On Sunday February 26th 2012 I limped my way to the finish line of the Great North West Half Marathon in just under 3 hours. I was mentally battered and bruised and physically ruined but as I crossed the finish line I vowed that I would be back in 2013 fitter, stronger and faster.
Of course it was only afterwards that I’d found out that I’d ran suffering from pneumonia. But, being a big believer in everything happening for a reason, this was to be the biggest turnaround in my running journey. Everything from that moment on was gearing up to getting fitter for my return to Blackpool a year later on February 24th 2013. It was a monkey on my back that I needed to shift and I felt more than adequately prepared to do so.
So here I found myself on the Sunday morning tucking into Weetabix followed by a full English breakfast while waiting for Andrew to come and pick me up (along with his wife Lindsay and their son as well as Kev who was meant to have been running but had had to defer due to injury). Luckily I’d packed my bag the night before as I didn’t want to be running around like a loon and stressing myself out (Saying that I must’ve checked it about three times to make sure I had everything).
I was very nervous but felt confident enough that I could put in a better showing than the year previously. Although my sleep had been lacking I didn’t feel overly tired and as long as I warmed up adequately before the race there was no reason why I couldn’t finish it in the 2 hour target I’d set myself. I’d made myself a T-Shirt to travel down in to try and give myself the psychological advantage as this run had been in the back of my mind for a long time and there was always the worry of the same thing happening all over again.
The journey down calmed my nerves a lot and ended in a DH Runners Gangnam Style car dance on the approach into Blackpool; because that’s the way we roll.
As per usual the race HQ was set up in the Hilton Hotel and once we’d picked our Numbers and Timing Chips up it was just a case of getting changed, getting warmed up and getting ourselves to the start line. The hotel was a mass of bodies and awash with the smell of deep heat and coffee and, as was always the case, there was a queue for the toilets. I’d decided to go with my Zombie running top that was acquired after running the Zombie Evacuation Race as it was a lot more comfortable than any of the other running tops I usually used. I’d also decided against wearing a hat and I’d gotten my hair cut really short in an effort to avoid the same mistakes as last year.
Once changed it was time to head over to the start line and warm up. Andrew was going for a sub 1:35 half marathon where as I was going for getting through the first 6 miles and seeing how I felt. I was confident of around a 2 hour finish but I knew I needed to take it steady to start off with as finishing was the main focus. The course had been changed slightly from the year previously and it was definitely less confusing as oppose to the previous year.
It was at this point that Andrew and I went our separate ways as he was looking at starting nearer the front. I’d attached myself to the 2:14 pacer as I had a plan and I was looking at sticking to it. There was movement towards the start line and someone had mentioned that we were just being shuffled towards the start but as it turned out it had started which took a few of us by surprise. There was no time to do my usual ‘It’s Clobbering Time’ shout so it was a case of head down and see what happens.
I was quite happy running next to my 2:14 pace guy but about a mile in I could tell my body wanted to go faster so I thought I should give it a shot. By mile two I’d caught up with the 1:58 pacer but still I felt like I could go faster so I decided to give my body a bit of a push to see what would happen. My thinking was that if it felt like I was pushing too hard I could always ease off a bit and run round with the 1:58 pacer. Coming up to the halfway point I still felt fairly good and I came up to the second lap at 55:07. I was definitely happy with this and still felt like I could push harder if needs be but I decided to ease off only slightly just to see what the next few miles brought. From about mile nine onwards I felt a slight tightening in the hamstring area but this is something I’d anticipated and had talked to my osteopath about so I was prepared for this and eased off accordingly to save myself for the final throws of the run.
I had been aware that from around three miles myself and a female runner had been overtaking each other. She was fairly fast so I’d set a target of keeping up with her throughout and it really was a game of cat and mouse as she would overtake me then I would overtake her until we got to the eleventh mile where we ended up running side by side. I had been checking my watch throughout and I was fairly confident that I could sneak in under two hours but it was all dependent on my body not cracking under the pressure. I was starting to get slightly jaded but picked up a little impetus when I heard “Come on Steve” from above. I knew at this point I couldn’t be too far away from the finish line and started to pick my pace up a little bit at the same point as my running buddy did. We came up to the final hill side by side and all of a sudden she dropped away, I knew one thing though I wasn’t looking back to see where she had gone.
As I rounded the hill I caught a glimpse of the 1:58 pacer and I thought to myself ‘she is definitely not passing me’ so I pushed myself that little bit harder. The finish line was in my sight, well actually it wasn’t as the inflatable Finish line sign had disappeared so I didn’t have a bloody clue where the finish line was. I suddenly saw some hands pointing out where the finish line was and I was still a fair bit away from it but I knew I had enough in the tank for a powerful finish. I powered up, zipped up the man suit and crossed the finish line at 1:57:15. REDEMPTION WAS MINE – I hadn’t just shaken the monkey from my back I’d kicked it in the backside and sent it on its way.
Pos Num Forename Surname ChipTime GunTime
739 1123 Steve Claringbold 01:56:01 01:57:15
Now it was time to warm down, recover and get round to Harry Ramsden’s and get some fish and chips in us. The only downside was returning to a parking ticket, that’s the thing with Blackpool you’ll either have a decent day or a rubbish day but if you do have a decent day it’ll still find a way to screw you over in the end.
When I found out the next day that I had finished in 01:56:01 I couldn’t have been happier. My sub two hour half marathon had been seven months coming but I knew I had it in me and it came with a bad back as well, I’m confident that I can keep bringing that time down.
Stupidly I’d said after the run “I don’t care if I get a cold, flu or whatever now I’m just glad I finished.”
Two days later I was laid up with a pretty nasty head cold and feeling more than sorry for myself.
I’m hoping that I can find a run in March to satiate my needs but currently I haven’t found a feasible one so for now I’ll just keep getting out there and pounding the streets and hitting the gym in the meantime.