Taking My Time

I’ve taken some time off from running. About a year, in fact. I’m not sure why, really. I just didn’t really feel like it for a while. And it is, after all, voluntary.

But recently I started to feel the urge again, and last month I went out for a few training runs. In fact, I went out for a 2K, a 3K, a 4K, a 5K, a 6K and a 7K. There were various adversities along the way—I won’t bore you with details of the pulled back muscle, the gas leak, the washing machine dying halfway through a cycle with my jogging clothes still inside—but I overcame them, and got ready.

Ready for today’s Bristol 10K, that is. At which I logged my slowest time ever for a 10K: 1:20:13. But hey. At least I did a race. And I jogged all the way around.

I usually post a medal photo to celebrate, but sadly the Bristol 10K ran out of medals today. In fact, they ran out of medals, T‑shirts, goodie bags, and water at the finish line. So all us poor sloggers at the back got was a Mylar blanket for our troubles. Apparently they’re going to organise posting stuff out to the people who missed out.

I wasn’t too bothered, but then it was my fifth 10K, and my eleventh organised race. And I can see why, as a race organiser, you wouldn’t want to have a big surplus of chunks of enamelled metal left over when an inevitable percentage of runners don’t turn up on the day. (Plus, I’m not thin. Race souvenir T‑shirts are normally designed with the more typical runner’s shape in mind, so even when I can squeeze into them they certainly aren’t flattering. Mine normally get saved for decorating in, rather than proudly wearing outdoors.)

On the other hand, it’s mostly the first-timers and the charity runners who come in last. I crossed the line with a very weary bloke who’d just run his first ever 10K, only to find something of a wasteland where he was expecting a cheery volunteer to drape a medal over his head and to pick up a bottle of water. And there were hundreds of people behind us.

While they’ll send out medals in the post, apparently nearly 400 people missed out on the chance of that just-finished photo in the Runners’ Village, medal around their neck and a backdrop of other happy runners. Seems like a real shame.

Anyway. In lieu of my normal finishing photo with the medal, here’s a snap from the start. See you soon! Think I might sign up for the Bristol Half to make sure I keep my training going…

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Bristol 10K 2013

Back on the 5th of May, I ran the Bristol 10K. And then had a really busy week where I was out of the house a lot, so I’m afraid this race report is a little late. Sorry!

This year’s 10K was a mixed bag for me. It was my slowest ever 10K race (though only by about half a minute — see my results page to look at all my race results.) It was also one of my most enjoyable.

I’d expected to be slow this year. I’ve mostly been concentrating on distances, and my noble plan to lose some weight and gets lots of practice before the race was somewhat undermined by a couple of weeks of illness that put me off running for a while. So I figured I’d just take it fairly easy.

Not only that, but my fastest 10K, last year’s, was mostly produced by running with my erstwhile boss Mike, who’s a bit faster than me. It was only because I had him as a pace-setter that I managed to drag myself around in record time. And Mike didn’t run the 10K this year, damn it.

But this year, I may still have benefited from Mike’s help. The bulk of the Bristol 10K runners start off in two batches, one earlier, one fifteen minutes later. I’ve always been in the later start, with the slower runners. When I opened my race pack this year, though, I saw a strange and alien colour on my race number. It was yellow. They’d put me in the earlier start!

I’m guessing that last year’s time may have crossed some borderline between the slower stream and the faster, so I had the chance of setting off fifteen minutes earlier, in the first batch of runners.

I was in two minds about whether to take advantage of this — if you’ve been assigned to one of the faster starting streams, you’re allowed to drop back into a slower one — but in the end I decided that I probably wouldn’t get in anyone’s way as long as I lined up towards the back. I made my way through the bustling start area to line up with the other yellows.

Start of the Bristol 10K

That turned out to be a great choice, because it meant I had lots of company all the way around the 10K.

For starters, I got to see all the front runners, from the elite athletes on, on their way back down the Portway as I was on my way up. Normally, the people with actual names rather than numbers pinned to their shirts are long gone by the time I get there.

Also, in previous years, by the time I got to Cumberland Road on the way back into town, it felt pretty lonely. Most of the runners have pulled away from my slow pace, so it really thins out.

This year, at the first hint of that thinning, on the way back down the Portway, I saw the second stream — the Red and Green starters — coming down the other side of the road, and knew that the faster ones would soon catch up with me.

And so it was. Instead of the loneliness of the slow runner on the Cumberland Road, I ended up in the middle of the second stream of thousands of runners, and managed to stay with the bulk of them all the way around to the finish line.

While it did feel a bit of a cheat, especially when I found out my sloooow time, it was a really pleasant change to be in amongst a whole bunch of runners from start to finish, rather than just at the start. And I don’t think I got in anyone’s way. As it turned out, checking the 10K site afterwards, “…very high numbers of runners in the Yellow and Red zones have the same predicted race time — which is why they are split between the 2 waves…” So perhaps it was both a faster time last year and a bit of luck on top that got me in the faster stream.

Apart from being in the earlier set-off, there wasn’t really anything too thrilling or terrible about the 10K this year for me. The weather was decent — clouds but no rain, so it wasn’t too hot — and the race well-organised and the other runners friendly, as usual.

Sadly, I’d guess I’ll be back in the generally-slower pack next year. But if I pick back up my weight-loss plans and my training, maybe I can find a way of keeping up with the pack without starting fifteen minutes ahead of half the runners… Seeing how the other half lives — with company all the way around — is quite a good incentive.

[separate charity update to follow, but in the meantime, big thanks to my parents and to Dave & Arline :D]


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Bath Half Marathon 2013

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I wasn’t as worried about the Bath Half this year as I was last year. Last year I hadn’t done enough distance training. This year I managed a 15K including some fairly steep hills a week and a bit before the Half, so I reckoned I was ready.

I also woke up yesterday morning having slept fairly well and without the kind of headache which annoyed me during the last Bristol Half.

Driving to Bath Racecourse to enjoy their usual Half Marathon Park & Ride scheme, the weather was a bit of a concern, though. There was a lot more frost about than I’d seen on previous years, and my car’s temperature sensor said it was ‑0.5C outside. On the other hand, I’d rather be too cold than too hot, and it was the heat that really got to me — and quite a few other people — last year.

Starting Line

A cup of tea at the race course, a quick coach ride into town, a loo stop and an idle wander around the runner’s village, and it was time to form up into our start lines. It was still so cold that I was almost tempted to keep on the £2 charity-shop fleece I’d picked up on Saturday, but I realised I’d soon warm up, so I dumped it at the side to be collected for recycling as the queue started moving.

Apparently there were 11,156 of us, and I could easily believe it for the first few kilometres through the centre of Bath. This was a bit problematic for some, as it made obstacles a lot less obvious. One poor bloke, distracted by cheering supporters at the top of a double-decker bus, tripped right over one of the traffic cones separating the two lanes of the race, which was barely visible in the forest of pumping legs. Still, he picked himself up and carried on quickly enough.

I managed to survive unscathed, and started thinking a bit about the kind of mental trickery I talked about in my last post. What could I do to make the race psychologically easier?

The problem I had with the Bath Half last time was that it’s a two-lap race. You do more than 10K, and then you do it all again.

I decided, therefore, to treat the first lap as a warmup. The first lap wasn’t part of the race at all, in my mind. The first lap was just a jog to the starting line. The real race would be the second lap.

As it turned out, this mental trickery worked well for me. The first lap passed fairly quickly — I may write a separate blog post about what goes through runner’s minds when they’re on long runs — and was no problem at all. The halfway point came up sooner than I was expecting, in fact. Around there, I spotted my friend Mandy cheering people on, too, which was a bonus.

And thus began the second lap. I decided to break it up into two 5K runs in my head, with a break about halfway through where I could eat the gel energy thingy I was carrying.

I carried on, passing again the excellent live rock band who had been doing a suitably-raunchy version of Sweet Home Alabama on the first lap, enjoying the support, passing some lovely fancy dressers, which included overtaking a Smurf, and generally enjoying myself.

After 5K more, I decided to take a quick loo break, as I’d been wanting to go for a while, and I spotted a free cubicle by one of the water stations. On my way back to the road, I took the chance to check my time and do a few mental calculations, and was pleasantly surprised.

All I had to do was jog 5K at about my normal pace, and I’d be coming in under 2 hours 45, which is comfortably under my personal best.

Of course, it’s never that easy, and though I forced down my energy gel, it didn’t seem to give me that much energy, and the last few kilometres were quite a struggle. I kept on going, though, increasingly relying more on bloodymindedness than physical strength. I passed my cheering friends José and Emma, which was a nice boost, and soon after that passed Mandy for the second time, and knew I was nearly done. And at least there wasn’t much danger of overheating, as it was still bloody freezing!

It was quite tough coming up to the finish line. There was one very happy reason for that, which was that even if I’d stopped jogging and walked there, I’d still have beaten my personal best. But I resisted the temptation and jogged all the way.

Here’s a little Vine video of my finish (you can click on it to stop it playing, if it’s making you seasick 😀 ):

In the end, I managed to get around in 02:42:05, a whole five minutes faster than my previous best time. Hurrah!

So, my sixth half marathon was definitely a good half marathon. Not only that, but as of this morning, I’d raised £215 for the MS Society on Just Giving. Thanks for all the support, you lovely people 😀

So, there we go. I’ve now done six half marathons and three 10Ks, along with a few charity 5Ks and fun runs here and there. It’s surprising how fast those medals seem to mount up…

Back to training for the Bristol 10K now, I suppose…

Gongs

Bristol Half Marathon 2012

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A few weeks ago, I went out for another long training run, and it was horrible. I was hoping to head somewhere near a half-marathon distance. Instead I did a horrible, slogging, slow 10K, and hated every minute of it.

I’m not entirely sure why — I may have been over-training, as I’d done quite a few longer-distance runs in the previous couple of weeks. And it was the evening, and maybe I was tired.

And, possibly, I might have been injured, as well. Because the Monday after that run, I could barely walk. I think I might have trapped a nerve, or something; certainly I was in a pretty poor way. Luckily that extreme didn’t last for long, with the pain gradually fading over the next couple of weeks.

But it wasn’t conducive to getting out and training. So I didn’t. I didn’t run at all, in fact, until yesterday’s Bristol Half Marathon, though I did cycle a fair bit, just geting around town.

So. I was pretty worried that I’d have another experience like my horrible Bath Half in March.

Luckily, that turned out not to be the case. I got a good night’s sleep on Saturday, after having some lovely lasagne cooked for me by my friend Emmeline. Sunday’s weather was great for running — cool and overcast, but dry — and I was feeling fairly optimistic by the time I got to the start line, even though I’d started the day with a bit of a headache. It helped that this was my fifth half-marathon, so I’m starting to feel a bit more blasé about them now.

And, to cut a long, 13-mile story short, I had a good run. As usual, I enjoyed most of the sights and sounds. Special mention to the guy who overtook me in the Portway tunnel whilst juggling three batons (that must take some practice!), and to the person in the ten-foot tall nurse outfit bouncing happily along…

I didn’t enjoy all the sounds, mind. As an introvert with a headache, I could certainly have done without the guy who dogged my heels from around the turnabout point on the Portway all the way to the finish, alternating inane, repetitive encouragement at the top of his hoarse, drunken-tramp voice with blasts on his air-horn, for example. He gets my prize for “most annoying co-runner of any race I’ve ever been in.”

But it didn’t seem to do my race any harm. I went happily through the 10K mark (where I pretty much ran into a wall on the Bath Half) and carried on jogging fine until the last two or three. At that point my legs started feeling a lot heavier, and I had to rely more on will-power and encouragement from the crowd to pull me round. But I carried on plodding, albeit rather less steadily if the RunKeeper track and stats are anything to go by, and crossed the finish line without ever dropping back to a walk.

Emmeline met me and accompanied me slowly up Park Street for my traditional post-race Rocotillos milkshake (strawberry, this time 🙂 ), and then I headed very, very slowly home for a very, very long bath. Hurrah!

The best news of all, apart from the fact I actually survived, was my official time: 2:47:33, which is my fastest half marathon time ever, beating last year’s Bristol half by about a minute and a quarter. Considering how worried I was about my training, I’m extremely pleased with that result…

All that, and I’ve raised a bit of money for Children’s Hospice South West, too. It’s not too late to bump up my total, if you’re inclined. My Just Giving page is here. Thanks!

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Bristol 10K 2012

Today I ran the Bristol 10K, mostly with my friend (and erstwhile boss) Mike. Mike had originally planned to partner up with a friend who’s a fair bit faster than me, but she got a hip injury at the last minute, unfortunately. So, I rebelliously brought my green-numbered self into the red lane with Mike and ran with him instead.

Bristol 10K Start

This turned out to be a good move, as running the beginning of the race with Mike helped keep my speed up. We comfortably matched each other from the start line, all the way down the Portway, right around the turning point, and back into town.

On Cumberland Road, though, between 7 and 8km, our different paces started to show up. I’d clearly been going a bit too fast, and was overheating some, despite the perfect, overcast running weather, whereas Mike was ready to surge on ahead. We agreed to split up. I lowered my pace for a while as Mike headed off into the distance.

Luckily, my overheating was temporary. A lighter pace, some water, and a Torq Rhubarb and Custard energy gel (those things really do taste like rhubarb and custard. It’s good stuff!) later, I was ready to pick back up some speed.

I was going quite nicely again by the time I crossed Prince Street Bridge and waved at my friends Martin from Bristol Culture on my left, and Emma and José on the Clic Sargent open-top bus on my right. I kept on around the Centre, and I was pretty sure I could get a personal best time if I just kept going.

I decided to make sure of it by sprinting to the finish line — trying to look determined for the cameras, too — and crossed the line at a fair clip, feeling pretty damn cheery.

In the end, it turned out to be a great time for me, of 01:05:44, which is almost four minutes faster than my previous best 10K race time (1:09:28, for the 2010 10K.)

Then I found Mike again — it turned out he’d only come in a couple of minutes ahead of me, at 01:03:38, so with a bit more practice I should be able to keep up with him! Mike’s wife Jess took this photo of us on College Green with our medals 😀

Mike (left) and Me (right)

I had RunKeeper going during the race, but started it a bit before the start line, so the time is slightly off, but my RunKeeper log gives an idea of the route and pace and so on, if you’re into details 🙂

And that, in a nutshell, was my Bristol 10K. I’m taking a week or so off to recover now, so I’ll catch you on the other side.

Medal

Bath Half Marathon 2012

I approached this year’s Bath Half Marathon with more than a little trepidation, and rightly so, it turned out. Since the Bristol Half, I just haven’t trained enough. Partly that’s due to winter, and partly because my routine’s been knocked off-kilter by quitting my day job. I also put on some weight over the last half of 2011 that I’ve not managed to shake off yet.

I mused on this during the approach to Bath, in a coach from Bath Racecourse. I really recommend their Bath Half park-and-ride service, by the way. You park at the racecourse, then wait in a nice warm room with a bunch of other runners (and decent toilet facilities – very important before a race!), then get taken into town in a nice coach. The shuttle service back after the race runs until 5pm, and it was only £9 including the booking fee.

Bath Racecourse Coach

Anyway. Yes, I was underprepared. The longest distance I’ve done since September was 10km, and that’s just not enough distance training for a half marathon.

On the other hand, everything else was going well. I’d made sure to eat right and get enough sleep for the few days before the race, and I woke up feeling refreshed and pretty cheerful on Sunday morning. On the way to the start, the weather seemed ideal for running, cold and overcast, but not too cold. Also, because this was my second Bath Half, I knew a lot more about what to expect, from where to find the Runner’s Village to the course itself.

Grey and Overcast

Standing in the long queue for the start line, there was the usual chit-chat with other runners. The nerves of starting and a shared purpose mean that people are happy to natter to complete strangers and compare experiences. I forgot about my lack of training, and just got into the running mood.

And that was the way I stayed, for the first lap, at least. The grey skies lifted and the sun came out, which is good spiritually, but not ideal for running – a lot of people I’ve spoken to since said it was too hot for them, and I agree. I was feeling distinctly overheated by the sixth or seventh mile, and starting to lose some of my chipperness.

That said, the friendliness of the Bath Half course did a lot to keep me buoyed up. The rock band out on the pavement, the people cheering from windows, the drummers in Queen Square – all great for keeping you going.

But, sadly, with my lack of training, something had to give. Looping back past the start to begin my second lap of the course, I was already feeling like I’d run out of steam, physically at least. My feet were starting to feel sore (I ended up with some nice blisters), the heat was getting to me, and my muscles were running on empty.

Neither plenty of water nor the gel food thingy I ate helped much. I was tired, and getting more tired by the mile.

Time to start running on sheer bloody-mindedness, then. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and keeping up a jog of some kind. It didn’t matter what kind, or how fast, as long as I kept up something that looked and felt like running rather than walking.

And I carried on. I got slower as the miles went on, as you can clearly see in my RunKeeper track, and I wasn’t enjoying myself much, but I tried to keep my mind off that as best as I could. I thought of other things, I counted how many times I passed the bleach-blonde woman who was alternating walking and running, I enjoyed the comedy outfits.

The safari team who (by dint of clever costumery) included one member being carried in a cage by a gorilla got my “costume of the race” award, by the way.

And, eventually, I made it to a point where there were only five kilometres to go. That was an important psychological point, because I can always run 5K. 5K is my default distance. 5K is the distance I’d run in my sleep, were I prone to somnambulation.

In the last couple of miles before the finish line, you start to get more personal encouragement, too, especially if you’re back with the rest of the straggling, thinned-out crowd. “Just two miles to go now!” wasn’t too helpful, as two miles sounded like a hell of a long way, but the regular “Keep going!”s and “You’re doing great!”s were welcome.

As were the “It’s just around the corner now!”s (which started, truth be told, about a mile away from the final corner, but hey.) Once I was on “final approach” I knew I was going to make it without walking, and I just kept plodding on.

In the end, I crossed the finish line overheated, astoundingly tired, and with very sore feet, at 2:58:44. That’s a whole ten minutes slower than I managed the Bristol Half, and pretty disappointing.

On the other hand, I was bloody happy to have not given up, and I still felt like I’d accomplished something, once I’d recovered a little. I did it. I jogged all the way around, albeit slowly, and at least I came in under the three-hour mark.

So. Another medal, and another finisher’s t‑shirt that doesn’t fit (one size for everyone this year, Bath Half? Really? But I forgive you, because you were really well-organised and because you have more toilets than the Bristol Half.)

It’s also, so far, £126 plus Gift Aid raised for Bristol Mind. Looking back over my past Just Giving donations – which have all been for running – that means I’ve now raised well over £1,000 for charity by getting out there and hitting the streets. Thanks, all my lovely sponsors, for giving to good causes for the Bath Half, for all my past races, and, hopefully, for races to come…

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Race Day: Bristol Half Marathon 2011

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Yup! Another day, another medal. I’m getting quite a collection now!

I enjoyed the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday, despite having had some reservations about my weight and the amount of training I’d been doing. I didn’t think I stood much chance of beating my personal best from the Bath Half.

At least I arrived relaxed and well-prepared for the running. After a couple of half-marathons and 10Ks I’ve got the preparations down quite well now, from pinning my number on to checking the weather forecast before I set out.

The weather was a little too good, as it turned out. The sun was blazing away, and the Portway, which makes up the bulk of the route, is pretty exposed. Once we’d all set off from the Centre, I was glad of the few clouds there were occasionally drifting in front of the sun.

I ran this one on my own — there’s another reason to speed up my running: you have more options for running partners if you have more speeds available than “dead slow”! — so I spent most of the race just enjoying the feeling of running and being part of the general crowd around me.

And people-watching, of course, especially the crazy fancy-dressers. This race didn’t disappoint on that score, with bagpipers piping their way around, a couple of people “wearing” a boat in support of the Marines, a waddle of penguins, several dogs, and Bob the Builder, to name but a few of the sights.

I also got a chance to wave to a few friends — I’d only just set out when Tom snapped me (with a proper old-school film camera, apparently) on my way past, plus I spotted several people coming back down the Portway as I was on my way out, including Jose and other usual suspects.

I kept up a very steady pace all the way around, just plodding along as usual. I felt pretty good up to somewhere around the fourteenth kilometre — that’s the way back into town along Cumberland Road — where my legs started to feel a bit dead, but even that wasn’t so bad.

Trudging around the last bit of town, I was determined just to keep going, mostly because my legs seemed to have got into that fragile momentum which might have been difficult to get back into if I’d slowed down for even a second.

As it turned out, I had just about enough energy to keep going right to the finish line — perked up at the last minute by my friends Emmeline and Arnaud cheering me on — and I came in at an official time of 2:48:15, breaking my previous personal best by just over a minute. Hurrah!

And that — apart from the now-traditional milkshake at Rocotillos (honey and Crunchie bar, thanks for asking) was my Bristol Half Marathon 2011. I guess I can give myself a week off, then start getting back into training. The next long race will be the Bath Half in March, hopefully…

Bristol 10K 2011

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The Bristol 10K was my first race, this time last year. It’s a good, fun race, with a whole lot of people — 9,000 finished this year — and it’s right on my doorstep. It only takes me twenty minutes to get to the start line, and then we run right back past my flat and run out along the Portway, my default jogging route.

Last year I ran the whole way around with my friend Mike. This year I did it solo (though Mike met me at the end to take me for our now-traditional post-race Rocotillos milkshake!)

Running solo, and having done two half-marathons in the meantime, the race felt quite different from last year. For a start, I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Once you’ve done 21K a couple of times, a 10K is distinctly less intimidating.

It felt significantly easier, in fact, all the way around. I kept up a very steady pace, except for putting on a bit of speed here a couple of times to see what it felt like (not that sustainable, sadly!) And I just kept going, knowing I had plenty of distance in reserve, and enjoying the atmosphere.

And the costumes. The team (I’m guessing husband and wife) who jogged past as policeman and convict, joined with handcuffs; the “three amigos” with their sombreros and inflatable horses (mules?); the breasts bobbing along for breast cancer, and the Royal Engineers (I think), in uniform rather than costume, who did it with big heavy packs on. Crazy people.

On the downside, I don’t know whether it was lack of speed practice, lack of a running partner, or just the extra weight I’m carrying this time around, I came in at 01:11:15, which is 1 minute 47 slower than last year’s time. Still, that’s just motivation to train a bit harder for next year’s race!

On the upside, I’ve raised at least £135 for St. Peter’s Hospice, thanks to some generous donations from lovely people. Work will double that, so that’s a very decent £270 minimum for the hospice. Thank you, most excellent sponsors!

The next big race I’ve got planned will be the Bristol Half Marathon in September. I need to knuckle down and do some training and lose some weight for that! Maybe I can beat my personal best from the Bath Half…

I’ll leave you with a picture of my 10K medal, as it’s a really nice one — much more decorative than last year’s! I’m really building up quite a collection now…

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Bath Half Marathon 2011

Bath Half 2011 Medal

Well, that was fun! Okay, if I’m being entirely honest, the first eight or nine miles were fun, and it was more of a slog after that, but still!

It was a nice day for running. It was pretty chilly first thing, and especially hanging around in the runners’ village and the start pens, but it warmed up as the day went on, and there were even some bursts of nice spring sunshine. No rain, which was a nice change from the Bristol Half

There were apparently 11,000 people running, and it certainly felt like it. It didn’t thin out as quickly as the Bristol race, partly because it’s a two-lap course. It was quite impressive to hear the rumbling of a motorbike escort, followed by the two race leaders, overtaking on their second lap as I was somewhere around the three mile mark!

In the end, Edwin Kipkorir of Kenya finished in exactly 64 minutes. Sixty. Four. Minutes. For thirteen miles. It makes my cardiovascular system shake with inadequacy just thinking about it.

Personally, I kept up a determined, consistent pace (i.e. a slow plod) all the way around — as you can see from the RunKeeper log — and came in somewhere around the same time I managed in Bristol in September, i.e. about 2 hours 50-something. The official results aren’t up yet, so I don’t know whether I have a new personal best or not, but it was certainly close.

The spectators were a great crowd; there’s a lot more residential area on the route in Bath, and there were plenty of people with their windows open pounding some music out for us on top of the official entertainments like the samba band. Although I think I heard the “Rocky” theme just a tad to often, personally…

One running highlight was a bloke who ran the entire course with a guitar, spontaneously breaking into a bit of singing and strumming every now and again, all while keeping up the jogging. He was running for Jessie’s Fund, a music therapy charity, as I found out when I jogged alongside him while he was being interviewed for local radio.

But my favourite runners, or at least my choice for “most masochistic”, were the two nutcases who ran the entire course dressed as a pantomime camel, for the Breast Cancer Campaign. That can’t have been easy.

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The lowlight of the race was probably between miles nine and eleven. From around the ninth mile, it really started to quieten down, as the bulk of the runners had gone on ahead, and the rest of us were really feeling our legs starting to get leaden. I overtook a lot of walkers who’d obviously set off jogging ahead of me at the beginning but run out of steam, and everyone else was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and not feeling quite so cheery.

At this point I started having quite odd thoughts. I remember jogging behind a couple of near-identical women running together, one in lurid blue, one in lurid red, for about ten minutes. I started wondering whether if I put some 3D glasses on, I could turn them into one single badly-dressed person a lot further away, which would be a big improvement…

But, heading back towards town, although my legs were getting heavier and heavier, the crowd started building back up again, and there were lots of friendly shouts of “nearly there!” to keep me going. It helped to be running in a charity t‑shirt, too; I got lots of “Come on, Lifeguards!” all the way…

Finally coming up to the end, I managed to put on some speed and do a near-sprint finish, which was more than I’d managed for Bristol!

All in all, a good half-marathon, on a good day for running, with a good crowd. And I can just about move, still. Although I may need a dose of “vitamin I” to let me walk to work tomorrow. Just as well I’ve taken the morning off!

UPDATE: I was disappointed at first when I checked the official results — 2:56:49 — but it turns out that Bath uses “gun time” as their official time. That’s the time from the official start time until you cross the finish line. Starting right at the back, it took me more than five minutes just to get to the start line!

Luckily, they also tell you your “net time”, (start line to finish line, which is how the Bristol Half is measured) and I came in at 2:49:38. Which means I shaved more than four minutes off my Bristol Half time. Not a huge improvement, but I’m definitely not getting worse, at least!

Bristol Half Marathon 2010

matt_medal.jpgToday’s half marathon — my first — went pretty well all round. I was a bit worried by the amount of rain I could hear before I set out, but it turned into occasional drizzle for the race, which is perfect jogging weather, really — no need to worry about overheating.

I kept jogging from the start line all the way around, with a few-minute interlude queuing for the toilet right at the end of the Portway section — this may be Too Much Information, but frankly I’ve always had a bit of a shy bladder, so weeing in the bushes as 10,000 other people jog past is quite difficult for me. Shame there weren’t more portaloos, really, I could have done without hanging around in a queue for as long as I did…

I felt fine through the whole Portway section, and only really started flagging when we got to around the eighth mile, at the start of Cumberland Road. I grabbed a Lucozade thingy from the helpful army people handing them out around there, though, and also ate half my Mule energy bar thing as I trogged down Cumberland Road and into town. I don’t know if that really helped — frankly I’m not keen to try a control experiment of doing another half marathon without them!

The city section was definitely the hardest. My thighs were starting to become a bid leaden, plus you have to jog within about half a mile of the finish line, but go past it and on a circuitous route around Queen Square, through Redcliffe and around Castle Park and back. That last hill up Wine Street was a bit of a killer.

Still, the good thing about the city section is that there are people here there and everywhere cheering you on, and reminding you that there’s only three miles left to go, then only two miles left to go, then finally you’re on the last mile and you know you’re going to finish.

I kept jogging all the way to the end, though I didn’t have anything left for a final burst of speed. It was all I could do to keep standing up, frankly.

I saw a few familiar faces, mostly from Twitter, on the way around, meeting @jorence on the way to the start, waving at @mikeotaylor on the way past the starting line, and apparently @parryphernalia saw me coming through the finish, though I was too intent on just keeping going without actually dying to notice… Apologies if you saw me and waved and I carried on oblivious; I was trying to stay vaguely aware of my surroundings, but it’s quite easy to descend into “tunnel vision” as you go along.

Looks like my time will be somewhere around three hours; my RunKeeper log suggests 3:03:38, but I did set it off a little in advance of hitting the starting line, so I can’t be sure whether I’ll be over or under 3 hours. But frankly, who cares? I just ran my first half marathon!

EDIT: whoo hoo! Just checked the website, and my official time is now in. I must have set my timer off a fair bit in advance of the start, as it turns out, as my time was… 02:53:43! So, comfortably under three hours, and I’m very happy indeed with that.

Of the non-Twitter people, the ones I was expecting to see didn’t let me down. My friends Mike and Jess were there near the finish to cheer me on, and picked me up afterwards to walk me up to Rocotillos and buy me one of their utterly deadly milkshakes — this time I had a cookie dough milkshake, extra thick, and I think that pretty much replaced all of the 2,362 calories I’d just burned off, according to the RunKeeper log.

So, a success all round! No injuries, no blisters. Some fairly serious aches, though. I’ve just emerged gingerly from a very long Radox bath, and I’ve taken tomorrow off work so I don’t have to do much more than lie around on a sofa watching telly, which is probably all I’ll be good for…

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me. Looks like I’ll end up raising more than £500 for Cancer Research, once my company matches the donations, which is fantastic.

Anyway. I just mentioned a sofa and a telly, didn’t I? Sounds like a good idea right now…