The story of my Reading Half Marathon 2017 on Sunday is one of both great success and achievement but also missed opportunity and a little disappointment.
Let’s deal with the last of those first. Disappointment because I really could have probably achieved so much more had it not been for my poxy irritating illness from a few weeks ago. Training had been going pretty well, apart from going over on an ankle one time, and I’d felt confident. Being ill knocked much of that confidence out of me but I’d certainly felt ready as I could have been.
The trip to Reading had been a good one. The flight to London was fine. Our meal in London was lovely. The train to Reading dragged on a bit but it all ran to time. Meeting up with our daughter was fab and we shared a nice meal at our hotel in the Madejski Stadium – it was a fairly good hotel but quite expensive really.
The morning of the race was as full of anxiousness and anticipation as ever. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race village although from my very quick visit back there after the race there probably wasn’t very much there other than retail stalls. The racing started with an earlier 5k event and then a bit before our event with a wheelchair event – sort of. I believe there was one self-propelled chair plus another being pushed by someone else. The self-propelled one didn’t finish as she came off on a bend after around 4 miles. Maybe I’d expected too much from the wheelchair event. Last year’s one had one finisher – only a slight fall then. Maybe that’s the wrong phrase actually…
Anyway, my race started well, stopped again about 20 metres short of the actual start line then started again – don’t know why. There wasn’t a narrowing of the road anywhere near there. The initial phase around the Green Park area was good aside from speed bumps every so often to navigate.
Before long we’d reached the first hills. A steady one up Hartland Road then the nasty one up Whitley Wood Road. I’d decided to set out with the 2-hour pacer group despite my poor recent training and see how I got on. I’d more or less kept up through the big hills but used the downhills on the other side to recover and actually pull slightly clear of the pacer again, although I made sure I didn’t go too far ahead.
My cheering section of Lauren and Jean saw me around the 4 or 5 mile mark as we turned off the road back to the town centre to have a couple of loop sections around the university. I enjoyed seeing them but otherwise didn’t enjoy the university section very much. Lots of short straights and corners and all breaking the running rhythm up a bit.
The run down to town was enjoyable and the run around town was excellent with some fantastic crowds and brilliant drumming, music and DJs. Special mention to the DJ around the halfway point on Friar Street who put on the most Excellent “Sandstorm” as I ran past. Nice choice.
I am told that on the corner before the hill coming out of town that a group were offering beers to runners. I seemed to miss all of that. How disappointing really. It might have made the rest of the run more pleasant. You see that was about 8 miles and from around 10 miles I thought my heart rate indicated that I wasn’t reacting well to the speed / distance so I dropped a little off the 2-hour group. Then a little later still I had stomach cramps which made me stop running a couple of times.
For the final section running into the stadium proper I found the energy to finish off strong. The welcome from the crowd was brilliant, although one of my lasting memories of the stadium was how small it was – I wonder what running into the London Stadium will be like in July.
So after it all I finished in my second fastest half marathon time ever of 2:06:57. Yes it was a good seven minutes slower than what I wanted but at the end of the day I can look back at my training and conclude that I ran so much better than my training really justified. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to Liverpool when I’ll be going for two hours again.
Oh and along with my wife, I’ve signed up – on the day that 2018 entries opened – to do it again next year. The university bit aside it was a fantastic, largely flat course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. It just so happens we love Reading too which definitely helps.