The highs of Royal Parks Half Marathon

The weekend of the long awaited race had arrived and I was full of nerves and excitement.

We were staying in Stratford and getting the tube to Hyde park early the next day. I didn’t have the best nights sleep and woke up even more nervous. I made the decision that morning to swap my new black calf sleeves for my pink tried and tested ones as the black turned out to feel and look slightly different. I’m so glad I did this. Always stick with what you have tried in training.

I resorted to taking my porridge with us while we travelled as I was really struggling to eat it. I did not enjoy it at all. I didn’t remember to buy a banana to have with it so hoped it would be enough to get me round.

I drank half my Tailwind that I had made up at the hotel so that when we arrived at Green Park I was fuelled and set for the race. Tailwind does make me a little thirsty so I was also having to drink plenty. A little worrying when not wanting to make toilet stops during the race.

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Pre race nerves

We arrived at Green Park tube station and by chance ran into a friend from home that was also running. I couldn’t believe our luck. I half imagined we wouldn’t find each other amongst the crowds. This helped my nerves a little. We walked from here to Hyde park as the tube station was now so busy changing lines would take longer than to walk.

Once we arrived at Hyde Park we separated from my friend and I joined the queue for the toilets… where I then spent the remainder of my time before I needed to join my coloured pen. I was becoming anxious as I was by this point missing the warm up and still had not found another friend I had planned to meet as we both got caught up in the chaos of queues.

I gave everyone I was with a hug and set off for the start line.

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Strangers become friends

Throughout my training and since starting this blog I have made some friends on instagram. A little surreal to think complete strangers can feel like life long friends but believe me its possible. We had all planned to try and meet at a charity tent before the start of the race but due to the toilet queue I sadly didn’t make it there.

But as I made my way to the start looking for my friend I heard my name and turned to see one of my Instagram friends. She had spotted me because I had died my hair purple for the occasion. Although it wasn’t very obvious when it was plaited it was enough for her to be sure it was me. I was so excited I grabbed her and we hugged. I almost cried from the excitement and the reality of finally meeting her. I threw my arms around her and we then went on to start the race together. It was Jacq’s first half marathon and we had all promised we would get each other through it either virtually or physically. Luckily for us this happened to be in person for the start of it. It was a privilege to be able to keep her company but it also helped to distract me from my own nerves.

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And then it began

We were stood near the 2 hr pacers and we listened as the first 2 pens were released and started their race. Said out loud it sounds as bizarre as it really was. Like animals being released into the wild.

When it was our turn we set off in pursuit of the pacers as we dodged the crowds but tried to stay together.

As we ran by all the spectators I eagerly looked for my family in the hope they hadn’t listened to me and gone the wrong direction of the start line. And there they were waving as I passed them.

The pacers how ever seemed to be going much faster than they should be. At first I put it down to the fact that the start was a little slower due to it being so crowded. Most races you’d expect this but the whole race remained the same. Dodging people and a few narrow passings.

As we passed some of the landmarks I remember saying how surreal it was to think where we were yet I had run past several places with out even taking much notice. I could have been anywhere in all honesty. Buckingham Palace is about the only place I remember well.

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Mile 3

At mile 3 Jacq was struggling to keep the pace going and didn’t think she’d manage to finish the race if she kept at this pace for much longer. The pacers had disappeared ahead and we were now closer to the 2:05 pacer but yet maintaining a 9min/mile pace and under.

We decided that I should go on and Jacq would settle in to a more manageable pace. I hated to leave her but actually I think the pressure I was undoubtably causing her by staying with her was probably worse than it was for me to go on.

I stayed at my pace and didn’t even attempt to close the gap between me and the pacers as by this point I was convinced they were going to fast. Maybe it was my watch not keeping up with the actual pace and distance we were covering but it was all I had to go by.

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The wonders of spectators

Its fair to say I never been anywhere quite like it. There wasn’t a point along the route where we were with out cheers. Especially on what they call charity corner where there are so many people cheering its hard to not be distracted and absorb all the support they were giving us.

I spotted my dad first with my step mum. I think it must have been around the 6-7 mile mark and I had my first boost of the race.

I continued on to around 7 miles after going through charity corner and found the rest of my family. I couldn’t help but have a hug from the girls. I was so excited to see them. It was just what I needed. It was probably what cost me my 24 seconds… but they give good hugs it was so worth it.

I saw them all again at different points along the way before the finish line. Its the first race I’ve done where I have been able to even have this kind of support as usually they are at the start and finish lines and seeing anyone on route is only ever strangers.

My socks became the iconic thing to look for so had I worn black I think I may have been harder to spot. I was glad I went with that decision.

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Mile 10

I had kind of decided that if there were any others running for Target ovarian cancer I was not going to find them. That was until I reached mile 10 and I saw in the distance another runner. I shouted over to them and we got chatting and stayed together for motivation for another 2 miles. It would have been lovely to pass the finish line together but she was struggling to keep at the pace we were running.

My PB (according to my watch) was in my sights and I wondered if it was still possible. So I pushed on and fastened my pace until I saw the 800metres sign. This was always my plan to reserve enough energy to do this. I tried and pushed but the time slipped away. I wish I had noticed how close I was to at least getting it under 2hrs as I crossed the finish at 2:00:24 doh! That 800 metres felt like the longest part of the whole race.

I was really emotional and although I knew they must have been there I didn’t see the girls as I crossed the line. This is probably a good thing as I managed to hold myself together and collected my medal as we were ushered out of the finish line and into the main park to collect our goodies.

I hadn’t been able to get my phone out of my new waste belt which meant I didn’t capture anything along the way which is my only regret but also probably not such a bad thing as it meant I had no distractions from having my phone.

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Post race high

After collecting my goodies and finding my family for hugs I then went back to see if I could catch anyone finishing that I knew.

The first being some girls from the running club followed by my instagram friend who I had never met until this moment.

We had a quick picture together knowing we might not find each other again to have a proper chat.

It all felt surreal as it didn’t feel like I was meeting a stranger. The realisation of how running helps to fight those demons I carry as had you said to me a year ago I’d be brave enough to see it through to meeting strangers at a major event I’d have laughed you out of the room.

Running has created a community for me and a safe environment to share with others that have the same passion for a sport we all love to hate.

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Seeing the sights

After the race was over and I’d done all that I had wanted to do we set off to see some of the sights of London. Despite being tired I felt ok and the walk helped me to cool down and stretch a bit.

Once we had done enough sight seeing we went to get some much needed food. I literally could have eaten anything by this point and loved every mouthful.

We then set off for home very tired from our very busy weekend.

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Post race reflection

I had told myself that a PB was possible I had trained hard enough for it and it wasn’t out of the question but I also didn’t want to beat myself up if I hadn’t achieved it.

I needed around 1:58 and this was what I paced myself for.

I crossed that line in 2:00:24 and my only real disappointment was that it hadn’t been 2hrs. I mean 24 seconds how close I was.

My watch recorded a distance of 13.3 miles which I am putting down to its age as I have to go by what my chip time has recorded. I guess a small part of me wonders if my crowd dodging meant I actually ran a little bit further but the likely hood is probably not the case. If it was though then I would have got my PB.

A lesson learnt try and stick to the route as much as possible with out the weaving and you won’t be left wondering.

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The real PB

But on reflection I do think I achieved a PB. A Personal best in that I had ran a consistent race. I had enjoyed every thing going on around me and met some people along the way. My pace slowed at times when I was enjoying the company of other runners.

I had chatted and ran comfortably and didn’t at any point feel like I couldn’t do it. I had spent time looking around for people I knew and reading the signs that people were holding up.

I ran my best race and I didn’t sacrifice a single second of it on regret as to me that race was more than a timed PB. It was a race to remember someone special.

Everyone running that race had their own story to tell and everyone of us wanted a personal achievement to be proud of.

I can only imagine this feeling is the similar feeling those feel running the London Marathon accept a whole lot more pain and more emotional at the finish line.

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Whats next?

So for me I have a 10k race at the beginning of November and a half marathon towards the end of November so there will be no downtime. Its straight back to the training.

However this is a new experience for me as I have never gone straight into training following a race.

Speed will be my focus and I’d love to go a little further and it will help me with my half marathon training to be stronger at my weakest miles between 10-13. This seems obvious now as during training the long runs above 10 miles for me were only a couple of my weeks training. The rest were all below.

I may even follow a marathon training plan for a bit to see how confident I am with the increased distances. Question is when is the right time to start? While I ponder that I will enjoy a little rest and a few recovery runs this week.

Vlog here…

Jaimee x

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