On the morning of Cambridge Half Marathon I found myself stood staring at the race number I had pinned onto my running top with a feeling of nerves inside my stomach. After a week of heavy snowfall playing havoc with life, let alone running, I was really looking forward to running the race, and being nervous was something I had not anticipated. I had stayed at my parents’ house back in Suffolk before the race and had enjoyed relaxed race prep watching Laura Muir run with gritted teeth to greatness at the World Indoor Athletics Championships on TV, whilst eating Malteser cake (my favourite!) I should have been calm, but I was not. Later on I realised it was not so much nerves about my performance or the prospect or running 13.1 miles, but with my parents coming to watch I think I simply just wanted them to see me running happily and was slightly anxious to make that happen.
By the time we boarded the Park and Ride Bus to the half marathon start my nerves had dissipated; the familiarity of race day was making me feel ease. I was happy to have my parents with me, they rarely get to see me run and even though I am 26, it felt special being able to share the whole day with them, and I guess the child in me still wanted to do them proud. My dad found it strange that the fellow runners on the bus were so jolly; he is used to grumpy football fans moaning about their team – this is running I told him, we are a unique community! Arriving at the Midsummer Common start area the weather was almost unrecognisable from conditions in the week; at 5 degrees it felt almost hot! The team at OSB events have to be congratulated too for their efforts in ensuring the race was on, and they had even organised free foil blankets for all runners to wrap ourselves in as we stood waiting on the start line. I took my blanket, arranged with my parents where I hoped to see them on the route, and joined the start funnel, where as if by fate I found my friend to stand with.
Before the race, with fears of the conditions being perhaps slippery/dangerous or down right miserable, I had contemplated treating Cambridge Half with more of a training focus, but with my parents coming to support, after being chained to the treadmill for all my runs already in the week, and with the weather revival, I found myself tearing away from the start line. I was racing.
The first five miles absolutely flew by, I had a fast running rhythm going and with the route predominantly in the city centre of Cambridge, the crowd support was very good. I spotted my mum and dad at the agreed point, beaming a huge smile and waving enthusiastically at them. I hoped that when the route would eventually return back to these streets I would be feeling just as jolly!
The route then left Cambridge and completed a loop out to the village of Granchester. It was much quieter here, but not at all dull, with some gentle ups and downs, but again nothing horrendous. I was still running strongly, and entering the second five mile section I told myself to keep confident and keep pace. I had completed Leicestershire Half Marathon in February, and had found breaking the course down into two five mile sections and a 3 mile finish was something which helped me. However unlike at Leicestershire Half, this time I could feel my legs fading as I neared the ten mile marker.
My legs starting to tire coincided perfectly with the course re-entering Cambridge and hitting the crowded city centre section. The supporters here took my mind of any doubts I had in my body and lifted my spirits. My parents had moved from their previous location, but I spotted them again, shouting at my dad and then waving manically at my mum (they had stood a few metres apart just in case one of them might miss me!) I was nowhere near as comfortable as when they had first seen me some miles ago, but I was so happy that they had been able to watch me run past again. After passing my supporters I was left with a final two mile battle to the finish. I say battle, as by now my legs wanted to really slow down. At Leicestershire Half Marathon I had picked up my pace over the final two miles, but I knew this was definitely not going to happen today.
It may sound corny but at this point I thought back to watching Laura Muir on TV and her gritted teeth, determined running. I wanted to run like Laura. So I dug deep, and even as we climbed over a very unwelcomed bridge, which felt like it was finishing off my legs, I hung in there. The final mile hurt, and the finish archway just never seemed to appear, but when I finally glimpsed the red gateway I tried to muster everything I had left in my limbs. I crossed the line, ground to a halt and looked at my Garmin screen. It read 1:36:51 – a big new PB, beating the 1:39:15 record I set at Leicestershire Half only a few weeks previously.
Although I had the intention of racing, I never anticipated this result, and I was very happy. My happiness elevated further as suddenly my mum appeared on the barrier after the finish. Unbeknown to me my parents had made it to the finishing stretch to see me cross the line, and that suddenly meant a lot. I collapsed onto the barrier next to my mum; I was shattered, there was no hiding it now! ‘How did you get on?’ my mum asked, as my dad (who had been stood slightly further up the finish to capture a pretty good shot of me running the final straight – see image!) joined her. ‘A new PB’ I replied lifting my head up from where I had been leaning it against the metal barrier frame, to reveal a smile. This was shortly followed by a weary question - ‘But where’s my medal?!’
It turned out I had to walk a few hundred metres to gain my medal reward, and after receiving it, I waited around the finish area to spot my friend. It didn’t take long for me to locate her; its funny how out of all the hundreds of runners you can zone in on that one person you really want to find. I then had to find my parents again. Although my legs were knackered I mustered a little run to meet them, hugging my mum and grouping them both into a selfie (see image). The PB had not really sunk in to be honest, I was more joyed by the fact they were there and had been able to see me running three times on the route!
I had run hard at Cambridge Half Marathon, there is no denying that. Climbing down the stairs of the return leg of the Park and Ride bus it felt like I had completed a marathon; my legs were already sore and my quads in particular felt battered. It was worth it all though; I loved the day. My PB time is something I never really thought I would be able to run – to be honest I am surprising myself most of the time at the moment! Perhaps what will not be a surprise is the food I requested when I arrived back at my parents’ house – the leftover Malteser cake! My love of Maltesers is one thing that will never shock anyone!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...