Back to the finish
The Hampton Court Half Marathon
On a frosty February morning, exactly one year ago, I set off running at the start of the 2017 Hampton Court Half Marathon along with six colleagues. It had been four years since I’d done any proper running, so I’d made the effort to train, coached some reluctant muscles, and was reasonably confident of making the distance (albeit slowly). However, due to the silly mistake of forgetting to eat breakfast or take any sustenance whatsoever with me on the run, I became dizzy and on the verge of fainting with about 2 miles still to go. Slightly panicked, and with painful knees and quads, I abandoned the run, and limped back to the event base to find some food.
And so at work on Monday there were six (not seven) medals proudly displayed, stories told and, of course, some light-hearted ‘banter’ about where the heck I’d disappeared to. The training had taken about 100 hours out of the previous three months and all I’d achieved was some very sore joints and a feeling of failure. Given such a bad experience, I promptly gave up running again – it had always been about suffering and perseverance and at the age of 53 it could only get worse. So that was that, tried it again, didn’t like it. I’d stick to cycling thank you.
One evening eight months later I was leaving work and about to start my usual cycle home when I found my front tyre had punctured. Given that I already had my gym kit on, and I only lived 3 miles away, I thought I’d be adventurous and try a little jog-walk-jog – it would be quicker than waiting for the bus anyway. Much to my surprise, no walking was needed, and I ran the whole 3 miles feeling positively bouncy. It was almost (whisper it) enjoyable. A few days later on another jog home, it felt the same. And so I began wondering how far I could run before the suffering began.
Right on cue, as though it had been lurking in my inbox waiting for the right moment, came an email inviting me to sign up for the Hampton Court Half Marathon 2018. Based on little real evidence and a poor memory of pain, I signed up again. This time though, it would be different. This time there would be more training, more stretching, more rolling. I would cross the line gloriously, win the t-shirt and finally add my medal to the class of ’17.
The reality, however, didn’t completely live up to my ambition. Although my long runs steadily advanced from 4 miles to 10, anything beyond that involved stiffness and pain. I used sprints, tempo runs, cross training and enjoyed all of it, but going the full 13.1 miles still seemed a long way off. Three weeks before the event I developed sore and niggling knee joints which only responded to massage therapy from our wonderful in-house Chief Exercise Officer. With two days to go I finally felt optimistic again but had missed a fair chunk of training.
That couldn’t be helped though, I was on the start line and determined to make it round. And sure enough, after 10 miles of enjoyment, 2 miles of discomfort and 1.1 miles of hobbled limping aided by jelly babies from a kind spectator, I made it across the line. I had finally earned my medal, 1 year, 2 hours and 20 minutes after my colleagues.