‘I’ve got a flat tire’.
It’s 6pm on Saturday evening and I’m just getting ready to drive to London for a friend’s party, except the AA man who comes out to put the spare tire on says I can’t drive more than 50mph and shouldn’t drive too far on the temporary wheel.
Curler in hand, I debate what to do.
Luckily my cousin Lucy has decided to come to the party with me, however the bigger pickle is the Great South Run in the morning that Puma has given me a bib for… it’s 80 miles away and starts at 10am.
It’s not going to happen.
The trains won’t get me there in time, and I have no other automobile options (Tom has taken our other car). Luckily there is a plan B – a half marathon just 6 miles away in Marlow. And my Mum is willing to give me a lift and spectate. YES!
With 5 mins to go before entries opened, I managed to register for the half marathon, pin my bib on and nip to the loo before the race started.
I hadn’t brought a watch (because I couldn’t find my charger after my friend’s party) but it actually worked in my favour because it allowed me to settle in to what felt like an ‘easy’ pace, where my legs were turning over and my breathing wasn’t too hard without obsessing over the number on the watch. I had set my Strava just to get an idea of speed but didn’t check it until half way.
The countryside around here is gorgeous, and we were able to run mostly on trails with a few country roads. It’s the trail that I’ve run a lot on this summer leading between Henley and Marlow. It looked rather different with hundreds of other runners on the path, rather than just me and the sheep.
The volunteers were incredibly friendly, providing well received encouragement as well as water at two or three locations en route. I couldn’t stop smiling, knowing this was my final long long run before New York, enjoying every minute. My body felt pretty good, except for a few niggles in my shoulder and neck, and a little tightness in my calf – all sorted with a sports massage today!
My pace hovered around 9.20ish min miles for the first half, but once we reached the turned around point I could naturally feel my pace speed up. I started overtaking people that had been in front of me for the first part and trying to encourage those that had started to walk, to continue running again. By now the runners had really spread out, and the trail felt like it does on a usual Sunday.
As I ran back to the finish line, I remembered taking part in this race, along a similar course back in 2012. I was a completely different person, and runner back then. I ran my heart out, finishing in 2.17. On Sunday, I ran at an easy pace, without letting my breathing or heart rate get too high, without pushing hard and finished just over 2 hours.
13.3 miles in 2.02
I love a small race event, the atmosphere is so friendly, the organisation might not be quite up to the standard of the huge races, but that’s often what makes them all the more endearing. Plus with price tags around £20, you can’t be too harsh.
I saw a lot of people wearing local running vests, making me even more keen to find some Henley runners to join for winter training. Any recommendations?
Thank you to my amazing Mum for coming to support – she is the best, and has just moved to New Zealand so my race pics are going to get significantly poorer for the next year! Wishing them the best of luck on the other side of the world, and looking forward to seeing you in December xx