five miles, I started to count the people I was passing that still had to do the loop – 85 with a huge number still looping behind me… I reckoned I had to be somewhere around half way down the 800.
I was running with a bottle of Lucazade Sport in hand, had already munched on some Jelly Babies that were laid at some of the stations and started to take on liquid just past half way. And at this point, I regretted running in trainers that only had 6miles on the clock from my previous two days training – my arches were rubbing raw and I could feel the pain of new blisters.
Somewhere around 8 miles we went around some sports fields… the grass muddy from the constant rain, the trainers were well and truly Christened but the cold puddles at least gave the arches some relief.
The final four miles or so were awesome, yet tough – along a shingle beach with the tide out, the sun had started to shine and I could see right across the Solent as my feet squelched in and out of the sand making my aching calves feel even heavier.
... and he's done
Despite this, I was still picking up places… I reckon I was only passed by about 10 people once past the three mile mark, while I probably gained and overtook at least 50 or so during the whole race.
At around 12 miles and back on pavement, I got a text message that somehow conspired to send my iPhone all over the place, so I ripped the headphones out and took my gloves off as it was starting to get seriously warm.
A marshall shouting ‘Just half a mile more’ gave me a last five-minute boost to the finish line where a disbelieving Laura couldn’t believe I got in so quick – and I even passed the young chap in board shorts just before the finish.
My Garmin said 12.87 miles and 1hr 49, the race organisers said 13.1 miles and 1hr 48mins and 40secs… I wasn’t going to argue but I didn’t bother checking what position I came in – it didn’t matter, I’d completed the race, funnily enough, only a minute slower than that Athens race 25 years ago!
The post-race rub down
Great post-race camerarderie – I bumped into the chap from the start, he finished a minute ahead of me, his mum was still going round, bless. The RNLI staff at Portsmouth were awesome… post race sports massages for £5, which I took advantage of and making sure all racers were warm, watered and fed. Excellent organisational skills and a huge thanks are in order.
Finish line video
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Miles today: 12.87
Miles to date: 603.19
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