For the second time in a three-day period I found myself huddled on the start line of a race. Two days prior it had been a Friday night 10k in Sleaford, and now on a more familiar Sunday morning, I was lining up to take on Newark Half Marathon. Whilst Friday night’s race was more of an event I entered just for fun, I had entered Newark Half Marathon specifically as part of my current Chicago Marathon training. This was my third consecutive year at the event, and each year it has formed a part of an Autumn marathon training block. I find a half marathon offers a good marker to both my fitness and progress toward the larger 26.2 mile goal, and I also just really like the Newark Half event!
Newark is another race which is fairly local to my hometown in Lincoln, and it felt good to be joined by a few familiar faces as I stood in the start pen. By my side was my friend and run buddy; I was really pleased I had convinced her to sign up to the event too, and it simply made me happy to have her there and to share another race day experience together again. I also spotted a few friends from the Run Club I am part of and gave them some encouragement before the start gun was fired.
I set off confidently but also with some caution; whilst the August day was not too hot at the 9.30am start time, there was a very apparent strong wind, which I knew would play a factor. The Newark course is fairly rural, taking on small villages in a large loop before heading back to Newark itself, and this meant it would be quite exposed to the elements. I did have a vague finish time in mind; I knew I wanted to be under 1:45, but ideally I felt I could log another sub 1:40 time. Rather than become preoccupied by pace though, I instead focused on finding a running rhythm for the early stages, ticking off the first couple of miles almost automatically.
After passing two miles the course turned onto a long stretch of road which continued straight for a few miles. Meeting us here was the headwind, and I knew there would be no escaping it. It was not brutal, but it certainly made things feel harder. From my past runs at Newark, I knew there were some undulations along this stretch, however this year they seemed more notable, probably due to the double whammy of uphill as well as wind resistance! Again, I remained calm, focusing on looking forward to changing direction and just keeping a steady running pace.
The turn in the route was not actually as welcomed as I thought; the wind was lost, however now the sun had appeared through the clouds and without the cooling effect of the breeze, it suddenly felt rather warm! Some more undulations came along this part of the course, and I poured water over my body to keep me cool at each aid station – it felt a bit like I was now running a completely different race!
Halfway came, and as the route turned on to some smaller rural lanes, which would head back toward Newark and ultimately the finish, I felt a bit of a struggle. I think the extra exertion of those first miles into the wind had taken its toll a bit and thoughts flashed through my head. Why did I race that 10k on Friday night? Do I need to walk? Can I do this? I hope my friend is enjoying this more than I am right now!? It was a few minutes of doubt that sometimes you have to learn to override as a runner. It didn’t help that I missed a bottle of water at a drink’s stations (which I have to say to the organisers were really well placed; plenty across the course and with good sized bottles) and this threw me a little more. Thankfully, a fellow runner must have seen my disappointment as I missed grasping a drink and passed me some of his. It was a small act of kindness, but it boosted me and broke me from my thoughts.
I always try to break a half marathon down into sections, and I now focused on getting to 10 miles. I still didn’t obsess over my pace, and I actually enjoyed these few miles, which were fairy flat and straight and were without too much wind or sun. When I hit 10 miles I am not sure what came over me, I suddenly felt refreshed and found an extra power in my legs to push the pace a little. This final stretch to the finish also coincided with the heavens opening – another weather condition to contend with! – but the coolness also helped me drive to the finish. I now knew I was running strongly, picking off runners in the distance as I made my way back toward Newark.
I knew what to expect from the finishing metres – grass. It’s a tough little test at the end of a half marathon, so I tried to make the most of every inch of tarmac before I hit the finish based at Sconce Park. Even though I was mentally prepared for the grass challenge, it didn’t make it easier; I gritted my teeth and dug into my legs, fighting against the terrain as I completed a small loop of the field before being funnel into the finishing straight. Due to the high winds, there was no finish archway, just a few timing mats on the floor, so I was a little disorientated as to which mat was actually the finish! I crossed some form of finish line though, and then quickly looked down at my watch. It read 1:38:52 – goal achieved, and I was really pleased I had accomplished it on a fairly challenging day for racing.
Quickly gathering my medal I didn’t even have time to process how I felt as I made my way back onto the grass finish section of the course to cheer my friend in. She was not too far behind me, coming round the corner with her familiar strong stride and athletic running gait, and I cheered enthusiastically before dashing back to the finish line to give her a final boost. She met her race goal too, going well under sub 1:50, and as we queued for a goody bag I also bumped into Run Club members again who had each recorded amazing times and PBs – I was so pleased for them all.
The mixture of rain and pouring water over myself in the earlier sections of the race meant after the running endorphins had died down a little and I had finished congratulating my friends, I realised I was absolutely soaked to the skin! The facilities at Newark Half race village are great though, and my friend and I were able to go into the pavilion and change into some spare clothes before walking to the nearby café to enjoy a post race drink.
I had such a lovely morning, I had run well again, enjoyed time my with friends, seen others achieve great goals, and had another bit of bling for my medal board of course! With a very enjoyable Sleaford 10k on Friday night, a happy spell volunteering at my home parkrun in Lincoln on Saturday monring, and now a pretty perfect Sunday race day at Newark, I drove back home to Lincoln feeling a sense of real happiness – it might be tough at times, but I do love running and all it adds to my life.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...