I hadn’t planned to do the Tewkesbury half marathon. Having taken three months to recover from an injury over the winter, I still wasn’t sure I had it in me to get up to the distance safely. But all it took was for my brother-in-law to tell me that I could do it and the decision was made! I started training just six weeks beforehand.
And on Sunday morning, I picked my brother-in-law up and we headed for Tewkesbury. Having experienced some terrible traffic going to Cheltenham half marathon in the past, we set off early for the 10am start – and there was no traffic! We were there more than an hour early. Luckily, the sun was shining and it wasn’t at all cold. Or maybe that was unluckily…
The start line was at a pub about 10 minutes from the car park and everyone walked up there at about 9.40. The road was closed literally two minutes before the start. There were no pens and no indications of where to stand, so we just had to take a guess.
I was aiming for about 1 hour 55, which I think is a pretty standard time for a half marathon for me. I certainly wasn’t aiming for a PB after such a short period of training. I’d wondered if my brother-in-law might beat me, but he was convinced he would take about 2 hours 5 minutes as he’d had a nasty ankle injury a few months ago and it still troubled him from time-to-time.
I always take a few photos as I start running a half marathon. I probably ‘waste’ a few seconds, but over the course of 13 miles I don’t think that really matters. I looked up from taking my photos and my brother-in-law was already in front of me! And I couldn’t catch him. I was also surprised to find my incredible neighbour in front of me – she is in her 60s and very small, yet a brilliant runner. Although I did overtake her immediately.
We ran through Tewkesbury town, with lots of people cheering and the sun beating down. After just over a mile, I saw my sister’s best friend and her little sons.
As I approached two miles, I saw a silhouette running towards me in the bright sunshine. I couldn’t make out his face, but I didn’t need to – it was my younger son! I would know his shape and his running style anywhere.
‘I’m going to run with you until we get to Dad!’
It was lovely to see him. I wasn’t even sure that he was going to go along to watch. So he ran with me until we got to my husband, daughter, sister, niece and nephew.
We then turned into an industrial estate. I was already very hot and thirsty. I’d only done two miles, but decided I needed a couple of mouthfuls of my drink. Generally on half marathons I only drink from a couple of the water stops, but it was so hot that I drank from all of them at Tewkesbury – and used the rest of it to pour all over my body. The water stops weren’t very well spaced – there were at 2.5 miles, 4.5 miles, seven miles and 11 miles.
Around three miles, there was a bit of a climb to the motorway bridge, followed by another climb. We were running around a rather boring industrial area for a long time. And there was no shade. I could just about make out my brother-in-law in the distance from his height and running style, but he was pulling further and further away from me.
Not that I was going slowly. I achieved a ‘parkrun’ distance in only two minutes off my parkrun PB and my 10k time was about three minutes faster than if I was just running that distance, not running it as half of a half marathon!
We were getting through the miles pretty quickly and it’s all always nice to know you are beyond halfway. Plus it got a bit more scenic after that. We ran through a beautiful Cotswold village called Kemerton. The village of Bredon was very pretty too. Around this point, there were a couple of long and nasty climbs.
My friend Joy aka Pink Oddy had told me she would be at the water point at mile 11 with her running club. I didn’t see her there, then I heard a shout and she was sat on the opposite side of the road with her camera. It is so nice to see people you know when you’re running and it had been a very long time since I’d seen my family!
There were hardly any roads closed for the Tewkesbury half marathon, but the very last stretch, as we ran into the High Street, was closed. My time was looking very good – it was just a few seconds either side of my PB of 1:49:52 I’d set at Stroud last year. I really didn’t know which way it would go.
It was lovely to run into the cheering crowds and I know it spurred me on to run faster, despite the heat and the sun. My mum and dad had arrived to cheer us on too and I saw my family in two separate little crowds – I can’t remember who was with who, but my brother-in-law was already with them wearing his medal and race Tshirt!
I pushed myself over the line. My time was too close to call.
My brother-in-law had finished in under 1 hour 46. My amazing neighbour had come in at under two hours and won her age category and would be getting a medal. And I found out later in the day that I’d finished in 1 hour 49:33. I had beaten my PB by 19 seconds.
I was so glad my brother-in-law had persuaded me to run the Tewkesbury half marathon.