My very first half marathon – 6th Folkestone Half

I have completed my first half marathon and lived to tell the tale.

SATURDAY
The weekend started with some last minute list crossing off and minor panicking before marvelling (again) at how easy it is to get from Wigan to London on the train. This was followed by a short mooch around St Pancras (posher than most shopping centres I’ve ever been to) then hopping on the high speed train down to Folkestone. Before we knew it, we were sitting outside the hotel in the sunshine drinking a pint (Ginge) and drinking squash but looking longingly at a pint (me). We had left grey, cloudy Lancashire behind and enjoyed the novelty of basking in unseasonal warmth. It was so sunny, I even showed a bit of ankle. After a spot of lunch with my aunt and uncle, we wandered into town, sized up The Hill (bloody big), wandered back to the hotel, neatly laid out all of my race gubbins (nothing had been forgotten, phew), had a bit of a snooze and met up for tea with Helsie, JogBlog, I like to count and Helsie’s mate Helen 1, where we gorged ourselves senseless on carbs (surely creme brulee counts? No? Really?).

SUNDAY
Race day. More carbs (including my shameful little bag of homemade muesli rather than hotel variety pack cereal). Plenty of fluids. Lots of nervous excitement. Emptying bladder. Sock knitting to take my mind off the nervous aspect of the excitement. Lots of tweeting – I really enjoyed being part of the nationwide pre-race nerves instead of just watching from the side lines. Emptying bladder again. Slight panic that I’d forgotten my socks, despite knowing full well that I had packed my socks. Looking out of the window trying to convince myself that it was about to cloud over. Attempting to empty already empty bladder. Race number pinned on. Jelly babies crammed in back pocket, despite the fact that my pocket suddenly seemed half the size it normally is. Off to the start line.

Best good luck message ever

It is a matter of public record that I do not like running in the heat. I live in the damp and mild north of England, we mainly get drizzle. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to account for the fact that I was running with Helen “Bring Me Sunshine” Tamblyn. It turns out that Hels’s superpower is the ability to make races unseasonably and uncomfortably sunny. If you’re getting married, I would suggest that you encourage her to race in the vicinity of the ceremony to guarantee that you have decent weather.

I do love a bandstand

Anyway, the race. I set off well… And then spent the first three miles wishing that I’d worn my hat. When I saw Ginge on the sidelines proffering my hat, it was snatched gratefully from him with a cry of “I think I love you…” over my shoulderas I lumbered past.
At 4.3 miles, I overtook a man on a mobility scooter. He wasn’t part of the race and I shouldn’t really have been as pleased as I was with this.
After an alarmingly short time had elapsed, the front runner passed us (he finished in a course record of 1:08:00, 8 min 55 sec before the second placed runner) and not long after that, Shaun (I like to count) also bounded past followed by Hels’s mate Jimmy.
Around 5 miles, I started to feel sick. I know the feeling from previous attempts to run in the heat and I realised that I was faced with a choice. Keep running, inevitably feeling worse (and increasingly miserable) and possibly not making it around the course, or walk for a bit, take it easy and – as everyone had told me to – just enjoy it. Who am I to ignore the advice of wiser, more experienced runners eh?

Despite the run-walking, it was still bloody hard work. I was immensely grateful to the applause and encouragement of all of the spectators¬†(particularly the lad showering runners with a garden hose and Ginge who just threw water over me) and marshalls around the course¬† – I just hope they all realised that my response to their cheers was a smile and not a grimace. I also had some wonderful psychic Shuffle random playlist action – starting the race with my motivational tune (Trinity Roots, All We Be), being told Don’t Worry Be Happy at mile 10 and singing along to Jolene (in my head you’ll be relieved to know) with the blessed Dolly as I plodded up The Hill.

Beach huts around the ten mile mark

On another day, I may have managed to own The Hill, but it was not to be and I managed about 30 seconds before resorting to walking. After that, I was determined to finish on a run and with gritted teeth, I ploughed on to the finish where I was cheered over the line in a time of exactly 2:33:00 before collapsing on the grass.

Before the day, I had set three levels of goal in my head: It would be acceptable to get round but…I would be pleased with finishing under 2:30 but… I would be ecstatic with somewhere around 2:15.

So am I happy with that result? Yes and no. Given the conditions, I was pleased to finish and in an acceptable and not too shabby time. I knew that my training hadn’t been at its best, I did everything I could to enjoy the day and the sobering sight of a runner receiving ambulance treatment near mile 10 (I hope that he was ok) reminded me that it’s more than possible to come to grief. However… I know that I can do better.

In summary – I had a fantastic weekend and it was lovely to meet up with my Southern running mates (especially as Cathy brought us homemade jam). The race was well organised and friendly, but I was undone by the general heat and lack of shade throughout the course (there really was no respite from the sun along the sea front). However, I keep referring to Folkestone as my first half marathon – this suggests that there will be more of them, so I must have enjoyed myself.

Canal Adventure #8 – Burnley to Oswaldtwistle

If nothing else, the last two weeks’ canal runs have taught me one thing – I won’t be signing up for the Marathon de Sables any time soon. I love the sun, it makes me happier when it’s out and it does a cracking job, but it really doesn’t like me. I burn to a crisp in an instant (come summer, it would be easier if I could just be dipped in a big vat of factor 30 to save a lot of time) and I’m a bit susceptible to heat exhaustion. Especially when I run.

Big Brother is watching you

Anyhow, today was another train adventure. We started at Church & Oswaldtwistle station, where the (hopefully) automatic tannoy system warned us that violence and vandalism wouldn’t be tolerated. Twenty minutes later, we were welcomed to Burnley by two policemen at Central station (and there were two more lurking further up the canal), so we’re not sure if we were looking particularly suspicious today.

The starting point - Bridge 131

Off we went, stopping at 0.66 miles to take this photo and to have an emergency delete of some photos from my camera.

A tribute to local industry

Then we hit the Burnley Embankment, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways and carries the Leeds-Liverpool for nearly a mile 60 feet above the rooftops of Burnley.

Level with the floodlights of Turf Moor

The next bit of excitement was the Gannow Tunnel – 500 metres of tunnel that demonstrates the canal builders approach that if we can’t go over it, we’ll have to go through it. Unfortunately the tunnel runs under a massive intersection of roads and Junction 10 of the M65. The result of this was a certain amount of bewildered wandering as we tried to get back down to the canal.

Welcome to the Gannow Tunnel

The North-East entrance

Fear of falling in prevented me from having a peek...

....at this view

A hint that we weren't blundering around too blindly

T'other end

The canal builders were clever chaps, but they couldn’t tunnel through all of the obstacles in their way, resulting in the next stretch that is best described as soul destroying.

Wiggly. Bloody wiggly.

It’s a bit like queuing for a ride at Alton Towers, you can see the end but, even though it only looks a matter of a few yards, there’s a mile between you and your destination.

As the crow flies, because the crow has more sense than to follow the canal

Tiredness kicked in at mile 7. I had a brief second wind at mile 8 and by mile 9, I was feeling slightly nauseous and had gone deaf in my left ear (a bit like getting water in it). This is particularly annoying because (a) for me, it’s a precursor to fainting or throwing up and (b) because every breath that you wheeze begins to echo and is impossible to ignore. However, with hindsight and Google, the sad, sad tale of the Moorfield Colliery Disaster puts the discomfort of running in the warm into perspective.

We've come a long way in a century

A third wind took me through to mile 10 and this is where things grew increasingly sweary (and shivery). When I measured the route, it came out between 10 and 11 miles, and I focussed far more intently on the former to the point that I completely ignored the latter. Luckily, we had an excuse to stop and get excited by this:

The official halfway point between Leeds and Liverpool

Halfway is 63 and five-eighths miles since you ask. We’re not at the halfway mark ourselves, nearer to a third, but I’m not running back for another photo.

Sanctuary!

Finally, I can say honestly that I’ve never been so pleased to see a bridge as when Bridge 111D came into view. After the run, we drove home and Ginge bought me a Calippo which tasted of magic and happiness, but wasn’t quite enough to prevent me falling asleep for an hour.

Miles run = 11.3
Canal miles completed = 11.3
Total canal miles = 43.7/127*
Bridges = 131 to 111D