A Review of my First Half Marathon 3rd May 2009

Exeter Half Marathon 3rd May 2009

I woke up early and played a game on my laptop in bed for half hour to calm my nerves! I was so scared of the race ahead. I changed into my running gear and tried to eat my breakfast of half bagel with peanut butter and banana, I found it hard to eat because of my nervous stomach, so ate a few jaffa caked instead.

We looked relaxed before the race but we were really nervous!

Mr O, myself, sister and brother in law (James) left for the arena at 8, James had agreed to run the race too which made me feel a lot better about the whole thing. At the Arena, I went straight to the toilet! (it was my nerves!) Whilst waiting for the race to begin I took in all the sights and atmosphere. After my 2nd toilet stop we ventured into the Arena, the race would start and finish on the actual track, we positioned ourselves where we thought we would finish (I put myself in the 2 hour + section), I kissed Mr O and he wished me good luck. James went further to the front as he is a faster runner than me, we hugged and then I was all alone (well apart from the other 3000 people running the race!) I got chatting to a lady that looked as nervous as me - she commented on how calm I was eh? We started moving forward….the race had begun. I felt sooo excited! I jogged at a comfortable pace around the track as there was so many people, you couldn’t go fast anyway, the atmosphere was amazing.

Mile 1-3

This would be the only time around this part of the route, I didn’t know the route so was not sure what to expect, I could feel the weather was quite warm at this point and there was little shade, my throat felt really dry and I felt like there was quite a lot of up hill, many people were overtaking me but I kept at my happy pace and kept telling myself that I just need to finish – not beat anyone.

I remember a guy in a pirates costume and he was collecting money for charity – this guy was fit as he kept sprinting and then collecting money, although I was running constantly he was always in front of me!!

I ran past the back of Mr O’s workplace so it was nice to know where I was and finally we reached the first water station, people were waiting so I joined them, but people kept pushing in, I grabbed a water and got moving again – the water hit the spot and my throat was no longer dry.

I started to run down a long straight road so knew I had made it onto the main part of the route (must have already completed 3 miles!!!)

Mile 3-6

I started to see more and more people cheering the crowds on, I looked to see whether I could see Mr O and my sister. I saw my friends on the other side of the road, so I waved over to them and they cheered and shouted, it really gave me a boost.

A little further up the road (mile 4) I saw some familiar faces Mr O, my sister, and Mr O’s parents, I ran up to them and said I need a drink, my throat was starting to dry up again – Mr O passed me my isotonic drink and I said hi to everyone – they said that I was doing great – I think my sister couldn’t believe how well I was doing, they told me James was about 5-10 mins in front. My sister said that I looked really good, as I left them to start up the big hill of the route my sister shouted ‘your bum looks great in your shorts!!’, this made me laugh – I was enjoying this!

The big hill between mile 4-5 was not as bad as I imagined, luckily I had done a lot of hill running on my training – at this point the runners ahead were on the other side of the road running down the hill, I kept a look out for people I knew, but did not see James. Outside the church half way up the hill there was a church rock band playing music, children were handing out jelly babies and one family had a hose that had a fine mist spray and were spraying the runners to cool us down-so thoughtful.

Mile 5-6 was through the city centre of Exeter, I was looking to see if my parents and little nieces were there but realised that their train was not due to arrive for another half hour, this was a 2 lap course so I would be running through the city centre again later.

Mile 6-10

This was a very long down hill, there was also lots of water and sponge stations and I felt really comfortable, at about mile 7 I finally saw James on the other side of the road, I shouted my support and he too gave me words of encouragement – I was so proud at how well he was doing, he was now 2 miles ahead of me. After I saw James on the other side of the road all I wanted to do was start the 2nd lap of the course, mile 7-8 went on forever!!! At mile 8 I finally U turned and started the 2nd lap of the course. Miles 8-10 are a bit blurry, the hill still did not bother me even on the 2nd time round, again I saw James, he was running down hill on the other side of the road towards mile 12 – I still had to go through the city centre for the second time!!!

Mile 10-Finish Line

My 2nd time through the city centre was not so busy but people were still supporting the runners (including a team of cute cheerleaders shouting ‘WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!’), I had seen Mr O earlier and he had told me my parents would be at the end instead of in the centre. At mile 11 I decided to walk a little and get some fuel in me, I had a lucozade tablet and some Haribo bears. I ran the whole long down hill again and was feeling great, as I knew there was just over a mile to go until the finish.

At mile 12 I felt for the first time a bit tired, just when I contemplated walking a guy I know from work shouted ‘I know that girl – come on Amy!!’ all his friends joined in too – how could I walk when I was getting such great cheers?!

I came to another corner and I was thinking where is the Arena? Just as I was thinking about walking again, I saw my 2 beautiful nieces, my parents and Mr O’s dad, I shouted to them ‘I’m ready for a cocktail now!’

Where's the cocktail?

Just around the corner there was a short steep hill, I decided to pace walk up the hill and stretch my muscles abit, I knew the race ended where it started and I would need to run one loop of the race track, I came into the Arena area – I had nearly made it. I don’t know where it came from but I had a burst of energy and ran around the track, as I came into the home straight, I saw James standing there with his medal on, shouting and cheering me on, I decided to sprint towards the finish (I felt like I was floating!)

I did it, I completed my first half marathon (2:32:22 gun time & 2:30:17 chip time)!!! My friends from work ran into the finishers enclosure and gave me a massive hug, they said I was amazing and they were so proud of me – I was proud of myself. My friend Sarah who also ran came in just before me, she came over and congratulated me and then James came running over and gave me a massive hug and kiss. I received my medal but all I wanted was my t-shirt and banana!!

As I sat down to remove my chip all my family turned up, they were so proud of my achievement, James did not stop saying how well I had done, he had done amazingly well himself.

With our finishing medals

We soon left the arena, I still felt amazing and could not believe I had actually finished the race – the amazing feeling I had was like nothing I had experienced or felt before. I enjoyed every second of the race and didn’t think once that I didn’t want to be there. I said on the way home in the car that I wanted to bottle the experience and keep it forever. Anyone who has achieved something they never thought they could achieve will know the feeling well. I think this will be the start of many races.

Things I learnt from my first half marathon experience;

1. The nerves that are experienced weeks before the race may feel awful at the time but they do not compare to the amazing feeling of the race atmosphere.

2. Keep positive – I gave myself such a hard time during my training, especially if I had to miss a run, I gave Mr O quite a bit of grief as I would take my frustrations out on him (poor Mr O), I can not count the times I told myself ‘I can not do this’!

3. Savour every second of the race experience, the cheers, the support – say thank you and smile the whole way, it certainly made me enjoy myself more.