Early February, and a few of us had signed up for the Watford Half Marathon. It’s always a popular marathon warm up race, with a pacing team and great organisation. It would be my second year of running it, having done it last year. The only thing I am not too keen on is that it is very hilly! I was also a bit worried about a potential 11 mile time limit, which you were meant to have crossed within 2 hours so they could re-open the roads. I had managed it last year, but this time round I had not yet hit a long run at the pace needed to do that. I just hoped I could not get pulled out by the sweeper. I just wanted to run it as a training run, get round it in one piece and survive the hills.
I’d arranged to meet two friends from triathlon club and Parkrun – Ben and Rich – round theirs and we’d all drive down together and meet up with a few more from Ben’s running club. We got there in good time, and it was turning out to be a beautiful winter’s morning for a race – sunny and not too cold. I’d gone with a tee-shirt and capris, which turned out to be a good choice as it would have been too warm for long tights and sleeves. The race was held in Cassiobury Park, and there was a big marquee for baggage drop, changing and massage. We dropped off our bags – which was a bit of a wait as unfortunately we had not been provided with tags in our race packs, so had to line up for those first on the day. But a minor worry. Short queues for the loos though – which were rather nice posh portaloos! I went to find the pacers, and decided to be safe and stick to the 2.30 pacer, the slowest of the pace groups. I asked what would happen if we didn’t get too 11 miles within 2 hours but he said it would be ok as long as we stuck to the pavements – I guess it was mainly to ensure that the majorities of runners finished by then and to discourage walkers. The actual time limit for the whole race was 3 hours.
Men started in a separate pen to the women and men’s vets to ease congestion – so I said goodbye to Rich and Ben and joined Wai-Meng from Parkrun on the left hand side of the park. As luck would have it, my pacer had gone to the men’s side (well, being a man that was probably obvious!), and there wasn’t another 2.30 pacer in the women’s! I just hoped we would see him early on and not lose the group. Set off at a fairly easy pace, but it’s downhill for a bit so it’s deceptive. Got chatting with a few other girls who were also looking out for the pacer. Eventually we saw him, but he’d obviously crossed the line with the group before us as they were some way ahead. Now the dilemma of trying to catch them up – without using up too much energy early on. We caught up at about mile 3, and having done some faster miles it was nice to slow down again! I ran with the group for a few miles and it was great, very sociable.
First hurdle came at about 5 miles though – the first steep hill! It was really harsh! I tried not to, but I had to walk some of it. Wai-Meng had also had a terrible stitch for a while, she had needed to stop for a bit earlier on too. She has done well to catch up though – I think she’d had a cold for a few days before so wasn’t on top form.
Over the next few miles I did drop away from the group for good. The hills were beastly, including one very steep downhill and then immediately uphill again! There were some quite flooded areas too, which I did quite enjoy, sloshing through ankle deep! The countryside was very nice too and the marshals were great. There was only water in cups at the feed stations, but I had bought my own drink and gels anyway. By 12 miles I was shattered, and struggling now. Didn’t help there was one final long hill back up to the park! It was great to get into the park again as there were lots of supported there who cheered us on – but it was mentally hard work as you pass the finish line in the opposite direction, and then double back further up with 400m to go. At least you get a long, straight stretch to finish one! I was so relieved to finally cross the line! Even though it was in 2.30.49 – not quite a “sub 2 thirty which was what I was aiming for”! It was good to get a medal this year, as we had not had them in 2013, plus a nice technical tee-shirt. I could have done with food at the finish though, as there was only water – bananas or cereal bars would have been expected.
Met up with everyone else and we all sat in the marquee by the heater to warm up, or had a massage. Afterwards we went to a great pub which did really nice Thai food – had a huge and delicious meal which was the perfect end to the day!