The family all went off to the grandstand to get a seat while I put on the iPod and chilled out to the sound of the Lost Prophets! Well - each to their own hey! I handed my bag into the bag station and headed for the start.
The starting area was organised into different race times - so at the front 1:15 all the way to the back at over 2:30. I stood on the 2:00 line with a bit of trepidation, knowing I had never managed such a distance on foot before and that the weather wasn't the type I preferred. I am a bit fan of running in the cold early morning when temperatures are sub 5 deg and you need to wear gloves. I love running in the snow. I generally love not overheating or cooking when I am running. Didn't get my wish today then! It was boiling, the sun was out for the full duration of the race and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a problem staying hydrated - and quite a few people suffered due to this.
The start was delayed by 15 mins due to congestion getting into the car-parks - I'm not really surprised with 10,000+ people coming and parking and none of the extra parking that they have at the gran prix. Still - it was pretty annoying at the start but everyone took it in their stride, although it did make for a few bumps later....
Its 12:15 and we are off. It starts slow, the number of people starting mean that where we are it starts as a gentle walk, however within 200m we are running. Already people are pushing past and this happened all the way around - mostly because those people arriving late had to start at the back or where they could essent ially get to on the start grid and many of them were pretty quick runners.
We head round the first lap and this seems to go really quickly, its the shortest of the three laps I think, but already my mouth is dry and I need extra fluid. Soon after we pass the start/finish line through the pits we head inward onto the inner track. This is the longer of the laps and it winds its way about the inner of silverstone, doubling back on itself numerous times. I became fairly disorientated at this time and couldn't reconcile where I was running with the map in my head. Still - I felt pretty strong and when at 9km we hit gravel rather than tarmac and then dirt I was pretty happy, however all too soon the 'off road' section ended and the hard black stuff returned.
We eventually headed out from this inner section and onto the outer ring. The track is substantially narrower here and when you get the faster people coming through they do tend to knock you a little more. By this tim e my head is sunburnt and I am so glad I am wearing my shades otherwise my eyes would be so sore.
I catch sight of the wife and kids as they wave as I head around the last loop of the outer circuit and onto the main circuit for the last lap. There is a water station here and its the last one, my wife tells me that she saw quite a few people struggling here dehydrated and asking where the next water station is. I had passed quite a few St Johns Ambulance people by now treating people for dehydration etc - and loads of people walking. I cant blame them - it was roasting and fairly relentless.
6km to go. I can do this. One lap around the main circuit in the reverse of what we have just done. I'm feeling pretty god at this stage and looking at my watch realise that if I put in a quick last 5km then I could be well under the 2:00 mark that I set myself. And so I look to up the pace a little. The next 2km seem to take and age and I realise that there is no additional response from my legs. There are no more water or lucozade stations for this final 4km and my legs are like lead. Well - to be honest - they have been like lead all the way around - they have been pretty unresponsive and heavy all the day - probably due to the stupid bike rideyesterday - but there we go - no point in moaning about it.
Only 3km to go and I feel like I am going backwards. People are passing me now and loads of people are walking. Only pure stubborn determination prevents me from walking. I feel awful. This last 5km has just been amazingly difficult. I cannotbelieve the difference between 15 and 20km - it is a gaping chasm that I am finding so difficult to get over. How the devil will my friends manage in the Paris and London Marathons - this will only be half way for them. My admiration for them goes up several notches.
I can see the finish line. There is 1km to go, and I am still plodding along. I want to sprint to the line in a blaze of glory, but my legs are stuck in the rhythm they have been doing for the last 3km and wont be budged from it. They would be happy to stop, but there is no way they can be convinced to go any faster what-so ever. I don't remember this bit being downhill on the first lap - but it is jolly well up hill on this last bit! Its only a few degrees - but it feels like I am climbing a mountain. My teeth are literally gritted, the breathing is no longer controlled but ragged and haphazard, I get the occasional stitch and my knees hurtlike hell.
Sheer bloody mindedness drags me over the line in 02:01:45. I'm outside my target time by nearly 2 minutes. Am I upset? Am I hell - I am over the bloody moon! Over that last 5km I simply didn't think I was going to finish - I thought that I would be one of the casualties in the St Johns Ambulance being fed glucose solution and with an ice pack - but no - I dragged myself through and am as happy as larry!
When I think about it - thats not such a bad time given the hot day the sunburn and the silly ride yesterday. I am pretty pleased with it.
There were still people crossing the line an hour later as we headed for the car. Its these people actually who are amazing. They often do it for charity and haven't conditioned themselves at all but drag themselves around as they dont want to let down the kids with leukemia or the people in africa without water etc. My hat off to everyone who ran today whatever the reason.
Great day - but at this point I NEVER EVER EVER want to do another half marathon!
So - what is next? Well - in two weeks time we are in North Wales at the Mountain Bike Centre near Dollegau to ride the black trails and see how we do! A weekend of fun packed madness no doubt - and hopefully a lot more enjoyable that that 20km I just ran!