Saturday 14th November, the day had finally arrived. It was the Dirt Half. Now I had put in some fairly decent prep for it, although as always, it never seems enough. I’d driven to Stoke Hammond a couple of times and just attacked the hill – this slight incline, small undulation, tiny bump in the course, had become my nemesis from the previous year. So I made sure I was ready for it.
Now the day was here and the weather was threatening to be wet and wild. Breakfast was eaten, I’d had the team photo taken (which ended up in the LBO) and I was nervously stood at the start line with Michael. The same Michael, who didn’t want to do Dirt Half again, however after much encouragement (bullying/harassing) excitedly signed up and trained with me.
I kept telling myself ‘don’t go out too fast, don’t go out too slow’. But as always with these things, I chose to ignore my mantra and just run. I knew I had gone off fast when at four miles some of the really quick ones in my club started overtaking me…..I thought they’d be miles ahead. At 6 miles I was greeted by a lovely cheer from Glyn, and then it was down towards the hill. Now the speed of the last 6 miles plus the mental anticipation of the hill was started to make my legs and mind tire.
I walked a bit, ran a bit, walked a bit….saw the photographer and was adamant I would at least appear to be running the hill if he was able to get a shot of me (which he did!) . The best thing about this hill, was knowing that there was a water station at the top, and along with it, a fantastic LFR cheer squad. They didn’t disappoint (thanks Max, Pam, Mariam and everyone else).
They did however, give me a jelly baby. And about 10 minutes later I saw that jelly baby again. Note to self: stay away from the green ones!
The rest of the run was torture, I’d made it halfway, and knew I just had to finish. My feet were feeling battered, my energy levels depleted and I just wanted to cry. I’d made it out of the woods, across the water meadow and the slippery bridge, and just as I was coming up the slope towards the Globe I went down like a sack of spuds, I crashed straight onto my knee. My hands, legs and water bottle were covered in mud, and I literally wanted to cry. I plodded along the canal, and saw a rather encouraging Jim B shouting ‘come on Kelly, we saw you walking!’ Hehe! Yes, those last two miles were a lot of walk/run. I could feel the blisters and the pain in my toes from my soggy wet feet.
Then I saw my husband, mum and son cheering me on at Tesco’s. It was just the boost I needed to get me through the final 1.5 miles. Another overhead cheer from the Mentmore Park canal bridge from Dave and Christine, I’m almost there. I made it up the last slippery, muddy hill. It wasn’t an award winning time, I knew it wasn’t. It was tough and it would have to just be another lesson learnt, I turned into the final straight and wait……what is that….the clock is there….2.23. It’s a PB! Yes I’ve got myself a PB! In fact my finisher’s time was 2.22.48, a 5 min half marathon PB and a whopping 12 min off my previous Dirt Half effort. I was absolutely thrilled!
Three weeks later, it’s Sunday 6th December. Storm Desmond has stopped by to see us and I’ve got an undulating Bedford Half in my sights. I’m nervous about this one.
Exactly one year ago, I was all set to do Bedford Half, however the day before was admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis. Thankfully it wasn’t, however this has led to a year of blood tests, scans, x-rays, numerous doctors and consultant visits, daily medication, changes to diet, lots of pain and upset, and I’m still undiagnosed and under consultation.
I’d picked up my number, the team photos were taken, and I’d waved goodbye to my family. I’m about to set out on 13 miles of a route I don’t know, but I know the area so knew the hills were going to be challenging and the wide open country roads would mean Storm Desmond would be a hindrance. First two miles felt good, got into a nice stride, then there was the first hill. I haven’t even completed a 5k and I’m walking! This is quite soul-destroying. I plodded on.
At six miles, I saw my family. I felt defeated. I thought I was letting them down because my head wasn’t in the race and neither was my body 😦 I could feel a blister under the bruised toenail (courtesy of Dirt Half) on my right foot and it was playing on my mind. Then I saw two very special people – Mick and Phil (http://micknphil-marathonlads.com/about.php) . Mick glided past me pushing his son Phil in a wheelchair. You can read their story in the link above. I don’t have cerebral palsy – I have a blister. I’m not pushing a wheelchair – I am dragging me (down!). I took a couple of man up pills (Lucozade jelly beans – other fuel sweeties are available) and cracked on. I saw my halfway time – it was like a blow to the stomach – 1.06.50……then it became a maths run.
Take a minute off for getting across the line…so 1.05.50, PB is 2.22.48. I can afford to do the same again this second half plus an extra 17 minutes to spare……what will that be if 10 min/mil, 11min/mil, 12min/mil….grrrr I’m frustrating myself.
Eight miles gone, I stop for a walking break then I hear the words….the familiar sound I’ve heard at the last few cross countries, the Ampthill Trophy, the Dirt Half……’Come on young lady, even if you jog, keep moving.’ I don’t know his name. He runs with Bedford Harriers and he kicks me up the backside every time! Thank you! Five miles to go and the beans have kicked in. In fact miles 9-10 were fantastic. A lovely long downhill section and a sub 10 min/mil.
At mile 11 I’m handed a cup of beer. I politely decline and hand it back. Could’ve done with that at the end 🙂 Saw my family for a split second as I ran past. Back on form! I’ve got this. The last hill climb through Wootton to the finish line was horrible. All the runners who had already completed their races were wearing their finishers top walking back down the hill towards the coaches. My family were just approaching the finish area, I grabbed my sons hand and he finished the last part of the race with me. I turned that final corner and saw some numbers I just couldn’t believe – 2.18.20 – another PB! My final time was 2.17.48, a huge 5 min improvement on the last race three weeks prior. I’m on cloud nine, absolutely over the moon! And really really looking forward to Milton Keynes Marathon – who knows that elusive sub 5 hour marathon might just be in my sights!