Monday, 28 April 2014

Pain in Plymouth

I've struggled with training over the past few months, starting with my arm in a plaster cast throughout February, and two injuries - one to each leg which have kept me on enforced rest for three of the last six weeks. However, my place and hotel was booked for the Plymouth Half, so I decided to travel down with my Dad as planned. 

If anyone is thinking of doing the Plymouth Half, I can highly recommend the Holiday Inn. From the outside, it looks like a dated concrete monstrosity. However, it was very convenient, being located 200m from the start/finish line, and they kindly agreed to extend our check-out time by three hours so that we could have a shower after the race.

I had been popping painkillers and spent hours with oddly positioned freezer blocks in the days prior to the race in the hope that the niggle in my right hip might go away. And fortunately yesterday morning, I woke up feeling fine. I'd taken my breakfast with me, so we were able to have a lie in and just stroll down to the start with 15 minutes to go.

My good friend of twenty years, Lucas Meagor was also running and we met up briefly before the start. I have not seen him for several years, as he now lives in Hull, and me in Devon, so our short but unexpected catch up was nice. Lucas has taken part in a number of crazy running and cycling adventures over the years; please visit his website here to read more about him.

So with my stomach full of shredded wheat, Dad and I headed off to the start line, joining in near the back, and within a couple of minutes we were off. It took us around 6 minutes to cross the start line, and another five minutes or so before the crowd thinned out and we were able to start moving at a reasonable pace. We kept up a fairly good speed for the first couple of miles, although I don't understand why, if a person needs to walk in the first mile they start in the middle of the field. Take your brand new trainers and shiny designer gear to the very back, as you get in way of everyone else!

I more or less stayed with Dad until the second water station. Dad has managed to perfect the 'drinking on the run' technique, whereas I have to stop and walk otherwise I choke, so after this point he was making faster progress then me. The rain then started to come down just as I reached the first of a series of inclines, and it was at this point I wondered whether my lack of consistent training might mean that I would not make it to the end.

The mile markers passed by far too slowly. By mile 8, I could feel a blister forming on my left foot, and by mile 10 every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop.  However, there is an out and back section at this point where I was able to see the runners a mile or so ahead of me coming in the other direction. Ahead of me was a brave girl whose t-shirt announced that she had the lung condition cystic fibrosis, and a chap with a below knee prosthesis; seeing them stopped the voice of self pity in my head and made me determined to get to the finish. 

I was very pleased to pass the 12 mile marker as the crowd then got bigger and cheered everyone on to the finish. The course planners had cruelly decided that the last third of a mile needed to be uphill onto the Hoe to cross the finish line, where my pace dropped to a shameful 14mm. Still the end was in sight, and it was with great relief that I crossed the finish line. The official photos show me looking exhausted, and unlike the Cardiff half I would not have been unable to have gone any faster, or run another 50 metres. 

Hobbling back to the hotel through the race village, I was approached by a student of Plymouth University, and asked if I would like to have my feet checked by the podiatry students in their marquee. Removing my trainers revealed a fetching blood blister down the inside of my left foot, which they kindly cleaned and dressed for me. Unfortunately this meant that I was unable to get my shoe back on, and the kind receptionist at the hotel who had extended our stay gave me a pair of slippers from the health club to save me having to walk to the car with bare feet.

I woke up today with possibly the worst DOMS pain in my quads that I have ever had, which caused some amusement for my 91 year old patient this afternoon, when I was unable to demonstrate how to do a mini squat. A colleague kindly burst and redressed the blister for me so I am able to wear shoes to work again - one of the few perks of working in the NHS, the Government may have withheld our 1% payrise again, but they'll never stop us helping each other out. 

The half marathon itself was well organised at all stages, with the water in pouches rather than bottles, which I think makes them easier to drink. The crowd was friendly and supportive, with lots of friendly locals handing out much needed jelly babies and noisy vocal support. The route itself was a nice mix of city streets and country parks and although I cursed at the time, an interesting variety of flat and incline. This one may become a regular fixture for Dad and I. 

My chip time was a less than impressive 2:31:34, and Dad came in 6 minutes faster than me, but I am so pleased that I stuck with it, when the easier option would have been to given up and been driven to
the end. I'm not quite sure what my next challenge will be at the moment; getting off the loo is difficult enough at the moment. But pain is temporary and triumph is forever!

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