I’m not sure I have mentioned that my favourite half marathon is the Reading Half Marathon. It is my favourite half marathon for several reasons:
1. My mum used to run the Reading Half Marathon before she got ill, she ran it 5 times and it was her that inspired me to get into athletics when I was at school. A little known fact is that for my mum’s first half marathon she was originally the first woman – she ran the first 12 miles in about 1:09 if I can remember correctly and then collapsed with one mile to go and ended up being walked to the end in some insanely good time (I think approx 1:30)
2. I am from Reading so it feels special to run in my hometown and have the possibility of seeing lots of spectators I know!
3. Its so big, everything about it makes you feel really special like you are doing something special. For Reading, hosting the half marathon is as big a deal as if they were hosting a marathon.
4. There are spectators lining every single mm of the course which is amazing for someone like me who loves attention!
5. Its fast.
6. It was my PB half marathon from 2013.
Anyway, enough blabbering on, now for the lowdown on the 2015 race.
The race that almost wasn’t:
Unfortunately my hip injury really hadn’t been getting any better. I gave my long run a miss the weekend before and rested all week. However, despite the rest my hip was really painful when walking on it. It seemed to get more and more painful as the week went on. I was hoping to get a physio appointment early in the week but in the end primarily due to a hectic working week I was unable to get an appointment until Friday evening. That really seemed too close to running a half marathon but I didn’t have a choice. My physio worked wonders and I felt so much better after the session.
Sometimes its not just about running:
My physio was concerned about the amount of pain I was in and we had a chat about whether it was a good idea to run the Reading Half Marathon. For me, there was never any question I was going to run the Reading Half Marathon, not because it was my favourite race but much more importantly for me, it was my younger sister’s very first half marathon and she was running it for charity: the UCL Amyloidosis Fund in fact, a charity supporting the work of the Royal Free centre of excellence for Systemic Amyloidosis. The disease that killed my Grandma in such a short space of time 😦 Hence, my participation in the Reading Half Marathon was always non-negotiable. If my leg had snapped in half I would have got to the finish line.
Me and my sister before the race started:
I stayed in Reading the night before the race and my Dad dropped me and Tiffany off to the Madejski Stadium so we didn’t use the shuttle buses. I found that there were adequate amounts of loos before the start, the queues were not too bad at all. I was pleased that our race numbers had been sent out to us and we didn’t have to pick them up. The baggage drop was extremely well organised. However for me the best bit was the Race Village, there was music playing, lots of different stalls and it just made you feel a teensy bit special to be running the race.
I managed to bump into a fair few fellow Eagles at the race and it was lovely to catch up/chat and discuss race targets. For me, Reading was an important race to work out what kind of form I was in and how much I was being held back by my hip.
Obligatory Eagles Pictures:
The race itself:
The start was very well organised so that different predicted race times started at different times. The 1hr 40m pacer was very close to where I was standing in my pack. I had discussed my race strategy with my coach and we had agreed that I would not start too fast and I should be aiming for even splits. The idea was to go no quicker than 7:40 m/m pace and generally average 8 m/m and pick up speed over the last few miles if possible.
It was a lovely sunny day which made me incredibly happy but it was a lot warmer than the weather everyone in the UK had been training in recently. I actually took on water at mile 2 (which is something I would never usually do) but I already felt pretty dehydrated by that stage. Water was in bottles!!!! Water bottles as compared to cups makes such a difference to how hydrated runners are!
The one slight moan I have about the Reading Half Marathon is it is advertised as flat and fast, it is fast but it is not flat. The first hill was about mile 3 – this was the point that the 1hr 40 m pacer overtook me and I had no energy left at all to catch up! The bit about the course that had changed was there was a much more substantial bit running around the university which was great as it is lovely and green. There also seemed to be a more substantial route through the town centre which was also welcome as there was a huge amount of crowd support in the town centre.
There were at least two more hilly bits on the route including running up Great Russell Street – a long slow hill! At mile 5, there was Lucozade sport once again in bottles. This was perfect for me as Lucozade sport is my race fuel of choice – I really can’t tolerate gels.
My hip had felt fine up until mile 8, this was the point that it started really hurting 😦 However, at this stage my race was going OK. I was running around 8m/m pace and just focused on not slowing down. The worst part of the course is probably miles 11-12 as you run up a (closed) dual carriageway and it just seems to go on forever. However, one massive improvement in the route is you no longer run past the stadium and have to come back. Once you see the stadium you know you are almost home! At around mile 10 I a Fellow Eagle came running up from behind me, looking extremely strong and I later found it he had run a massive PB – which I was not at all surprised about 🙂 ! There was also a Lucozade sport stand at mile 10 but somehow I managed to miss it.
Now for my favourite part – the finish!! There was one last short steep hilly bit then there were signs saying 500m to go, 400m to go etc (though I swear that there was an error in the distance between the two signs as we had to run much further than 100m in between!) Then it was in to the Stadium, one entire wall of the stadium was full of supporters and it was such an amazing feeling running into that stadium and sprinting that last bit through the finish arch. It was certainly a bonus that my family were right by the finish! I wasn’t sure if I had got a PB, I thought I might have got a PB by a few seconds, I hadn’t started my Garmin on time and because of the staggered starts my clock time wasn’t right either. As soon as I collected my bag (which was as smooth as clockwork) I realised I had received a text with my time – 1:43 – a 2 minute PB! I was so happy I screamed (so loudly that I attracted a few stares) but it meant such a lot with everything I have endured this running season from suffering so much with my asthma and then my dodgy hip.
Now for the important things!!! The goodie bag was great, free lucozade, a plastic water flask, a free finisher’s cotton t-shirt and a chocolate bar! The medal was awesome!! It came on a hot pink ribbon and I think is the biggest piece of post race bling I have been awarded!! I’ve never felt so proud to wear a race medal.
Now to the most important matter of all: how did my sister do in her first half marathon! She ran it in 2:05, pretty impressive since she is new to running from the end of last year!! I will encourage her to do many more half marathons – next stop the Ealing Half Marathon in September!
Now back to Reading, would I do it again? Definitely, if I could book my place for 2016 now, I would. Unsurprisingly, I would give Reading Half Marathon 10/10. For me it ticks all the boxes, lots of spectators, good organisation, a varied route and PB potential. In my opinion, for runners running the London Marathon there can be no better preparation race!