I have a shiny medal. The medal of someone who has completed an official race and has an official time. Yes the Bristol 10k has happened and I managed to complete it, in one piece.
However, my preparation in the run up to the race was not been perfect and so my stress levels were very high as I stood waiting in the pen yesterday morning for the start of the race.
We had gone camping last weekend and so I planned to run into work on the Friday morning and then again on the Monday morning (slightly longer), and then with a final run on the Wednesday before resting my legs, as advised, ahead of the big race.
Unfortunately this did not go as planned. I ran to work on the Friday – a speedyish 5k that was comfortable and everything seemed ok. But when we got back from a brilliant (and hot) weekend of camping, I returned home with chronic hayfever and my asthma was also quite horrible.
I have spoken previously on this blog about my asthma practically disappearing due to running and on the whole this remains the case. However, historically, it’s always been hayfever that really triggers my asthma. Every asthma attack I have ever suffered have always been in May or June which, as I am sure you aware, is peak hay fever season. I woke wheezy on the Monday and also generally felt unwell, so decided not to run to work.
This was a mistake. I should have forced myself out as I spent the whole of Monday regretting my decision and also stressing about how to fit in the two remaining training runs around running a business and being a working Mum. I had been advised to “taper”, which is where you stop running longer distances in the week before the race to conserve your running legs and it helps you get personal best times (PBs) etc. Tapering meant that anything over 5k wasn’t a good idea this close to the race so, on Tuesday evening I set off home via a 5k route.
It started off well and I was feeling positive. Still a teeny bit wheezy before I set off, I made sure that I had my inhaler handy (my new running trousers have hidden ingenious pockets secreted about them and one pocket perfectly fits my inhaler) but elected not to push the time too much. As I ran, the sky got a progressively darker and greyer and soon it was raining…heavily. I had no kagoul and so got wet pretty quickly. A fluorescent orange T shirt offers great visibility when dodging cyclists without lights at twilight, but offers little protection against a torrential rainstorm. I passed two other runners during the 5k and both laughed and waved at me as we inwardly questioned our sanity. As I ran into our garden, Husband (who had obviously been watching out for me) opened the door and once inside, I peeled myself out of my running gear, so as not to start a flood in the hallway. You could literally wring my T-shirt, trousers and even undergarments out. You really haven’t experienced “wet” until you have been for a run in the rain.
At this point, I had a decision to make. I had been advised not to run past Wednesday but I really needed to have a run on Thursday. I know that people tell you “you have the miles in your legs, you’ll be fine if you miss a run” etc, but surely this applies to experienced runners? Not wobbly, middle aged, women who have been running for less than 5 months and really have no idea what they are doing? Finally, I consulted the Red Lady and she advised, knowing me well, that if I felt like having a run, I should go for one. So Thursday morning I ran to work, but the short way and only 3.5k. I felt fine and I also ran very quickly. Finally I felt better about things.
On Saturday it was my gorgeous nephew’s 1st birthday party and our whole clan was congregated to celebrate it. As Husband, Fitbit Sister, Running Sister and myself were all running the following day, it was the driest family gathering I have ever known with water being the drink of choice and barbequed sausages and chicken with cous cous, salad and birthday cake being used for carb loading. The Eurovision Song Contest in the evening with a large pint of water whiled away my final hours as I waited. I laid out everything I needed the night before (as had been advised) and went to bed. I was worried I wouldn’t have been able to sleep but thankfully I drifted off straight away and the next I heard was the 7am alarm on Sunday morning – RACE DAY.
I had real butterflies as I got dressed. Was I ready? Could I do it? I felt sick and have no idea how I forced down my porridge and toast with peanut butter. I thought back over the past few months and tried to remember why I was even doing this. Then Youngest Daughter gave both Husband and I a homemade card, complete with our bib numbers on, wishing us good luck for the race and telling us that she was proud of us. I felt quite tearful as I gave her a hug to say thank you. This whole running thing has been a game changer for all of us. I am fitter, stronger, smaller, sleeping better and generally much happier with my lot in life. Husband, although he only started running again to support me, is also really enjoying it and I think is also surprised by how fast he is becoming. Finally, my two daughters are regularly Junior Park-Running now and are also talking about doing a full 5k too with us. There is less stress in our house, for all of us and there really are no negatives. Youngest Daughter said she would be proud to watch me cross the line as she hugged me and so I resolved, that no matter how hard it would be, I would cross the line for her and her sister.
Husband and I set off for Temple Meads and had decided to cycle. Although this seemed like a brilliant idea to dodge traffic and road closures for the way there, as well as providing a gentle warm up, I have to tell you that later that day when we returned after the race and I had to lift my weary leg over the crossbar, I wanted to shoot myself.
We met Fitbit Sister and Running Sister at Temple Meads and set off for the “Athletes’ Village”. (Yes I was an athlete). Hockey Sister was in charge of collecting my daughters and we had pre-agreed where they would be stood to cheer us on along with Running Sister’s Husband (Fitbit Brother) and my niece and nephews, and importantly, where to meet after the race. Running Sister had promised to run with me and I was relieved that I wouldn’t be running my first ever event on my own. As we walked into town, seeing scores of other runners, all walking in the same direction as us, the nerves kicked in again. Nerves mean many things, but for me (as I discovered yesterday) this means having to go to the toilet roughly every 10 minutes, which was a bit annoying to put it mildly. So, upon arrival at the Harbourside, we went off to Lloyds V Shed to use the facilities, along with scores of other runners. It looked as though we were part of the biggest “Fitness” Themed Hen Night that Bristol had ever hosted. We saw the Unofficial Trainer too (whom I had also seen the day before at my nephew’s birthday party) and she gave me her final sage words before she disappeared off for to her (much faster) starting pen. She said “don’t go off too fast and enjoy it”. But as Fitbit Sister, Husband and I got to the pen, Running Sister was no-where to be seen. I don’t mind sharing with you that I was having a mild panic. What should I do? It was crazy busy as there were A LOT of people now waiting to start, doing stretches, reeking of deep heat and other “personal body” smells etc and the likelihood of Running Sister being able to find me was slim. I patted my inhaler in my pocket like a re-assuring comfort blanket and began (inwardly) to have a minor meltdown. Fitbit sister is much faster than me and so I knew she would be off (quite rightly), Husband (as we have previously discussed) is not the perfect running partner for me, and anyway, already frustrated with himself for putting the wrong time on application, was in the incorrect slower wave and so he would go off like a shot. I really thought I might cry and was pleased that I was wearing sunglasses. Then out of no-where Running Sister appeared. I didn’t know whether to punch her or hug her, but I was definitely pleased to see her.
Then….finally, we were off.
As we ran through the funnel, I was awash with emotions. Husband high fived me and then shot off and Fitbit Sister ran with Running Sister (RS) and I for a bit but then she too ran off. RS and I jogged along, side by side. As always the first 2 k were a bit painful and I found it strange to be running with so many other people. This was like SUPER Park Run to the tune of 12000 people.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet about yesterday was the weather. It was absolutely boiling. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun beat down relentlessly throughout the whole run. It was the hottest that I have ever run in and it made something that is already difficult, even more challenging.
I had 3 “markers” in my mind to get me through the race. The first was the turn on the Portway, the second was the bottom of Cumberland Road and the third was the turn towards St Mary Redcliffe’s Church. I don’t really remember the whole race in detail but I do remember certain bits very clearly. I remember watching out for the “Unofficial Trainer” and whooping with joy when she shouted to me running in the opposite direction to me on the Portway. When we ran under the covered section of the road on the Portway, the shade felt delicious and I didn’t want to run out the other side as the Portway felt very long in the heat and it was hard work. The Marshalls were, as always, amazing as they encouraged us along clapping our achievement. I was watching for Husband but couldn’t see him and then suddenly there he was and he shouted loudly for a high five moment that I will always remember. I also remember high fiving FitBit sister and then knowing that we weren’t that far from the turning point. (High Fiving was huge yesterday – I think I high fived around 50 children who were dotted around the route, as well as some adults too.)
I was boiling and completely overheating as RS and I arrived at the 5k point and water station. RS doused the back of my neck to cool me down (I felt like a real athlete as I’ve seen them do that on the TV) and I re-filled my water bottle. I spotted a couple of portaloos and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so also stopped off for the quickest comfort break of my life.
The section on Cumberland Road to St Mary Redcliffe’s, 6-8 kilometres were the hardest of the whole course. It seemed never ending and RS and I chased the shade across the road. I also developed a pain in my hip which has never happened before, but we kept plodding along. RS knew I was struggling and so chatted away to try and distract me, but I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t speak. It was hot and hard to breathe and I was beginning to wonder why on earth I had ever thought I could do this in the first place. As we turned by St Mary Redcliffe’s there was a hill. I was wrecked and also aware that at the bottom of the hill, I was going to see friends and family and so couldn’t be walking. So I walked up the hill. RS was trying to encourage me up and I was quite rude to her (in a way that only a sister can be) and stated loudly, “that I was going to walk to the top of the hill and then run to the finish line and that was that”. RS understood what I meant of course and was not offended in anyway as we speak fluent “sister” but we obviously amused the St John’s Ambulance men who giggled at us from the side of the road. I must have sounded quite “snippy”….! A few steps further on a man offered me Jelly Babies which I gladly took, despite all the warnings about never accepting sweets from strangers. They tasted great.
Now we were at the business end of the race and I was exhausted. But on the bridge I suddenly saw some of my friends and their daughters cheering us on. They were loud and I felt like a Rock Star as I waved at them and felt a sudden (small) surge of energy. As we approached the corner which I knew our family would be beyond, I felt myself tearing up. The crowds were now much bigger now we were in the final stretch and the noise was loud. RS and I turned the corner and there they were, cheering very loudly; Husband, Daughters, Fitbit Brother, Hockey Sister, Niece, Nephews, Unofficial trainer and her wife – the best looking crew the world has ever seen and I have never been so pleased to see them in my life. RS and I pushed on but it was hard. Bristol Centre had never seemed so long but soon, with RS offering continual encouragement, we entered the final straight and then we put our arms around each other’s shoulders and crossed the line together. We had done it. The triumph I felt was unbelievable. I was ecstatic and elated. It was amazing. Partly relief that it was over and partly pride that I had done it. I felt on top of the world.
It’s possible, however, that I didn’t look as fresh as I was feeling, as a St John’s Ambulance man approached me at speed as we crossed the line with some water. I suffered an anxious couple of minutes with him as he managed the slowing of my breathing down and supervised me sipping some water. Honestly I was fine and RS was laughing but there was a moment there where both she and I firmly believed that he was going to put me in an ambulance and send me off to hospital!
RS was a legend over the last 4 kilometres. Ignoring me when I was grumpy and continually offering encouragement. She kept me going and I will always be grateful to her for that.
My hips were killing me as we met up with Fitbit Sister who had finished a bit before us with a very respectable time. We walked to collect our goodie bag and medal and also take on board more fluids and eat a snack. I was suddenly quite hungry. Fitbit Surge told me that I had burnt 1400 calories during the course of the race and I burnt 4500 calories in total yesterday over the course of the whole day.
We found Fitbit Brother and Hockey Sister first and then went find Husband, who was waiting by the “This Mum Runs” stand. I knew where this was as I’d been over to see the ladies there before the race and had received a wonderfully heartfelt hug from Mel Bound who is the leader of this brilliant tribe of motivators. TMR has been a constant source of encouragement and support over the past few months and I have met some lovely ladies both online and in person too. If any ladies are reading this, thinking “I wonder if I could ever run” join the facebook group. Do it. It’s kept me going and has been a major factor in me being able to complete the 10k race yesterday.
When my daughters saw me, I nearly got knocked over such was the ferocity of their hug. I sat down on a seat (which was a mistake as I nearly seized up) and breathed in my gorgeous girls. They said they were proud of me and all the pain and suffering was suddenly worthwhile.
Husband completed his 10k in 55 minutes but was annoyed that he didn’t get sub 53 minutes and I believe that if he had started in the right colour pen, he would have done. I want to publicly thank Husband for being such a brilliant Husband. He has been encouraging and supportive and at no point has entertained the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to complete my goal. I love you Husband. He’s thinking about doing the Bristol Half in September and if he does, I know he will smash it.
So what now for me? I did wonder if I would cross the line yesterday and immediately want to sign up for the Bristol Half marathon, myself? But no….not a chance! I am proud of my achievement yesterday but it was hard. I am not ready to double the distance yet and so I am resolved to keep running at the 10k level, losing weight and hopefully getting faster which will allow me to consider applying for the Bath Half marathon next March. RS is doing the London Marathon 2017 (having had to defer her place from this year due to illness) and so I hope that I can help her train for that at the same time as a thank you for looking after me yesterday. I am one pound off having lost 3 stone and I’m also signed up for another 10k, again with RS, at Westonbirt Arboretum in 9 days’ time. Hopefully I can better my PB of 93 minutes for a 10k.
I may not blog as often as I have been from now on (you are probably pleased to hear!) but I will not stop blogging completely as, I’m only just getting started in my running life. I know for certain that I definitely will not stop running. Ever. There are too many good things about it to stop. And besides, I am a runner and we don’t give in. We just keep running.