Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon...

10.09.2012

This past Sunday hubs and I ran our first race together (sort of) and it just happened to be the Royal Parks Half Marathon! I had signed us up what seems like ages ago and we were both fortunate enough to get drawn in the lottery! Training leading up to this race had been a bit sporadic as it seemed everything kept getting in the way... I was ill for about a month... hubs has a pretty ridiculous work schedule... I had some minor injuries... hubs had a last minute work trip to Spain when we were supposed to do our 10 miler! Given the circumstances, we did the best we could and crammed training into four weeks at very random times. To say that we both didn't feel the lack of training would be a lie... and so we have learned our lessons the hard way... with a medal to remember them by!


Early on in our training, it became apparent that hubs was having a hard time running at my slowish pace. If he stayed at my pace, he suffered in endurance... and after years of trial and error, I know now that running at your own comfortable stride is key to long distance running. Also in my defense, I was slower than my usual pace from being sick for so long and even I was struggling. So we decided that come race day, we would start together but run at what our bodies naturally wanted to do. Of course I warned him about starting too fast (a common mistake which I've done in past races!) and then dying at the end... all I could do was hope he would listen...

We arrived bright and early to Hyde Park on a rare sunny day... it was a lot colder than we had anticipated and quickly decided to keep our jackets on for the race. Surrounded by the park's beauty of the changing seasons and the eager excitement buzzing all around us from fellow runners and supporters, it was a little hard to stay focused. We made our way to bag check, did one last toilet stop, and then tried to meet up with some Run Dem Crew friends that were also running the race. Sadly we were not able to find anyone in the masses so we headed over to the holding pens, along with 12,500 other runners!

Miles 1-3: With a quick hug and kiss for good luck, we were off! Within the first mile hubs was steadily gaining speed and looking back to see where I was... I nodded to let him know to go off and he did. These first miles are usually my hardest as it takes me a while to get into a stride. Surprisingly, they are also my fastest and Sunday was no exception. Just a bit into mile two I got hot and stripped off my jacket and fingerless gloves. Almost instantly I heard a shout of my name as E caught up with me (the first of many Run Dem Angels that would help me through)... we chatted briefly and then she was on her way. Seeing her encouraging smile gave me a little boost... then the route went back on itself and I was able to catch a glimpse of hubs as he headed back over Westminster Bridge... we exchanged huge grins and that was all I needed to pick up my speed a bit...

Miles 4-6: I still felt really strong at this point and remember thinking if I could just keep this pace up then maybe I could match my p.b., just maybe... The route doubled back on itself again and I kept myself busy by looking for hubs and any Run Dem people. Again I heard a loud shout of my name and looked up to see E (a younger) sprinting in the opposite direction... another burst of adrenaline at seeing her vigorously waving back over her shoulder at me. Up until now the route had taken us through the city, providing iconic sites along the way but I was eager to get into the park bit of the run as I knew Run Dem Cheer crew was waiting at mile six... and I was starting to waver in energy and spirit... I pushed hard with the goal to high five everyone... only to nearly miss them and then have to blow kisses at them as a ran past... I was feeling weak and knew that the only way to keep going was by not stopping. I heard the loud cheers and shouts (mainly from C and P who are notoriously loud) and that was enough to keep me moving...

Miles 7-9: I think around the beginning of mile seven my body just went into auto pilot and it was all could do to just keep going... Now the course wound around the parks in a snake like way and you could see runners coming and gong in all directions without ever seeing the end! It was all I could do to keep from panicking... Across the way, running in the opposite direction I spotted M and S (thanks to M's neon spotty leggings!) and shouted out for them. I fed off of the energy from their familiar smiles and carried on. The 2:10 pacer that had kept me competitively ahead of him until now finally passed me... and I didn't have the energy to even try and catch up. I should mention that throughout the park bits of the race, there were gradual hills that just sucked all the life out of me! I decided to just keep my head low on the incline to not get overwhelmed at some of the seemingly endless hills and concentrate on getting to mile nine where I would see the Run Dem Cheer squad again... and this time we made actual high five contact!!!

Miles 10-13: I don't think I have ever wanted to finish a race more than this one... and mainly because of the excruciating pain I was experiencing from both of my shoulders. Sure I had aches and pains in my knee, ankles, and hip... but those I could deal with. My shoulder pain started on and off around mile eight but I just kept shaking it off. Now it had gotten to a point where I was running while doing all sorts of ridiculous arm movements to try and ease the pain. Mentally I started faltering and I didn't think I could finish. Thoughts of just walking off went through my head but I knew I couldn't quit... not this far into the race. It had taken everything in me to not stop and walk up until this point and now I had to dig even deeper to finish the race. M had once said that saying great things about yourself in these dire moments helped with the mental side of running. But not even the world's greatest self compliments could help me now! So I resorted to the following, which I repeated in my head for the remainder of the race- "Your pace may have dropped but you haven't stopped", "Slow and steady", and "Just keep swimming!!!" In a blur (I lost all concept of time at this point) I think spotted a hot sweaty mess of a hubs and also got a last pick me up from O as she inspired me to go on...

Miles 13- 13.1: Because the race doesn't end at thirteen miles and that .1 can sometimes feel like the longest stretch of my life! I could have cried that I was still going, still in a lot of pain, had managed to not stop once, and could actually see the finish line up ahead!!! I could have cried, but I had no energy left in me for that. So I focused on the finish line and even managed a smile... because if there is one thing I try to do throughout races, it's smile as much as possible and cross the finish line with one! Like some sort of magic, Hey Yea (Outkast) came on and carried me over the finish line... and it was over.

Final Outcome: 02:24:46 time, 11"15' pace, 9,619 overall place, 2,587 female place... achy body parts- 6 (shoulders, ankles, knee, and hip), blisters- 4. It wasn't a p.b. in time, but it was in willpower and determination... I am quite happy with that =)

Hub's Final Outcome: 02:15:09, not sure of his pace, 7,029 overall place, 3,275 male place... achy body parts- 2 (knees!), blisters- 0. Says he found the first six miles really easy and the hills to be killer. Had to walk some and then did a crazy man singing at the top of his lungs sprint finish just to be done with it! First half marathon, first race ever... and new p.b. to try and top ;)


After the race, hubs and I  hugged, kissed, exchanged stories, and laughed out loud at some of the memories. We both agreed that lack of training bit us in the behind and it would have been a lot easier (and enjoyable) had we trained properly... so will there be a next one? For me, you betcha... actually doing another in Amsterdam in two weeks! For hubs, I think it's safe to say that his competitive nature will have him training for another one in know time!


***Today I am thankful that I finished the race... it was hard but I did it!!!***

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