One Thirty-Five Forty
I did it - I actually beat my personal best half-marathon time, set in 2004 of 1:36:10, by 30 seconds. And what's more, it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to those who knew what it meant to me to achieve that goal this year.
Having run the Great North Run slightly slower in 2005 than 2004, I always said I'd do it again one day and beat my PB. Until this year I'd never set aside the time to achieve that. When my Dad passed away from multiple cancers and associated complications in June last year I resolved to run in his memory, as he was always my biggest supporter.
I always ran cross country at school, I was in the team, but I was slow. Really slow. My ability to run longer distances at a steady pace appeared in my late teens. And, having never really enjoyed team sports that much, I have to say, I find great enjoyment in the hours spent out running (and cycling for that matter) in all weathers.
Feeling the pain, about mile 8 I think
In order to beat my PB, I thought I'd get a head start with my training and begin sometime in February. Which I did. However, the weather was so grim, for so long, and with so much DIY going on at home, I failed to keep up the momentum.
Again, in May, I thought 'now's the time to make a good start', but with a rather heavy work load and then a long (and thoroughly relaxing) family holiday, it wasn't until July that I really got going.
And then it went really wrong.
Going from 0 miles to around 30 in 1 week was a bad idea and I gave myself patella tendonitis, which I then made even worse by starting running again too soon. With only 8 weeks to go until the run, I was beginning to consider pulling out.
With about 5 weeks to go, I was playing 5-a-side, as usual on a Sunday evening. I went for the ball, bounced of another player and landed on my head, ending up in Minor Injuries requiring some of their special glue. Game over.
2 Weeks to Go
So with 2 weeks to go, I set about getting myself in shape for just 'getting around'. All thoughts of beating my PB were gone - I just wanted to complete the course and, in a way, relive the memories of years past. That was my goal.
Using Strava to monitor my performance, I started putting in some miles and everything went smoothly. No more knee pain, I got up to 10 miles on one occasion and had at least convinced myself that I would get round. In the back of my mind I had a target time of 1:45:00 - but I knew this would only be achievable if I got a good start and my knee held up.
Sunday came around. I woke up early and caught the bus from the Co-op with 50ish other local runners. The journey was good and we arrived in plenty of time, the smell of Deap Heat and the sound of nervous chatter and the rustle of plastic ponchos in the air. We walked to the start area, keeping an eye on the clouds, expecting it to rain, heavily, at any moment.
We watched the elite women set off on the big screen, took part in the warm up, and waited nervously for the gun.
Mile 1 was a bit fast, but it's hard to keep a decent pace when you're being swept along in a cloud of excited enthusiasm, amongst so many experienced runners. Mile 2 - 7 I completed at a pace of 7 mins/mile (approximately). But then it rained.
On mile 8, the rain came down, covering my glasses and bringing with it an uncomfortable chill. I slowed to an 8 minute pace and thought 'this is it now, I can't come back from this'. But, with the course being relatively uneven, mile 9 and 10 went by comfortably and smoothly, putting me in touching distance of meeting my PB - although I didn't believe I would beat it until I crossed the line.
Through 11 and 12 it got painful. But, as anyone who's done the Great North Run would say, the worst was yet to come, with 1.1 miles along the seafront, in a straight line, with legs like lead and it feeling like it's never going to end.
I passed the 800m mark and glanced at my watch. Time passed and the 400m marker approached - I had stopped counting and couldn't work out whether I would cross the finish line in time or not.
And then it was over, watch stopped, a sense of relief, but also strangely disappointed that it was over, and I checked my time. 1:35:40.
I'd done it.
Entering the Cancer Research tent after the race and ejoying Bupa's free sports massage service (that was more painful than the running!)
I'd like to thank everyone who encouraged and supported me throughout the training and who gave so generously to Cancer Research, my total now well over £700.
Will I do it again? Probably. I have another race lined up in Goathland in November - perhaps this time I'll get under the 1:30:00 mark - it's unlikely, but I like a challenge!