WARRINGTON HALF MARATHON (SEPTEMBER 9th)

“Yes sir you have the bridal suite tonight.”

My first reaction on arriving at the Villaggio hotel in Warrington and hearing this was one of bewilderment for sure. The only action the bridal suite was getting that night was that of a 32 year old nerd eating crisps and watching Doctor Who.

But enough of my viewing habits I was here for one reason and one reason only:

The Three Spires English Half Marathon in Warrington, which was the penultimate race in my series of seven to raise funds for Familes Against Neuroblastoma. (http://www.familiesagainstneuroblastoma.org/)

I had arrived at Warrington on the Saturday night feeling a little jaded after working that very morning and was more than ready for some food and putting my feet up. The Villaggio appeared a little out of the way and was a twenty minute walk from Warrington Bank Quay station. I was hoping that I would happen upon a restaurant along the way that I could pop in for some food but it just appeared to be a bit of a takeaway district. However, once I’d arrived at The Villaggio I was pleased to find that they had a more than adequate restaurant and ended up having an amazing Pollo alla Milanese (chicken in a rich tomato sauce) with some veg (I’d declined the fries, I was being a good boy).

After the customary 3 mile walk to stretch my legs out before the run the next day I went back to my room and watched the last track session of the Paralympic games and Oscar Pestorius romping home in the 400m for gold. A couple of Doctor Who episodes later and my head hit the pillow for an amazing sleep (anyone who knows me knows that this is very rare for me to go away and sleep well).
This was turning out to be a pretty good trip so far and was devoid of the usual drama that happens when I turn up at a hotel.

I arose at 6am for breakfast and then waited at the front door of the hotel for the taxi which had been pre-booked the night before. 10 minutes later and there was still no taxi and I was starting to get a little worried as it was kicking on for 8am and I needed to be there pretty soon to pick up my bib and chip. Luckily after a bit of haranguing from the hotel receptionist a driver rocked up just after 8 and I could relax.

Upon arriving at Victoria Park my jaw nearly hit the floor when the driver said to me “That’ll be £4 please mate.” I had to get him to repeat it as a 3 and a bit mile journey in Carlisle would cost upwards of £15 in a taxi but he was adamant that it was only £4 so this lucky driver ended up with £10 as I didn’t want to carry any change with me during the run.

Once I’d made my way to the registration area and collected my bib and chip it was time to join the usual queue for the toilets.  Fully relieved it was then time to do a bit of stretching, it was a cold morning so I wanted to make sure I was fully warmed up to prevent injury. I’d found myself a nice little area under a tree and I was just stretching my calves when a guy turned up and said “Mind if I have a piss here mate?” I gave him a quizzical look as I couldn’t quite believe the question that had just been asked and then replied “Er, yeah kind of.” Once he had disappeared it was back to the stretching and then a short walk over to the start area to join the throng of people who had already gathered.

Upon arriving at the start area I decided to hedge my bets a little and put myself firmly in between the 1 hour 45 minute to 2 hour group and the 2 hour to 2 hour 15 minute group. My target for the day was originally in and around 2 hours but I’d been suffering with a niggling knee injury for a month or so now so my new target for the day was just finishing before the 3 hour deadline set by the race officials before the roads were re-opened.

9 am arrived and the horn was blasted signalling the departure of the elite runners at the front. Following a 2 minute gridlock of runners I passed the start line and my fourth half marathon was underway.

MILE 1 – THE FLASH IS DOWN, I REPEAT THE FLASH IS DOWN.

I felt pretty comfortable for the first mile and was happily moving past people and looking for someone running at my pace that I could tag along with. Just before I passed the mile marker I happened upon someone dressed as The Flash who appeared to be struggling. I’m not surprised to be honest as just as we all set off the clouds parted and the sun came to say hello and by the first mile it was already getting pretty hot. The Flash ended up on his backside just as we arrived at the mile marker when his mask slipped and while trying to readjust it he bumped into the runner in front of him. I had a quick look back and saw that he was being helped back to his feet and dusted down by other runners so he at least seemed ok.

MILE 2 – WHERE IS MY PACE RUNNER?

As I arrived at mile 2 and I was still running comfortably but I was also still overtaking people at an alarming rate. I still hadn’t found anyone that was running my pace so I ploughed on in the hope that they would arrive soon.

MILE 3 – OH BUGGER, I’M OTHER PEOPLE’S PACE RUNNER.

Upon approaching mile 3 I realised that a group was forming around me.  I suddenly felt very presidential as I now had runners flanking my sides and some behind. None of them were overtaking me and they all seemed quite happy to run alongside me. Suddenly it dawned on me that they were using me as their pace runner so I decided to test them a little and sped up (The water station was coming up anyway and I didn’t want to have to manoeuvre past them to get a bottle), I’d lost them more than a minute later.

MILE 4 TO 6 – MY FINANCES ARE UP TO DATE

As I approached mile 4 something strange happened inside my head. I had actually started sorting out my finances while I was running, working out what bills needed to be paid and when, how much cat food we needed that month and not forgetting all of my sons activities that needed paid for. I had actually totally zoned out for the first time in a run and the next time I switched back on I was arriving at the 6 mile marker and smashing my first target.

MILE 6 TO 7 – A PERSONAL BEST

I had been competing in 10k’s for the past three years and not once had I come in under 50 minutes but as I passed the 6 mile marker my watch said I had ran it in 47 minutes. 10k’s are usually around 6.2 mile so it isn’t much of a stretch to say that I probably did that distance in around 48 to 49 minutes. (Now, if only I could do that in an actual 10k I’d be happy).

I passed the 7 mile marker at 55 minutes and all my timing targets for coming in under 2 hours seemed to be going to plan.

MILE 8 –  MY BODY IS TALKING TO ME

“I’ve got this you know, feel free to push it a little bit if you want.” This was what popped into my mind at mile 8 leaving me with the question, was my knee talking to me?

The answer to that will never be known but what I did know was that my knee felt fine and I knew this was going to be a good run.

MILE 9 – THE FUTURE IS JELLYBEANS

I’d taken part in three half marathons before and I’d always had an issue with slowing down from mile 9 onwards so this time I made a concerted effort to try and thwart this trend. I had carried jellybeans around with me in my back pocket for the last 9 miles and now was the time to unleash them. That was, if I could just open the packet…with sweaty hands I fumbled around for about a minute before unleashing my teeth on the job. I guzzled down about a quarter of the packet and felt a pretty immediate burst of energy, this was a good plan.

MILE 10 to 11 – SLOWING DOWN AND PICKING UP

Upon arriving at mile 10 I’d started to slow down a bit. The sun was now at its most blistering and I was sweating buckets while at the same time my head was thumping a little. I’d made a conscious effort to slow down just to be on the safe side as I wanted to ensure that I finished the course safely and didn’t push myself too hard. However, passing the 11 mile marker at 1 hour 43 minutes I realised that it was still possible to get in under so I pushed on a little.

MILE 12 – HILLS AND PHOTOS

A few hills had to be endured on the approach to mile 12 and these definitely slowed me down. I approached the 12 mile marker at a time of 1 hour 53 minutes and at this point I knew my 2 hour target had died. However, there was a photographer coming up and I was determined to finally get a good picture taken. Every single race I have ever taken part in up to that point had resulted in every photo making me look like I was dying. Today was going to be the end of that run and I passed that photographer doing my best impression of Rocky.

MILE 13 – YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Having had a pretty good run I was determined to have a strong finish and upon arriving at the track I picked up my pace. I received a bit of a surprise however when I heard someone shouting Steve, Steve, Steve. Initially brushing it off as being for someone else I kept my head down and kept running, then I heard the same voice shouting “Get your head up.” I looked up to find that Stu, my personal trainer, was shouting at me from trackside. Just the words of encouragement such as “You’ve got this” Was all I needed to finish strong and start passing people on the track. I have no doubt that if he hadn’t have been there I would have ambled to the end behind everyone else who were already on the track but, with his words of encouragement, I passed them and ended up posting a pretty good time all in all:

Bib: 1280  Name: Steven Claringbold  Rank: 716  Race Time: 2:04:12  Chip Rank: 720  Chip Time: 2:02:46

So I hadn’t come in under 2 hours but I wasn’t sweating it. In actuality the last pure half marathon I did was Blackpool in February and I’d ended up completing that in 2 hours 55 minutes and the one before that was in Blackpool last September and I’d completed that in 2 hours 28 minutes. Overall my time was coming down and I know that soon I will be completing a 10k in under 50 minutes and a half marathon in under 2 hours.

But for now attention is turned to The Great Cumbrian Run (half marathon) on October 7th and my final push for sponsorship. (http://www.justgiving.com/Steve-Claringbold-RUN-RUN-RUN)

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