In the beginning, there was the River Ness 10k, and at that race there were goodie bags. Those bags contained flyers for the Global Energy Inverness Half Marathon and lo, I did think to myself, how hard can it be?
The answer, as I discovered on last Sunday, is very, very hard indeed.
Sunday dawned fairly early for me. I hadn’t slept well and there had been the inevitable stress dreams. Myself, Himself and Dr Thomas all paced about the house, forcing down porridge and toast and trying not to let nervous energy get the better of us. Our support crew – Team Cheer – were figuring out which pub they were going to.
We hit the road to Inverness and joined the slow crawl of traffic heading towards the sports centre. We got in, got registered fairly quickly, realised none of us had pens to fill in the details on our numbers and wrestled with binbags in a bid to make fashionable rain covers to wear at the start line. This is the worst bit of racing – the hanging around. Eventually we were piped to the start line (nice touch actually) to do a bit more hanging around. I stuck my headphones in and kicked off my specially prepared, kick bottom playlist (more cheese than an Edam factory) and finally, finally, we got over the start line.
The first 5-6 miles of the Inverness Half Marathon is essentially the River Ness 10k in reverse – along the river at Bught Road , over the bridge and then Ness Walk, onto Island Bank Road and then Dores Road into Torbreck and towards Inverness Royal Academy . I kept it steady, running 11.25/11.03/11.08/11.02 for first 4. During the long training runs I had always picked up the pace around mile 5, I felt settled into what I was doing and ready to let go a bit. It was no different on Sunday. Miles 5-7 slipped by in 10.39/10.38/10.29 respectively. The tunes were pumping and I felt good. Unfortunately, by this stage the weather had gone to hell in a handcart. What had started as a gentle drizzle got heavier and heavier and the wind got stronger and colder. I could only give thanks for my decision to wear my contact lenses and layer up my running t-shirts.
Once we got past IRA, we were into a loop of suburban streets, often running on pavements. Though there were marshals and police to supervise runners crossing the bigger stretches of road, there were a number of roads we had to cross ourselves and not as much signage as there perhaps could have been to alert motorists to the presence of 2,500 crazy people pounding the streets. However, for me at least, there were no close calls. I dropped back to 11.06 during mile 8 and as I passed the 9 mile sign, a stitch started to nag away at my right hand side. It continued to pester me for the next two miles, which were covered in 11.07/11.03 respectively. Myself and Himself had been fairly close together throughout the race and at mile 11 disaster struck. His knee, which had been worrying him for a few days, popped. He slowed right down and our fellow runners had to listen to me bawling at him to keep going. I slowed down to keep an eye on him and was braced to start shrieking for first aid. I shuffled through the mile at 11.37. Himself caught up and told me he had to push on and get finished before the pain got worse. By this time we were back on Island Bank Road , getting ready to cross the bridge and get back onto Bught Road .
Mile 12 was hideous. Horrible. I wanted to cry and actually started but I didn’t have the breath to do that and keep running. I kept watching the runners ahead of me, desperate for some sign than the end was in sight, but they just kept going. The time here was 11.55. The Inverness Half finishes on the race track behind the sports centre and it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get there. I felt like I had nothing left. All I was trying to do was keep Himself in sight and be sure he finished ok. Rounding the track and with the finish line in front of me all I could hear was the most enormous cheer from the right. Team Cheer were there and screaming my name. From God knows where I found the will to lift my feet and beast it to the finish line. Upon crossing the finish line I then hung myself over a barrier and wept. I continued crying while getting my medal and goodie bag and for a little while after that. Mile 13 had been completed in 11.15. I was done, cold, sore and utterly exhausted. I suspect I was also a little dehydrated, I certainly felt rotten for an hour or so afterwards. However, a hot shower, a swim, sauna, another shower and much meat in the BBQ hut helped me return to myself.
I spent most of Monday and Tuesday hobbling about like an OAP. I’m slightly more like myself today (Wednesday) but still dog tired. I’m certainly not planning to put my trainers back on this week, though I will be at my usual class on Saturday morning. Aside from tight thigh muscles, I have escaped remarkably unscathed. Himself and Dr Thomas are already having discussions about the next step (m***thon) which I remain non-committal about. We’ll see…….
I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has sponsored me for this and the other crazy things I’ve been doing. I am thankful for my running buddies and Team Cheer. I am also grateful beyond words to Dr Ron and the ElfMum for their kindness and hospitality. Cheers guys, I’m away for a lie down