Milton Keynes Half-Marathon

The next big step on my marathon journey was the Milton Keynes Half Marathon. I was feeling a little nervous, but kept telling myself that it was only a parkrun (i.e. 5K) further than my previous longest, and that my 12.7K run from home a couple of weeks before had gone very well.

We were a bit annoyed that the weather forecast the evening before suddenly started predicting rain in the morning, but in the event it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. After asking the race director I had been allowed to enter the 20-mile race with the full expectation of not getting to the route divergent point by the cut off time, which meant I would be diverted to the half marathon course, which is exactly what I wanted to do, but starting nearly an hour earlier to give myself plenty of time before all races needed to be completed to reopen the roads. As a result, we picked Milton Keynes, with the added benefit that Stephen could run the full 20-mile race as part of his own pre-marathon training and fitness assessment.

This also meant that Stephen was not available to pass me gels, but luckily our wonderful friend Paul who often comes to support our parkruns and Stephen’s races thought that he couldn’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Sunday than to drive up from Bristol and spend the morning passing us gels, hydration drinks and jelly babies! As well as the practicalities, it was lovely to see Paul at the three meeting points to cheer me on too.

Gathering in the rain near the Xscape before the race

Stephen jogged the first 100m with me until we crossed the timing mats, and then disappeared swiftly into the distance. I jogged onwards: it was quite interesting running along a dual carriageway, and it was a nice downhill start too. After a little while we turned off and were soon into the useful network of cycle paths that Milton Keynes has. I was staying nicely near the pace we had set up on my watch, staying around 20 seconds ahead, and taking in the scenery as we passed lakes, Ferris wheels and parks. I’d put some tape on my toe which on previous long runs had got slightly rubbed, but to my annoyance this worked itself loose pretty quickly and started wandering around inside my sock. It’s an odd thing, but even going as slowly as I do, it’s pretty much impossible to make yourself stop during a run, and I couldn’t really see anywhere to lean while I took off both shoe and sock, so as it didn’t seem to feel like it was rubbing I just continued, and luckily got away with it!

Approaching the start

I had started with a rain jacket because of the rain beforehand and in the first 15 minutes or so of the race, but discarded this at the first meeting point with Paul, at which point I took a couple more gels from him. It is possible to fit all the gels into my running belt but it does make it flop around a bit, and I didn’t want the weight or possible chafing that might result from one of the running rucksacks even bigger waistpacks. There were enough water stations on this run and should be enough in London, that as long as I have someone to replenish my supply of gels I should be fine.

Discarding the rani jacket at 5km

At one point there was a minor route diversion to the intended one due to a flooded path, which meant once the planned and actual routes converged, my watch suddenly jumped from being 20 seconds ahead of pace to 35 second behind. I tried not to worry about this, and not to increase my pace, as after all the main goal was to finish the race, and it wouldn’t really matter if I was behind time. But I did find that I gradually over about 3km made that time up until I was a little ahead of pace again, so I may not have succeeded in not going slightly too fast.

Staying cheerful at the second meeting point with Paul

Stephen caught me up having done his second loop on the 20 mile route, and stayed to keep me company for a minute which was nice, as it was starting to feel quite hard work by then. There were mile markers out on the course, and I must say when each one came into the view it was both nice to see another mile ticked off, and a bit disappointing as it had seemed so long since the previous one that I was hoping I’d missed one! But that’s the nature of slow running.

Part of the climb up the hill

The final 3K was uphill, which I was horrified to discover included a very steep section through a park and up onto the skyline. I found myself completely unable to keep to the walk/run intervals, every time the watch beeped for a run I would drag myself into a shambling jog which turned back into a walk after about 30 seconds. It was a bit disheartening, but I had to just tell myself that the goal was to finish, and that I couldn’t push myself too hard and risk pulling any muscles, with the most intensive 2 weeks of training still to come, so I consoled myself that I was still moving forward and would get to the finish in the end. As it levelled off I did managed to break into a run, at which point my calf muscles protested bitterly and threatened to cramp, so I had to have some stern words with them.

Crossing the finish line

At last the finish line came into view and I got myself across it! I was looking around for someone to hand out medals, but this turned out to be a short walk through the finish funnel, which is where we were being split into the various lengths of races, so I picked up my ‘half marathon’ medal.

The two of us with medals

I had spotted Paul as I crossed the finish, and Stephen wasn’t far away, suffering somewhat with cramp in his feet, which he is prone to from lack of salt, though he does take plenty in. I also spotted a welcome sight of two tables with an organisation offering massages, like they had at Tarpley, so after checking Paul & Stephen didn’t mind, I got my calves seen to. By the time I was done I had cooled off a lot, and stupidly we had left our warmer clothes in the car, which before the race was only a very short distance away, but felt somewhat further now.

Stephen seemed to be limping quite a lot, and it turned out some sand had got into his shoe and he had some quite bad blisters on one foot – but he had managed to knock 8½ minutes off his 20-mile PB, which was a good sign for his marathon fitness. Stephen and Paul both seemed to think I looked fresher on finishing than Stephen, which surprised me – I certainly felt pretty tired, but the massage had helped. We said a grateful goodbye to Paul as we were keen to get warm and to get some salt into Stephen.

Reflections post race – I should have done more to massage my thigh muscles as well as the calves as they were complaining a lot the following day, but I had booked a physio appointment on the Tuesday which helped a lot. I was able to do my short recovery run on Monday, though I didn’t find it made much difference either way to the aching legs, whereas my track session on Wednesday went well and my legs felt virtually recovered. The most annoying issue after was a chafed line on my tummy where the running belt or the waistband of my leggings had rubbed – I did tape the bit that usually chafes on a long run, but the bits on either side were pretty sore for a couple of days, so lesson learned to cover more vulnerable points! I did feel pretty down about how hard I had found it, specially the last part, and I am feeling very worried about doubling the distance, but as my coach points out, London will be slower, it will be flatter and certainly won’t be finishing with a steep hill, I will have had another month of training, and most importantly, it will be the culmination of all this effort and once done I will never need to do such long distances again. Everybody says the crowds carry you through, so hopefully all will go well.

3 thoughts on “Milton Keynes Half-Marathon

  1. The whole marathon might seem a bit daunting but look how far you have come already. We are certain the crowds and the training between now and then will put wings on your trainers.

  2. You are doing an awesome job Lucy. The report was interesting and I feel I am doing it with you when I read it! Well done!!

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