Bikes with baskets, punting on the Cam, taking photos of quaint buildings… is how I always imagined my first visit to Cambridge would be. Freezing rain, aching calves and jelly baby induced near-vomiting is what actually happened (Although I did see a lot of bikes, and the race even had a bike pen).
Sunday 5th March was always intended to be the day I ran the MK Festival of Running 20 miler in preparation for London. But when I was invited to take part in the sold-out Cambridge Half by Saucony (the event’s headline sponsors) to cover it for runABC there’s no way I could turn it down. So 20 miles became 13.1 and Milton Keynes became Cambridge. Good job really, given that I wasn’t (and still am not) in 20 mile shape.
Saturday saw me travelling to Cambridge, trying and failing not to get lost on the 500m walk to my hotel, and swallowing my feelings of inadequacy as I met up and went for dinner with the editor of Mens Running, a chap from 220 Triathlon magazine and several other lovely journos and PRs.
Come Sunday morning we were all well acquainted, and sharing hairbrushes over breakfast (I knew I would forget to pack something), so were more than happy to huddle together for
warmth our pre-race team photo.
The race had the biggest ‘big race’ feel I’ve experienced so far, which was a tiny bit daunting but all good practice for London.
I had promised myself that I would look up during the race, and take in my surroundings. I did manage to do that, and I wasn’t disappointed. Cambridge is super pretty and the crowds, oh the crowds were simply amazing. They deserve credit for simply being out in that weather in the first place ( I maintain that it’s much worse to stand in the rain than run in it), but it’s a crowd that really knew how to support runners. None of this ‘nearly there’ bollocks at mile 6, but shouts of ‘you’ve got this’, ‘we believe in you’ and ‘you’ve trained for this’ not only almost drew a tear at mile 12, but really did help. Thank you, Cambridge.
I was pretty nervous about the race as I had set a target time of 1.53 (my PB at this point was 1.55) in order to be on track for my sub-4 at London. In hindsight I had put a lot of pressure on myself, but that’s nothing new. I split the race into 4km chunks in my head, aiming to complete each section at target pace. And until km 14 I was pretty much on track, But then I saw a man weeing at the side of the road and it all went to pot. Did I need a wee? Suddenly I was utterly convinced that I wouldn’t be able to run a step further without weeing, so jumped into the nearest portaloo. Of course, I didn’t actually need a wee so it was a wasted effort, and added a minute to my time. I knew at this point that 1.53 wasn’t likely so just focused on finishing.
As I crossed the line and saw my Garmin display 1:54:56 I couldn’t hide my disappointment at a PB so measly that it barely deserved the title (4 seconds…), but with a few days to mull it over I realised that with the weather conditions so hideous and a toilet stop, any PB was to be celebrated and it wasn’t too far off the coveted 1.53.
The medal was also pretty cool.
To sum up, I would say that I enjoyed the event but hated my race. Every single step felt like an effort, and my legs & head just weren’t in the game. Marathon training fatigue? Who knows. But it’s definitely a race to learn from.
And to the lady wearing the ‘Believe, Train, Achieve’ t-shirt, I meant what I said – you have given me my new mantra. Six weeks until London. Lets keep training.
Cambridge, I’ll be back in the summer. Just lay on some sun this time, yeah?