Nottingham Half Marathon
Topic: Running and Racing
On Sunday, Sept. 16, Larry and I ran the Nottingham Half Marathon. I would like to call this next section, "How Not To Run A Really Good Half Marathon." The night before, I worked as a photographer's assistant at the Air Force Ball out at Menwith Hill Station. My friend Sarah is a photographer, and I've worked with her several times before. Basically I tell people what the packages are, have them fill out order forms, and take their money (as well as helping Sarah with set up and tear down). The evening got off to a poor start. Sarah and all her stuff was moved three times. Each time she went exactly where she was told (by the manager of the club where the ball was taking place). Each time she got set up, she was told to move. It got frustrating, especially because the final time we had to move, people were already starting to line up for photos.
We finally got somewhat set up, and I noticed I didn't have a chair. I asked the lady in charge if I could have a chair, and she informed me that there wasn't a chair to spare in the entire club. Yeah, right. I didn't have time to argue, or search for a chair. I spent most of the night on my feet, in chunky heels, bending over a table writing things down and making change. NOT what you want to do the night before a major race.
Sarah and I did get to eat dinner with everyone, but the food was marginal and we were packed at the table like sardines.
After dinner, we went back to work and wound up not finishing until quite late. When I finally got into bed, I had to laugh because I was up late, didn't get a good dinner, and didn't get rest the night before the race - three big no-no's. For some inexplicable reason, I was utterly confident I would have a great race anyway.
Only a few hours later, Larry and I got up and drove to Nottingham. The parking lot was a good twenty minute brisk walk from the starting area. It was early, but things were already getting busy. The race area itself was huge. There were all manner of stalls and tents on a huge field. There were concession stands, as well as the usual services found at a race of this size (about 13,000 people). There were porta-potties galore (you can never, ever have too many at a race), which was good. There was a little tent/kiosk giving away free bottles of Lucozade (do they have that in the States?). They were also giving out free pace bracelets, which I'd never had before. It was cool. The bracelet has the time in which you want to complete the race (for me, two hours), then the cumulative time you should be at, at each mile.
I was milling around near the starting line, when I saw a man with his race number on, sitting on the ground SMOKING! I couldn't believe it. Anyone that's met me knows I am the kind of person where what I am thinking is instantly visible on my face. Another man standing nearby saw me looking at the Smoking Man, and just started laughing.
Larry and I made our way to the start. Huge races like this are almost always divided up into time zones. You sort yourself out by signs posted with expected finishing times. Larry hung around with me until just a few minutes before the race, then headed up a little way to a slightly faster area.
I'm not sure - I couldn't hear the PA system very well - but I think the Sheriff of Nottingham was at the race start. That's pretty funny!
Finally, we were off. Let me just say that I have run three half marathons prior to this. All three were pre-Ryan, and for all three I drew up detailed training plans (which I actually stuck to!) for weeks before the race. Before each of those races, I felt pretty prepared. For this race, I had no plan whatsoever. I wasn't even consistent with my running. I felt almost utterly unprepared. I'd done two long runs with my Harrogate Harrier friends, but the longest of those was probably only around 9 miles or so (half marathons are 13.1 miles). However, my inexplicable optimism was still in full force. I knew I could do this, and that it wouldn't be so bad.
Armed with experience, two energy gels, a plan to walk through the water stations, and my crazy optimism, I headed off into the race. It took a few minutes to actually get across the start line. The race never really thinned out. There were always people around. This is both good and bad. On the good side, it keeps you going and gives you something to do (threading your way through, and trying not to get knocked around). On the bad side, it's freaking annoying when people get in your way and bump into you. (At one point my sweaty bare arm got smacked by someone else's sweaty bare arm. Eww!!!)
The course was tough. There was a lot of up and down, a lot of big steep hills, and long gradual ones. It was definitely not a course for personal records. Somewhere along the way, I got three minutes behind two hour pace, and no matter what I did, stayed that way. Honestly, I didn't expect to be at or under two hours, but I wanted to be close. A goal of two hours gave me something to shoot for.
What amazed me, was that except for a little bit of a slump partway through the race, I felt really good. Around an hour, I actually felt great! (I guess second winds really do exist!) I didn't lose concentration until the last couple of miles, and then only for a minute or two. In some ways, the last three miles were the hardest. The course was marked off in miles, and I dearly wished the last three had been marked off in K instead. It would have gone by faster with numbers counting down more quickly!
I must mention that I saw something I'd never seen before during a race. Pretty far along the course, there were two men wearing rubber gloves with handfuls of vaseline for runners to take. Runners do chafe, however, taking vaseline from a stranger is something I just wouldn't do.
There was a full marathon being run as well. Near the finish, there was a place where the marathoners split off. I kept thinking how tempting it would be for someone signed up for the marathon to just throw in the towel and head for the finish. I knew with 100% certainty, that there was no earthly way I could possibly run another 13.1 miles! I was more than happy to see the finish line.
The weather had been crazy during the race. It went back and forth between sunny and warm, to cloudy, windy, and cold. It was the latter, not the former as I finished the race. In the chute, finishers were handed a medal (which I wore with pride), and one of those space blankets. I'd seen them tons of times after big races on tv; marathoners looking somewhat like survivors of natural disasters, which I suppose in some ways, they are. I found myself struggling to get my blanket open while hanging on to the goody bag I'd been given as well. I finally got it somewhat wrapped around me, and staggered away in a state of semi-shock. I was definitely in a daze, and knew if I stopped moving, that would be it. I trudged on toward the kit tent where we'd left our stuff, figuring Larry would be around somewhere. Eventually I got my bag and changed my clothes and my cell phone rang. I just knew Larry was somewhere right in front of me, laughing because I didn't see him!
It took us twenty minutes to walk from the car to the race. It took at least thirty for us to limp back! I sent texts to my Harrier buddies, letting them know my time (2:02:58) and that I survived, and on the walk back to the car got wonderful notes of congratulations.
I'm glad Larry talked me into signing up for the race. I did have a great time! (The things we do for fun...) There are photos online. To see mine, click here:
To see Larry's, click here:
For the race's website, click here:
(I have to mention that the shirt we got was really cool. Instead of the usual cotton, it was one of those high tech wicking fabrics that stays dry. I love running in it!)
Larry ran 1:45:57, and was 1236th out of 6507. I was 3437th.
I was very pleased with how I did, both time-wise, and how I felt.
Posted by hkvlayman
at 5:17 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007 9:18 AM BST