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My First Half Marathon: The Great North Run Reimagined

Sunday 13th September 2020. A date that had been engraved in my mind since the start of the year. A date I was aiming for, the biggest event of my running "career" to date. 15th June 2020. The day I found out that the Great North Run had been cancelled, but also the date I made a commitment. I was still going to go out there and give that half marathon my best shot, virtual race or not!

If you have been following me on here for a while you may remember in my first ever blog post as a MedalMad ambassador back in March that I hadn't long been running. If you haven't followed me on here before hi! Here's a quick recap! I used to absolutely hate running, in fact if anything involved running in PE I'd do almost anything to get out of it! I  took up running in January with the intention of just running 5K and nothing more. However a few weeks in to my running journey I thought I'd sign up for a challenge. I signed up for the Great North Run. Initially I signed up in the Ballot, but I was gutted when I didn't get a space so I signed up for a charity spot. I never ever in a million years thought I'd ever run a half marathon. In fact when I signed up to my first MedalMad challenge "Dare to Dream" (half marathon) back in February I even checked I could do it in stages because I NEVER thought I'd be able to run a half marathon in one go!

As soon as we hit May I was almost certain that my half marathon wouldn't go ahead. Races all around it had been cancelled, and there was no way I could imagine a race of the size of the Great North Run going ahead. So when they announced it was cancelled I wasn't overly surprised, but I still made the commitment to myself to run a half marathon on 13th September.

Fast forward to August! My half marathon training hadn't gone great so far! Firstly I hurt my foot, putting me out for nearly 2 weeks, then it was stupidly hot for a week here in the south of the UK, not to mention that I was struggling to fit in my training around work. But did I let that stop me? Nope! I picked myself back up! 10K one weekend, 15K the next, 16K the next and then back to 13K the week before the big day! 

Sunday 13th September 2020. My alarm goes off just before 7am. Grab breakfast. Usually if I do a morning run I get up and go first thing in the morning, but you shouldn't do that really, not if you're running longer! The next 2 hours dragged as I was there waiting for my "race" to start at 9:30am.

9:30am off I went – armed with jelly babies. Kilometres 1-5 felt great. Nothing could stop me, I was happily in my own little bubble of adrenaline and excitement. It was maybe a little slower than usual but only maybe a minute slower than my usual 5K time on a long run.

8K… then I started struggling! It was pretty hot, the warmest it had been in a few weeks here in the UK and the doubt started setting in. I was crazily hot and had a really bad stitch. At no point did I think I'd give up and not complete the distance, more I knew it was going to be slower than I'd hoped. I'd happily completed 16K a couple of weeks previously in around 2 hours so I had my heart set on completing my first half marathon in somewhere between 2h 30min and 2h 45min. But the more walking I ended up doing (because of the stitch) the more I knew this wasn't going to happen.

I finally hit 16K and I was hot and tired but the countdown had finally begun. My dad had joined me on his bike and replenished my water supplies and I had a small burst of energy to keep going. Every kilometre down from there was ticked off! I was shouting to my dad "4K to go", "3K to go!" I even remember that last one "800m to go!". It was the longest, slowest 800m but it sure was the most satisfying 800m I've ever run.

Coming back home and submitting my evidence for "Mischief Managed" half marathon could not have been more rewarding. Going back to the story of the "Dare to Dream" challenge back at the start of the year when I NEVER EVER believed I could complete a half marathon, and there I was having just completed my first ever half marathon in 2h 51 mins and 27 seconds.

I was absolutely dead at the end, but would I do it again. Yes, definitely! Hopefully next time I do it I can do it "properly". 

So what would I say after all of this?

  • Firstly running can be addictive! No matter how you feel at the end of it after a few days you'll probably think "yeah, I'd do that again".
  • Don't ever tell yourself you can't do something, because you can.
  • If you're thinking of doing a half marathon but not sure, just try it. You may surprise yourself at how far you can go!
  • Don't be afraid to ask other runners for advice, there's a fantastic support network out there!
  • Remember at the end of the day, it's not about the finish time but the finish line.

What's the biggest running challenge you've signed yourself up to? What advice do you have for other runners looking to take on a challenge but aren't sure? 

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