After the cancellation of the Grizzly for which training was woeful, I needed to put what little I had done to good use. My friend was running his first Half Marathon at Fleet which was also cancelled. He dropped me a text asking if I fancied Kingston Half roughly a week and a half from the correspondence.
One training run and a week and a half later I wake up at 3am on Sunday morning for no apparent reason. I remember that in five and a half hours I’ll be on the start line ill prepared for thirteen and a bit miles!
We arrived in good time, collected our numbers and wondered where everybody else was. Only 652 people turned up for this. And yet still the advice to “use common sense and start roughly where you think you finish” went unheeded. Four trips to the lavatory and I made it to the start line. Wished my friend good luck. The start was horrendous. A virtual 180 degree turn in the market place 100 meters from the line led to a bottleneck. A few had gotten through but the rest had slowed right down. My TomTom was on some rubbish half marathon function that couldn’t tell me my pace so I was running unaware of my speed.
Once we’d started up in earnest it was a run through the dead streets of the town centre, everybody vying for space or finding a gap. I latched on to a muscular gentleman at mile 2 and asked him what he was aiming for. He said sub 1.35 so I said I’d stick with him. We ran out along an unattractive part of the Thames towards Richmond before turning back on ourselves and up to Kingston Bridge. The field was spread and I only had muscles and another man mountain for company. We went under Kingston bridge and then over before turning left along a lovely stretch of the tow path that leads to Hampton Court. At watering station 2, Man Mountain grabs a bottle of water from a marshal, actually taking her out in the process. She span twice and hit the deck and he had barely noticed. We’d started to gain positions as those a bit too keen started to tire.
The ramp up to Hampton court bridge felt like I was heading up Snowdon. It hits me for the first time that instead of running on fitness and enthusiasm, I’ve opted for bloody mindedness, anger, self loathing and Clif Bloks. It shows. although I have no way of being sure I feel confident that at mile 10 my pace is slowing considerably.
Muscles comes to an abrupt halt next to me, he’s thrown in the towel and Man Mountain is pulling away. Then at the mile 11 sign a guardian angel in the form of my brother, in perfect running regalia of skinny jeans, a north face jacket and Nike trainers greets me. I shout his name, he starts to run with me asking how I am, we’ve run right next to his flat. I ask him if he fancies the last 2 miles. His face says ‘no’ but his voice says ‘yes’ and off we go. I check afterwards that mile 11 was my fastest of the previous 6. He sticks with me for what is the most uninspiring and laborious section of the run along the Portsmouth Road past Surbiton and up to Kingston. He moves away for the last quarter of a mile as I come back through the market place and sprint finish.
Another disappointing time with only myself to blame. A PB but still a minute 30 away from where I want to be. The chip time was 1:31:30. My first 5 miles were all well under 7 minute miles and then a dramatic slow down to over 7 minute miles cost me dearly. I set off too quickly only to be punished for it later. My friend finished in 1.59.30, a good attempt at a first half marathon. It was almost 2 days before I could walk properly again. Much soul searching required before my last ever half at Gothenburg.