I Could and I Did... The Vitality Big Half
04 March. 2020 • Category: Running | London | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
Coming up to the finish line.
My son Barn flying again.
My daughter Katie running the Little Half.
On Sunday I ran the biggest race I have ever run. Not the longest, I’ve run a few half marathons now, but definitely the biggest. But most of you know that, because you were so supportive of me before, on Saturday when I was worrying about how it would go. I thought I’d tell you a bit about it.
Most of the races I’ve done are small, local events, the biggest was probably Plymouth Half Marathon where there were about five thousand runners. On Sunday there were over twenty thousand. I’ve never run something with so many before, and I’ve never had to start in a wave before either. That was strange, but weirdly reassuring, knowing most of the people around me were a similar speed to me, based on the predicted times we’d put down.
So, as you may know we live in Cornwall. I’d decided to book this race last year, after the disappointment of not getting through the ballots of two other big ones in London. It seemed like a good idea considering you could just book the ticket, and I thought we’d maybe make a weekend of it and take the kids. Time however, got slightly away from me and that didn’t happen. By the time I looked, most of the obvious choices were either fully booked or had no parking. There seemed little point in not being able to park, and if we were too far away I thought we’d be getting up so early we wouldn’t have time for breakfast or anything else. So, we decided in our wisdom to do the trip in one day. We looked and looked for the best underground option too, because many of the stations we’d used on previous trips were shut due to maintenance. It made the planning harder, but we thought we’d worked it out...
On Sunday morning we got up at 2am, my eldest son had gone clubbing so decided not to come with us as he stayed with friends, just leaving the three younger kiddies. Trying to keep the littlest man asleep we got into the car, aiming to be at Ruislip for just after 6am. When we got there, we realised I’d misread the stations and Ruislip was shut, we were supposed to be at West Ruislip instead. We’d already parked the car, and so a very kind bus driver let us on and dropped us off at the right station. It was an extra thing I didn’t need. I’d managed to make it through the journey without worrying too much. I’d only had two or three head between my knees and try to breathe moments, so was doing pretty well. Anxiety gets me at the strangest times. It was a huge relief when I saw other runners carrying their marked kit bags for the race. I knew I wasn’t the last runner to arrive which helped me to relax, as did the enjoyment our two year old had at seeing and riding on the trains. He was so excited bless him, we’ve only brought him to London once, and he was so small then he wouldn’t have remembered it.
Forty minutes after we got on that train we jumped off to change over, and obviously having traveled a long way, needed the toilet. Many of the stations have closed the facilities they did have, which is fine if you’re local, but isn’t so good when you’ve come so far! An attendant pointed us out in the direction of the public toilets, and when we got there we realised we needed change to pay. That was brilliant, I’d left my purse at home, and my husband only had cards with him. We had no choice but to turn back, but the idea of being stuck on a train again, with no idea where the nearest toilets would be worried me. Luckily a very kind man in a cafe let us use their toilets, even though they weren’t open yet. It was lucky for me, because by the time I got to the start of the race, although there were many portaloos, there were queues of ten to twenty people for each one. I had no chance of getting in there! Going back to catch our next train, poor Katie tripped and fell, banging her hip, shoulder and shin on the metal edged steps in the underground, which really hurt, but also embarrassed her, we were so lucky it wasn’t worse or it could have really spoiled the day for her. That’s what you get for rushing!
We literally got to Tower Hill one minute before my wave loading closed. I panicked, thinking they wouldn’t let me in, and dropped all my extra stuff on Lee and the kids, before running to the start following the arrows. I had no idea where I was going, but marshals directed me according to my colour and number of my wave. And then I was there. Standing. It was so weird. There were hundreds of us, just waiting. In the distance I could see Tower Bridge, and a massive screen showing the elite runners who had started much earlier just flying along, making it look so effortless. I took a photo and posted it for you all to see, wanting you to know how much your encouragement meant to me. In the distance we could hear counting down and we began to move forward. Another wave started and we moved forward again. Soon enough we were there at the start, well the front of my wave was, I couldn’t see it! And then, we were off.
Mostly the half marathons I’ve done are hilly being as I live in Cornwall which means I can have the excuse to run and walk the steep bits if I need to. It helps break it up, and in my head feels like a break, even if I don’t stop. Not so in London. It was so flat! I had no choice but to run all but a couple of steps at the water stations. It was great to show me that I really could do it, as I am so used to slowing down, I questioned whether I could run the full distance. Boy did I ache afterwards though!
As we ran we moved through the different districts of London and it was so amazing to see the different things they had put on for us. There were samba bands, brass bands, choirs, all kinds, and it was brilliant. We ran through the longest tunnel, which upset my Garmin and told me that I was half a mile ahead of where I thought I was. I overtook the Eiffel Tower and a Rhino, and a bunch of grapes, among other people running, and it was fantastic.
The hardest thing was not knowing where my family would be. I signed Barn and Katie up to the Little Half, which started around my mile 11 and finished where I did. I hoped I’d be finished to see them run, but didn’t know for sure, so I knew Lee would take them to the start. The organisers had also suggested where good places to watch the race would be, so I knew in all likelihood I wouldn’t see them before mile 7 or 8. I kept watching though, and looking out. Running across Tower Bridge was amazing. Something so iconic that I have walked across many times, and yet I got to run over, straight down the middle, with people watching and cheering. It was fabulous. I felt very emotional, but I didn’t cry. (Not like my first half, where I did cry quite a lot!)
Mile 9 came and went, and then 10, and I thought I’d probably missed my family, that they were probably getting ready for the start of their race. But then sometime around mile 11, I saw them all sitting on the pavement and watching out for me. It was so good to see them, such a boost, and perked me up for the finish. That last mile and a bit was the hardest. It seemed to go on forever, and after the incredible Tower Bridge nothing much was going to match up. But I kept going as best I could. Running on cobbles earlier had hurt my ankle a bit, and the wind was strong to run into. I was getting tired, but I had to finish, and in my head, the fact there wasn’t a hill meant I couldn’t walk. So I pushed on, and got to the finish line. It wasn’t my fastest, but I am proud of it.
It took nearly an hour for me to get out of the finish area. I heard a lot of people talking and I’m not sure what happened, as apparently the organisation was better in the previous year. I had no choice but to wait with everyone else, but it was cold, I couldn’t get to my hoody, but then, neither could anyone else. Eventually I got through, and with my medal and finishers t-shirt made my way back to the finish to see the kids, but I’d missed them running and they had already finished. Poor Lee was struggling along with all the bags and a sleepy baby, so we decided to walk (I hobbled) back the two miles to meet him.
It was a fab experience for the kids too, they’ve never run anything so big either, and considering it was free for under 18’s and they too got a finishers medal and t-shirt, I think it was brilliant. Katie was so proud, she ran the whole thing and really enjoyed it. I was especially proud of her because she had hurt herself earlier but still carried on. Barn flew, (again) coming in 4th place in the whole race, of almost 1300 runners. If he’d started at the front, he may have gained a few places, but he doesn’t often like to. The best bit was that they enjoyed it. It was a shame I didn’t get to see them run, but Lee managed to get a video as they passed him.
It was a great day. A long day though and by the end of it my feet really hurt! I hadn’t thought about the walk to and from the start really, and then going back to meet Lee was further again. Although I heard later that the station nearest the finish was packed so it would probably have taken longer to get home had we done that. Although I worried about getting there, about even managing the car journey there, I did it and then I ran it. And it wasn’t a bad time either. I’m pretty proud of myself.
So thank you to all of you lovely people who read what I write and for all your support. It means so much to me.