Crossing two finish lines in one race

I come away from San Francisco with mixed feelings. And not just because I’ve returned to the British drizzle and rain. And let’s be honest, Winchester isn’t quite San Francisco!

If someone had handed me a 1hr 18 finishing time in exchange for not having to run, I wouldn’t have taken it. And 1hr 18 is what I finished in, which is a good four minutes off my best but having experienced those 78 minutes, I’m not disappointed.

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A good luck message from Hannah – don’t ask! 

 

Things started off well. Although I was awake by 3am with excitement, I’d still had plenty of sleep over the previous two nights. I got to the start line 1hr 15 minutes before the start of the race. And I wasn’t in the warmest of gear but thankfully they had heat lamps to huddle under.

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A bit scantily clad

The almost highlight of the day came at this moment when I was asked “are you a professional?” by a runner who’d seen my low number. As she was saying this, she was readying her camera, I think for a selfie. And as I told her I wasn’t, she promptly put her camera back in her bag. Ouch!

I started warming up a good 45 minutes before the start of the race and felt great. My legs felt light and I had no problem building up to race pace. However, a warm up tends to get other systems working as well as the cardiovascular. And the bagels and bananas meant a trip to the woods minutes before the start. As I was doing the business, I noticed a good number of massive spider webs. And as my exit was fairly impeded until I’d finished, I did what I could to hurry up and get out of there. Anyway, back on the start line and we were off with the sound of the gun. The opening kilometre took us through the beauty of Golden Gate Park.

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Golden Gate Park and the first seven miles – all up hill!

Minutes later, cue complete disaster for the race leader. I was in the chasing pack of five about 30 seconds behind the leader, when the lead bike inexplicably took him the wrong way. The marshals told us not to follow and carry on straight. A few of the guys behind me were shouting at him to turn around but he was gone and we never saw him again. I’ve never seen anything quite like that and especially in a big city race. I thought to myself, that’s usually me and at this point I was thankful that I’d passed the baton to somebody else.

So, I’d moved from 6th to 5th and I was going strong up until about four miles. I knew I had another three miles of climbs but felt that I had plenty in the tank to keep up the pace and then coast downhill for the remaining six miles. At this point disaster struck and this time for me. I saw 1st, 2nd and 3rd go around a tight bend in front. At this point, we had the full marathon runners all around us and also the finishers of the other half marathon. I don’t need much to get confused and with a tired mind this happens easily!

 

I’d seen where the front three runners had gone but 4th place in front suddenly got confused and asked “which way for the half?” The marshal pointed straight ahead and so he bolted under the tape and without thinking I followed, assuming the marshal must be right and the front three had gone the wrong way.

What I hadn’t realised was the marshal thought he meant first half marathon. Suddenly, I couldn’t see 4th ahead of me, just lots of first half marathon finishers. I soon found myself crossing the finish line of the first half marathon much to the confusion of the PA! I have to admit it took every ounce of determination to turn around and rejoin the course. I’d lost anything between a minute and a half to two minutes. I spent the next three miles going much faster than target pace and up the hills. If I wasn’t so overcome with adrenaline, I would have been more patient in trying to regain the time lost. As it was, I bust more than a gut trying to catch up which ultimately, I paid the price for.

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Final stages of the race in the Financial District

I caught up with a few runners and continued to slalom my way past the weary marathoners who still shared our course. I reached the highest point of the course at seven miles and my watch had my pace at 3’31/km which meant had I not gone the wrong way, I would have been on target and in the top five with the easiest bit of the course ahead of me. Never mind – you learn! Unless you’re me… I’m pretty sure this is the fifth time I’ve got lost in as many years!

I spent the next six miles racing past the marathoners and hoping that I would see the top five again. I asked a few half marathoners along the way what position they thought they were in as I overtook them. I’m not surprised I didn’t get many responses. Although I tired between 10 and 13 miles, I did get to spend the last section of the race chasing down the guy who I’d followed the wrong way. He apparently needed a toilet stop and I chased him hard to the finish but he crossed the line just ahead of me.

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Booya! 

I finished in 17th but first Brit! And on a hilly course where I inexcusably got lost and hurt my chances trying to regain my time too quickly, I’m pleased with 1hr 18.

I also had my first experience of sampling a New Zealand brand of blackcurrants, CurraNZ, which are famed for their performance benefits. In a race like this where so much went on, it’s difficult to tell how effective they were beyond my normal performance. However a week on from first taking them and this morning I ran a pretty furious fartlek.

6 x 6min/3min at 3’30/km / 4’/km and I felt very good. I reckon this is partly down to the fact that I stopped obsessing with my watch and finally ran to feel. This meant I wasn’t limiting how fast I could go including on the recoveries and the whole thing was a lot more natural. But I’d also put something down to the CurraNZ because I didn’t feel anywhere near as fatigued as I usually do for this speed and distance. It’s early days but I’m very interested to see what these might do for my performances in the long run. You can buy them online at https://healthcurrancy.co.uk/ if you’re interested and I’ll continue to report back on any difference they are making to my running.

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I miss it already

So, until next time. I’ve now got to get my head down for five weeks of hard marathon training before the Maidenhead Half Marathon. Indications are that I’m at a similar fitness level to where I was this far out from London. To better my PB in Berlin, I’ll have to have an even better remaining eight weeks than last time round!

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