Reading Half Marathon report

Well, I had been hoping for a PB this year. I did Reading in ’06 as my first ever race and I’m at least as fit now.
However. The rot set in on Monday morning when my electric bike suddenly decided it was going to be a normal (and rather heavy) cycle. I only commute for 7-8 miles a day, but tapering is not meant to include an extra half-hour of cycling for the last week!
Funnily enough therefore I was not feeling the normal spring in my step I get when tapering.
Then there was the time change. Getting up at what bloody well felt like 5:15 am to walk the dogs is not the ideal start to race day. It might have got even worse – as we arrived at Didcot station to find the 7:45 to Reading cancelled! – if I hadn’t, as an afterthought, booked a place in the Yellow Carpark “just in case”. Phew!

It still might have been OK… but when I stood on the start line without having my nads (metaphorically speaking!) frozen off, I thought, “this.does.not.bode.well”. Now I have nothing against warm days. But as any runner knows, an unseasonal warm day is Just Not What You Want. Runner used to running at 15 degrees, race day 14 degrees, no problem. Runner trained in 10 degrees, race day 11 degrees, not so good… A perennial problem in races in the UK due to our “everything goes” weather system!

I set off gamely after the 1:55 pacemaker (the original plan had been to follow them and hopefully overtake in the last few miles) and tried to ignore the lower leg pains which plagued me for the first stretch. They will (I thought) probably go away: there are (I thought) good and bad patches in all long-distance races. They did go away, and there were good patches. But they weren’t quite good enough and they weren’t quite long enough and there weren’t quite enough of them.

I took the gels, and the water (bottles! Hooray!) and despite having realised it wasn’t a PB day, plugged on as best I could, determined not to lose heart and let the side down. The backup goal was “better than last year” (just under 1:59) and it was clear that if I pushed on, that was certainly attainable.

So wrapped in a fuzz of uninspiration (no, not a word) I chugged gamely on, staring down all three of the bleak dual carriageway, the hairpin stretch up and down Green Park, and the seemingly endless plod round the outside of the Mad Stad, in an “I know you are coming and you can’t frighten me” way, and then charged down towards the finish line with an energy that, er, perhaps I should have drawn on earlier! 1:56, watch says. 2 mins outside PB – hey ho – but a good 2 mins faster than last year!

Afterwards I was accosted by fellow VRUK-er Isobel who (with the resilience of youth!) had come back from doing Bath just a fortnight ago to score a PB today. There may be a photo later. Even though meetup logistics for a race this size can be a bit of a ‘mare, I do seem to be lucky enough to just bump into one or more fellow clubmembers in most races I do! I know some of the lads (most way, way faster than me!) were meeting up at John Morgan’s place today and I hope they had a good time.

Isobel went off to find her Dad and I poddled off to cheer on the rest of the group of my running friends. The better half looked strong (looks may have been deceptive, as he said later, “the 2:05 pacer just sailed past me..:(” ).
My friend The Unluckiest Woman In The World (people who did Abingdon last year may remember the runner who came a cropper with a pot-hole at Mile 2…), who was just doing this as a training run, came past a bit later on, with – how can anyone be so unfortunate?! – blood streaming from one knee (apparently some chap had tripped over and, er, landed on her).

So. No PB – which I’d really hoped for – but, you know, actually it wasn’t all bad…

Last year, I was not reaaallly fit. I buffed myself up with carbo-loading and grim determination and slogged it out for a sub-2. I remember at mile 12 a leg started to go in random directions, but I just told it to please try “forward” for another mile and then it could do what it liked. For weeks after, though, my legs just felt trashed – like old beans that are all string and nowt else. And also there were unpleasant tummy twinges (IBS yay). Things only really looked up when I bumped into Shazza at the finish line!

This year, there were many good things about this year’s run.
1) not a hint of runner’s trots! Not a single twinge. THANK ____!
2) Last year – possibly due to keeping an even pace in a slower group – crowding was quite a problem – lots of people to go round. This year, nada. Although the sheepish suspicion is that it might have been due to everyone overtaking me… it honestly didn’t seem that way.
2) although being in the middle of marathon training, and therefore doing more distance and less speedwork, probably helped put the kibosh on the PB attempt, I have to say it does make for a nice strong sprint finish! 13 miles, pffft!
3) I feel absolutely fine – not trashed at all! (Good job too as have Oakley 20 in a week)
4) – best of all – got home and found NOTHING TO CLEAR UP! – walking the dogs at the crack of dawn had obviously both emptied and tired them (because seven-plus hours is a long time for anyone to go without, er, going). This is an indescribably wonderful thing and makes up entirely for the over-warm weather. We are talking dancing round the living room weeping with gratitude!

Hope to hear reports rolling in from the others now…! Results and photos are usually out mid-week. Looking forward to seeing how everyone else did. Thanks to Isobel we know the VRUK posse scored at least one PB – a good start!