(Or to quote the late, great Douglas Adams; 'You live and learn. At any rate you live.')
I signed up for the Great South Run about this time last year, just after I'd run it. Looking back I don't seem to have had a good time then, and I'd been ill when I'd run it the year before that in 2010. It seems that I can do the living bit but not the learning!
Of course, when I signed up for this, and forked over my hard earned cash, I hadn't also signed up for a marathon and a half marathon in the same month. A sensible person would have looked at her calendar, worked out which races she really didn't want to miss and given a place in one race away. But I've never really been accused of being sensible.
Having decided to go ahead with all three races a sensible person would have factored in some rest time. I did taper for the marathon, as in my mind my first marathon was very much the 'A' race, but I did not rest afterwards. Admittedly I did not run on the Monday after the marathon (I tend not to run on a Monday) and I had a sports massage instead, but I did run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, clocking up 13 miles in total. This was a mistake. I would normally take it easy before any race, and while 13 miles in a week is 'light mileage' compared to recent months it was far too much on the back of a marathon!
I was very glad of the extra hour in bed this morning - even if I did have to faff around with the clock in the car - and even though I had seriously contemplated rolling over and going back to sleep when the alarm went, I decided I had to run this race. I'd been sponsored to do it for UNICEF and so I had no choice! The forecast was for cold, wet weather, so I grabbed a t-shirt and capri length tights rather than my usual vest and shorts, ate some porridge, drank some tea and jumped into the car to set off for Portsmouth. I got there early, because I don't know Portsmouth and hate getting stuck in traffic and panicking about where to park! Soon after I arrived, armed with some marking to pass the time, I got a call from friends saying there were there too and suggesting we met up. Much more fun to chat and gossip in the back of the CPRC minibus than mark year 11 biology papers on my own!
It was cold at the start, and we suffered the madness of an organised warm-up session. When you have over 22,000 people crowded together in the road getting them to jump about is a bit comical! Luckily I was in the orange wave, so didn't have to wait too long to start.
The race was as crowded as last year, with bottlenecks close to the beginning. I think I lost my timing chip around this time. Someone stepped on my foot - it hurt - and I think the chip came off then. I didn't notice it was missing until much later, around the 8 mile mark so I can't be sure. I started slow, and stayed slow! Hitting the perfect pace that would have seen my do much better at the marathon last week! I knew that this was not going to be a PB race for me, but I was disappointed at just how slowly I was running. I couldn't run faster, or rather I was very aware that I could run faster but that if I did I was really going to pay for it, either in the later stages of the race or later this week. And it is half term - I don't want to be suffering during my holiday! It did seem nice and short. Once I'd settled into a pace the miles seemed to slip by relatively quickly. I was at the 5 mile marker before I felt we'd really got going, it was a relief to know I wasn't going to have to run for hours and hours with my tired legs!
The support was amazing! I hi-fived every child I could manage, almost falling into the crowd as I jumped to hi-5 as toddler on her daddy's shoulders! Such a difference from last week - there I was running on my own for miles at a time, this week I was dodging other runners for the entire ten miles.
We were lucky with the weather. The threatened rain held off and it was warm enough once we got going. Even as we came onto the seafront for the last 1.75 miles it was alright. This is the third time I've done this race and I've been very lucky. Seasoned Great South Runners talk about the 'icy blast' that comes off the sea, but I've not noticed it! I'd noticed by now that my chip was gone, and was a bit cross, this meant that I would be marked DNF (did not finish) in the results, and I wouldn't get an official time. I must have looked a bit despondent, at around 800m a supporter of the Chase Hospice team shouted 'Come on UNICEF!' and that gave me the boost I needed to pick up the pace for the last few hundred metres.
As I crossed the line I looked up and saw that the time was 1hr 35mins (and some seconds), I think it had taken me a good couple of minutes to get across the line at the start, so my time should be about 1hr 33mins. Spookily, I do have a chip time recorded. Someone must have picked it up and carried it across the line for me - it crossed the line in 1hr 34 min 04 seconds!
After the race and the collection of medals and goodie bags I met up briefly with friends before heading back to the car with its lovely warm heater!
Lots of good running by my friends to day, well done to you all! Will I run this race again? Probably, although I haven't signed up for it yet......