When we last left the intrepid Team Tough Gaffs one of them had sensibly already departed the pub, leaving the other two, under trained idiots compounding their lack of training by drinking heavily as recommended in step one of the patented Gaffney 1/2 marathon training plan. When they were reunited back at the Country Gaffney’s mansion, there was a brief reminder from the sober one to the not-so-sober ones that the race started at 9 and we would need to be up at 7.30 and then all departed to bed*.
Come 7.30, the sober one was already up, had double porridged and was heading out the door to help the local running club set up. The remainder of the team struggled to get up, eat and dress. More importantly we struggled to find any painkillers**. I did suggest that as I was allergic to running that the benadryl might do the trick but was over-ruled. Finally ready and nursing slightly sore heads, we left the house and headed to the start.
The first thing I noticed when we got out the car was how bloody freezing it was, a brisk 1 degree, plus wind chill, taking it down to -3 according to the local paper. I was particularly frozen as footgloves are not known for their insulating properties. While we tried to shelter and stay warm waiting to be called to the start, Fiona reminded us of the offer she had made the previous evening, before leaving us to carb up on liquids. Mainly that if we could make it round in less than two hours 30, she’d shout sunday lunch. She seemed quite confident, and who could blame her? My previous PB for a 1/2 was two hours 48 ish and Sean had never attempted one, plus she’d seen us when we got in.
Not nearly soon enough the assembled runners were called and off we went. As Fiona was aiming for sub-two hours and we were aiming not to die, we lined up a fair distance apart. As we trundled off Sean and I agree to just take it steady and see how we went. Coming in under the 150 minute mark did seem a tad ambitious, as did Sean’s aim to try and average ten minute something miles. Fortunately at some point in the past I’d set the garmin lap marker for miles and so we got a regular update on our progress, which was as surprising as it was encouraging.
What wasn’t encouraging was the weather. It was f’cking freezing. I’d eschewed running in (hand) gloves as in previous races I’ve got way too hot in the first mile and then had to run holding the damn things for the rest of the race. This time I regretted not having them, especially when my hands went completely numb. I wasn’t the only runner with this issue, we passed one guy running with his hands in his jacket pockets, giving him a rather blase air. Eventually my hands warmed up as did the rest of me, though not enough to remove my jacket for more than a mile or so mid-race.
Back to the course which was incredibly varied, taking in the town centre, a nice scenic bit by the river, the not-so scenic out of town trading estates and a couple of villages on the outskirts. It was pretty well supported all the way round, excellently marshalled and with lots of water stops. Much of the first seven miles was mainly down. We’re pretty good at down, gravity and stumpy legs combining nicely for a fast, for us, turn of speed. On the flat we kept it going pretty well and only really hit a big stumbling block seven miles in. Henford Hill, a nice steady incline of .7 miles, or so I’m told. I’m also told that Yeovil is the only half to have a King of the Hill contest, with this year’s winner making it up in 2 mins.12 seconds.
At that point my legs gave me a choice, they would do the hill or the remaining six miles, but not both. I started to walk, Sean kept going as he wanted to do a leg stop at the top. One leg/water/jelly-baby/pit stop later and off we went having completed our slowest mile thus far but still on for the target time. Not much later we hit the eight mile mark and I calculated we had an hour to complete the race and get lunch paid for.
It was also at that point we were both started to struggle and by mile 10 were decided to employ intervals*** based on the proven policy of run the downs, walk the ups and make a judgement call on the flats. As we hit each mile marker there was a not-so-quick mental calculation of how much time we had left to complete and win lunch. Each time we were a tad surprised by the margin we’d somehow built in, by mile 10 we had 40 minutes to complete and by mile 12 we had 18 minutes to make the final mile and one tenth. By this point though we were almost walking as much as running and the last mile seemed to be taking forever. It was down a long, straight country lane, few other runners were in sight and there was a nice chilly headwind. It was somewhere on that mile my Garmin died and I seriously began to doubt we’d make the self-imposed target.
Then ahead a couple of runners appeared, running the wrong way. It was Fiona plus friend who had come back to encourage us in the final stretch, which helped as I was beginning to believe this lane really would last forever. Admittedly I didn’t actually show my appreciation at the time and might have been a tad snappy when encouraged to run a little earlier than I wanted to, but finally there was the 13 mile marker and the entrance to the ground. By this point we were running again and as we drew closer to the finishing arch I could see the clock said two hours something, but not quite what. To my squinting eyes it was two hours 20-something or 50-something. In my eagerness to see if we had actually done it ,I broke into the nearest thing to a sprint as I could muster, which as you can tell from the photo it was taking some serious effort. Although I did achieve a state of levitation, albeit briefly.
We crossed the line in two hours twenty-five and sixteen seconds, 29 minutes behind Fiona who smashed her PB with a time of one hour fifty-six and twenty-eight seconds, averaging just under nine minute miles. In a state of shock we picked up our rather lovely medals and goody bags (water, energy bars and a sachet of bio-freeze gel) and headed off to find Fiona and some warmth.
PB’s all round and so all in all a good days work, which was well deserved and earned on Fiona’s part and possibly
definitely jammy on Sean and my part. It does bode well for the Dirty Weekend in seven weeks time, well if I can actually get a decent run of training in it does.
*Actually not so sure on that, it’s a little hazy at this point, I think there might have been some late night snacking first
** Step three in patented Gaffney 1/2 marathon training plan, take painkillers before the pain has a chance to start, ideally before you even left the house of the race
*** Step four in the patented Gaffney 1/2 marathon training plan, if you can’t run walk as fast as you can, stride it out, employing a decent arm swing to aid forward momentum, no trudging allowed.