As usual, races had been booked into the calendar without too much thought on schedule.. so when I realised there were 2 half marathons in quick succession right slap bang in the middle of Marathon des Sables training – I decided they needed to count.
First up was the huge street party that is Brighton Half. This popular half marathon along the windy seafront is one of the first of the season and draws huge participants, this year 8000 had signed up. It incorporates kids races and as usual the Brighton crowds sure know how to cheer you along the slightly undulating course.
Unsure how this would pan out, it had been a while since I had run fast for anything over a 10k, the decision was made on the journey down to Brighton to start off at a decent pace, and see how many miles could be ticked off before my legs gave up on me.
All was going swimmingly, and the pace just shy of 7 min mile felt comfortable for the first 7 or so miles. The crowd were great fun and everything felt nice and relaxed. Then around 8 miles a small niggle in the back of my knee started to pull. This niggle had been a hangover from Pilgrims, and a mad hilly event called Iceman the week before. (The vanity of being first lady in that race had made me empty my legs out on the course).
The last few miles of Brighton saw my niggle develop into a considerable pain in my left calf which caused me to stop a couple of times and curse my lack of post-run stretching. I managed to get a PB of 1.33, finishing just outside the top 50 ladies, but you know what us runners are like, I spent more time lamenting my new injury rather than being happy about the PB.
The two weeks between Brighton Half, and the next race, Surrey Half, saw me oscillating wildly between wondering if I should give it the beans to go quicker, or to play it safe and not injure myself further. An intense cycle of icing, compression, elevation, ibuprofen and cake aided recovery. This was topped off with the most excruciating deep tissue sports massages EVER in the history of the world, courtesy of Simon Lamb at Six Seconds High. It all worked, my legs recovered enough to run a half, but not race...
Surrey Half marathon is a wonderful new race in Woking. To make this count I had opted for the conspicuous outfit of MdS gaiters and a fully loaded 22kg rucksack and convinced Shaun to wear his too so we could look weird together. The race itself is a very slick. A good quality affair with a race pack that arrives with a buff! Already impressed before I arrived, the start/finish race village had everything you would need before or after a race (free yoga in the leisure centre, sports massage food and drink). The sun came out and Shaun and I took it nice and steady round the course high fiving kids and chatting to fellow runners as we went along. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much support was on the route, including live music which contributed to the warm atmosphere.
At mile 10 we realised if we pushed we would get in under 1.50 – so, purely for the challenge of it, Shaun and I put the hammer down and legged the last three miles (a bit chewy with the weighted rucksack). We look absurd in our gear but crossed the line in 1.48, a time in which I finished my first ever road half marathon in (Brighton 2012!)
If you are looking for good quality half marathons next year you’ll not do bad at these two.
Next Friday I’ll be on a plane to the Sahara Desert to have a second go at the Marathon des Sables.
Now, where did I put my kit from last time...