Sunday, 29 March 2015


The sharp eyed among you will realise that I ran a race last weekend and did not blog about it.  Shock horror!  Had I lost the ability to type?  Was my internet connection down?  No, I just had a bit of a duff race and didn't feel that I could write about it.  Reading Half Marathon had been marketed as having a 'new route' which was 'fast and flat.'  It didn't seem that different to previous years in terms of hilliness, but I had started the race feeling a bit nauseous and as I ran I felt worse.  I threw up 4 times in 13.1 miles - classy!  By the time I finished I was dehydrated, and I swayed across the finish lines with my vision blurring.  Luckily a friend spotted me and grabbed hold of me so that I didn't add passing out at the finish to puking my guts up around Reading!  My stomach muscles ached and I was disappointed with my time.

The fact that I was disappointed is silly.  This time last year I would have been thrilled with a half marathon time of 1hr 50mins 58secs.  And a bit selfish!  I have friends who can't run because they are ill and injured - I can run, and the weather was beautiful.  I even got a fabulous race photo!

However since Reading whenever I have run, or even thought about running, I have felt sick.  Even running parkrun (about which I want to say a lot so will probably do another blog post) with Freddy yesterday made me feel a bit icky.  There is nothing wrong with me, it is all in my mind - but that doesn't make it any less annoying.  So that's why there was no post Reading blog.

Fast forward to today.  In a fit of enthusiasm earlier in the year I entered the Combe Gibbet to Overton 16 mile cross country race.  "It'll be fun!" people told me.  So I signed up.  My record with cross country this year hasn't been great, I've only done two other races, G1 and G2 - and both of them have resulted in my hurting myself and swearing a lot.  Today, with the clocks going forward during the night, I was glad of an afternoon start.  I thought it might allow the weather to improve.  16 miles in the rain didn't really seem like fun.  We were bussed from Overton to Combe Gibbet, through chocolate box villages along winding roads and arrived at our starting point in a howling wind.  It was a struggle to walk up the hill from the car to the gibbet.  It was, to say the least a somewhat exposed location!  So exposed that a few of the boys, who didn't think to check the wind direction, ended up spraying themselves, and possibly their neighbours, when having a quick pre race pee.  It was funny to watch.

Thankfully we set off down the hill we had struggled up.  The wind was behind us and propelled us forward.  It was hilly but not too steep, the ground underfoot was varied.  We had been informed that the first 5 miles were wet, the second 5 were sticky and the last 5 were bone dry.  And it had, at last, stopped raining - or at least I think it had, the wind was so extreme that it was hard to notice anything else.  I wore a running jacket for the first few miles, then got too warm and tied it around my waist where it acted as an effective sail - sadly not always steering me in the direction I wished to travel.  I threw up twice before 7 miles.  Hmm.

Some of the paths were very uneven and slippery.  At 7.5miles I put my left foot down at a daft angle and it twisted under me.  This is the foot I damaged at the end of January.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  So much so that I thought I would have to quit.  I thought I would hobble on to the next marshal point and see how I felt.  I don't like quitting, so I was doing the maths in my head to see if I could make the cut off (get to 12 miles by 2hrs 30mins or be taken of the course).  I could, I thought, just.

I got to the next marshal point and found out that it was a mile and a half to the next one (on the other side of the A34 after going through an underpass).  My foot had eased off by some point by the time I got there and the ground here was smoother, so I though I'd carry on.  I was mostly walking at this point, but that was OK, this section was a long gradual hill and with the wind still blowing for NATO I was concentrating on staying upright.  I chatted with a few people as we walked/ran.  The weather was improving but the wind was here to stay!  I got to 12 miles well within the cut off time, and my foot was feeling a bit better.  Still painful, still sore but not agony.  I thought it was just about possible, if I could pick up the pace, to finish in 2hrs 40mins.  The last 4 miles were more downhill than uphill, but the downhill hurt my foot more.

I pushed on.  I was overtaking a lot of the people who had passed me back at 7.5miles - which was nice - and the last section was on road, which meant I didn't have to think about where I was putting my feet.  I ran as fast as I could to make sure I could get that sub 2.40.  As I ran into the finish field there were 2 men ahead of me running together, I picked up the pace and manage to finish between the two of them.  The man I chicked was Steven King - I don't think he was the author!

I crossed the line, collected my medal and swore my way across the field to a group of friends.  "If I ever talk about signing up for another f*cking cross country race you have my permission to f*cking shoot me!"  Apparently in the course of 30 minutes I uttered one sentence that did not contain any swearing.  I hope I was polite to the ladies serving tea and cakes!  But I had done it!  2hrs 39mins and (I think) 48 secs - nothing like cutting it fine!

Would I do this race again.  Hell no!  Would I recommend it to a friend - yes I would!  From the luxury coaches conveying us to the start to the tea and cakes at the end this was a brilliant little race.   I couldn't help but think what a lovely route this would be to walk along on a summer day.

Garmin link here - for anyone who wants a giggle at my comedy splits!

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