Half marathons seem to be like buses; You don’t take part in one for ages and then two come along in consecutive weeks. This is my third time taking part in the Vitality Big Half Marathon and to be honest, I have had shocking races for the last two (read here) But, as I always say, there is something special about running around the streets of London.
It was another early alarm clock and I was close to sacking this race off on Saturday night. Being at my mum’s all day, helping to arrange funeral details, I had not eaten too well, I had drunk a fair bit of tea, but hardly any water. I had cried a lot, so when I got home with a headache, sore throat and generally feeling rubbish, I wondered if it was a good idea.
I had hardly seen my husband and daughter all day and knew that this half marathon would mean that I was out for most of Sunday too! When I told my husband that I was thinking of not going and he responded with, ” Go and do it why you have the chance, you never know when you won’t be able to do these things.” So very true, so I went and got myself organised.
The weather has been so crazy that I didn’t know what to wear. I ended up sticking to the same as last week, mainly because it was at the top of my washing basket (Freshly washed!). My alarm was set for 5:10 am and I finally got into bed at 22:59!
Myself, Dem and Naomi all travelled together. Dem drove us to Burnt Oak tube station and we got the tube to London Bridge. it was so bright as we got out of the station at London Bridge and the sky was blue. Yes, it was still VERY cold, but it was so nice not to have rain.
Although we left a similar time to previous years and the journey seemed to go smoothly, I felt a bit rushed as we approached Tower Bridge. We quickly sorted our bags and kit along the embankment. We only had about 15 minutes until the baggage trucks left, so we quickly made our way to drop off bags. Bag drop is well organised and very efficient, it is just always SO busy with people.
After dropping bags, you have to walk across Tower Bridge. The weather was amazing and London was looking pretty spectacular. The wind blew a bit on the bridge and I did wonder if I had kept enough layers on. I hadn’t kept a hat or buff over my ears and walking over the bridge made me think this could have been a mistake.
The start pens are immediately over Tower Bridge. I was supposed to be starting in wave D, but some of the people I was with were wave E. We decided to see if we could move back and they let us. We hadn’t seen any toilets near bag-drop. But I remembered there were some in the start pens, so waited until then.
Well, let’s just say that it is lucky that you have so long to wait until the start. The queues were HUGE. It didn’t help that the queues entwined with the people waiting for the race to start. It was a little confusing as to who was waiting. I think we may have queued for between 30-25 minutes. Our pen had started to make their way to the start line before we even used the toilet. Luckily, we knew that the start line was still a little walk from the starting pens, so didn’t panic and caught up.
A tip for anyone that runs this race; Do not discard you extra layers until you can see the start line. It’s a long walk to the start and they sometimes make you wait again until you start.
Dem had completed a trail marathon the day before as you do. His son was running his first half marathon, so we decided to take it easy. This is a new concept for me. The previous two Big Half Marathons, I have set off WAY too fast. The tunnel that you go through goes on forever and it is pretty much downhill the whole way. This year there was a mist/dust towards the end of the tunnel that worried me a little. You soon realised how warm it was in the tunnel as the cold hit you when you came out.
Canary Wharf sneaks up on you pretty quickly and that is where your GPS goes crazy. I think my watch clocked 4 miles half a mile early. Considering how cold it was, the spectators around Canary Wharf were amazing. There were a lot of bands on the course too. I love the steel drums, they are just perfect to run too.
After leaving Canary Wharf you are just looking forward to Tower Bridge. The cobbles that come before the bridge are not so pleasant, but Tower Bridge never disappoints.
After Tower Bridge, there are quiet parts of the course. I felt pretty strong up until 10 miles, where I had to dig in. We took a water break during every water station. I knew I hadn’t hydrated well the previous day (or probably that morning too) so I needed to be sensible. I was also very hungry and looked forward to the Lucozade station around 8 miles.
We past Frank Bruno around mile 11 and then it was just about head down and getting it finished. Dem saw a friend around 12 and a half miles and stopped. I did think about carrying on as I thought that was the only way that I would beat him. But no, I stopped and waited. Only for him to leave me for dust in the final 600 metres!
I wanted to dig in and keep up with him. My legs and to be honest, my head just didn’t have it. The 26.2 miles the previous day had obviously been a good warm-up for him!! A win’s a win – well done Dem.
The finish line area is pretty special. The crowds are epic and finishing beside the Cutty Sark, especially in the sun is lovely. The queue to collect bags was not so lovely. I started to get cold, but that is the joy of taking part in a mass participation race.
A week break from racing and then Bath Half is on the 15th March. Did you race at the weekend?