Losing my Great South Run Virginity
The night before felt a bit like getting prepared for a holiday; passport - check, money - check except this Saturday night was a bit more; number badge thing - check, safety pins - check, warm dry clothes - check, plastic cups - check, Doritos - check. Eventually I was happy that my morning would go without a hitch. Trainers at the door, running clothes laid out, alarm set and bag packed. And so off to bed I went.
The Morning Arrived
So kit on, bag on shoulder and out the door to the train station. There were a few Great South Runners at the train station. They're pretty easy to spot. You don't see many people doing the walk of shame in trainers and running kit at 8.30am on a cold and damp Sunday morning. I hooked up with my running buddy and friends for the slowest train journey on planet earth. All very helpful to aid a growing feeling of nervousness.
A Long Walk
So Portsmouth and Southsea train station ain't so close to the sea, or the starting line. And, so, before we'd even started running we had a 20 - 30 minute walk. I don't like being late. Being late stresses me out and makes me anxious. My hypnotherapy, running geek, tutor was going to run with me. He's completed umpteen marathons and is going to be doing ultra marathons?! Anyway he was going to run with my and my running buddy, keeping me mentally on track right up to that finishing line. So text messages, and phone calls on the long walk and we'd arranged a meeting spot.
Arriving at the Great South Run
We had to sort out our number things to safety pin on our tops. I wanted to get rid of that pint of tea that was sitting in my bladder and hook up with my hypno tutor. It was about 10.30 by now and finding anyone was going to be like finding your car at Glastonbury Festival wearing a blindfold. I went to find a loo, find my hypno tutor and get ready to rumble . . . I mean run.
All is Lost
And so, keeping an eye out me for my running buddy, I turned and managed to lose her. Bugger. And I couldn't find my hypno tutor. The que for the loos was worse than Glastonbury. And I was lost in a sea of people with a bladder full of tea about to run the furthest I've ever run in my life. And it has to be said, I felt a little anxious and not quite so excited as I had been.
The Race Starts
An invigorating warm up, not sooo easy to do when you are packed liked sardines next to each other all eager to get going. To get too involved with the warming up routine could have risked poking someones eye out or picking someones nose. And I was still anxious and still looking for my running chums before I had to admit defeat and realise that now the chances were pretty slim.
The crowd moves forward and before I knew it, I am crossing the start line and being cheered on by crowds of people I've never met, kids holding out their hands so you can clap them on the way past and it's a little intimidating. Being watched by all those people, sometimes shouting your name (it's on your t-shirt) by people you've never met. And there shortly after the start was an oasis. A toilet. I made a split second decision to use it. The last thing I wanted to do was be thinking about needing a pee for 10 miles. So I ran in, queued for a while, peed, and ran out. And now my run really started.
10 Miles - Alone but not Alone
And so I had to get into my run zone, to focus, to relax into it, along a route I'd never done before. And I did. I went at my own pace and just kept on going, and going, and going. The three mile marker seemed an awful lot longer than the three miles I usually ran but I guess Bupa know what they're doing when they put the markers up. The miles started clocking up though and then I was at five miles. This seemed way more difficult than all my other long runs. Then came six/seven miles. And you move away from the sea front, into the houses, straining to see around the next corner, hoping to see the start of the promenade, the start of the finish. At this point there are lots of walkers, lots of people walking and running, walking and running.
I couldn't walk. If I walked I wouldn't be able to run again. And so I continued to run, one foot at a time. A couple of times I nearly burst into tears as I ran. More tears of surprise at what I was doing and what I was achieving. I had to keep the crying at bay as I would surely sob the rest of the way round, and that wouldn't be pretty. Sobbing and sweaty!
The last couple of miles hurt. I felt as though shards of glass had taken up residence in my hip joints and I felt as though I'd had my legs replaced with those of a seven foot rugby player.
And there I was on the promenade.
Counting down now. Nine miles under the belt. 1km to go, 800 metres to go. Then 400 metres. The whole time just knowing that the only way I would stop is if my bones broke and my muscles ripped apart.
200 metres, then 100 metres. Amazingly my other half had spotted my coming up to the finish line and shouted. Seeing him waving, shouting me on, was the last push that I needed. In I went, under the finish line. I stopped, the marshals pulled off my chip and I was done, I'd finished, I'd run 10 miles. I'd done it 2:17:31. All this training and I had done it. And I just about managed not to sob.
I'd Done It
And so the rest of the day was spent in exhaustion. A long walk back to the station. A long train journey home, celebrated with Cava in plastic cups and Doritos.
And so now I am recovering, a little like a new born foal if I keep still for too long, but proud as punch and a little amazed and surprised.
So with a new achievement under my belt, it's onwards and upwards to my next racing challenge, to get fitter, stronger and faster than ever.
Big thanks to Adam Eason my Hypnotherapy Tutor for his inspiring wit and inspiration, to Gemma for being my running buddy and keeping me sane and running, to my other half Andy who's supported and encouraged me throughout and my friends, family and everyone whose enjoyed the blog.
And so now I'll rest, but not for long. I've got the bug and a new running challenge to find.