Almost an entire month after completing my first ever official half marathon event I’ve summoned the energy to write about the painful memories of the 2 hours and 9 minutes it took me to complete the Roding Valley Half Marathon.
The preparation for this event was fairly limited, a handful of weekend 10 km runs, numerous weekday lunchtime 6 km runs, and the one full distance “see if I can last the distance” run home a couple of weeks before the actual event. Thankfully I made the distance in both the practice and the real thing.
The day itself came around pretty quickly. I felt unprepared yet ready to just run. Conditions on the day were completely atrocious having rained for the entirety of the previous night and failing to subside. On arrival at the venue, The Ashton Playing Fields in Chingford, I was driving the last car allowed into the car park, which by this point was full apart from the water-logged section which was under a foot and a half of water. I managed to squeeze into a more sensible space thankfully.
Having already registered for the event all I needed to do was turn up at the starting line and wait for the starting gun. Despite this I was not alone and fortunate enough to have a running buddy, Sharon, to accompany me. Whilst Sharon went off to register I thought I’d take the time to prepare and visit the little boys room only to find a queue of approximately 60 men winding its way around an entire changing room and through a corridor. Suffice to say with 8 minutes remaining to the off I casually walked to the back of the building and watered a tree instead.
Having prepared and reunited myself with running buddy we made our way to the starting point. Realising I hadn’t yet stretched I quickly and completely inadequately performed a series of lunges and stretch-like movements to convince myself I was ready. The gun fired and we were off in what could only be described as a shambolic display of disorganised chaos. One lap of the track and then the pack of 800 or so runners splintered into about 6 separate streams towards the exit and the rest of the course.
We were on our way. The rain was relentless, insisting on keeping us company throughout. Glad of my decision to wear a lightweight running waterproof I continues in the knowledge I would in theory be more comfortable than if I’d not worn it, as well as the GoreTex running shoes. Well, that was until half way through I realised I was soaked through to the skin, everywhere. The driving rain and wind on the exposed parts of the course were particularly interesting, or should I say painful.
The run took place on public pavements requiring us to cross the road from time to time. Whilst the course was fully marshaled (thanks marshalls – great job) we had to be mindful of the traffic which in some cases were not overly appreciative of the runners, some deciding we were not wet enough already, so took the initiative to quite deliberately drive at speed through large roadside puddles consequently sending a tsunami of muddy water over the unfortunate Lycra-clad victim. I believe the organisers are taking action to prosecute some of those car drivers.
I’m quite deliberately avoiding talk of the run itself because it was just a painful memory, especially past the 9 mile marker. Thighs, knees and ankles hurting, not to mention the onset of nipple rub. I recall at the 10 mile mark ramping up the pace to get myself motivated which was tough in those conditions. The pace lasted about 200 meters before realising what a mistake that had been. From there I just slowed further and the pain worsened. Struggling on the final mile in particular I was so glad to be on the final home straight, a long stretch of road on Snakes Lane from Woodford tube station. Whilst happy to be nearing the end I remember being conscious of attempting to attain a certain time, originally aiming for what I considered to be an ambitious 2 hours flat. At this point I had already exceeded that time and was aiming for under 2 hours 10 minutes. It was going to be close, very close. Mustering up every last atom of energy I possibly could, I approached the finish line with a burst of adrenalin induced energy, 3 seconds under the revised target time.
Retrieving my medal and goody bag I stopped running after 2 hours 9 minutes and 57 seconds. My knees buckled and I wasn’t far off collapsing. Whilst I kept thinking it was enjoyable experience in retrospect, I’m not yet convinced I’ll do another such event. I’m not particularly suited to distance running and feel much more comfortable with a mere 10 km.
A full marathon, forget about it.
If you can bear to watch it, here’s some video of the finishers in my time bracket, I’m right at the very end.