This morning I woke up very early in my friend’s flat in Bristol. I was alone, as my friend is a doctor and worked a night shift last night. Yesterday evening, she and I (and two other friends) had an early dinner of mountains of brown rice, salmon and broccoli, before she went off to the hospital to begin her shift. Our other friends kept me company for a while, but left at nine, leaving me to eat another bowl of brown rice before getting an early night.
Today I was up at dawn, putting duct tape on my feet, changing into my running kit and eating an enormous bowl of porridge with bananas. The day of the Bath Half Marathon was here!
The next few hours passed in a blur as I got the train to Bath and met my other friend and her boyfriend in their hotel room. Luckily they had managed to choose a hotel right by the place we were supposed to be congregating at the start of the race, but there was still quite a lot of hanging around, so we got chatting to the two friendly guys behind us.
Once the race had started we settled into our own pace, and I lost my friend pretty quickly. The route was lined with people who had turned out in the rain to cheer us on. Little kids held their hands out to high five runners as they passed by. There was a carnival atmosphere. I had a pocketful of jelly beans. It was all good.
After what felt like a lifetime, however, I passed the sign that said “3 miles”. What? How could I only have done three miles? How long had I been running? How fast was I running? Why was I so tired already? Why the hell didn’t I study the route beforehand, or wear a watch?!
As all these questions were going through my mind, I heard a friendly “hiya!” It was Alex, one of the guys from the starting line. He too had lost his friend.
We didn’t make a conscious decision to run together, it just sort of happened. He was running at a pace which felt quite comfortable, and having someone to talk to made the miles go by much quicker. We swapped stories about our lives, him telling me about his job, his wife and kids, and me telling him about my new job and my upcoming trip to France to see Olivier.
Once we got to the eight mile mark, I said “only five miles to go, that’s not too far!”
By the ten mile mark, we both wanted to die, but we shared a sachet of energy gel, grabbed some lucozade from the volunteers by the side of the road, and carried on.
If you’d asked me yesterday what sort of time I was hoping for, I’d have said I’d be happy with anything under about 2:15. I’d love to get under 2:00, but I’d never run that fast in training and I just couldn’t see it happening.
As Alex and I entered our final mile, I realised I couldn’t have run any faster. I was exhausted. The only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that there was less than a mile left to go and I couldn’t possibly give up at that stage. I didn’t care about the time any more. I knew I’d done the best I could, and I just wanted to cross that finish line.
However, as we turned the final corner, we looked at the clock up ahead and we both realised at the same time that we were going to finish in just under two hours. It was a magical moment.
Shortly afterwards we collected our medals and our goody bags, had our time chips removed and said our goodbyes.
Back at the hotel, I found my friend, who had finished a few minutes behind me. We were both ecstatic with our results and relieved it was all over.
I’m glad she and I did the half marathon together. We supported each other through training and together we raised over £1,000 for Refugee Action.
And I finally achieved a long-held ambition to run a half marathon, and actually managed to finish in under two hours.
Alex, whoever you are, thank you. I couldn’t have run it in 1:57 without you!