Shine Half Marathon

Sometimes I wonder why I sign up to events, who wants to walk 13 miles around London on a Saturday night?

You’d have to be crazy right? Plus all the weeks of training, getting up early on a Saturday morning to walk 6+ miles, and signing up when you are recovering from a serious injury and struggling to walk a couple of miles or when you have never even attempted a 5k before, well you wouldn’t would you?..

Well actually that exactly what my friend Mandy & I did a few weeks ago

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I think it was May time Mandy & I decided to sign up to the walk, I was recovering from a calf rupture and it was suggested I find a challenge to help with my rehabilitation & Mandy was soon to be returning to work after having a baby and thought committing to a challenge like Shine would help her weight loss

When we signed the walk seemed months away but quickly those 3 training walks a week brought us around to 26th September and SHINE night, our walk was due to stat at 7.30pm so we decided to meet up a little early and head to Zizzi for a spot of carb loading, before we knew it we were in Southwark Park and heading for the start line

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The first mile felt very familar to me, we were in Bermondsey and walking along the route of the London Marathon, the next two miles were a little dull, passing industrial units around London Bridge until we reached Tower Bridge, there is something about Tower Bridge and the Tower of London that I find magical, they were both lit up beautifully, add to that the thousands of Shine Walkers & their flashing accessories & signs on their back saying why they were walking it was impossible to not have a tear in your eye, the pride at being part of something so amazing

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Soon after Tower Bridge we were at St Pauls & the 4 mile point, water and yogurt coated fruit snacks were being handed out, I had a quick look at my watch at this point and was shocked to discover we had been walking 2 minutes a mile quicker than we had trained at, it had felt quick but not that quick & we made a conscience effort to slow a little not wanting to burn ourselves out

Before we had set off we had agreed we would love to finish in around 4hrs that being said ultimately we just wanted to finish and had agreed any finish time would be something to be proud of

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Next we were walking through Holborn, Theatreland & along Whitehall before reaching the half way point

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The next few miles were a little boring, around Victoria and onto the Embankment passing Battersea and Albert Bridges & I was so grateful to the volunteers along this part of the route, they had already been standing around for 2+ hours and quite possibly had another 10+ hours ahead of them while waiting for the Full Marathon walkers who were setting off in two waves between 9.30 & 10.30pm, the volunteers were full of smiles, encouraging words and most importantly chocolates

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Next up was Westminster and the 10 mile point, for Mandy this was a huge mile stone as the furthest we had walked in training had been 9 miles.

I had done events like this a few years ago but even I was starting to feel the effects of those fast early miles and almost 3hrs on my feet, but knowing we were on the final straight gave me the energy to carry on, without having to indulge in any of the treats on offer at the pitstops

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Next was Big Ben & the London Eye, I am not sure what was going on in London that night but as we passed over Westminster Bridge fireworks were lighting up the sky, the next few miles were again very familiar to me, when I worked in the city I would often go for a walk at lunchtime and a circular route from Tower Bridge to Westminster was a regular walk, although even at night its an area heavily populated with tourists its a walk I find very peaceful

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Finally we were at London Bridge & the finish line at Billingsgate Market was in sight

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We had done it!! 13.1 miles in under 4hrs!!

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As well as feeling proud of myself, there were times this year when I would never have dreamt that completing a half marathon would be possible but more so I was proud of Mandy, to sign up to something like this is a huge commitment especially when you have to juggle training with work and a young baby & did I mention Mandy had never even taken part in a Race for Life before, as I said at the start, totally crazy & incredibly inspiring

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So whats next, well I think its safe to say we both have the bug & Mandy uttered those words that I know are addictive ‘I love the medal’ I predict at least the Half again next year maybe with a few of our members or possibly even the Full Marathon, who knows you will have to watch this space

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If you would like to know more about the Shine Walk or are interested in taking part next year please click HERE for further details

My Royal Parks Half Marathon

Race No 19 – Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

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It started so well, the night before I happened to notice that Leah from Naturally Leah, had retweeted her race recap from last years Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon, learning from Leah & knowing how much I hate early starts & that I had to leave home just before 7am, I decided to gather all my kit together ready for the following days race

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Just as well I did really because as predicted, I snoozed my alarm clock twice & then dithered around the house meaning I left 15 minutes later than planned & had to eat my trusty pre race breakfast of peanut butter on toast on the way to the station

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Despite me running late & their being problems on both the tube lines I needed to use I still arrived with 30 mins to spare

The race village was busy, I hadn’t planned to use the bag drop, I had taken an old hoody that I was going to dump, but at the last minute I changed my mind and stored my hoody before heading off and joining what seemed to be the never ending queue for the loo

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The start pens were easy enough to find, it was a little strange no having anyone with me, this was my first time running a Half Marathon without having friends in the start pen with me or knowing I had anyone to meet with at the finish, but even so I was still quite excited, for months I had secretly been hoping for a PB at this event, and watching last weeks Great Scottish Run on TV had really left me pumped and ready to run, just enough time for a pre race selfie and then we were crossing the start line

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& thats where my race started to go wrong, literally that quickly, only meters away from the start, I think I stopped 3 times in the first kilometer, I wear knee supports as I have a problem with my IT Band, both knee supports kept feeling like they were falling down, I kept trying to pull them up, but they were just twisting and becoming uncomfortable, I wear a small bag around my waist that carries my phone, travelcard and a few gels, this has never bothered me in the past but today it kept bouncing and one of my gels had already started to slip put of the holder, and then my capri’s started to feel like they were falling down, what was going? I think it was all the plling about I had been doing with the knee supports had just made me feel uncomfortably dressed and had been a total waste of time because the next time I looked down the right support had slipped so far it was becoming visible from beneath my capri’s, in the end I gave up and stopped at the first set of toilets to try and sort out my knee supports, almost as soon as my race had started my chances of a PB had slipped away

I started running again, but still couldn’t get comfortable, I had forgotten to take my paracetamol before I left home and already I could feel my shin niggling (a not so happy reminder of the Spitfire Scramble), my earphones kept falling out, I never run with music, but being on my own today I hoped it would give me a lift, but that didn’t last much past the 2 mile marker either & because I wasn’t listening to any music, I hadn’t noticed that my ipod had become unclipped from my waistband and was dangling down, trying to wrap itself around my leg until someone tapped me on the shoulder

I thought about just running for fun, taking out my phone and taking some photos as I was crossing Westminster Bridge but I felt silly to stop so early on so I just kept moving, then at 4 miles I started to feel funny, I have lost count of how many races I have taken part in, I know I wasn’t in the best shape of my life but I shouldn’t be hitting a wall at 6.5k, I just felt really lightheaded, dizzy and absolutely exhausted, there was a toilet just ahead so i decided to take myself out of the race for a few minutes, have an energy gel and some water and just stand quietly for a few minutes and regroup.

Because I was going to stop for a few minutes I done something I have never done before, I paused my Garmin, except I didn’t, I switched it off..

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Seriously what else could go wrong?! I love my Garmin, it keeps me on track & lets me know whether or not I am on track, I paniced for a second, expecting a full on meltdown, but instead I had a strange sense of calm, I was very near Embankment Station, I had two choices, go home, or shut up and just get on with it and get to the end of the race no matter how long it took

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I had seen the above quote on Instagram the night before and I decided now more than ever I needed to embrace it, I had completed 5 walking marathons, no matter how long this took, I couldn’t let this race defeat me, so I reset my watch and started to move again.

Around the 5 mile mark just as we were running down The Mall, I spotted a girl called Becca, we had passed each other a few times already along the route and had spoken to offer words of encouragement a few times, just as we reentered Hyde Park I spotted Becca again, she was taking a short walking break so I gave her a wave and said come on, you can’t let me beat you! immediately she started running again, and just like that we both found ourselves a running buddy to get us around the rest of the course, the next few miles literally seemed to fly by as we ran, chatted and walked for the odd few minutes

I knew Leah one of my fellow Spitfire Scramblers was hoping to be around the 9 mile mark and honestly I don’t think I have ever been happier to see anyone, running with Becca had rebuilt my confidence, we were running strong, so when I saw Leah I literally ran towards her waving my arms in the air & a smile on my face, a huge contrast to how I felt earlier in the race and after that first Spitfire Scramble lap & I thank you so much Leah for being such a fab photographer because I don’t think I have ever had such a good photo taken while running

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Photo Credit – Naturally Leah

The final few miles passed quickly, with Becca and I still chatting as we went along, finally the finish line was in sight, now I don’t think Becca will mind me saying that I helped her around the last few miles, she was suffering from Shin Splints and I promised I wouldn’t leave her, so we ran intervals that I had timed on my watch, while we were running she had mentioned that she used to be a sprinter and that distance really wasn’t her thing & in those last few 100 meters Becca really come into her own, as we passed the 200m sign she grabbed me and said come on, and out of no where she was off like a rocket, with me chasing along behind her, I have never been one for a sprint finish but I am very proud to say Becca helped me achieve this in this race  & I have the photo’s to prove it (2 photo’s in one race with me smiling!! I’d never have guessed that when I thought about quitting at mile 4)

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This race really was a mental one rather than a physical one, I had been so tempted to quit but I am so glad I carried on, I want to give a big shout out to Becca again on completing her first Half Marathon, to Rebekah on a PB & to Tanja & Leah on being fantastic supporters

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Last but not least the second half of my time

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The Bling

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Oh and the most amazing goody bag I have ever received at a race, which included a £25 Hello Fresh voucher (I have been wanting to try Hello Fresh for ages), Whole Earth Peanut Butter, Yorkshire Tea Bags, Dorset Cereal, a Bounce Ball, plus much much more

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Would I do the Royal Parks Half Marathon again, probably not, the £50 race entry is pretty steep but I would definitely look into volunteering, I think after the marathon 2015 should definitely be about giving something back to all the races I have previously ran