I ran the Chester Half Marathon today. Two years ago I ran the Manchester 10K (which was also being run today) with cancer to prove to other people how symptomless cervical cancer can be. I was days out from an operation that would make me better, or something approximating it. And mostly, that was a success. I was going to return to Manchester this year, but because I’m naively ambitious, I went all in on the half marathon. I wanted to prove it to myself that I could do it, especially in light of more recent health concerns. I’m not going to get all Oprah about it, but this race was important to me. So I went large.
This is me giving you two fingers in peace. It’s also two fingers, one for each year I have been clear of cancer, two fingers up at the disease itself and two fingers for the two unfortunate injuries I’ve had this year.
Part of me wants to lie my ass off about today’s race. I want to say I did a personal best, kicked the ass out of it and returned triumphant. And to be fair, if I simply said that and posted the above picture, I would presumably fool anyone who I’m not friends with on Facebook.
So, what really happened is this. I slept poorly, woke up in a cold sweat about 2am and moved myself to the spare room. Getting back up at 5.30, I was surprisingly awake and drove over to Chester where I found the parking on the racecourse. As the parking closes an hour and a half before the race starts and I had made the cut off in plenty of time, I decided to get some shut eye.
Top tip: if you ever find yourself in an open air car park with enough time for a doze, MOVE YOURSELF TO THE PASSENGER SIDE. Nothing scares the absolute shit out of yourself better than waking up with the steering wheel in your face and the rear lights of a car 2 foot from your front end. Just for a split second, I totally thought I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I can now vividly imagine what it’s like to be defibrillated.
Getting out of the car 20 minutes before the race started (enough time to force a wee that I would invariably need as soon as the gun goes off) I noticed the heat. Usually in these things I shiver in the chilly morning air, wish I had a space blanket and generally rub my limbs furiously like I’m trying to make fire. Not today. It was (dare I say this about British weather?) pleasant. The kind of pleasant that makes you sit outside and get optimistic about the summer. And this was before the race, at 9am. It was only going to get warmer. And it did.
I got a decent pace going for the first 7 miles. It was hot though. Really hot. I took water on when available, but I’ve never been good at hydrating while moving. Most of it went down my front, which, given the weather wasn’t a total loss. Mile 8 and I started to feel a bit crap. I maintained a sub 9 min mile pace, but that was aided largely by a drop in elevation. Miles 9 through 11 were again slower and I knew I was in trouble when I hit mile 12. I did what I haven’t done in any race, ever. I stopped running. Concerned faces briefly looked at me as they passed and some offered up some water. I declined politely and got moving again. I had to get this done, and fast. I was running on fumes and sputtering to a halt frequently.
I don’t remember much of the final straight or crossing the line, which is a shame because it’s a great course and a lovely tudor town to run through. I was grabbed by someone as I hurled myself over the line and placed on a plastic camp bed where I was offered everything from sick bowls to sympathy. I do remember finally feeling half-normal again in that St John’s Ambulance Recovery Tent and so to be completely honest (a first on this blog) here’s how I really ended the race.
No leaping for joy this time over the line, though I did cross it in 1hr 58 min. A time that should really be much worse given I did only two 13 mile prep runs before it (over the course of the last two weekends.
And other old stuff. Sorry, I’m mentally checked out right now – everything is aching a little and I can’t stop thinking about pancakes.
If you need me, I’ll be on the sofa. Foolishly planning my next run, probably.