Friday, 1 June 2018

HACKNEY HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP


Never have I felt so unprepared for a race. I knew I wanted to go for sub 2, and before Berlin marathon training kicked off I thought I should give it a shot as London Marathon training had got me the fittest I have ever been – not particularly speedy but I thought if I’m going to give it a shot…this is my best chance right now. So I signed up very last minute and my friend Becca said she would pace me (a very selfless and incredible offer!)

I had about 2 weeks to “train” and my body had only really just recovered from the marathon so I did a few speed workouts and a 10 miler and that was it. Speed felt uncomfortable, and it’s supposed to, so I knew I just had to grit my teeth and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Marathon training consisted of lots of long, easy paced miles so my lungs were in a little shock from upping the pace. I really wanted sub 2 though, so I just kept telling myself I could do it and didn’t let any negativity into my mind.

I had a very long (9 hour total!) journey from Plymouth to Kent and stayed with my Dad and Stepmum the night before the race, who very kindly drove me to the start in the morning and came to watch!

I arrived early, about 7.45AM for a 9AM start. I was freezing, the forecast was hot so I wore shorts and a vest but it was so cold and I was really struggling to keep warm. I had a jacket with me, which I wore until I dropped my bag but I just couldn’t warm up. I went straight to the toilets  (no que!) and then met up with the other TRIBE runners for a quick team photo. Becca had text me saying she was walking over form Stratford station but that it was taking a lot longer than she expected. This was one of the problems with the start, it isn’t close to any stations and you are at least a 30 minute walk away.

Ready to go!
There was lots going on in the start area, it’s a huge festival so lots of food stands, music etc. I decided it was a good idea to que for the toilets again. By this point the ques were huge and I figured by the time I got to the front I would need it again so might as well wait. I qued for 10 minutes to find out the line I had been in only lead to mens urinals. There were no signs saying this, and so there were a lot of angry female runners desperate for the loo! I had to join the back of another que, this time even longer. I must say that for 20,000 runners there were not enough toilets provided! Another 20 minutes and I finally got to a toilet. It had now gone 9am, but I wasn’t too stressed as my start pen was due to leave at 9:20 and there were still so many runners queing for the toilets. I was however worried that I still couldn’t find Becca and the phone networks were down! Still freezing, I decided I wouldn’t need my hat or sunnies and dropped my bag off. I jogged to the start pen to warm up and found Becca waiting for me (thank god!) She told me how capable I was and that I was going to smash it…I thought to myself yeah! If I tell myself enough times that I can do it…I will just HAVE to do it haha! We were waiting to cross the start but saw the ques for toilets had gone down, so we left our pen and went again and finally crossed the start at 9:32…probably some of the last runners to cross!

5 minutes in and the cloud had completely gone! It was now HOT! I really should have grabbed my visor to keep the sun off my face, and that was a rookie mistake putting it back into my bag. Not a lot I could do though so just stayed positive. Becca turned to me and said “so the first km is uphill”….this is how unprepared I was! I had no idea it even had any hills, as the website claimed it was a fast course…again though, Plymouth is my training ground and it’s full of hills so nothing I couldn’t handle, “stay positive” I thought!

The first 7 miles we were flying and I was still comfortably chatting to Becca. I even hit 10km in a new record time. It was however VERY warm and I would run into shade wherever possible. Becca was incredible, and would grab my water for me and the electrolyte drinks on offer and she would tell me when to speed up, slow down etc. 20,000 runners on the streets of Hackney was tight, the course was so busy and it was very stop/start, running on pavements and constant weaving, so typically we were clocking up a few extra hundred meters. However, I must say that the support was incredible. The streets were lined with supporters, people handing out the usual jelly babies (no oranges though…sigh) and lots of music on course to keep you motivated.

Still flying at mile 7!
Mile 8 had a hill that slowed me down, my legs were fine but my heart rate was struggling going up hill at a faster pace. We managed to make up the time lost on mile 9 though as it had some downhill and I still had sub 2 comfortably in my sight. We saw my Dad and Stepmum at mile 10, which was a great boost! They missed me at the London Marathon so were really excited to see me, and it’s just such a great lift when you see your family or friends! 

Happy to see family!
The heat was getting to me now and my legs starting to tire, I had never held this pace for 10 miles before (another PB!) and another slower mile started the negative thoughts. I said to Becca, you need to tell me if I’m not going to make the time. But she said we still had a buffer and would be fine, we just needed to give a 28 minute 5km which I knew I was more than capable of.  I was struggling to hold a conversation now, so it was head down and one foot in front of the other. Hills kept creeping up out of no where and it was making me angry. A hill at mile 12 was where I first decided to walk. My Dad and Stepmom were just before the top, which again was great but the adrenaline sent my heart rate into overdrive and I started seeing black dots and said to Becca I just need a 10 second walking break and I would make the time up. That hill at mile 12 was the biggest hill in the race, and it just burned me. I was just 1 mile away now from achieving my goal, and I knew I was capable of a sub 9 minute mile, I just had to push. I gave it EVERYTHING! But more little hills kept appearing, they weren’t even big but at the time they felt like Everest and I just said to Becca, no, I’m done, I’m out, I’m going to be sick and just no. She pushed me up the hill, I’m not kidding, hand on back and powered legs, pushed me! She then grabbed my hand to pull me down the other side. I kept needing short walking breaks, and I couldn’t have pushed any more than I did. I managed a 9:08 mile even with the walking breaks but it still wasn’t enough. 

Becca keeping me sane and strong at mile 12!
We hit 13.11 in 1:59:29 and I was over the moon but knew that the finish line in the distance was more than 30 seconds away even if I sprinted. We sprinted, and crossed in 2:00:41 running 13.25 miles. I couldn’t see, I just had black dots flashing in my eyes and my legs felt like jelly. Becca and I walked through to collect our medals without even speaking because I was so exhausted. I used every little last bit of energy I had, and that’s why I am so proud of this race. I know that I gave it EVERYTHING and couldn’t have given an ounce more, and I have Becca to thank for that. With every other race, I have thought “Oh, but I could have pushed a bit harder at that point…what if”, but not with this one. I used it all, and although my chip time is 2:00:41, I still hit half marathon in my goal of sub 2!  Becca did not allow me to give up. I think had I raced alone, I wouldn’t have even come CLOSE to that time. My previous half marathon was 2:09:17 and before that 2:27:17 so I am over the moon with my new time! 


Realising I had done it!

Becca is an inspiration, because she too was so strong that day and could have definitely gone and achieved her own new goal, but instead she selflessly paced me, pushed me, fed me…and well, got me across that line! The running community is such a fantastic team, it is most definitely not a solo sport and I feel so lucky and happy to be a part of it!

Would I run Hackney again? Maybe…I prefer to try new races, and with the lack of toilets and struggle of travelling to the start it’s not the top of my list. As well as the sneaky little hills, there were also a lot of twists and hairpin turns, which I think slow you down a bit too. But in terms of crowd support…it’s high up there!

Well earned medals!
Great medal, t shirt and goody bag too so it was worth it for sure! Cheers Hackney :D


Livvy x

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