Cheltenham half marathon: Loud ‘n’ Proud

After a couple of good runs recently, I felt I had it in me to beat last year’s time for the Cheltenham half marathon. I’d run 1 hour 55, which was my best time ever. Previously I’d always run two hours, give or take a few seconds – 1 hour 59 minutes and 54 seconds in Bath 2011, 2 hours and 12 seconds in Bristol 2012 and  1 hour 59 minutes and 34 seconds in Forest of Dean 2013.

But the weather forecast wasn’t good. Or it was good. Good for days out and sunbathing. Not good for running – bright sunshine and temperatures in the 20s. An email from the half marathon organisers said ‘this isn’t the time for personal bests’. Damn!

The main difference between a race and a training run (apart from the thousands of other runners!) is the wait between leaving the house and actually running – so you have to think a bit more about eating, drinking and going to the toilet. When I train, I will drink almost until I leave the house and will go to the toilet just before I set off.

We parked the car and arrived at the start in good time. There was just one thing to do – go to the toilet. But the queues were SHOCKING. I joined a queue at 8.36am and was still there at 8.57. The race started at 9am. I decided to abandon the toilet trip and get to the start line. I wasn’t sure how I would manage. I don’t normally need a wee as I run, because I’m sweating off liquid, but I was taking a risk.

Half marathon, Running, Start line, Loud 'n' Proud, Cheltenham

I’m in there somewhere!

I squeezed into the ‘sub 2 hour’ area and moved gradually towards the line. As the clock got to three minutes, I crossed the line and started running. Years ago, when my husband was running half marathons, a friend advised him to start in the area which is slightly faster than you actually expect to go – so if you expect to run in two hours, go in the hour 1 hour 45 section – as it’s easier to be overtaken than to overtake. It seemed like everyone else was following this principle as I was overtaking an awful lot of people. My first five minutes were slower than I would like – running at 8 minutes 40 seconds per mile pace. That’s a good pace to be finishing at, but you don’t want to start at it, as you’re going to slow down. So I picked up the pace and the people started to thin out. I was at the one mile marker before I knew it.

We ran through a council estate, cheered on by families in pyjamas, smoking and drinking mugs of tea. Then it was into the centre of town and we were at the two mile marker in no time. Up a slight hill and out of the town centre into a middle class area – where the spectators were fully dressed and not smoking. The elite runners looped past us ‘normal’ runners, then a mile later we looped round the fun-runners and first-timers, including a friend of mine. Past a boarding school, cheered on by posh kids in onesies and wrapped in blankets. The three mile marker seemed to take a bit longer to come.

It was incredible how quickly the mile markers were appeared. We ran back into town, with crowds cheering all the way. Kids handed out sweets and people took photos. And I just kept overtaking people. My time was good – under 8 minutes 30 per mile. If I could keep it going, I’d be on for the personal best.

We ran through a village and up one of the few hills in the race. I was running behind a woman in a Winston’s Wish vest who I’d been running behind for some time. As I finally passed her on the hill, she said ‘Sarah!’. It was only one of my oldest friends, running her first half marathon and doing a very good time! We had a brief chat, then I ran on a bit. We were nearly at the racecourse.

Cheltenham racecourse is a great place for horse racing (if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t), as well as concerts, festivals and firework displays. But it is not, in my humble opinion, a good place to run races. You cover almost a quarter of the half marathon on Cheltenham racecourse  – from nine miles right until 12 – and it’s a soul-destroying place to run. Everywhere you look there are trails of people, like ants, looping around the course – fast runners leaving the course, slower runners arriving. But when I arrived at the racecourse I saw, in the space of a minute, two families from school and my mum and dad, which put a real smile on my face. It was also the point when the dreaded sun came out and the temperature shot up, just when there was no shade.

I hadn’t seen my husband and daughter at all during the race, despite looking out for them. Halfway round the racecourse, they rang me. They’d kept missing me, but one of the ladies from school had told them she’d seen me and they were waiting ready to cheer me on as I left the racecourse. At 12 miles, just before leaving the racecourse, there is a killer hill. A steep hill, plus heat and bright sunshine and 12 miles under the belt, is not easy. If I’d hit that hill under those conditions at eight miles, I would probably have walked, but it was too close to the end. I had to keep running – even if it was walking pace. I grabbed a bottle of water and poured it on myself. I was dead on my feet by the time I saw my husband and daughter. It was so lovely to see my girl. My husband shouted that he thought I was on for one hour 56, but I thought I was faster.

It was so nearly over – turn left out of the racecourse, down the hill, past Pittville Pump Room, then downhill all the way to the finish line. It’s incredible how far the last 0.1 mile after the 13 mile marker seemed to be. I pushed myself as hard as I could go. I was feeling exhuasted, but I had to do a sprint finish. It looked like I’d done 1 hour 52!

In reality, my time was 1 hour 51 and 55 seconds. I couldn’t believe it. I had come 1,023rd out of 2,944 people taking part and was the 48th woman over 40 to cross the line. For someone who is not a natural athlete, that is a real achievement. I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud I’d smashed my personal best. All the training had really paid off.

medal

If you or your kids have achieved anything which makes you Loud ‘n’ Proud this week, please add your posts to the linky below.

Sadly Judith from Secrets of the Sandpit has stepped down from the Loud ‘n’ Proud team, but has done a fantastic job for us over the last few months. We’re pleased that Julie from Mama Owl is taking over in her place and will be hosting from next week.

Mum of Three World



Author: Sarah Mummy

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32 Comments

  1. Wow that is brilliant timing and I love how you’ve written this too, sounds like the whole journey is etched vividly in your mind. Hope your feet are feeling much better now!

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    • Thanks very much! It is vividly etched on my mind – I was actually trying to remember as I ran. It helps that a lot of the places are familiar too. Feet are a lot better, thank goodness!

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  2. Brilliant write up Sarah! I don’t think many of us can top this one : -)
    Having done just one half marathon, i felt like I was running it with you! The racecourse is a killer bit you did brilliantly to keep yourself motivated. Fantastic time, you must be floating on air with a sense of achievement! Well done x

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    • Thanks very much. I really loved it and was so pleased with my achievement. My only problem is knowing I will never top it. Or will I?!

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    • Thanks very much. I was so chuffed! x

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  3. I take my hat off to you – I can’t run for toffee these days. Well done – a fantastic achievement!

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    • Thanks very much 🙂

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  4. That’s a great achievement. And you should be so proud. You have my admirations! Keep going 🙂

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    • Thanks very much 🙂

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    • Thanks very much, it really does! I never thought I would top last year’s.

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    • Thanks very much. x

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    • Thank you! I was really pleased 🙂

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  5. Wow that is so impressive to me, I am not much of a runner at the best of times and I am not sure I could imagine doing a half marathon! I bet the feeling of achievement is incredible though so well done you! xx

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    • Thank you! It is a great sense of achievement. I reckon most people could do it if they built up gradually.

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  6. That’s a fantastic achievement. Well done, you!

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    • Thanks very much, it was a fantastic experience 🙂

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  7. My goodness, this is amazing! Well done, what an achievement. This is such an entertaining read, thank you for sharing your journey.

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    • Thank you! Nice to hear it was an entertaining read 🙂

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  8. Loved following your progress on this. Hope the buzz lasts you till next year x

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  9. What a great day Sarah and a brilliant time. I am trying to get back into running after the holidays and finding 3 miles hard work. You did great 🙂

    Thanks for linking up #weekendbloghop

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    • Thanks very much, Claire. I’m sure you’ll be back to it before long! Always a pleasure to link up.

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  10. Ah love this Sarah. Congratulations on your personal best! Amazing!! I could only dream of running something like this! I’m so unfit…. I keep saying I’m going to start running (or fast walking lol) but never get round to it! Well done again x

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    • Thanks very much. I’m sure you could do it if you gave it a go! x

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  11. Ah well done!! That’s such an achievement. I’m just back from a 4 mile run that took 45 minutes, so my time may not be too good when I run the Royal Parks in 4 weeks time. But I’m just going to be pleased to get round for my first go 🙂

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    • Thanks very much! Getting round will be a great achievement. That’s all I wanted to do first time. It was only when I realised I could still run as fast as I did in my early 20s that I started pushing myself to do better!

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  12. Brilliant achievement, very well done 🙂 I love how you describe the different areas you ran through by the people and what they were wearing!

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  13. If I was wearing a hat, I’d take it off to you. Fantastic achievement. I love how you described the spectators by their areas, I’d have been giggling away.
    Thanks for linking up with #wellbeingwednesday 🙂

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    • Thanks very much! I always keep my mind active by observing what’s going on around me as I’m running 🙂

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  1. Project 365: Week 37 - Mum of Three World - […] 250 – Sunday 7th September – Cheltenham half marathon day! My husband and daughter kept missing me (I was…
  2. Wellbeing Wednesday #WellbeingWednesday » AutismMumma - […] @sarahmo3w was smashing her personal best in a half marathon […]

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