I can’t do it. I’m stopping”
The MK Marathon weekend half marathon 2016 was my first ever half marathon. I achieved my coveted sub-2 and had a blast; a real hometown glory moment.
Two years, three more half marathons and a 1.52 PB later, buoyed by my success at the MK Winter Half I signed up for the MK Marathon half again, with the aim and training focused on sub-1.50.
And then weather happened. I didn’t worry about it too much, after all I was ‘only’ running a half marathon which was nothing compared to the marathon runners and those that ran London in a similar heatwave, so I suncreamed up, donned my visor, hydrated until my wee was as pale as my legs and set off to the MK Dons stadium.
Arriving alone was a bit nerve-wracking, and the race was so big that it didn’t really feel like a local event, but I soon bumped into some familiar faces and my nerves eased as I made my way into the start pen.
I spotted the 1.55 pacer and made my decision there and then to try and stick with him and forego any thought of a PB. It was already super hot and I remembered my mantra to be “sensible but tough”. Lining up alongside him was a girl I recognised from Twitter, so it was nice to chit chat away until we crossed the line in the second way.
Half marathons always exist as 4k chunks in my head – I just can’t think about the distance all at once, so goal #1 was to stick with Tim, the pacer for the first 4k and avoid getting beheaded by his trailing pace balloon. Mission accomplished, although was that really 1.55 pace? I was running splits that were faster than my 1.52 pace. And should it already feel this tough? Just trust the pacer, trust the training, keep going.
I must admit, I didn’t remember the city centre section going on for quite so long, or having quite so many inclines…
Goal #2 – reach the water station at 5k which should keep me occupied until 6k. Should I really be bargaining with myself this early? This isn’t a good sign.
Water reached. Sipped some, poured some over myself, kept myself going. In what was possibly a hallucination I thought I had the 1.50 pacer in my sights – turned out it was actually the 1.55 pacer and I had lost him in the hub of the water station.
Goal #3 – catch him back up. But this never happened. My pace was slipping slightly and I reminded myself to be sensible, thoughts of just trying to finish within 2 hours pricking at my mind.
But come 8k I was done. I ground to a halt. I knew that keeping that pace up for a further 13/14k wasn’t going to be possible. I felt sick and I knew it would make me ill. So I called home and messaged my coach telling them that I was stopping. The first time I’ve ever used my phone during a race and feeling really rather miserable about the whole thing.
Then like a knight in shiny lycra came Steph From Twitter (who had originally lined up with me at the start) and she asked if I was okay. That seemed to snap me out of my funk, and I started running with her at a more gentle pace, both of us bemoaning that we thought the pacer had maybe gone off too fast. We adopted a run/walk strategy and this got us through to halfway, with me feeling like I was getting my rhythm back.
I’m not sure how hot it actually was (if you believe Twitter, it was anything from 23-29 degrees!) – but certainly mid-to-high twenties and it seemed to sap all energy from my legs. The 7 mile point is great – it’s a big local cheer point and comes just before the course splits the marathon runners from the half. I waved to my friend who shouted my name and was unexpectedly joined by my friend Kev – the 1.50 pacer. The heat had got to him too, even though that pace is well within what he is capable of. The 2 hour pacer was floating around nearby too, which was when I knew it wasn’t just me finding it hard going.
We decided to try and have fun for the rest of the race, so music blaring we ran as much as we could, allowing ourselves a small walk break every two kilometres.
Soaking up the crowds (who were AMAZING), throwing myself at the mercy of their hosepipes and super soakers, I got to see MK at its finest. Seriously, huge sweaty thank yous to everyone who came out to support, it made a huge difference)
Before I knew it, we had reached the final stretch. Having already passed an ambulance parked up along the route and many runners being treated by the side of the road, I was most sad to see strewn runners during the last kilometre, being treated by the wonderful St.John’s Ambulance. We all know that to stop within touching distance of the finishing line means it must be serious and Kev reminded me to watch my pace as I started to speed up towards the stadium finish.
Kev had lined up my son’s favourite song to play as we entered the stadium for our final lap and I waved excitedly at Oscar as I exited the tunnel to see him waiting there in the front row for me. It was the first time he had been there to watch me race, so a special moment.
‘Sprint finish?’ asked Kev? ‘Yep! Actually no. Okay, yes.’ And then it was done.
2.13. A personal worst for time and my first time ever over 2 hours, but a PB for grit and people-power.
A very well organised race, but next time MK, don’t make us climb stairs to claim our medals yeah?