So today was the day – months in the making – The Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon. A whole 13.1 miles of mixed trail and road running, and a personal milestone in my running progress. I’d planned, I’d trained, I’d bought some water-repellent shorts on the basis of the weather predictions for the day.
Only it didn’t happen.
An e-mail at lunch time yesterday informed the runners that the camp site car park that was serving as race HQ was flooded with no sign of getting better overnight, and there was no way it could be used. With apologies the race was cancelled.
I was gutted. It’s fair to say it was like I was a balloon that had just been burst. Not that the organisers could have done much else, if it’s flooded it’s flooded, and it would be too much of a risk to see a field full of cars unable to escape.
But what to do? Too late to look for another event, and the weather report was still looking grim. I could aim for a longer run and see where it went, but it’s not the same as the fun of a race, is it?
Anyway, it looked as though the only solution was going to be a self-start, so I decided a jaunt up the coast and see how it went. I was feeling a bit rubbish, so it might not be that long a run, but it would have to do.
So, geared up with the water-repellent shorts I headed off into the not-quite-raining morning. Up the coast towards Seaton Sluice, with the beach at Blyth off in the distance.
A good start, keeping to a 10:00 mile pace and heading up past the Spanish City, and sticking with my ‘if it hurts, slow down’ philosophy for aches and pains, and the rain held off.
Up the top at Seaton Sluice, and I headed off to the far end – all normal so far so good, and it’s a route I’ve run a pile of times. Out the end of Seaton Sluice, and to the car park on the way to Blyth – that’s 4.5 miles, and would be a good return point – but, you see, it’s Half-Marathon Day. So, I kept going off to the farmhouse just before Blyth. That’s 5 miles, which is the furthest I’ve gone to date. So it would make sense to head back now, no sense in crippling myself for the sake of a distance, right?
But it’s Half-Marathon Day.
So I run on a little further, and now I’m at the gun battery at Blyth, which marks the end of the promenade. Now I’ve been here before, but only if I’ve driven to Blyth and then walked the short way here. Down onto the prom and along the path, past the beach houses and the touring information. On about 5.5 miles now, and it dawns on me that I only have to go another mile to make it half of the half-marathon distance. Given that I started out thinking 6-7 miles would be cool, it would be mad to continue, right?
But it’s Half-Marathon Day.
So I head on, up to the Port of Blyth and through their security-notice-emblazoned gates. No one could have a problem with an innocent runner, right, despite them being the ones who always find the bodies so I figured I’d be OK. Along to the end of the road and I’m not quite up to the distance yet – there’s a wooden pier that runs out into the sea, the fishermen fish off it and I know that it’s around a half mile long. So I head off along that, and realise that some of the huge beams are a little loose. That’s probably not a problem if you’re walking along them, but running along causes a bit of jouncing.
I reach the end, and took a quick photo.
That’s looking back down the coast – the little pimple on the left is the Lighthouse at Whitley Bay – I’ll be running back past that on the way home. Suddenly it seems like quite a distance – I’ve done 6.5 miles, and I’m going to do them again on the way back. But that’s OK, ‘cos it’s Half-Marathon Day.
View of the pier looking back to shore – see those beams – some of those are a little loose.
Turned around, plodded back (carefully) along the pier and commenced the return journey. Back to the promenade at Blyth, and I was feeling a little tired. Onto the coastal path back to Seaton Sluice, and my left knee was feeling a little wonky.
Did I mention necked a gel when I got off the pier? Thought not. High-5 Citrus, mmmm. Helped the little legs keep going. The path along to Seaton Sluice was pretty waterlogged, puddles right along the path, and a lot of dodging back and forth across the path to avoid cyclists / dog walkers / ramblers. So far no rain, and feet were still dry, but left leg was feeling mardy.
Into Seaton Sluice, and feeling like I’m on home turf now, still about 3 miles to go, but that seems reasonable, right? It’s incredible how slowly the distance counter can click up on a GPS, I remember thinking as I headed onto the trail along the headland. Round past the Lighthouse (remember that pimple in the photo? Yup, that’s the one) and down towards the Links. By now I’m thinking about stopping and walking, the leg hurts and I’m slowing right down to try and keep it going.
But it’s Half-Marathon Day.
I’ve got a date with this distance, and if I make 11 miles, 12 miles, the distance will remain to be completed. If not for that, then I might not have continued.
I dropped down onto the Promenade and along to the Skate Park – allowing myself to walk up the steps at the Hill of Doom rather than running up the bank – think that would have been a step too far. At the top of the hill, I realised that my legs feel weird – like they’re not mine, and my head feels buzzy. Is this the start of passing out? At 12.5 miles?
No, I’m not going to pass out, I’m not going to stop – there’s only half a mile to go. After that, then yes, passing out is an option, but I’m not there yet.
So I plod on, past the Spanish City, watching the GPS distance creep up, 0.01 of a mile at a time. Now there’s only 0.05 miles to go, and I figure that’s the end of the row of benches along the Promenade. So I stumble on a bit further and look at the GPS – 13.12 miles. We’re there. I can stop…
I collapsed on a bench, and watched the world swim. Legs felt numb and the buzzing in my head slowly subsided. Drank the last of my water and hoisted myself back up for the stumble home.
- Distance: 13.22 miles 🙂
- Time: 2 hours 16 minutes 55 second
- Average pace: 10’21 per mile (What? Didn’t think I was anything like that speed)
Elated? Hell yeah. Didn’t think I’d do a half aeration today after it the Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon was cancelled yesterday. When I left the house I didn’t think I’d run a half marathon. At 10 miles in I didn’t think I’d complete a half marathon.
But you know what? I ran a half marathon today – myHalfMarathon, no one else ran it.
OK, so for the gory bits, I had a blood blister the size of an orange that is now safely hidden under a blister plaster, my toes feel quite peculiar and my left knee is not a happy camper. Think I’ll be taking the rest of the week off running.
It was so worth it.
This afternoon, I limped along to the Baltic Modern Art Gallery for tea with family – forgetting it was the finishing point for Rat Race’s “The Wall” – 69 miles from Carlisle to Newcastle over one of two days. Slightly put things in perspective seeing runners coming in, but also reminded me; I’ve got a marathon to prepare for!