Thursday, 25 September 2014

Run To The Beat: 14th September 2014

After hearing about the debacle that was the Run To The Beat Half Marathon last year, I was interested to see how things would be done differently this time...turns out pretty much everything had been changed!

Post-race with my work colleagues
The race was run by Sure instead of Nike this year - I wonder if maybe Nike were trying to distance themselves from the race after last year? I've only done one Nike race (We Own The Night 10k earlier this year) and it was great - see my review here. But in fairness RTTB was really well organised this year - a good race village in the shadow of Wembley stadium with lots to see and do. I thought the stretching station, run by Fitness First, was a particularly good idea.

The course was also well organised but my goodness it was depressing. I've never had reason to venture to Wembley before and I can't honestly say I'll be rushing back. The course began and finished at the stadium, which was pretty cool, but the rest of the route consisted of residential area (lots of people waving at us in their dressing gowns) and a giant industrial estate. Considering it RTTB has been in Greenwich in the past, this was a bit of a let down.

Although this was only a 10k, it was a toughy - partially because of my own lack of preparation and also thanks to a bugger of a double hill. Just as you finished an awful long pull up, you round the corner to find,...another hill! There are several horrendous photos of me on the second hill - I was not a happy bunny!

It doesn't look bad but that hill was HORRENDOUS
As far as this being a 'music' race, I can't say I was particularly impressed. There were a number of sounds advising you that 'big beats' were ahead but it was more like someone with a set of iPod speakers most of the time. It may have been due to noise regulation since many of the music stations were in residential area but again this was a little bit of a let down. The party at the end was much more impressive and by the time I finished lots of people were already having a bit of a dance.

There were plenty of people already having a dance in the shadow of Wembley Stadium
I finished in 1:09:25 - not even remotely close to my PB of 1:02:14 but I had no expectations for a good race time since I was quite out of practice. I was pleased just to finish in under 1:10, having dropped back a wave to join some of my friends from work that I was running with.

I really enjoyed RTTB but I don't think it will really stick in my mind as a particularly memorable race...I'll definitely still sign up next year though!

Have you ever done a Run To The Beat race?

Harris x

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon: 25rd May 2014

Well it only took me four months but FINALLY here's the story of my first ever half marathon!

For those of you who have followed me from the start, you'll know how terrified I was when I started out running. The 5k was a big deal. The 10k was frightening. But now I am a HALF MARATHON RUNNER. YEAH.

Ready to Rock'n'Roll (joke had to be made soz)
In all honesty I probably wouldn't have chosen to do the Liverpool Rock'n'Roll as my first ever half, mainly because I live nowhere near Liverpool. Like not even remotely close. But when I won myself a place back at the Write This Run conference in November, I couldn't really turn it down.

So come May I found myself lining up at the start line near Liverpool Docks, with my usual "What the HELL am I doing?!" mantra preventing all rational thought about the race ahead.

Spot the (utterly terrified) Harris
But, as has been proved to me each time I've run a new, longer race, it was absolutely FINE.

I was worried about running the full half distance as the most I'd ever done in training was 15k - 13.1 miles translates as something like 21k so it was still a fair bit more than I'd ever actually run. Although I was knackered by the time I hit 11 miles, there was no point where I felt like I just wanted to collapse. I actually felt at the very end of the race that I had a little bit left in the tank.

I also took a bit of a chance by accepting a gel about three quarters of the way around the course. I've never used gels before and I know most people warn against trying them for the first time during a race. But I had a tiny mouthful of the gel every five minutes or so and felt absolutely fine. To be truthful I'm not convinced it even helped me particularly, although I don't really have anything to compare it to. It did, however, cover my hands in weird orange goo.

I (very inexpertly) had a bit of tape on my knee as I had been feeling a constant niggle in my previous few weeks of training. Happily it was no problem during the race and seems to have gone away now after plenty of foam rolling.
Running through China Town

Apart from the finish line, this was my favourite moment
It was really great getting to see a new city as part of the run - Liverpool is such a varied place and the route was great, taking us past the iconic Cavern Club, through the city's parks and dockland and some nice residential areas too. I'd certainly like to explore the city again...maybe on another run!

The route felt well-organised to me, although my only criticism would be that the whole idea of the Rock'n'Roll marathons is that there are lots of bands. I was under the impression that this was at every mile, but I only saw about 5. It was a lovely way to break up the run but I just felt like it would have been nice to see a few more!

I finished with a chip time of 2:21:51 - I'd been hoping for under 2:30 so was very pleased with this, although I do feel like I could have maybe done about 2:15, since I wasn't totally spent at the finish line.

Sweatiest post-race pic so far
Earned me some heavy metal
I'm really proud to be able to say I've completed a half marathon and am super keen to do another, hopefully in a slightly faster time. I had a few moments, particularly on the home stretch of the half marathon as I ran back along the banks of the Mersey, which felt completely surreal and I was half convinced I was going to wake up and find it was all a dream. But I did it.

Thank you so much to those of you who tweeted/emailed/texted me with support along the way - it makes all the difference. Also thank you to everyone who helped me with advice as I was training, you guys were so helpful.

Also a HUGE honorable mention goes to my friend Rachel. Rach was meant to be running the race with me but after struggling hard against an injury in the end she was forced to pull out. Rach also lives nowhere near Liverpool, but both she and her mum helped put me up for the night, fed me, looked after my big bag of race junk and then cheered me on at the finish line. Rach could have just stayed at home in South Wales but no, she supported me the whole way, What a mega babe.

I'm not convinced I'll move on to marathons yet but I'm definitely planning on signing up for another half! Any recommendations?

Harris x