Standing on the race track at Quibell Park Stadium in Scunthorpe having just completed the North Lincolnshire Half Marathon there was a strange sense of déjà vu about the situation. I was hot, drenched from pouring copious amounts of water over my head, and feeling physically drained from running in high temperatures. I waited a few minutes next to the finish archway for my friend to cross the line and as I greeted her we both had that same look in our eyes which said – why on earth do we do this to ourselves?! Two weeks after we had both battled the intense heat on the streets of the London Marathon here we were again racing miles in near 25 degree temperatures, we really did seem to be a glutton for punishment! Once the shock of putting our bodies through such demands died down we were both of course able to remember why we do in fact do this crazy thing called running – helped by the fact the North Lincolnshire Half Marathon itself was a really great race.
Race morning was a glorious day; I knew it was going to be a very hot race, but to be honest after London’s test, I also kind of knew I just had to deal with it. I had no real goal for the race, I just wanted to give myself a half marathon test and try out a new event. I quite liked how relaxed everything felt in the starting area, my friend and I chatted away waiting for the 9am start to arrive, and the atmosphere around was simply calm and friendly. I had however woken with a niggling cold, so my only slight concern was if I would be sniffing my way round the course (thankfully this proved not to be the case!) Giving the forthcoming 13.1 miles a quick bit of thought before the starting gun was fired, I planned to set off at a steady but comfortable pace and simply see how things went.
The first 3.5 miles of the route were set on a long straight road, which thankfully had large sections of shade. This cooler start and uninterrupted running pathway meant I actually was running a bit quicker than I may have intended; however, things felt good so I did not worry too much. I knew I was ahead of the 1:40 pacer, and to be honest I was not confident I would be able to maintain this position, but I just stuck with it for the time being. What was already apparent from these initial few miles though was how wonderful the Tape 2 Tape volunteer marshal team would be; every single one had a smile, offered a friendly cheer and gave encouraging support, it was really lovely, especially as the course is quite rural so at times lacks other supporters.
Miles 4 to 6 were set along another virtually straight road. This section was much more exposed though and the heat of the day now hit with a bang. I began dowsing myself in water and trying to adapt. Pace wise I had slowed marginally from my speedy start, but not dramatically and probably in accordance to the change in conditions. I just decided to stick with my mantra and keep going as long as possible, I probably knew deep down I would start to suffer at some point; my half marathon PB is 1:36:51 which I set at Cambridge Half a few months back, and earlier in the year I ran a then PB of 1:39:15 at Leicestershire Half, so I knew my current placing in front of the 1:40 pacer may still be rather optimist given the conditions.
Just after the 6 mile marker I began running alongside another runner, we struck up conversation and started chatting about running, training, races, running shoes – all the usual runner stuff! We had very similar views on running and I was interested to hear about his experiences of running through taking part in Iron Man competitions. Our conversation meant miles 6-9 were a bit of a blur to me - in a good way! - and I struggle to recall much from the course in these sections! I knew I had slowed more now though and I also knew that the heat was really building, however the conversation was helping to distract me from focusing too much on both these factors. Just as we passed the 9 mile point the 1:40 pacer caught us up. My new friend said he was going to try hang onto them, however a quick assessment of my body, and quite specifically my tiring quads, told me I did not have the power in my limbs to try push the pace. I encouraged him on and settled back into my own race for the final few miles.
Miles 10 to around 12 were set along another long straight section; the course certainly lived up to its billing of being flat and one for PB potential (maybe just not on really hot days!) By now I was struggling. My legs were rapidly fading and the trail of runners in the distance seemed to go on forever, an image which seriously tests your mental strength at times. I accepted my situation though, I had almost predicted this final mile fade, and now it was time to deal with it. I drew on some of my resilience and just kept ticking off the miles. Just before the 12 mile marker there was in fact a bit of a cruel, short, sharp climb, one of the only inclines on the course. For that reason, I think it felt an extra test, and after this challenge there were some runners who started to suffer in the heat and were requiring support from marshals and medics - slightly scarily, it really was like the London Marathon all over again.
The final mile felt really long and hard, and I had nothing left to pick up my pace. I could hear the tannoy at the finish line in the distance and just wanted the sound to get closer. The finish line is located at Quibell Park Stadium and sees the final 200m of the course set on the running track which is based there. Reaching the track surface I suddenly felt a bit more energy in my legs; I began chasing down the runner in front of me and then attempted to sprint down the home stretch – I think I like to imagine I am an athlete sometimes! I crossed the line in 1:41:28 which I was instantly really pleased with. This was was my third quickest half marathon time to date, and with the race being fairly soon after completing a marathon and being held in pretty intense weather conditions, I had to be happy. I caught my on course companion at the finish, he had held onto the pacer and managed to overtake them in the final stages to go sub 1:40, which was a great outcome.
After waiting for my friend and sharing that moment of ‘why do we do this?’ we collected our finishers medal and t-shirt, which were both quite unique items; a t-shirt themed medal with the finisher t-shirt itself featuring a design created by a local school child which rather aptly had a hand drawn character with a speech bubble saying ‘I’m tired’! My friend and I sat our own tired bodies in the shade and embraced some coolness. It was a tough race, and I think we were both a little guilty of also forgetting how hard half marathons are sometimes, regardless of the heat. I know I can run 13.1 miles, but racing it becomes a different beast. I was proud of us both though, to go through that kind of test again in such quick succession meant that whilst we might be a little mad, we also simply love the challenge.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...