I had been looking forward to this race for a while. I did the Birmingham and Black Country Half Marathon last year too. Last year and I completed 13.6 miles in 1:58:12.
The few days prior to the race I had been seriously carbing myself up with lots of raw vegan fresh fruits and vegetables. I believe lately that this type of eating is dramatically helping with my previous injuries, which have now completely gone after nearly a year, and recovery. Look at Wednesday 1st July 2015 for example. Only 3 days before the Half Marathon I ran 30 Miles. I got home and ate 1kg of cherries (which are great for inflammation), had an ice bath and when I got out of the bath I felt great. The next day I felt as if I had never even ran the day before… let alone 30 miles. I was gobsmacked.
On the morning I ate 4 bananas and 175g of dates about 2.5 hours before the run. I also had 75 cl water.
Aaaaaanyway. So me and my husband Philip met my friend Steve at Northfield Train station and set out to Birmingham New St where we would meet Thom, and get a connecting trail service to Wolverhampton where the run starts.
Here is a picture of Philip who can’t go five minutes without a coffee and Steve looking a bit sleepy as well.
Here’s a pic of Steve kindly helping Philip set up the Garmin 310XT I let him use on race day to keep an eye on his average and actual current pace.
When we got to Nw St station we were all over the place with the typical switching platforms. They switched platforms one minute before the train was due to leave. Though they switched it to a platform in which they had closed off the escalators. I have seen this a lot lately. I’m not sorry if someone from the station reads this but I think you need to start using your brains. That station is supposed to be an upcoming better and mega big modern station. At the moment it’s a pile of wank! Get it sorted please. What a mess! Finally we found ourselves on the right platform after a massive detour. We found a table seat to sit at and Thom found us on the train and sat with us… Yay the group together.
We nattered about expected times etc and helped settle our nerves a bit as we watched others already running down the canal, as we took the train parallel to it. This race is done in waves which is good for those wanting faster times I guess. 😀
Here we all are. Finally made it after almost following another runner who was obviously going the wrong way to the start line lol. Aren’t we a sexy bunch of runners? Gotta be the plants! 😀 Philip decided to do a bit of a meditation before we set out on the course.
Our wave was at 10:30 so we all checked our bags in to be taken to the finish line, queued for the toilets, checked if their high energy drinks where Vegan (and they were), and nattered by the start line waiting to be called. A guy who had a Cancer Research top on came and chatted with me a while. He was a nice guy. He talked about how he was doing weight training and realised that it was all just vanity and he really wanted to make a difference. He wanted to run for charity and help a “good” cause. I thought that was so nice of him. Although he can be making better choices…. I’m not going to judge him and tell him about his mistakes just before his first ever half marathon. He took a very keen interest in my Veganism you see, he didn’t judge me or anything but was really curious and asked about how long I’d done it, my energy levels, running, ethical reasons. I decided I would give him just enough basic details to hopefully research it further at home and then maybe find out about Cancer Research too and switch to something else.
So we were called to the start line for briefing at 10:15. They discussed the typical rules of a race, keep hydrated and what to do if injured or pulling out etc. Then we went through a gap in the wall on the little dock to the canal. Here a guy called your number when you got to the front of the queue. You stepped over a black line mat on the ground and your timing chip began… as did my Garmin watch, naturally. I also started listening to a chillout compressed half hour Linkin Park Track. I wanted to listen to their full heavy album to get me going. To my surprise though my iPhone for some reason has removed it when I plugged it into the PC the day before.
I was now running. Steve was by me and we were going out pretty fast. In fact we wanted about an 8:20 minute mile average and this first mile was done in 7:38. About a mile in I called to Steve “hey if we keep this sort of pace up we will be making it in a killer time! We obviously both felt very strong at the time. I think about mile 2 I asked how his knee was after he injured it 3 days before and it was feeling fine. He had a knee support pad on and I don’t think he even KNEEded it in the end 😉 Shortly after that I went on a little as I was feeling comfortable and I saw a geezer with a backpack on who looked like an ultra runner. I thought about keeping up with his pace as it looked like the kind of pace I’d have liked to complete the race in. I was behind this guy for a few miles just tailing him. Eventually I overtook him.
Mile 3 and it was the first check point. I went for a water and no high energy drink this time. I don’t normally hydrate until 45-60 minutes but with the land I was covering at this pace and the hot sun shining down on me I started hydrating early!
I had now changed my music over to a Chillstep track I had on there. I have just got into Chillstep. It’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL music to run to. If you search “chillstep” into Youtube you will find loads of tracks over an hour long you can just play and enjoy!
Although the music is beautiful, any music can be a distraction on race day. I turned the music right down to level 1 so I could hardly hear it but could hear nature around me as I wove in and out and round the snaking towpath.
About mile 4 I started to slow down a bit. The sun was belting down on my bare head. I wish I’d kept my headsweats hat and not put in my bag. Hey ho what’s passed is passed and I know for future reference now.
By mile 5 I was down to 8:18 minute miles, but still on target easily for an average 8:20 minute mile race overall.
I had noticed that around mile 4 or 5 we had started to catch up with some people from the earlier waves. This was nice as it gave me plenty of opportunity to spur people on.
I knew my pace was slowing so I started meditating right away. The first thing I do when I begin a meditation while running is to remind my body to relax. I make sure my shoulders and back are both relaxed. I make sure my arms are swinging nicely with lose fists swinging back and forth gently at a 90o angle at the elbow. I make sure my chin is up and I’m looking ahead at the ground in the distance, not right under in front of my feet. I check in with my breath and try to get a bit of rhythm to it. Next I begin the counting. I step with my left foot and then my right and count 1 on my right step. I step with my left foot again and then my right and I count 2 with my right step. Every other right step I count 3,4,5 all the way up to 20. As soon a I hit 20 I start again at 1. I do this over and over and over until I’m lost in trance.
Next checkpoint, mile 6, excellent! This time It’s a water and a high energy drink and on I go! 1,2,3,4,5……20,1,2,3,4,5……..20…… I was now lost again in counting when I heard one of my favourite parts of my music come on. I turned it up full blast and got lost in the euphoria of awesome music and awesome running in an awesome atmosphere. As the track switched to a new one, I turned it back down and started to focus on the counting again. I notice I had slowed to about 8:30 minute miles and I felt that I needed to slow down further, and give myself a bit of a respite should I wish to complete in good form at a good pace.
Check point 3 at 9 miles creeped up on me, and I took 2 waters. 1.5 to drink and 0.5 over head. Which left me feeling like I’d drank sea water as I carried on running. I had reduced my counting now to 8. I learned that as your focus becomes less then you can count less numbers over and over and over and increase them as your focus becomes stronger. I wouldn’t go over 100 though. There were a lot of people from earlier waves at this point who were walking. It’s understandable. There isn’t much shade on this route and the sun was belting down on us all, while we were all trying to push ourselves as much as we could to that finish line. It was an honour to be able to try and push people on. Calling to people to keep up the good work, and reminding them “you got this” and “not far now”.
As I approached mile 10 Steve come up to me. He ran by my side for a few moments as he called “Come on Scotty you are faster than this”. I told him I got too cocky and set out too quickly so was preserving some energy for the end. He went on ahead. This spurred me on a bit to trail behind him a while. I called to him “Go Steve Go Go Go! Show us Vegans proud! WOOOOOOOOOOO”, I must admit I was a little hyped. I was just so happy at that moment. The finish line wasn’t far off, people out here doing the same thing on their weekends off, the sun, the nature, the beautiful green and birds and canal. Also because Steve was limping about like mad a few days before. I was so worried his knee injury was going to hamper his day today, but it didn’t. I kept praying he’d be ok and now here he was charging forward relentlessly, making excellent time on his race!.
Steve got a bit ahead for a while. We past the last checkpoint at mile 12 where I got 2 water. Necked em back and made a final push for it. Funnily enough mile 13 was my slowest at 9:05 minute miles. I did manage to creep back up closer to Steve though. There were 2 girls inbetween us who were from a previous wave. I overtook them. We were so close to the finish line. I saw Steve and I knew if I kept going at this pace (7:10) I’d catch up and we could run through the finish together both wearing our Vegan Runners tops. I knew the commentator would perhaps call our finish and we could show people Vegans can do this shit too! As I got closer Steve turned and saw me approaching. He thought I was going to overtake him, and I certainly didn’t have the energy to explain my idea to him. He looked shocked and he turned and made one final dash for it and over the finish line. I came in 7 seconds later 🙂 I was 249th place which put me just inside the top quarter of 1000 entrants. My final time was 1:52:16 which is a great improvement on 1:58:12. Also it was a slightly shorter distance at 13.4 rather than 13.6 due to changed route.
Here’s a group of me Steve and Ian Mackenzie at the finish. Well done on your time of 1:38:25 Ian.
Well done to fellow Vegan Runner Mike Tomkins who came 22nd and had an awesome time of 1:27:46. Well done to him getting it doing in that heat and that time 😀
I did my usual stretching routine and then we headed to baggage reclaim and got our goody bags. We then went back to the finish line to wait for Philip and Thom. We also tucked into 4 big bags of Satsumas nom nom nom. These were soooooo refreshing.
Philip has been commuting to work and back running for a few months now. He hasn’t really done much long running but gave it a good go. This was his first half marathon and he wanted to complete it in about 2 hours 30 mins . He came through in 2 hours 32 mins. Fantastic job Philip well done. I was sooo proud of him.
Shortly after that Thom came through too. I was really surprised with Thom. Not that I didn’t think he could do it but that he hadn’t done ANY training hardly. He did a 8 miler with me about 2 months ago and one other run since then. He used to run a lot and his previous PB was 1:52 I think (correct me if I’m wrong). I know that doing this today is going to have such a positive impact on him. I know it’s going to give him so much drive to get out there and train again and get fit. There’s no way he will leave this gap between his PB and this run. Which is excellent. Just the inspiration he needs. Anyway to have completed at all given the circumstances shows his mental strength and how AWESOME plant based diets are 😀
We all chatted a while and baked in the sun eating satsumas and then sharing the 2 large punnets of strawberries that Thom brought with him too mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . Steve left a bit earlier as I think he wanted to take buses rather than the trains. We then made our way up the canal path and through the ICC back to New St station.
For recovery when I got home the first thing I did was have a bath filled with cold water and a bag of ice cubes. This works wonders for the next day. I also had another 700 grams of strawberries and 250 grams of delicious raspberries. The next day? I’m feeling fine and ready to continue training next week as normal 😀
I would highly recommend this event, it’s well organised and a wonderful route. They have also taken off a big hill and off road section, so the whole thing is now on towpaths and really flat. There’s just a few bridges to cross over towards the end, and a loooooong tunnel to go through, but nothing major to stop you getting a decent time on a flat. This was my second year and I’m hoping to do it again next year if it doesn’t interfere with potential of doing Race to the Stones instead.
Summer around the reservoir marathon next 26th July 2015!
Thanks for reading.