The ABP Southampton Half Marathon was announced last year, and after a lot of umming and ahhing, I finally signed up to take part right at the end of December, and promptly started the free training programme supplied by RunCamp (see it here). I tweaked it a little bit as I was already running 5k at the Parkrun and in my local woods fairly regularly, but I have to admit that my training tapered off a little too quickly before the start. Oops! A combination of deadlines and too many family commitments saw me starting off the race with my longest run being just 10.34 miles. And, before Sunday, I’d never run the course before either.
Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t run the course in preparation – my only aim really was to finish and try to run as much of it as possible. I had a vague idea in my mind that I wanted to finish in between 2.30 to 3.00 hours, with 2.40 hours being what I had in mind – this is based off taking 40 minutes to do a slow 5k in the local woods, which involves a fair amount of scrambling up hills and over logs. Rather than aiming for the time, though, what I really wanted to do was discover the course and enjoy the event, rather than being painfully aware of which hills were coming when.
I arrived really early and ended up watching the 10k start – which was around 10 minutes late. (The guy in the Cookie Monster suit actually did the 10k run then came back to join us for the half!)
I was by myself for the run, but I find that having company makes me nervous – so that was fine! Before the race day, I was worried about not being able to wear headphones as I usually listen to music or podcasts, but a few people had them in anyway. On the day, though, it was fun to be able to listen to the spectators and people chatting around me, so I didn’t miss them at all.
We started slightly later than planned as well, around 10.08am, and funnelled through the start and onto Palmerston Road. I have no idea why I was unprepared for the amount of people lining the streets and cheering, but it was incredibly overwhelming! There were hundreds of people cheering and to be honest, I found it a little bit uncomfortable – just because I knew I was a complete amateur, and I had no idea the sheer number of people who would be there – they weren’t visible at all from the starting line! Next time I will be sure to wave and smile, but as it was I ended up running in the centre of the road and freaking out a little bit, wondering what the heck I’d gotten myself into! For something that’s such a calm and solitary pursuit for me, having a run turn into a parade was very surreal! As I got into the run, the groups of spectators got smaller and smaller, and their cheering became more personal as the herd thinned out, and by the end of it I was nearly in tears thanks to all the kindness and enthusiasm pouring out of everyone. Sunday was really a day for Southampton pride and the city was incredible.
The forecast called for rain so I started off wearing a my Heidi Klum for New Balance jacket, but I soon had to take it off and wear it around my waist. The other runners were rumbling about there being a torrential downpour around 11am, so I thought I was being prepared, but my jacket ended up just being a decorative item for my waist, and somewhere to store my tissues. (I must be the only one who has this problem, no one else was blowing their nose around the course!). Also, in my training, it became obvious that my Nike Trail shoes were the only ones capable of holding up for such a long distance, so I picked those, along with a Heidi Klum for New Balance tee and some Nike running tights.
Some people get a bit weird on the subject of wearing makeup during runs or at the gym. I know a few people see it as a badge of honour not to wear any and there’s the suggestion of the idea that you’re not serious if you’re wearing makeup. I don’t wear makeup a lot of the time when I run, but during the race I did – some waterproof mascara, eyeliner, water-resistant blusher and bronzer, and my usual foundation. I also have a mini Lacome lipstick that I tucked in my bag to take along. I wore the same kind of thing when I did my obstacle course last year – if you know someone’s taking photos, then a bit of makeup never hurts!
Before I ran the course, the bit I was worried about the most was the Itchen Bridge, as the course takes you over the top and back again – a pretty steep hill. Luckily, the first hill is the steepest, and I actually had a blast running over it – it was probably my favourite part if I’m honest! There were loads of runners on the course and everyone was trying to motivate each other to the crest of the hill – and it was cool to have the timing recorded at the start and finish. Where it got really tough for me was between 7.5 miles and 11 miles, as there are a lot of hills there – particularly sucky Burgess Road, which was created by the devil. Coming onto The Common I was back on my traditional route which I enjoyed – and there were loads of Scouts to cheer everyone on which was awesome. I hope that a few kids were inspired to take up running!
As you can see, my pace is nothing to be proud of, but I thought I’d post it anyway. I did walk at times, and I can’t say that I gave it my all 100% of the way around. I ended up with my traditional stomach cramps and I have no idea how to get rid of those yet – but this is for everyone who is just starting out or who is worried about their times. You don’t have to be the fastest. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to give it a go, and then try to improve. You only have to beat yourself. Of course, with this spirit in mind I deliberately took my time so I can set myself up for a PB next time… My official time ended up being 2.33, so my estimate was pretty dead on – I’m pretty pleased considering that at the bottom of Burgess Road I was starting to think I’d have to just crawl the rest of the way…
When I came to the finish, town was in utter chaos. It was like a happy apocalypse, with people wandering around drinking from water bottles and wearing silver blankets. It was difficult to tell who had turned up to watch and who was just there for shopping, and it was slightly odd to run through the crowds, half of whom had no idea what was going on. I managed to sprint finish – probably the only time throughout the entire day when I actually looked like I was properly running rather than shuffling – and got my medal, free bag, bottle of water and a cup of goo, which was a recovery drink.
In finishing the half marathon, I’ve realised a few things.
- It was harder than I thought it would be.
- I have no idea how anyone can run a full marathon.
- The organisers really did a blinding job.
- The people of Southampton are awesome.
- I would very much like to do it again, please.