You should all know by now that I was running the Silverstone Half-Marathon to raise money for the Helen & Douglas House hospice care charity. Now that I have completed my side of the deal you can still make a donation to this very worthwhile cause through my Just Giving page.
After an evening of the most excellent opera (Wagner’s Parsifal from The Met) and getting to bed around midnight, I woke up at 7 o’clock and made myself some of The Ultimate meusli from rude health -that is the one which includes oats, rye flakes, raisins, sultanas, barley flakes, apricots, almonds, brazil nuts, dates, golden linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cranberries, quinoa flakes, apple, buckwheat flakes, goji berries, hazlenuts, puffed rice, blueberries, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and cinnamon. It is beyond yummy ! I made sure that my bag was packed with some warm clothing for after the race, food for before and after, my camera, my racing number and my timing tag. I took my supplements with some water containing Zero High5 citrus tablets, left the house before 8 and drove up to Silverstone, eating a proto pure endurance bar on the way, drinking some more of the Zero High5 water, getting there before 9 and completely avoiding any queue to get in.
The problem with that is the race was not starting until 12 midday and it was very cold out – next time I will know that I do not need to leave my car until much later in the morning. And, yes, I realise that I am only a short way into this blog and have already said ‘next time’. I put on my Crocs and headed off towards the circuit, over one bridge to cross Farm Straight and another to cross Wellington Straight, then followed the signs which brought me to The Paddock – it was not the shortest walk ever.
I had a look around The Paddock before spotting Annaliese Taylor and Kate Sankey, two of the Community & Events Fundraisers from Helen & Douglas House, and I went over to chat with them while getting my branded running vest.
Unfortunately they only had the running vest in medium, but I managed to fit myself into one over my base layer – you need to bear that in mind when looking at the race photos.
The cold weather meant I had decided to run in my long-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front, to wear my Outdoor Designs layeron gloves, and to carry a proto pure orange flavour energy gel in the back pocket of my Ron Hill running shorts. I was also wearing my 2XU compression tights, my Bridgedale CoolFusion Na-kd socks and my Merrell Trail Gloves, so it was all very familiar kit which I had been training in. It had been washed over the 12-week training programme, before you ask. Not long after that I was found by Jim Macleerie, who had got me into this in the first place.
We were standing next to a Lucozade Sport stand which had wristbands showing necessary mile times to achieve overall finishing times, and we both took one of those, although I am sure neither of us took the appropriate one. The Runner’s World pace team were in the same location, and we discussed which one we should follow. I ate a banana about 45 minutes before the start and sipped on my Zero High5 water. Jim and I chatted and passed the time until we were ready to put all our warm layers into our bags and have them stored away, and then headed off to the start line.
The race itself is run on and around the Silverstone F1 track. We start at Copse, run down through Maggotts, Becketts, Chapel and Hangar Straight to get to 1 mile, then round Stowe and through Vale, Club, International Pits Straight and Abbey to get to 2 miles, then through Farm, Village, The Loop, Aintree, Wellington Straight, Priory and Brooklands to get to 3 miles, which is right on Luffield, then once we are through Woodcote and National Pits Straight we come off the track and begin what they call the second lap, going inside the F1 track to begin with and coming to 4 miles near Becketts and Chapel, following Hangar Straight before coming back on ourselves, passing through 5 miles and going around Stowe Circuit, then around the Silverstone Wing and New Pits to get to 6 miles, down by Farm, Village, The Loop and Aintree before crossing Wellington Straight about half way up to get to 7 miles, then over Farm Straight to follow a route outside of the F1 track, going around the outside of International Pits Straight to get to 8 miles at Club, then passing the outside of Club, Vale, Stowe and Hangar Straight to get to 9 miles across from Chapel, getting to 10 miles at National Pits Straight before cutting back in at Luffield, joining the F1 track around Brooklands before veering off at Priory, heading off to Bridge and hitting 11 miles at the Farm Straight, going past Abbey and along International Pits Straight, round Club, through Vale, around Stowe to get to 12 miles, down Hangar Straight, through Chapel, Becketts and Maggotts to pass 13 miles, and finally making the 13.1 miles mark at Copse.
Jim and I lined up on the F1 starting grid at a sign for runner’s expecting to finish between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes. We thought that was about right. The Runner’s World pacemaker who was stood in the same place was a faster time than we had planned on, but we decided to go with him and see how it went. It was still very cold but the sun had come out just in time to see us off, although it mostly stayed behind the clouds and the day remained largely overcast with a cold nip in the air. And then we were off, to the sound of The Chain by Fleetwood Mac ! We actually passed through the start 5 minutes and 24 seconds after the first runner, and I stuck with the Runner’s World pacemaker for the first 3 miles, running at a 10 minute and 13 seconds pace. It felt pretty comfortable for those first 3 miles and everyone around me was very friendly, which was nice for my first race.
Then I gradually fell back from the group until the pacemaker was out of sight and I continued on at my own pace. Unfortunately, I felt my right knee starting to ache at 5 miles, which at least gave me something to take my mind off my bruised left toe, an annoying injury which had appeared during the last week of my training programme. I always expected one or other or both of my knees to ache before the end of the race, but I had hoped they would hold off until around the 10 mile mark. I suspect those first 3 miles were just a little too quick a pace for me at the moment. I picked up a bottle of Lucozade Sport at 5.5 miles, and although it did its job, it was too thick a taste for me . By 6 miles I was running at 11 minute per mile pace, and then we had to go over the footbridge which crosses the Wellington Straight, which I was not expecting to be part of the course. In fact, the course was not flat at all and I realised that my home running routes were actually good training for this. My knee was slowing me down mile by mile, but I reckoned I had put in a good enough start to still bring it all home in a reasonable time. I kept recalculating at each mile sign, and tried to break down the remaining distance into smaller parts in my head.
Jim passed me at the 8 mile mark, and though I tried to run with him, my knee would just not let me tag along. He finished in 2 hours 28 minutes and 19 seconds, which is excellent because I know he wanted to beat 2 hours and 30 minutes. I had to take a toilet stop just after 9 miles, which was a frustrating waste of time, but then I ate my proto plus orange flavour energy gel, which made me feel better. I picked up another Lucozade Sport just before 10 miles, by which time I was still ahead of 12 minutes per mile pace but my knee was really struggling. Having said that, you probably would not have guessed it from the photo Annaliese took of me as I passed her and Kate.
I took a bottle of Nestle Pure Life water at 10.5 miles and then had to start some walking to stretch out my knee, which meant the final few miles became a mixture of walking and running, being passed by a mole and then overtaking that mole, and basically a determination to nail this half-marathon in 12 minute per mile pace. For the record, I beat the mole.
I saw what I presumed was the final marker and put on a bit of a sprint to reach it, before realising it was the 13 mile marker, which I came through spot on 2 hours and 36 minutes, so I kept pushing towards the line, conscious, however, that if I pushed just a little bit more than I was doing that I would throw up, so I avoided that while finishing the full 13.1 miles in 2 hours 37 minutes and 06 seconds.
That put me in 5571st place, the 3847th male and 520th in the 40-44 age category. It was good enough for a first try, and I will be back again next year to beat it.
I carried on walking, going over the raised area where the timers were taken off our running shoes (and the official time matched up with that on my watch), got a little emotional as I picked up my goody bag (which contained a tshirt with the race route map on the front, an excellent medal, a bottle of Lucozade Sport, a bottle of Nestle Pure Life still spring water, a teapigs rooibos creme caramel teabag, a packet of American pistachios, an Eat Natural bar, two individual Airwaves, and a shampoo and conditioner from Pantene) and headed on to have my final photograph taken, wearing my medal.
I walked into The Paddock to find Jim and get my bag, put on some warm clothing, ate a Bounce natural energy ball (almond protein hit) (which is definitely something to eat after exercise rather than before because it does take some eating !), drank some Zero High5 water, and after a stretch and a chat and a couple of photos (you can see all of my photos here)
went off to find Annaliese and Kate to say goodbye to them. They did so well to put up with the cold and provide support throughout the race, and will now be dealing with their London Marathon runners, some of whom also ran this race as part of their training for that. I gratefully accepted some of their jelly babies.
I changed back into my Crocs and walked back to my car, following the route I had taken to get in which seemed to be longer going back and was certainly a lot longer than I wanted it to be, and as I crossed the bridge over Farm Straight I could see they were starting to dismantle the 11 mile sign as the final runner came through and disappeared underneath the bridge. Everyone clapped and cheered as she passed below us and she waved back. I sat in the car for a while, waiting to get out of the car park, and as the traffic heading towards the M1 was going so slowly I took the A5 instead. I got home and decided that a curry was in order after the exertions of the day, so I ordered a delivery from the Alban Tandoori (which is about 100 metres from the house) and enjoyed a starter of daal phulhjuri (lentil based pakoras), a main course of mango murgh (marinated and grilled boneless spring chicken with coriander, sweet mango, fresh herbs and spices and a dash of lemon), some mushroom rice, and a cheese naan and a keema naan. It was delicious and it was wonderfully relaxing just sitting back and eating it, before heading off to bed feeling good about the day. And I think I have a right to feel good – I have never really enjoyed running and only started going for runs on Monday 19 November 2012, at which time I was not able to run a full 3 miles without walking some of it; I started my 12 week training programme on Monday 10 December 2012 and have stuck to it very well, apart from the two and a half weeks when my tooth infection got in the way; and here I am some 15 weeks after those initial struggling runs having completed my first half-marathon. I can call it my first half-marathon because I have already signed up to run the St Albans half-marathon on Sunday 9 June, and will be coming back to Silverstone in 2014.
Positives – I did it, and I did it in 12 minutes per mile. I know I would have done it faster than that if it had not been for my right knee. I like the back pocket in my Ron Hill running shorts, which is perfect for carrying an energy gel.
Lessons learnt for next time – do not overdo the carb loading, because my eating over the two weeks before the race was a bit crazy, and needs to remain better controlled next time. Get more sleep, especially the night before the race. Take my own drink for during the race, which means I might have to get used to running with a waterbottle during training.
I should thank Jim for getting me into this mess in the first place, Debbie for putting up with my training programme, Christianne for providing training and motivation, the Fishtank for their support and for putting up with the updates on the training programme, Annaliese from Helen & Douglas House for accepting me on to their team of runners and for being so helpful and organised (and for the photo you can see above !), and all those on Facebook and at work who encouraged me through this. I could not have done it without you all. And a big thank you to everyone who sponsored me, it is very much appreciated.