I am still on such a high and as the days go on the more it sinks in just what I have achieved. The day itself began with my usual bowl of porridge and the obligatory Facebook status update along with some equally frantic posting and commenting from half the Hedgies! I left the house at 6.30am to begin a short trip around Bursledon, Hedge End and West End to pick up Linda, Anna, Giuseppe and Mark. It was obviously a good omen that I arrived at each point of that route exactly when I said I would and we were on our way by 6.50am – although we hadn’t even got on the motorway when I was told I drive like a girl…the Hedgie spirit was well and truly underway and it only got better as the day went on!
Seeing as none of us had read the ‘important details’ part of the pre race instructions and therefore didn’t really know where we should park we headed to Kings Park Athletic Stadium – seemed sensible given that was where the start was and figured we would soon enough find signs that we were in the right place – the great big queue of cars was a bit of a giveaway so we joined that and found a parking space pretty easily.
We walked the short distance to the stadium where I headed straight for the ladies – surprisingly (and possibly a bit concerning) this was the first visit of just three from the time I left home in the morning until I got home at about 6.30pm – good in terms of the nerves, pretty shocking hydration wise though.
Not surprisingly there was a massive queue in the ladies and because of that we missed the start of the half marathon (which was right by some portaloos with no queue…oops, sorry guys) but it did provide the first proud moment of the day when someone said to me after spotting the club hoodie “I’ve seen loads of your lot already today” and it wasn’t even 8am! I obviously couldn’t resist telling her there were over 20 of us in the marathon alone!
I am now conscious that I have only got to 8am in this report with 2 hours to go before the start and a 4 and a half hour race still to cover, well 4:23:01 to be precise so that has shaved nearly 7 minutes off my story! Sorry, I couldn’t wait until the end to write my time again!
It didn’t take long for the other Hedgies to arrive – the place was a swarm of red hoodies! And hats and gloves – it was freezing! So it was no surprise that no-one wanted to strip off to put running tops and numbers on, let alone have to leave our stuff at the baggage drop off point but at about 9.30am we were all ready to head to the start and suddenly the usually noisy Hedgies were very quiet….
We said good luck to the speedies in the pink and orange waves and made our way to the green start pen where we resumed a bit more of the Hedgie banter but it was quite obvious we were all asking ourselves what on earth possessed us to voluntarily sign up to a 26.2 mile race – I don’t even drive that far to and from work each day!!!
But at 10am the first wave started and we weren’t long behind – only a couple of minutes walk to the start and then we were off. I got a bit over excited (hard to believe I know) and started my watch too early so by the time I had reset it I had lost a few seconds and had a slight panic that it didn’t want to start again but thankfully it did – completely irrational behaviour that I was fretting over about 10 seconds in a marathon!
The first few miles were a really surreal experience – I was surrounded by all these runners yet apart from the sound of feet on the tarmac it was eerily quiet – I don’t think I have ever done a run since joining the club where I haven’t chatted most of the way round so I was feeling pretty uneasy about this – I tried talking to Linda but felt like I was in the cinema with all these eyes staring at me to be quiet, it was very unsettling.
However, I stuck to my plan to begin nice and steady to allow my legs time to warm up and was soon settled into a comfortable 10mm mile pace. I haven’t done many races since my sprinting days where I naturally started as fast as I could and with the worst experience since then at the Great South Run in 2011 very firmly in my memory (where I hated every step from mile 3 onwards) I was determined that if I was going to do anything on Sunday, I was going to start slowly – first goal achieved :-)
You’ll be glad to hear I am not going to re-live every mile – mainly because the course was so wiggly that I must have been in most places at least twice going in one direction or another so I don’t really have any idea of what mile I was at any given point so I will just share my highlights with you.
Throughout the whole race I can honestly say I didn’t think about walking once – not even on the hills. On reflection this may have been a wiser choice given the inclines were pretty brutal but my stubborn, bloody minded attitude knew that goal number 3 was to run the whole lot without stopping and I knew I wouldn’t be able to say that I had done this if I had walked any part of it. So I didn’t.
Although the first people I saw were Billy and Kate I wasn’t expecting them to be there so didn’t see them in time to make the most of them (sorry guys!). My focus was on mile 14 where I knew the ‘Hedgie Pen’ would be and where I thought my family would be too and they didn’t disappoint. As I came down the hill to the seafront, right in front of me were about 10 members of my family frantically waving and screaming at me – wow!
The adrenaline rush and the fact that I was running down a really steep hill just gave me so much momentum as I turned the bend to see the Hedgies!
This photo superbly captures just how pleased I was to see them! Complete with new found energy and several high fives they cheered me on my way down the promenade – at this point I glanced at my watch and knew I had definitely sped up so I dropped my pace back down to a sensible level.
From thereon in the miles all kind of rolled into one until I got to about mile 23. By that I mean that the next 9 miles or so were loops of the promenades and piers where I spent the majority of the time looking out for and high-fiving the other Hedgies on the course. Tiernan is well known for his in race photos and this one certainly didn’t disappoint and perfectly demonstrates the amazing team spirit on the day.
I kept thinking that the further I ran along the promenade away from the finish, the more I would have to do on the way back and this was mentally the toughest part of the race for me – but I kept going and finally came to the turning point. All the way back I just kept chanting ‘less than 30 minutes left…less than 20 minutes left until I got to mile 25 when I my body realised I had just a mile to go and started to head for home. Goal number 6 was to finish strong and with mile 26 being my fastest one of the whole day I can safely say I achieved this one too.
For anyone who has been paying attention you may think I can’t count as I have missed out goal number 2. Goal number 2 was to enjoy the race from start to finish and cross that line thinking that this was one of the hardest things I have ever done but to not be put off wanting to do another marathon. I think this photo more than shows that I enjoyed it but I am slightly unnerved that I found it a lot more comfortable than I thought I would…could a longer distance really be on the cards…
Goal number 7 heading into the day was to finish in a time of 4:15. I didn’t achieve this which I was a little disappointed with initially but on reflection I really shouldn’t be. However, I can’t call myself a runner if I don’t always think I can do better – watch this space to find out next year as I’ve already entered for 2015!
This truly has to be one of the highlights of my life, the race went perfectly to plan but the day delivered so much more in terms of the Hedgie Spirit I have become to know and love...long may it continue!