Last Sunday, I took on the challenge of running my first ever half marathon, at The Big Half. It was a bit further than I was used to as I hadn’t ever run a race further than 10k. I had run the half marathon distance in training before, so it wasn’t completely out of my reach. I know that my strength tends to lie in my aerobic system, but having never raced the longer distance, I was slightly nervous. After asking lots of questions to my coach about why it would be a good idea, and what the purpose of it was, I finally came round to the idea of doing one.
I was pretty nervous on the few days between Manchester International and the Big Half, mostly because I was heading into the unknown. Arriving at the hotel, my nerves suddenly intensified, but it was bizarre, as soon as I saw a few people I knew, the nerves vanished. So much so, that on the morning of the race, I didn’t really have any nerves at all! Obviously a little bit of normal pre race nerves, but it was mostly excitement and intrigue.
From the race itself, I remember very little, except running over Tower Bridge and loving every minute of the 13.1 mile distance. The first 10k was an amazing experience. I have never felt so strong and fluid in a race, for that long. Around mile 7, I got struck with a stitch, but managed to fight through it for a couple of k until it disappeared. It was the last 3 miles of the race when the tiredness started to kick in. It was a very different sort of feeling to how you feel in the last kilometre of a 5,000m, but I felt strong. I was enjoying that feeling of your legs feeling heavy but being able to keep them spinning and ticking off the miles. One of the other things I enjoyed the most was running in miles instead of kilometres, because I had no clue what time I was on for or how I was doing. My brain doesn’t seem to get to grips with miles, so it was a refreshing change to have no idea what pace you are running at. I did wear my watch, but apart from the very first K, I didn’t look at it once. This meant I had no idea what time I was on for until I crossed I actually crossed the line.
Reflecting on the half, I have realised a few things. Firstly, that it is important to have faith, in yourself and your coach. This race was an area of unchartered territory for me, but my coach told me two things: that I would love it and I would do better than I thought, and he was right. I did love every single minute, and to be honest, I am still buzzing off it five days later. I also surprised myself. I didn’t set a time goal as I just wanted to give it a go, but in my mind I wanted to run under 75 minutes, and that I did by a significant amount! The faith in myself relates to two things. One, having faith in my mind. Initially I was very unsure on doing the half, but my mind raised hundreds of questions about WHY I was doing the distance. I asked every single question I had to my coach and that allowed me to see so much clearer. So don’t be afraid to question what you are doing and the reasoning behind it. It also showed the importance of having faith in your ability. Sometimes if you don’t think too much about the practicalities and just dive into something, you end up surprising yourself. Have faith in your body and your fitness and you will be rewarded justly.
I also recognised the importance of variety. My goal distances may be 5,000m and 10,000m but it is important to race above and below this. I raced over 3,000m and the half, to work on my speed and my endurance. I now would even go as far as saying I would also like to race some 1500’s to shock these legs into spinning faster.
End of a season.
The half signified the end of my summer season. So it is goodbye to the track for a short while and hello to some muddy fields. I have gained more experience this season than I feel I have in a long time, and learnt lots about myself that I will take forward to become a stronger and more resilient athlete.
This week’s post is yet another short but sweet one. My dissertation deadline is just 2 weeks away, which is a scary thought. Whilst it is petrifying, I hope that the hard work I put in will pay off, similarly to running.
One of the main things I have been learning to do this year is what scares me. If it feels a big, scary, unknown concept, I probably should be doing it. There is that saying, ‘Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow’. I think this is genuinely true. The only way we will improve is and step towards our goals is by doing things that our out of our comfort zone, that we have never done before. Ultimately, if we want to progress, we have to step into the unknown, because you never know where it might lead to.
Whether it be doing different sessions, running different paces, or structuring your week differently, those scary unknowns can sometimes be the exact ingredients you need to add.
One thing I said to myself this year, was that I would be courageous and do things that scared me. Previously, I always trained hard, but I mostly just did sessions that were within my comfort zone, and as a consequence, I left a lot of stones unturned. Something that has been surprising, is the amount of enjoyment I have gained from doing those ‘scary’ concepts. The act of doing something that scares you and coming out the other side, gives you the confidence and strength to grow. If we never venture towards what scares us, we are unlikely to progress beyond where we feel comfortable.
I’m not saying, if you’re scared of spiders you should sit in a room infested with spiders, but what I am saying is that you should at least peer inside the window. When you take things step by step, they don’t have quite the same effect as they do if you dive straight in. But, if you learn to sometimes disengage your brain and let your body take over, you might amaze yourself with what you are capable of.
So, this is just a little message to say, don’t hold back. If it scares you, do it, because the feeling afterwards will be so rewarding.
After 2 weeks of watching the Olympics, it is safe to say the inspiration and motivation levels are high. There were some phenomenal performances and there is no way you could come away from them not feeling driven to chase after your goals. Seeing some of the athletes competing at the Olympics, that you see also racing at BMC’s and British champs, makes it seem very real and human. It makes you see first hand what hard work and perseverance can achieve.
Even if you are not a competitor with the dream of competing at the Olympics, you can’t help but feel inspired. It is amazing to see so many athletes achieving life long goals, as well as starting off their careers. For some, the achievement is in making it to the Olympics, and for others, it is about setting PB’s or winning medals. In my eyes, anyone who has made it to the Olympics is a hero and an inspiration.
Firstly, one of my all time inspirations has to be Jess Judd. I have looked up to her since I was tiny and saw her competing at the Essex Cross Country Champs. She hasn’t had an easy journey, but her ability to persevere and keep going when times get tough is relentless, and I admire her hugely for that. Seeing her race her heart out in the 5,000m and 10,000m was incredible, and it even reduced my mum to tears!! Haha! She gave it absolutely everything and even when I’m sure she was tempted to step off the track, she didn’t. And she smashed it. She also happens to be an incredibly kind and happy person who deserves every bit of success.
One of the races that I’m sure inspired everyone who watched it, was the women’s 800m final. I am no 800m runner, but gosh all three of those girls are amazing. Despite being one of the youngest in the field, Keely Hodgkinson ran a race well beyond her years. Her ability to keep a level head and not get flustered by everything around her is impeccable. I have to say, I think this is what I find most inspiring. Her attitude to running and racing just seems to be so calm and collected. She doesn’t appear to overthink things or let her mind get the better of her, she stays strong physically and mentally, and gets on with the task ahead. As a result, she was awarded with a silver Olympic medal!!
Alike Jess Judd, Alex Bell truly seems to be an incredibly tough cookie. (You can read my interview with her previously here) Even when things have not gone as she planned or hoped, she has never let it get the better of her. She has continued to put in the hard work, stay committed, and not let the words of others get the better of her. This is something I feel we should all do. Others will have their opinions, and they will undoubtedly get to us at times, but it is recognising that the opinions of others do not matter. They do not know you, your journey, or where you will end up, so they cannot say what you will or won’t do. Just like them, we don’t know either, so there is no point doubting yourself, because you don’t know what you are capable of until you go out and chase after it. Finally, Jemma Reekie. She wasn’t faced with the result she wanted, but to finish 4th in an Olympic final, no matter what you expected of yourself, is unbelievable. She has so much dedication to the sport and has given her all to ensure she can get to the level she is capable of and this speaks volumes. We must believe in ourselves.
Whilst there are so many athletes I could mention who have inspired me, the last I want to cover in this blog is Katie Snowden. Despite the set backs of injury, she has continued to fight for what she wants and chase after her goals. She made it to her first Olympics and then proceeded to run an astonishing race in the semi-final. To have got that far and come home from the Olympics with a PB, is no stat to ignore. I can’t wait to see what she achieves over the coming years.
So, for me, whilst there were some stand out performances within the athletics events, there was a lot of inspiration I found from other sports. I even found myself inspired by the BMX riders and skateboarders! Bring on the Paralympics.
Last week, I went on a plane for the first time in a year and a half, and headed to sunny Belfast for the Northern Ireland Senior Track Champs. Seeing as my father is Northern Irish, I am equally eligible for NI as I am for England, and recently I made the decision to switch eligibility to Northern Ireland. The Champs were an essential race to tick off, and it was one of the most enjoyable races of the season.
I headed into the race with no focus on time and purely concentrated all my energy on trying to win. I have to say I loved doing this. I had hoped to sit in for the first few k, but I ended up heading straight to the front of the pack, and staying there for the entire race. A lot of people don’t like doing that, as you have to do all the hard work, but I enjoy having the difficult job because it can only make me stronger and be beneficial in the future.
The first kilometre went out very slowly, and I felt incredibly comfortable, but rather than panic that I’d gone out too slowly, I used the energy I had conserved to my advantage. I worked to pick the pace up slightly each lap, until the point I knew I could create some distance from the rest of the girls. As I hadn’t raced against most of them before, I wasn’t sure where I stood in comparison, so I didn’t want to push on too much incase they did come past me and push on. Instead, I gradually wound the pace up each kilometre and pushed on in the last mile. The great thing was I felt soo strong! I had no idea of the time I was on for, but I expected it to be slow after the pace of the first k. I was very pleasantly surprised when I crossed the line in 16:03, having front run the entire 5k, but knowing I had much more left in me to give.
Confidence going forward.
Something the race gave me was a lot of confidence. It reassured me that I can pick the pace up when a race goes out slowly and my legs can move at a decent pace. I do tend to run better when I gradually build into it, so knowing that I can run a decent time even when I start feeling extremely comfortable is very reassuring. It makes me excited for future races knowing that I can push on in the last few kilometres to make up ground. It also shows that in order to run fast times, I don’t have to go out with the lead back and kill myself immediately. I can run my own race, stay a little bit reserved, and then work even harder in the business end of the race.
Having felt the strongest I have in a race for the past month or two, I now feel more determined and motivated than ever to work hard to achieve my goals. It is so great when you come out of a race feeling excited for the next as motivation in training is incredibly high. I can’t wait to have a few more races, and then focus on working hard over the winter to chase after my goals.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!