As mentioned at the end of part 1 of my recap, I was really looking forward to racing the Bristol Half Marathon. One of the reasons is that racing = carb loading and LOOK AT THIS PIZZA! I highly recommend the White Lion pub at the Avon Gorge Hotel in Bristol for amazing pizzas and a great view of the suspension bridge. Fast forward to Saturday evening, I enthusiastically prepared my kit and was going to wear my usual race capris as pictured below. However, and after much debates, I decided to go for the skort (skirt/short) in the end as it was supposed to be a very warm day. I also decided to wear the T-shirt I wore for my Paris Marathon as 1) If I ran a marathon in this T-shirt, I could totally run a 1/2 marathon and 2) having your name on a T-shirt during racing is the best thing ever. You get SO much support from the crowd and it really keeps you going.
On Sunday morning, I got up bright and early to get ready and have my race breakfast consisting of a massive bowl of porridge and a cup of tea. Hang on, this is my weekly breakfast… As soon as I finished said cup of tea, I remembered that this was a mistake and that I am supposed to stick to water on race days… After a last toilet break at home, we made our way to the town centre and it was a gorgeous day indeed. Sunny with a bit of wind so that you don’t overheat. Perfect race weather.
After a quick warm up, I went for another toilet break and ate 1/2 banana and two shot blocks. I also had two shot blocks before my 10Km PB and thought that this would be a good strategy for this race too. It worked, I was super high on sugar and caffeine before starting the race and was READY TO RUN…and ready for another toilet break. My bladder is quite sensitive to caffeine and despite going 5 min ago, I wanted to go again. I thought that this was perhaps in my mind and that I was over-thinking things, that it would probably go away once I started running… While in the starting pen, my Nike watch would not sync. I took it as a sign to run a “naked race” i.e. without looking at my pace. This was a huge step for me. I am not someone that lets go of things very easily. So to let go of my time goal despite working towards it and talking about it for 12 weeks and choose instead to run this race for the pure pleasure of running was quite a big step. It made me realise that in various aspects of my life I could just focus on the positive. My watch eventually synced but I just put it on “elapsed time mode”. 3…2…1 off we go. The legs started moving and the tears starting rolling down. I was just so happy to be running, the sun was shining on my face, the view was amazing and it just summarised all the accomplishments of this year. There I was, finally starting med school in Bristol. I just enjoyed the freedom of running. The route was not congested at all, we could just set in a pace and not worry about waving between runners. I finally spotted some portaloo around the 3.5K mark and thought that I better go so I could have a better race. The queue was a bit longer than I would have liked but it was really worth it as I could then carry on my race without having to think about my bladder. I then reached the first water station which was much appreciated since I decided not to carry any. However, I must have drank too fast as I got a massive stitch from it, which lasted for about 2K. I remembered that this was my exact problem during the Paris marathon: hydrating/fuelling too fast and not being able to stomach it and that I should therefore be careful and pace myself on that front. We looped at the 6.5K mark and the race distributed some energy gels but I didn’t take any and carried on a bit longer. I then S.L.O.W.L.Y started having 1/2 of a GU salted caramel energy gel (this flavour is the bomb), timing it with having a bit before and during the next water station as these gels require water. Since we looped, I then focused on looking out for familiar faces running the races and what a distraction!!! By this point I had completely forgotten about my legs, I just focused on spotting my friends and I was delighted to see Harry and Claire!!
I then saw another unexpected familiar face… Someone running on the opposite way on the sidewalk and cheering us, looking like such an elegant gazelle and looking vaguely like…Chrissie Wellington!!! I thought that this was not possible but that whoever this person was, she had AMAZING posture and that I better focus on mine for the remainder of the race. I then saw her once more, except that this time I could confirm that it was Chrissie, gave her a massive smile and she said “well done”. What a booster!! That definitely kept me going! We then headed towards the city centre and the public was just amazing, I got lots of cheers and I was feeling super good in general. I then had 1/4 of my GU gel, timing it with the water station again.I then realised that I was probably developing some chaffing on my thighs. Indeed, I had broken the most important rule of racing: nothing new on race day! I had changed my mind last minute for skort instead of my race capris!!! For sure I had run in them before, but never such a long distance. I didn’t even think of putting Vaseline in the morning. If you are anything like me, you might have heard about chaffing, you might have heard the “nothing new before race day” rule and yet, you might wonder if it can be that bad. Let me tell you, it is really, really painful and horrible, you don’t want this, stick to the rule. I then arrived in the city centre and WOW what an amazing atmosphere!! The public was so awesome! I was just smiling and smiling. I also hoped to see Lawrence and my sis so I was on the lookout for them, which once again was a perfect distraction! I spotted them and was so happy that I sprinted towards them to give them a kiss and a hug. I immediately regretted that as this sudden change of pace gave me a massive stitch which considerably caused me to slow down.
I happily carried on around the town centre. When we reached the 10 miles mark, I had another quick look at my watch to see where I was standing and for a minute I thought that I could perhaps run it sub 2h but then I remembered that a 1/2 marathon was 21K and not 20K. I did some pace calculation and decided that there was no way I could Run the last 5K in 25min (or so I thought because looking at my splits now it seems like I had 29min to run 5K). At this point, I wanted to give up. I was perhaps hitting a mini wall. Then I realised that this whole race was about discovering my new city, celebrating my new career in medicine. Also my people were there to support me so I wasn’t allowed to give up. I repeated my favourite mantra “I’m a runner, not a quitter” and pushed past the pain. I gave it my all, picked up my pace, cursed loudly in French at the hill towards the end, tried to pick up my pace some more and finished with a massive sprint.
I stopped my watch and saw my time: 02:02:43…and I am fine with that. I had so much fun and I hope my recap shows that. It does describe some slightly negative points but that is because they are what made the race “eventful”. The rest of the time I was just on a pure runner high, absolutely enjoying running in this new scenery, loving the Bristol public, super happy of my life right now. Ok, I will admit that it stings just a little bit that my best time is from my first 1/2 where I had barely trained, definitely didn’t do any strength training and didn’t even fuel during the race. In think that the main difference is that I didn’t have a watch back then and I ran for pure fun. Remember how I said earlier that I decided that I couldn’t run the last 5K in 25min? The truth is, why did I decide that? I think that it will keep running “naked” a bit more often and let go of all the PB hunting in order to focus on my love for running. Other lessons from this race? Don’t have tea, don’t forget the Vaseline, keep letting go and having fun.