The Tewkesbury Half Marathon is the 5th Half I've done, having started in March 2011 with Bath. I did Bath in 2:12: xx, which included some walking breaks, and was not a very enjoyable experience. With each subsequent Half my times have got progressively slower and my enjoyment of the distance less and less. So why did I sign up for Tewkesbury? Because I felt that somewhere within me was a more respectable time, and I didn't want to give up until I found it!
The week before, I ran the Oxford 10k and it was a bit of a disaster - I couldn't even run the whole way. I haven’t done longer than 6 mile runs for weeks, so I was really not looking forward to today's race - I "knew" it was going to be another in the list of dismal failures at the Half distance.
Anyway. We got to the start in plenty of time, just as well as there weren't that many loos but the queues at that point were quite short. It was also pleasantly chilly. There seemed to be a quite good turn-out from Almosts, though perhaps not as many as I had expected.
There was some chat from the starter about how ipods etc were verboten and you could be disqualified for wearing them (and I believe some people were indeed DQ'd at the finish.) And then we were off - it looked like a lot fewer than the 1000 runners claimed (there were in fact 818 finishers - I was quite a long way back so presumably didn't see how many there were ahead of me!)
The first 5 miles go through largely uninspiring housing and industrial estates, but it's pretty flat. There were people out on the roadside, although they were strangely muted. Was it the early start or the cool temperatures?
I'd decided I wasn't going to look at my Garmin the whole way round. I was so sure this was not going to be a good run, that I thought the best thing to do was just settle into a pace that felt comfortable: if it was slow or fast it didn't matter, the point was to get round and feel reasonably ok at the end.
As we headed out into the countryside I realised I was not being overtaken and was actually overtaking other runners. The road surface at miles 7-8 was horrible - sort of chip 'n' tar stuff, which was quite energy sapping, (I see from my Garmin trace that this is a steady uphill stretch, which surprised me.) At mile 7 I reckoned I needed my first jelly baby. That seemed to give me a boost and when we turned onto a different road surface it felt much easier to run again. By now I began to feel that actually, this run was turning out quite well!
Another jelly baby at mile 9, and up ahead was the hill I had been waiting for and slightly worrying about. But I just put my head down and kept my pace reasonably steady, and it was nothing like as bad as I had been expecting. The traffic was quite busy at this point of the race but most drivers were pretty considerate (apart from an oaf in a black BMW - there's always one!)
The last few miles did seem to drag - the scenery wasn't that special and marshalling and support was a bit half-hearted. Dodging shoppers and “pavement wanderers” in the last mile was a bit odd. But by now I knew that for the first time ever, I was going to run the whole way in a half marathon, and I also had a feeling that I was going to be pleased with my time.
When I turned into the finishing straight I couldn't believe HOW pleased - the clock showed 2:06 as I crossed the mat! (My chip time is 2:05:38!) That's a PB of very nearly seven minutes! I'd run all the way, I'd done a decent time, and I felt very good - what more could I want?
Well actually, what I really wanted was a drink. And can you believe, THERE WAS NO WATER. They had "run out". FFS! About 40 minutes after I finished, a van arrived with some more water but really - no water at the finish of a Half? Unforgiveable. The goody bag was literally, just a bag - a freebie from Virgin fitness, with a leaflet inside urging us to sign up for their gym. NOTHING else. This wasn't a cheap Half. The medal is nice but even so, I wasn't impressed.
But those grumbles aside, nothing detracts from the huge smile on my face. I knew I had a better Half in me somewhere, and today, I think found it. I had a great weekend – my birthday on Friday, a tax rebate in the post on Saturday, and a very happy PB at Tewkesbury. Life is sweet!