Surrey Half is one of my favourite races, and luckily it’s right on my doorstep. I ran the first event back in 2012, and excluding last ear (when I was in Barcelona for the marathon), I’ve run it every year since. Rude not to, really! 😉
Yesterday, I woke up to rain and grey skies, and for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t the weather though. I was nervous, anxious, and worried that I couldn’t handle the distance. This sounds a bit stupid, as I’m most of the way through my marathon training and ran a half in Brighton just the other week. But Brighton was one of my slowest half marathon times, and I’ve really struggled to find motivation for my other marathon training runs recently. I’ve been running far slower than before, and have struggled with a niggly hip over the past month or so, to boot!
But I forced myself out of bed, got my kit together and was on a train to Woking by 8am. Luckily it’s just 1 stop from Guildford, and then a nice downhill 10-minute walk to the start area in Woking park. As always, the event was brilliantly organised – I followed the crowds into the Liesure Centre, along sign-posted halls to the bag drop, and out the far side of the centre right into the corrals. I didn’t notice any portaloos, but I wasn’t really looking for them – and I did hear that there were plenty, with almost no queues. This was definitely the case in previous years.
However this year, for the first time EVER there was a huuuge queue to get into the bag drop. I think it was just the volume of runners! Despite the rain, runners in the queue were in high spirits. Once inside they got us sorted out pretty quickly, and luckily I still made it into my corral 10 minutes before the start.
As we crossed the start line, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned into pouring rain. But there were so many spectators along the course cheering us on, and the first 6 miles seemed to fly by, especially as the first half is mostly flat.
The second half was just as lively as the first – there were a few quieter stretches along some of the country roads, but so many locals were out and there was such a good atmosphere among the runners that I don’t really remember a lack of support at any point. This has been the case every year I’ve run this one, and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!
Soaking up the crowd support (and the rain!) and digging in for the last .1
It also really helped that the route covered the same roads as my regular training runs – and my old run/cycle commute. It meant that I could break the run up a bit, and I knew which hills were coming, and could pace myself for them. I’d started in between the 2:20 and 2:30 pacer, and my only goal was to break 2:30 (as none of my road half marathons had been slower than that). But by about 8 or 9 miles my hip had started to really hurt, and I had begun to take regular walking breaks.
It was around 9 miles that a little boy shouted out ‘You’re in the race! Yay, you’re in the race!’ and it reminded me that my time wasn’t important. I just had to take in the atmosphere, push on and try to enjoy myself! Still, when I saw my pace creeping into the 12s, I made a deal with myself to only walk up the hills from then on. It seemed to work, and by the time we hit the big downhill towards Mayford at about 11 miles, I was starting to feel quite good – and had brought my pace up a bit!
There was one last short, sharp hill at about 12 miles, and after that the crowd support (having our names on our race numbers made this even better!) meant that any chances of walking in the last mile went out the window. It was still drizzling, I was soaked and could feel blisters and some chafing, but managed to block it out and pushed on past the 13m marker, over the last main road and back into the park. The finishing straight was on a slight downhill, which was brilliant for a sprint finish (8:20 – not as fast as Brighton, but still pretty speedy for me, and much faster than I expected – no tailwind for me this time!). I got a lot of cheers heading towards the finish line, and managed to overtake a few runners, which felt great 😀
The organisation at the finish is just as good. Carrying on past the finish line you collect your medal, a bottle of water and a snack, and then go back into the Leisure Centre to pick up your bags. No queuing, no getting lost, and we were in and out within 5 minutes (as opposed to the 15 minute queue before the race). The lady at the bag drop had mine waiting for me with a big smile before I’d even reached the desk!
The bling makes it all worth it 😉
I got changed in the Leisure Centre toilets, which took a while (everything was wet, and my hands were numb – lethal combo!) and then James and I went into Woking for a massive burger. All in all, despite the nerves that morning, I’m SO glad I went along. The minute I was in the corral, I was reminded just why I love these events so much – the camaraderie, the support, the celebration at the finish. Regardless of the pace, the weather, or the distance, days like yesterday remind me that running can be bloody awesome.
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Did you race this weekend? How did it go?