Earlier this year I signed up for the Ealing Half Marathon in west London. Having started running daily last summer, I really wanted to test myself by getting into a situation where I would be forced to run 13.1 miles. Safe to say, there were many moments when I wanted to give up, sit down, lie on the floor, go to the pub, have a bacon sandwich or just go to bed.
I resisted these temptations, however. Crossing the line in a time of 1 hour 47 minutes, I had only failed to reach my pre-race target by two minutes. Not bad for a first attempt, I thought, as I finished alongside plenty of other knackered half marathoners, some running their first race, but most part of clubs or serial entrants.
Although only half the distance of a full marathon, which is hugely demanding and requires months of careful training, faultless preparation in the days leading up to the event, and extreme mental determination, the half marathon is still a challenge. It requires runners to be physically and mentally tough, as once your legs decide that it is no longer comfortable for them, your ability to finish is transferred from bottom to top. As many people have said previously, “it’s all up there”.
Key to a half marathon being a success is good organisation, which was evident at the Ealing race, despite a car crash on the route delaying the start by 20 minutes, which had many a runner’s preparations dashed and concentration disrupted. It was well-received by the community, many of whom came out to support friends they knew that were running, or simply to cheer as the 4,000 or so participants came increasingly wearily past their houses.
For the runners themselves, there are so many potential pitfalls. One is psyching yourself out before the race even starts. Reading the endless pages of pre-half marathon advice is a definite no-no, because it’s full of wildly diverging views on how much porridge to eat and when, and what shoes to wear, down to when you should sip your water.
In terms of the training I did, it was fairly conventional. No cross-training really to speak of, gyms being so expensive and the actual running taking up so much time, I gradually increased my distances from about three miles per run in March to six by May, and then nine in July and August. Although I chose to run the route beforehand to get acclimatised to the hills, where I was meant to be going, and what it would feel like to do 13.1 miles, this is not essential. In hindsight though, I would say that it helped.
To sum up, I am extremely happy that I was a part of history at the first ever Ealing Half Marathon, and will definitely keep running in the future. The fitness benefits derived from training are immense, and the satisfaction of running six to nine miles at least twice a week is also worth experiencing. It felt good to raise money for a charity, as well, which in this case was Epilepsy Action. The atmosphere created was really positive, as was the camaraderie among the runners. With one dressed as a Star Wars imperial soldier, another in a hula skirt and a fully fledged gorilla, it vindicated my view that nothing brings out spirit quite like a half or full marathon. The best bit about my experience? Getting a cold beer free at the end from the organisers. Just what you want after sprinting to the line and giving it your all. I’ll be back next year, Ealing.
If you would like to make a donation to Epilepsy Action, visit their website here. You can also find out more, by the clicking the link, about the fantastic work they do.
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