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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

The Big Half

I last did this race just before the global COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, although I'd wanted to do it in 2022 as well I'd had to defer due to it being my Dad's retirement party on the same day. This year I was back, the even was still in September instead of having been moved back to it's normal date, and it would be Sir Mo Farrah's last London race in his career.

Today was unfortunately a 05:30 start, and it felt like I hadn’t slept. I got myself sorted and had breakfast, and we were on the road by 06:30. It's a bit of a trek from where we were, but we made it into London Bridge with plenty of time. After bag drop I made my way across Tower Bridge to the start pens. Being in Wave A meant my start time was 08:30, but even then the race started almost ten minutes late. I heard someone behind me joking that they’d given Mo Farrah a head start.

It was already getting warm, and I was aware I’d likely be going a lot slower today - just like in Swansea. I hoped having run for a few days in Budapest’s heat might have helped me adapt a little, but the cooler days over the last week was likely to have undone any acclimatisation.

Although the start is ‘at Tower Bridge’ it’s actually on the north side of the Thames, and the course starts off by heading east. After a mile on target for a sub-90, I could see the pacer not too far ahead as we then went downhill into the Limehouse Link tunnel. I’d remembered this from 2020, but what I hadn’t remembered was how long it was. This year though, it was also so surprisingly humid in there as well, and still had the feint smell of fumes too. It wasn’t pleasant, but I kept on going, thinking about how good the tunnel exit will be.

The tunnel exit was uphill in direct sunlight without any shade. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before some of the road had some, and this made it a little better, but I was still very hot far too soon for it to end well. Although my pace wasn’t really faster than what a sub-90 should be, I caught up with the 1:30 pacer just after leaving the tunnel, and stuck with the group for the next couple of miles. I missed out on the water at the first station as there were too many people, and I couldn’t get across safely, so had to leave it. During this I lost some distance on the pacer, and left the area having slowed down a little too. My mouth felt dry, and my face felt warm. At least it’d be only 5K until the next chance for water.

Just after mile 4, around Cabot Square, my race went kaput. I couldn’t force myself to run any longer, and I took my first of many walking breaks. For the next few miles I took only a few walking breaks, and realised not only had I forgotten about the cobblestones, I’d also forgotten how long they went on for. I did however manage to get some water just before mile 6. Then, just after mile 7 I was looking for Carmen amongst the crowds of people starting as I got to Tower Bridge and crossed it - I managed to keep myself running for all of that, and then for the downhill section on the other side as far as the corner.

By the time I got in Rotherhithe it was so warm, and I knew not only would it not be a sub-90, it wouldn’t be a sub-100 either. I just didn’t feel like running enough to manage it. There were water canons set-up, but weren’t on at the time. There was some ice cubes around mile 9 though but I ignored them in favour of trying not to slip on the many ice cubes that were on the floor.

Carmen had bought be a blue ‘Runderman’ t-shirt to run in with a logo similar to that of Superman, so I was getting people cheering on ‘Superman’. It was nice to hear, but I didn’t really feel like running too much in this heat.

Eventually I recognised the bridge near Cutty Sark and knew I didn’t have far to go. I pretty much walked until the finish gantry was in sight, wanting to make sure it actually was the finish before running for it. Once I was completely sure it was I started running, and then sprinted across the finish line - proving to myself I’d still got plenty in my legs even if I wasn’t willing to use them.

I finished in 1:42:07, which considering I’m pacing Llanelli Half Marathon for 1:45 which is supposed to be a very easy pace for me - it was shockingly bad. Knowing it’s in September again next year is putting me off the idea of doing it again, just in case it’s as warm or as humid as today. March 2020 felt so much better with the cooler weather.

It’s quite a trek from the finish to bag drop, as you go passed medal collection. The medal was in collaboration with ASRA Club, a club that is encouraging more Muslim women to take up running by providing a safe environment for them to do so. It was actually a reasonably nice medal, and made from a non-magnetic material so it wasn’t sticking to my bib magnets like some do.

There are then tables of water, lucozade, and Cliff bars first before crossing the road to the Maritime museum for baggage collection. This didn’t take too long as it’s really well organised, and I actually spotted my bag as I was getting close to my collection point. You then have to go all the way around the outside passed the t-shirt collection, through the gates, and then halfway back before it lets you free onto the field. I guess it’s good to keep your legs moving after a hard race… although, mine seemed like it’d been mostly walking anyway. Hopefully my next race will go better.

Tags: 13point1 halfmarathon race running sport

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© David G. Paul