I recently completed my last sports challenge of the year – my first half marathon – and I had my trusty husband by my side to see me through to the end (and, if needs be, carry me for a while).
Training had mostly involved lugging myself around the ring road of Didcot. Hardly the best scenery, but it did not matter much when I spent most of the time staring at my feet, willing them forward.
The start line was buzzing with people gearing up for the event. We were a mixture of marathon and half marathon runners, of all ages, shapes, and sizes. As anyone who has done a big sports event will know, the klaxon sounds the beginning of the race and those at the front launch themselves into action. Meanwhile at the back, there is a three minute shuffle as the rest of us feed through the start line. Shuffle completed, we were off!
I have to say that I did not have high hopes for Leicester in October, but I was pleasantly surprised. The route was a mixture of city centre, A roads (which it felt strange to be running on), and leafy parks, and as we made our way through the course, the good folk of Leicester cheered us on. The first few miles melted away and then came the hard slog in the middle.
As the numbers ticked by and “nine miles to go” became “five miles to go”, the end was approaching. The last mile was uphill, and I was running on empty.
Having found one last speck of energy, I made my way across the finish line. I collected my medal, finisher’s t-shirt and banana (a runner’s favourite, I have learned) and sunk onto the damp grass. This was a mistake. After the elation of realising I did not have to run any more wore off, I realised I would now have to get up. And walk the mile and a half back to the car. What at first seemed like such a clever idea to avoid the closed roads, now turned into a limp across Leicester.
Here are my three tips for first time half marathon runners:
- Pace yourself – you are in this for the long haul, and unless you pace yourself you will burn out too early.
- Ditch the headphones and bring a buddy – increasingly it seems that sports event organisers are choosing to ban headphones. This doesn’t need to be a bad thing, and I would encourage you to swap music for a friend. They will be your rock, and you can be theirs.
- Constant negotiation – if you find you are losing the will to keep moving, negotiate with yourself. “I’ll just run to that tree”, or “I’ll run for two more minutes” gives you an easy goal to work for. When you then smash that goal, you renegotiate: “now that I have achieved that, I’ll go for another three lampposts”. Taking little steps can be the key to a big win.
Not only was this my last sports challenge of 2016, but it is also my last challenge as a trainee solicitor. I am due to qualify in January 2017, and therefore pass the baton to Kate Hall, a far superior sportswoman than me, and hope that she regales you with her own stories of championship.