I didn’t have any real aim for the Stroud half marathon. I wasn’t out to get a PB, or even a particularly quick time. It was a new route for me and I was coming back from injury. I would be happy to get under two hours.
I don’t know Stroud very well, but I do know that it’s hilly. Opinions on how hilly the half marathon actually is seemed to vary. Were people saying it ‘wasn’t hilly’ just so other people would sign up? Nobody I spoke to on the morning had actually done it before. But it was in its 36th year, making it one of the longest-running half marathons in the country, so they must have been doing something right.
In the days leading up to the Stroud half marathon, and particularly on the morning, I had a wobble. I didn’t want to do it.
But I lined up at the start line and told myself I was going to do it and I was going to enjoy it. I decided to smile as I ran. Fake it until you make it. If you smile, you feel happy.
So I started running.
We ran out of Stroud and into Stonehouse. The 1 mile marker seemed to come very quickly, as did the 2 mile marker and the 3 mile marker.
For someone who didn’t have any particular aim or time in mind, I was running rather quickly – at about 8 minutes 20/ mile.
I had no idea where the route was going to take me as I hadn’t seen a map. Not that a map would have particularly helped as I don’t know Stroud. It soon became apparent that the Stroud half marathon is more the Stroud DISTRICT half marathon than the actual Stroud half marathon. While the Cheltenham half marathon never goes more than three miles from the town centre, the Stroud half marathon goes a long way out of the town and into the countryside, running from one village to the next.
As a result, there were less supporters, which is a shame. Supporters can give you a massive boost. As can listening to music, but music was banned!
It turned out that route was neither hilly, nor flat. It was more undulating. There was a lot of short climbs, followed by nice downhills.
And the mile markers kept coming really quickly.
There were a few supporters in the village of Standish at about five miles, then we crossed over the M5, turned a corner and ran onto the A38. A main road running parallel to the M5 (in fact the M5 route is actually based on the A38). The road wasn’t closed, in fact none of the roads were, and we were just separated from the traffic, by a row of cones.
Then we were back over the M5 and onto the return leg. Seven miles run and I hadn’t even clocked up an hour.
This was looking like a very good time!
Just before nine miles, we ran into an industrial estate. At the entrance to the industrial estate was a choir singing Shut Up and Dance, which is my lucky song. When you’ve run nearly nine miles, that’s exactly the sort of song you need to hear. As we ran into the estate, lots of people were already running back out. After about a mile and a half, I was the one running out as others ran in.
And even though everything was starting to hurt a bit – ITB, hips, toenails – I realised that I had less than three miles to go and it would be a miracle/ disaster if I didn’t get a PB.
The last two miles retraced our steps from the start of the race – through Stonehouse and back into Stroud. The crowds were bigger and the cheering louder. The sun was shining, there was one last hill to climb and a PB to beat.
I hadn’t just enjoyed the half marathon I didn’t want to do, I’d achieved the impossible and I’d smashed it.
I crossed the line a full two minutes and three seconds quicker than the PB I’d set at Cheltenham in 2014. My new PB stands at one hour, 49 minutes and 52 seconds.
Stroud half marathon might just be my new favourite race.