Cassiobury Park, Watford, is rated as one of the flattest Park Runs in the UK. So when a colleague suggested we run the Watford Half Marathon together, I thought yeah ok why not. He runs Park run regularly in Watford so I stupidly assumed this would be a nice race to ease into 2018 after a horrid bug had put a hold on running over the New Year period. It was going to be touch and go whether I made the start line, which as we all know is going a be a tough but necessary decision when it comes to chest/lung infections, no point in running if you can’t breathe, a minor detail.
The training was ad hoc to say the least, managed to get back out on a few club runs, but its going to be a nice low key, flat run. A week to go and it was decision time, my two colleagues holding their breath that I’d be able to make the start line alongside them a week later. I felt a lot more human, asthma was behaving, drugs finished, running was feeling comfortable. Decision made, sensible pace plotted, 1 hr 50 should be fine. The week passes with no breathing issues, club runs completed with no problems, so its race on.
Race day arrives, fuelled and ready to run, I begin the day with the drive to Watford for a 10:30 race start. We walk to the park from my colleagues home, so this means we are stretched and warmed up, well not quite, the temperature is around 5 degrees, so we are feeling the chill but the 3 of us are looking forward to the run. No high expectations, just a gentle run around Watford, gentle, remember I said gentle.
The park is a little weather beaten, but the race village is steaming, literally, with runners, but the number collection ( they don’t have post boxes in Watford by all accounts) is easy, along with the bag drop.
Changed and ready to roll ( literally, Xmas pounds have made an impact) Two starts, one for old people like me and women, the other for the young ones, my two colleagues, and the non vets. 10:30 the horn goes, we slowly get under way, the two starts then verge, unlike London there is no verbal abuse as we join forces. I undertake to run near a 1:50 pacer but this time, pacers have a habit of going a little to fast, I pay close attention to my goal setting on my watch, but only at periodic moments. I’m going to run easy and enjoy the countryside.
The route takes you through the urban surroundings of Watford, winding your way through narrow alley ways with multi coloured bollards, this is feeling like a club run, the easy pace was a good idea, feeling comfortable, the body temperature is warming up, gloves, I love my gloves, this is ok, flat, as predicted.
Did I say flat, what I forgot to mention, always read the pre-race notes, the word Severity popped up in the small print, whoever reads the small print anyway.
Around 4-5 miles the fun starts, I spy my mate, his start had a few minutes on us, so I ease up behind him and just run along in his shadow and have an evil little smirk, thinking when I do run past. We ease round a bend, and there she blows, the first of many, nasty little surprises. The climb is near on vertical, Everest comes to mind, the pacer is shouting instructions, yeah, I’ve got it, its bloody hilly.
What goes up must come down, and up, and down, get the idea. At one point I was ahead by around 300 yards on my predicted time, so I just need to focus and stick to the pace.
It’s becoming brutal, you reach the peak and take a breath, ease down the other side, the hamstrings not impressed, and then back up, a little like our roller coaster, but you can’t get off. This is now a mental challenge, the mindset is a climb in its self.
10 miles and I’m wrecked, my legs are like little fishing weights dragging me to the bottom, but the positive mental attitude kicks in, one park run, just one park run to go.
One mile at a time, I’m ignoring the climbs, just focusing on the finish. We are now within smelling distance of the finish, the predicted time is slowly being obliterated, tick tick tick.
I spy the 400m sign, and there we go, up, a gentle climb, but feels tough. 200m and I’m now looking at 1:53, ok I can live with that. The finish banner, thank F…… watch stopped, a quick check 1:52 just over. OMG beware Watford is not flat, not even close. Would I go back, not on your life, for one, I’m a towny through and through, and the hills just made it so tough, but on a positive note the lungs were absolutely fine no issues, so I can take that away and move on to the next (flat) race. Undulating, was always the most incorrect descriptive word ever.