I did it. I ran my half marathon yesterday. I didn’t run every single step but I ran well. There were only just under 2000 of us running which means about 300 people signed up and paid but didn’t show up on the day. I guess that still means I beat them too though. I finished about 1750 ish. I did see the exact place but it was pretty irrelevant to me as I always knew I would be at the back of the pack but not the slowest.
The day started at 6am when I husband woke me up and turned on the lights (as I think we know that waking up at 6am on a Sunday will not happen without blinding light). I had my clothes laid out so got dressed quickly so I could get downstairs for my tea and flapjack breakfast. We had gone out special the day before to buy the flapjack only for my stomach to tell me it had no interest in it on the day. By 6:45am we were out the door to walk down to the start.
The starting line is only a couple miles away and not strenuous in any way so the walk was our warm up. This was good as we might have walked a bit leisurely and found ourselves running a bit later than we expected. We got to the start and toilet lines for 7:39am which was just quick enough to use the facilities and find a quieter spot to hide in. In emails I had been assured that loud music was banned from the start of the race because we were close to residential areas but the music was blasting nonetheless which set off the panic in me even all the way back in the 3hr runner area. Luckily though, I wasn’t there that long before the start and they got us going promptly at 8am.
The race started rather ridiculously early because the Swindon Outlet Centre are assholes that forced the organisers to start it too early or not get permission to start it at all. In fact, the likelihood of there being another Swindon Half Marathon is in jeopardy quite possibly because of the council forcing it into the same day as bigger runs (like the Great North Run) and several other regionally local half marathons and the McArthur Glen Outlet Centre forcing it to be so early that they put off runners.
So we set off through the edge of the Magic Roundabout and onto Queens Drive for a long slight incline. I was prepared for this as I have walked, run and cycled this route and knew that Queens Drive is slightly uphill. No big deal. Down to the Marlborough Roundabout and left onto Dorcan Way. Not bad for the first bit but then Dorcan Way goes a bit more uphill (which I was well aware of already) and back down again to Morrison’s. This was about the 5K (3 mile) mark. Onward from there still on Dorcan we had a reasonably flat like bit of road and our first aid station. I had my Clif Blok and some water (500ml bottles that no one was drinking more than a couple hundred millilitres so a bit too big for needs) and disposed of the litter in the bins provided. I can’t really run and eat/drink so had to stop for a few moments by the bin.
From the end of Dorcan we headed over the roundabout by Greenbridge Shopping Centre and up our first real hill on Swindon Road (I might not have the right name there but it at least leads to it) and at the top left down into the road by the Dockle Farmhouse pub (want to say Gypsy lane but that might be wrong as well). Around this point I really started to notice an older man in a flannel shirt and trousers running ahead of me but stopping regularly to recite poetry and engage with the crowds. He needs to share some of that energy.
Up past Wicks and left onto Great Western Way. Now this bit I was sure I remembered being pretty quickly downhill and a good downhill as that but we got there and damned if it wasn’t uphill first and not slightly. You don’t notice in a car but on foot it is so obvious! This became a theme for the rest of the race. We did get our downhill bit to the roundabout heading over toward Tesco. We went straight over there and the next to run along next to Swindon College and get to our halfway point at the Oasis leisure centre. I had my second Clif Blok and a bit more water and back out again. See I had this goal of running at least half without walking which I did and ran out of there to see how far I actually could get.
I didn’t fully chew the Blok before heading out on the next bit of run and quickly realised before getting to the bins that I couldn’t breath and chew at the same time and my heart rate was spiking because of it so I did walk while chewing and ran again as soon as I could swallow. It was only a minute tops but technically this was walking. I don’t fully count it as walking but if you want to be pedantic I walked for the first time around 10.5 km. I did immediately get myself back up to pace through Hawkworth Industrial Estate, left under the Bruce Street Bridges and onto the road toward the outlet centre. Again this road is flat in a car but it is definitely an incline when on foot. Up the long straight bit to a right at the roundabout and a left to take us down past the Steam Museum and behind the Outlet Centre (you know so that there was no impact on them anyway regardless of the time of day) over a bridge and into the residential area on the other side.
At 7 Miles I was waiting a bit but I just kept finding a point in the distance to push on to and when I got there chose the next until a felt a bit of a confidence again. Past the Weighbridge Pub through another industrial estate and down to Wooten Bassett Road. We crossed over the road and headed up into Wichelstowe. Along this bit (that was very narrow considering the situation) a first responder came blaring past followed shortly by an ambulance. Luckily by the time the ambulance was making its way past I could get on the footpath but for the first responder all I could do was run right up against the curb as there were spectators on the footpath. It turned out to be for a lady that had hurt her foot or ankle but nothing serious. This bit of road is also a smidge uphill and shortly before 9miles (14km) I walked for a minute or two. I was really happy to have pushed on this long and got myself going again to the aid station and my third Blok and water.
At this aid station I stopped completely to eat the Blok and have a bit of water as I knew it would work against me to try chewing and running again. It was only a minute or two tops but it was the right choice. I headed back out and ran to just after the 10 mile sign and this is when the walking/running really started not far from the Bayberry pub. At this point I knew it was 5km to the finish and I was 2:04 into my run so I would manage under 3hr. I also knew I had to will myself even more though as walking seemed like an option for the duration. I was stronger than my inclination though. Uphill to the crossing and onto the hardest part of the race….Pipers Way.
I have run Pipers Way before. The first time was 11 years ago in a fun run for the old Swindon half marathon. Since than I have done it twice in practice. I knew on race day I was walking Pipers and I did for most of it. At Nationwide we had to run into the campus a bit so I ran that bit to the water station but walked up until I reached Intel. From there I ran so slowly it was pathetic but I did it. I didn’t last long before the last bit of hill into Old Town reared it’s ugly head and I walked up that.
At Wood Street I plucked up my courage with the cheering crowds and ran again. At the end of Wood St there was a lady with a sign that said “down hill bit” which gave me a spark of self-confidence to push on down Victoria Hill. I say a friend just before the bottom that spurred me on again. Down around Regent Circus and just the slightest hill like incline for a short distance. Walked that 50m and at the right turn could see the finish. I got the guy beside me who was clearly wiped out too going again and we ran in to finish.
My husband was on the right side of the road cheering me and my kids a bit farther down. I tried so hard to push a sprint out of me but just could not speed up beyond my average pace. I ran in through the finish line and stopped my watch.
I didn’t look immediately at the time nor saw the clock. I knew it was under 3hr which was the best I was truly expecting. I had three time goals: satisfied was just finishing in 4hrs and getting my medal; happy was under 3hrs; over the moon elated was 2:45. I finished in 2:45:11.9. I am so happy with that and happy it is over.
I beat my goal of running half. I ran for nearly 9 Miles. I pushed through the burning legs and didn’t walk even when I knew I could reach my happy goal and walk the rest of the race. I will excuse that last 11.9 seconds and say I reached to over the moon elated goal. I am sore as hell the next morning and I have no intention of doing any more runs of this length. Races can be 10k from now on. Now on to my next challenge….the Isle of Wight Challenge (walking) in May.