“Maybe we did the third lap twice?”
It’s been a while since I did a race – the last race I entered was the disastrous Halstead Marathon, and the last race I actually finished was the Kingston Breakfast Run back at the beginning of April (where is the year going?). I’ve done one parkrun since but it was a bit pants. A friend suggested signing up for the Richmond Park Half – the race is organised by Run Through, whose Wimbledon races I have done, so I knew it would have a nice relaxed vibe. And Richmond Park is lovely.
I prepped for the race by cycling to Thorpe Park the day before, and spending the day standing in queues and going on rollercoasters. Probably not ideal. I had a late night and had to squeeze myself out of the sheets in the morning, leaving Matt asleep. I had some train disasters on the way but it worked out in the end.
It was already a nice morning when I got to the park, and after picking up my number I headed to join the portaloo queue. By the time I got out the queue was much longer than when I’d joined it, so I definitely made the right call. I’m not sure if all those people will have made it to the loo before the race started! I went back to the start line and met up with Tibbs and Ciq, and we compared Garmins. I commented that mine took a long time to find reception, and got it started searching with a few minutes to go.
We got into starting positions. My watch still hadn’t found reception. The countdown went. I looked at my watch – come on!! Nothing. We set off, and my watch struggled onwards, still no reception.
Tibbs surged ahead and left Ciq and I jostling in the crowds. We tried to chat but kept getting separated by people, but did have a good laugh at someone running the other direction who complained that we didn’t all move out of his way (I’m all for sharing a path, but asking 300 people to move for one person seems a bit topsy-turvy, especially as 299 of those people were following the person in front). After nearly 1km I finally got signal on my Garmin. Thanks, technology.
The course headed to the north edge of the park and along the path following it round, which had some steep ups and downs. As we rounded the corner towards the road, we saw one of Ciq’s friends off to the side and he went to check up on her, catching me up as I ran down Sawyers Hill. This part of the course was good as there were cyclists to watch, but bad because it’s long, straight and boring.
We headed up towards the start/finish line and realised there was a massive dogleg stretching into the distance. Urgh. Ciq nearly stood in a giant deer poo. We plodded on.
I grabbed some water and tried to drink it slowly – made easier by the bottle still being sealed and difficult to open while running. We were barely talking, and we both admitted afterwards that we were contemplating not finishing the race. I felt extremely tired and achey. We walked for a minute half way round the lap and managed to get going again.
It was very warm and although Ciq tells me that it rained at one point, I don’t remember this. I was glad I had sunblock on.
Towards the end of the lap I started to feel queasy, feeling like I might throw up and had a few danger burps. My stomach felt pretty unsettled and I decided to take a detour to the portaloos, which turned out to be a good idea as while I lost a lot of time, I felt a hell of a lot better. Ciq waited for me, at a safe distance from the loos.
We ploughed on, trudging a bit now. We weren’t having fun and I tripped on a stone (but caught myself), which made me worry a lot about the ground underfoot and my recent ankle problems. I don’t really remember what we talked about for most of this lap, maybe this was the one where we shouted at the cyclist? Who designs a 4 lap race, anyway?
By the second half of the lap I was feeling in better spirits, and a short walk energised me enough to spend at least a mile talking about dogs. Sorry Ciq. We told ourselves that we just had to get onto the final lap before Tibbs lapped us, which we managed.
Ciq’s friend with the sore back was at the water stop, so we had a little chat and invited her to run with us (she declined as she wanted to zone out to music). I managed some water and also a couple of shot bloks as my stomach was feeling better, and this perked me up a little. Seeing all the people finishing the race was a little demoralising though.
We continued on, but I can’t say we were really trying by this point. It was mainly chatting and arguing about where the flags were. Ciq had spent at least 2.5 laps working out how many downhill sections we had before the finish, and I finally realised that he thought that we were on an entirely downhill course, like an Escher painting of Richmond Park.
Ciq suggested walking up the final uphill, “so we can finish strong… well, not strong, but y’know”. Yes, I know. We set off, past a horse, dodged the deer poo, rounded ridiculous doglegs towards the finish. Finally it looked like we were close enough that a sprint finish wouldn’t end up with me puking 100m from the end, so I told Ciq to RUN and we legged it over the line.
My slowest ever half marathon, but you know what, I don’t care. I haven’t run properly in so long, and it was hot (and I am too pale for this shit), and I spent the day before cycling/rollercoastering. We got ourselves a sweet deer medal and a tshirt (Matt will pleased to have more pyjama tops!) and a flapjack. And then another flapjack because they were going to waste. And then another. Tibbs had nailed a brand new PB, his first sub-2. Impressive!