Last Monday, at ten o'clock at night, I decided I fancied running a road half marathon this weekend. Such is the brilliance of the internet on phones that, half an hour later after a little searching, I had found one that fitted the bill in Portishead, Bristol and had entered it. So this morning, the alarm went off at 6.30 and we headed off down the M4 to get there in time for the 10.15 start.
M, who is training for the Clarendon Marathon, drove us and was Support Crew as he and Poppy did a 19 mile run yesterday (we all agreed it was the most quiet we'd ever seen Pop afterwards, although it didn't last long and by afternoon she was bouncing around annoying Ted).
The weather was hot and sunny, but after Adderbury a few weeks ago where we ran in 28 degree heat (hot for the UK!), a mere 24 wasn't going to put me off. It was a Festival Of Running weekend, with various races taking part on both days, culminating in the Half this morning, so there were lots of folk gathered at the start and the tail end of the 5k was coming to a close as we arrived.
I got my number and pfaffed about for a while as usual trying to pin it on without attaching it to my skin....
The start was delayed by fifteen minutes for the kids' mile race to finish and then we were off, heading out into the streets of Portishead.
Neither of us had been to Portishead before. It's a small coastal down just outside Bristol with views over to Wales and a lovely marina, which we ran past on the two-lap route...
The marshals and locals were great, clapping and cheering the runners and calling out words of encouragement. As is usual on these longer runs, I got chatting to some lovely people. I didn't get the name of the lady above, but we had a good natter about Portishead (she lived there) and marathons (she'd run London earlier in the year and Gloucester at the start of the month) while we ran together.
I'd decided to work on my pace for this HM, having left it to chance with the previous three which have all been hilly, off road, tough runs where time is, frankly, irrelevant. I reckoned if I could do between 5.40-6 minute kms on this one I'd turn in a respectable performance. This course wasn't without hills so it was never going to be super-fast, but I stuck to my guns and maintained a steady rhythm all the way and by the time I finished I wasn't exhausted but didn't have oodles of energy left over either, so I think I judged it about right. All useful stuff with half an eye on Edinburgh next year.
On the final 3k I fell into step with a lovely chap called David who was using the run as pace training for the New Forest Marathon this September. I was tiring a bit by then and we still had one final long hill to get up just before the finish. He was a complete star, chatting away, getting me up the smaller hill before the big one by slowing down so I could run beside him. I've written before how runners can help one another by either pacing side-by-side or by leading when one is tired, and that is what he did for me.
Soon we passed M waving and cheering and that gave me a lift. The course turned downhill and we were joined by a friend of David's as well as a lady who'd faltered on the previous hill and another chap. Our little group of five stuck together for the final KM, egging one another one, making sure we were all ok, checking it was safe for all of us to cross roads together. Runners. You won't find a nicer, kinder, more supportive bunch of people.
At the final hill there was M cheering and yelling me on so I superglued myself to David's elbow and managed to keep running up all of it, but I was flagging and then I heard David telling me push, push, push and that simple bit of encouragement helped me find some little bit of left-over energy from somewhere to get up the last bit of the hill and turn down to the finish. Here we are just reaching the top of that final hill having run 13 miles in the heat...
We were running side-by-side as we turned to the finish so I suggested sprint finish? We pelted down the hill together grinning and then he did what is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone who isn't my husband has ever done for me in a race- he slowed down so that I could cross the line first. David, if you happen to read this, or someone from Bristol who knows you does: thank you so much for getting me up that hill and being such a true gent at the finish. These races are, in many ways, made for me not by the time I run them in, but by the many examples of truly decent human beings I meet on the way round them.
Job Done. HM # 4 in the bag and at 12 minutes faster than my previous best too.
Hope you're all well?