Yesterday I successfully completed my very first half-marathon in a time of 02:14:05. I ran the Ranelagh Richmond Half-Marathon to raise money for a Bosnian charity called “Our Kids”, a charity which provides for a Bosnian orphanage and I will be visiting this orphanage for two weeks in July. The total is yet to be completely counted but it is roughly £330 which goes towards the total of £1,000 I need to raise!
The week before
I barely went for any runs the week before the marathon which I think was a big mistake. I was on my Silver Duke of Edinburgh assessment weekend from Thursday-Sunday the week before and my body was still recovering from the ordeal. On Monday my body hurt too much to go for a run and I didn’t want to risk injuring myself. On Tuesday I went for a 5k run and felt quite sick (this doesn’t usually happen) so I put it down to still recovering from Duke of Edinburgh. On Wednesday I took a rest day because I didn’t want to risk being sick or ill, and then on Thursday I didn’t have any time to fit in a run!
Two days before
On Friday I began my carb-loading by having a big breakfast – three slices of white toast with peanut butter and a banana. At school I bought a flapjack to eat at break and then at lunch I bought a salad packed with couscous, pasta salad, green beans, sweetcorn, peas and potato salad (my fave!) I also munched on mixed seeds and dried fruit during my free and the rest of the day. I actually ended up eating a lot on Friday!
I went for a very, very slow 5k jog after orchestra at about 9:30pm. I felt good and then I ate some white toast with peanut butter and then chili con carne. I re-read the race letter and didn’t realise that there was a race cut-off time of 2 hours 30 minutes. At this rate, having barely trained at all for the past few months, I was absolutely terrified at the thought of not being able to finish. I also googled information on what to do the day before the half-marathon before going to bed.
I woke up at about 9am and ate a three slices of white toast with peanut butter and a banana (again). I then cleaned my room because I couldn’t get any revision done in such a messy environment! I tried to do some revision but I was too worried about the half-marathon I was to run the next day. I was constantly on the running websites reading about other people’s experiences and wondering how on earth I would finish the race in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. I had a big lunch of tomato pasta and a peanut butter sandwich.
I also went for a brisk walk into town to buy some food for the race. I bought two Trek bars – one Trek cocoa brownie bar and one Trek original oat flapjack. I also got two bottles of orange Lucozade sport, a mini packet of jelly babies and two small packets of plain Haribos – sorted!
When I got home I couldn’t concentrate at all so I just relaxed for a while and studied the route I would be running. Seeing as I wasn’t too familiar with the area, my mum decided it would be a good idea to drive through the route so I knew which way to go in case I wasn’t around any other runners. It took us almost two hours to drive to Richmond, drive around the course and get back home! There had been a game on in Twickenham and so there was a lot of traffic but I felt more confident about the race, though very scared.
Before bed I ate a small dinner of chicken, peas and rice. A good last meal of protein and carbs to fuel my run! I got all of my things ready and placed them at the foot of my bed.
As you can see I have my running shoes laid out with my sports top, sports bra, running capri pants and socks. I have my school leavers’ hoodie to keep me warm before the race and also my race number. Next to my running shoes is my polar watch and polar heart rate monitor which I intend to use to see my time and heart rate/calories burnt. I have my running pouch which will be filled with the haribos and jelly babies which I will need to fuel the last few miles of my run. I intend to eat the Trek energy bar before the run and the flapjack for afterwards. I also had another bag which had the race details, course map, two bottles of water, one of the Lucozade sports drinks, two peanut butter bagels and the Trek oat flapjack. I would eat all of these after the race!
I went to bed at approximately 9:40pm and set my alarm for 6:05am:
I couldn’t sleep well as I was very anxious. I remember tossing and turning and just dreading the run altogether.
I woke up feeling as though I hadn’t had enough sleep. I was scared but yet excited and then terrified again. My mum kindly made me a big bowl of porridge which I had with a banana and I continually sipped my bottle of water until it was finished. I also sipped some of my Lucozade to give me some energy.
I then got dressed and cut my toenails to ensure that they wouldn’t rub against my shoes during the run. I double checked that I had packed everything and then got into the car. We left at about 7:10am and on the way I ate half of my Trek cocoa brownie energy bar. I also closed my eyes and tried to calm myself down. My mum kept saying to me: “You’ve done this distance before for Duke of Edinburgh each day so of course you’re capable of doing it. Just run for as long as you can and then walk the rest. You’ll be fine!” I tried to believe her but I kept having doubts.
We passed the race start and tried to find some parking. We then walked from the car to a pub which was nearby to the start and was where everyone was meeting. It was about 8am at this point and there were lots of people about! I queued for the toilet but it was incredibly long and took a while before I could use it – there was only one! I used the proper toilet in the pub but maybe I should have queued for the porta-potties outside.
I ate 1/4 of my peanut butter bagel whilst my mum’s friend Carol pinned my number to my top. Carol has run three half-marathons and two(?) whole ones before so she was the running expert for the morning (my mum is hopeless). They both helped to calm my nerves and I continuously sipped my Lucozade. I had about 350ml left. I did a bit of stretching before heading outside with the crowds. It was about 8:20am at this stage and all the runners made their way to the start line which was a three-minute walk. I was so scared I was almost shaking and I was literally about to cry – no, seriously. I was so, so scared I wouldn’t be able to finish and I didn’t know what to expect at all! My longest run had only been 7 miles and all of the half-marathon websites said that you should have done at least one 10 mile run in training. I was doomed.
I lined up towards the back and left my jumper and bag with my mum and Carol. They crossed to the other side of the road and I was left all alone. I was still worried. Very worried. The klaxon sounded to mark the race would start in one minute. I twirled my ankles and tried to prepare myself and I sipped some more Lucozade. The klaxon sounded again and everyone was off! I started jogging at a steady pace and found myself quite near the back but I didn’t mind much. I took it very slow and steady at the beginning to ensure I would have enough energy left until the end.
I ran and followed the crowd of people and all was going really well. I think at around mile 3 there was a water station and I grabbed a cup and tried to drink it while running. It didn’t work – I almost choked! I swallowed quickly and didn’t allow myself to stop. I picked up the pace after 3 miles though and ran a tad faster. I overtook a few people and continued at a steady pace, sipping my Lucozade every 10 minutes. Just before mile 5 I saw my mum’s car driving towards me. It stopped abruptly and Carol got out and cheered me on. My mum rolled down the window and said “do you think you’ll be able to finish?!” and I just replied with, “I haven’t stopped yet!” I was quite surprised to see them because we had planned they would meet me at miles 5 and 10 on Kingston bridge. This wasn’t Kingston bridge, but I wasn’t complaining!
I continued running and went under Kingston bridge before turning right and going around Hampton Court. I was fine up until this point, both physically and mentally but I could feel that my calves were starting to ache. I ignored this pain by repeating to myself: “This is easier than Duke of Edinburgh. You can do this!” This helped a lot and allowed me to believe in myself.
Mile 6-7 seemed to be quite long and there was a photographer on this mile – embarrassing! When I saw the 7 mile mark I was relieved in a way, but also quite scared because I hadn’t run more than this before! I was eating a few jelly babies to help give me energy at this stage and I kept taking long sips of my drink, though at times the Lucozade tasted too sweet. I was running alone and managed to again overtake lots of people (mainly women and old men) but hey, it’s my first marathon! At mile 8 I just thought to myself: “This is only a 5 mile run – I can do that!”
I kept running at a steady pace but I could feel the burn in my legs, particularly in my thighs. They felt incredibly heavy but I kept repeating my mantras in my head: “You can do this!”, “Keep going!” and the one which seemed to help me the most, “This is easier than DofE, you can do it. At least you don’t have a bag on your back! DofE was far harder, c’mon!” I ate another jelly baby and continued to run. My legs hurt but I refused to allow myself to feel the pain and I didn’t really have any time to think about anything else other than ‘keep running’. Usually on my long runs I think about a lot of things and make decisions, but this time I didn’t have the capacity to and only thought about DofE (as weird as that sounds!)
At the 9 mile mark I was smiling and pleased with myself – I couldn’t believe I was running a half-marathon and had made it this far already! I was doing this for myself, but more importantly, Bosnia. I ran back under the bridge and picked up a cup of water, splashing myself and swallowing some at the same time. I saw my mum and Carol again before crossing the bridge. They offered me a bottle of water and some more jelly babies but I kindly refused and continued running. They congratulated me and this really gave me a boost of energy! I then ran over the bridge towards John Lewis and followed the path around. I wasn’t really struggling at this point either as I had learnt to pace myself and slow down when I knew I needed to. I kept repeating my mantra and continued being positive and I truly believed this helped me! I had aimed to get to mile 10 by 1 hour 50 minutes – a pace of 11 min/mile average. I got to the 10 mile mark more than 5 minutes early which was great!
I ate a few haribos and sipped more of my sports drink to help me with the last three miles. These were definitely harder than the other miles. I ran a bit slower to pace myself but I was pleased with where I was at. Mile 10-11 did seem long and as if it wouldn’t stop but eventually I reached the 11 mile mark! I was incredibly proud of myself and knew I could do 2 more miles – I mean come on, anyone can do 2 miles (at least that’s what I told myself).
I ran around the corner onto the pavement and saw that a runner had fallen and was bleeding under her chin. I kept running but was concerned for her, though she did have the marshals helping her as well as someone calling an ambulance for her. It was scary. I ran slower and eventually reached the 12 mile mark but I kept imagining myself carrying my Duke of Edinburgh bag on my bag and continued running. Just over one more mile – of course I could do this!
I had another haribo and a long sip of Lucozade before eventually entering Riverside Drive. In the car yesterday, this seemed to be a very long road, and it definitely was. It seemed never-ending and I just continued to run, blocking out the aching pain in my thighs. “This is far easier than Duke of Edinburgh. You can do this!” I rounded the corner and the marshals were cheering us on and telling us it was only half a mile to go! I sped up a bit but I still couldn’t see the finish line so I slowed down. I lengthened my stride and passed other runners who were finished and sitting on the grass by the end. I ran past them and saw Carol cheering me on: “Come on, Viola! You can do this, you’re nearly done! You’re doing really well!” The ending is a U-turn so as I turned left I could see the ending on my left, running straight back the way I had come. Only 0.1 miles left to run though! I ran really fast now and saw that Carol was on my left-hand side and my mum was taking photos on the right. I sped past them and crossed the finish line in a time of 02:14:05!
I grabbed a medal from the girl holding one out to me and also took the banana and chocolate bar I was given for finishing. I couldn’t believe I had done it in under the 2 hour and a half time limit. I genuinely believed I would have had to been picked up by the sweeper bus for failing to finish, and I was sure I would struggle because of my lack of training. But I did it and I successfully raised over £300 for my Bosnia fund.
I forgot to stop my polar watch as soon as I crossed the finish line but the official results say I finished in 02:14:05 – and that isn’t even 100% accurate because the chip on our bib starts as soon as the klaxon goes but I wasn’t right at the front so crossed the start line later than everyone else!
Immediately afterwards I drank a 750ml bottle of water at once and I ate the banana given to me. I slowly walked up and down the playing field with my mum and Carol before going back to the car. I also did a few stretches but my legs ached so much!
In the car I finished my remaining haribos and jelly babies and then ate my Trek oat flapjack. That was good. I also opened my other Lucozade sport to replenish myself and stabilise the electrolytes in my body. Carol was extremely kind and had packed some sausage rolls for me as well as some chocolate bars! I gulped down the sausage rolls and then started on a twix bar. I was absolutely famished and ate like a complete pig. I then ate the other half of my Trek cocoa brownie energy bar which I hadn’t finished and also the other 3/4 of my peanut butter bagel.
When we got home I just relaxed for the rest of the day and stumbled upstairs. I ate the other twix bar along with a twirl bar (I’m so greedy, I know). I then took a cold bath to soak my muscles (it was freezing). I drank so much it was unreal – I literally needed to pee every 20 minutes! I had a nice big lunch of tikka masala curry and drank even more water and Lucozade sport. I ate the chocolate bar I was given at the race (caramel mars bar) and watched the Glee episodes I had missed. I had a terrible post-marathon headache but I read that it is common so I wasn’t too worried but I took a day off from revision and relaxed. 🙂
All in all, I am so proud of myself for completing my very first half-marathon with barely any training! I believe that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my friends or family.
Summary of how I did my first half-marathon
- I was a (fairly) regular runner anyway and always ran at least one 5k each week.
- Although I didn’t stick to my original marathon training plan, I managed to run approximately three times each week and I also made sure to fit in some long(ish) runs. I ran one 5 mile run and one 7 mile run a couple of weeks before my half-marathon, but that’s it. Those were the longest runs I had ever done before the race day.
- I carbo-loaded for three days before the race day. I don’t know whether this helped but even if it psychologically did, I would definitely recommend doing this! I felt it was easier to run and I wasn’t having to convert fat into energy on the day of the run but actually had lots of stored energy already.
- I was positive! I blocked all negative thoughts during the run and kept saying to myself that I could do this. It truly helped me continue and not give up.
- I believed in myself. I kept reminding myself of why I was doing this and why I had signed up to this. I knew I could complete it, even if I had to walk it.
I had achieved my goals for this half-marathon:
- Finish the half-marathon!
- Run the entire way, whether it’s an incredibly slow jog or at a steady pace.