So less than 4 weeks after knackering my ankle on a Welsh mountainside the opportunity came about to run the Bristol Half Marathon. WellChild, a charity I’ve worked with lots in the past, recently offered me a couple of places in the race to say cheers for volunteering. Obviously the sensible thing would have been for me to pull out, after all I was nursing a dodgy leg, had managed only a couple of ponderously slow treadmill 5 milers the week before and was in no way prepared for a 13.1 mile run on the streets of Brizzle. So I did the sensible thing, right?
No, I didn’t. Instead I joined some equally unprepared friends and agreed to take on a ridiculous challenge for nothing more than the promise of a medal and t-shirt to add to the collection.
The first challenge was getting to the start line. With work event going late in to the night Friday and Saturday I’d managed to sleep about 7 of the last 48 hours. My pre-race nutrition consisted of a late chinese on Saturday night, and a breakfast of porridge and Nutella (why did it take me 34 years to discover this delicacy?!) and some caffeine loaded High5 energy drink. Traffic in to Bristol was a nightmare but luckily my running partner Charlie new the best car park, so we made it to the start with 30 minutes to spare. Just long enough to visit the WellChild stand at the event village to meet another friend James and grab a lucozade. We also met Nessa The Nurse and offered to guide her to the start line, which is easier said than done through a race crowd of thousands!
The run itself started at 10am, and we adopted a very much “complete not compete” pace from the outset. In fact I allowed Charlie to dictate the pace, which was a new experience for me. I’m normally the task master, encouraging people along and trying to get a little more from them so we can keep a usually unrealistic pace. It was quite nice just to plod along without worrying and enjoy the experience of running the closed roads of the city. The route heads out and back along the Portway for a few miles, and while many people don’t like seeing the faster runners streaming past in the other direction I quite like it, I see it as inspirational. Also the view of the Avon Gorge cliffs, running under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and along the banks of the river made up for seeing the same things twice! The atmosphere was great amongst the runners, even if supporters were scarce on this section, but that soon changed when we got back in to the crowded city streets.
The ankle was holding up well as long as I ran forward. I felt it a bit when I started veering across the road to hi-5 spectating kids and collect water/energy gels though. I took it very easy past the water stations as a sea of discarded plastic bottles and bottle tops made it treacherous underfoot, but apart from that I felt good. Not sure how it’s going to cope with jumping off things next weekend in Cardiff but I’m pleased it carried me for over 13 miles! The support in the city was fantastic and it was nice to be easing along rather than going flat out and not really taking anything in.
For a while it looked like we might get Charlie around under her personal best time, but the lack of training really told in the last few miles, where there are a couple of little hills just to punish you further, and so we missed it by a few minutes and came in after 2:22:15. I felt good at the end, fresher than expected and could have gone faster but as a test for the ankle and an unexpected, unplanned day out it had been a success. We headed back to Cheltenham to celebrate in style, with cider and curry! Maybe I’ll start training properly again tomorrow…
Special mention has to go to a few other individuals. James Loveridge ran his first half in an impressive 1:56:53 again without training, and Natasha Scott also ran well on her debut for 2:19:07. Tash Brown and Matt Holdback used the race as part of the training for the NYC marathon in 5 weeks and posted 2:01:34. They will be raising funds for my charity, Sue Ryder, and you can support them here.