A number of people asked me why I was running another half marathon only two weeks after the Brighton Half, and I couldn’t tell them. It seemed like a good idea at the time; signing up for the Dartford Half, even though Brighton was already in the diary. But it was local, and had a bright blue track to finish on, so what would be the harm!?
Brighton didn’t break me, but it tired me, and then the lack of running I did after it probably didn’t help, but Adam was injured now, and with him not going out running, I found it easy to stay in with him instead.
After the high of Brighton (the 9 minute PB, running all the way, friends doing great too, the weekend away etc.), I didn’t see the point in Dartford. I wasn’t going to get a PB (it is hilly), I wasn’t going to be able to run it all (it is hilly), it wasn’t a weekend away (it was a 25 minute drive)… I just didn’t see the point. They even had a very relaxed cancellation policy meaning you could even turn up on the day, hand in your number and be deferred to 2018 at no extra cost. It also looked like it was going to rain, hard, all morning while we would be out there.
But I didn’t defer, and I did turn up, and it was actually pretty good!
Our friend Jo was staying with us the night before as she was running it too, so I found it a good excuse to eat lots of pasta (we haven’t cooked pasta in the house since October!), watch some Friends and spend a whole evening talking about what to wear to combat the rain due the next day.
But in the morning, the weather app demoted it to light rain, and maybe even no rain and some sun to properly mess with us!
I don’t know Dartford and the surrounding areas very well, so this was a definite adventure run (though a highly organised and very well marshalled one!). Upon arrival, there was much standing around, many trips to the toilets, nervous pinning and un-pinning of running numbers, and taking off/putting on of tops while gauging the temperature.
I settled for just a top (no over-layer) and boy, am I glad I did!
The course goes around Central Park, then south out into the countryside, before looping around near Longfield, along a main road, then up a ‘massive’ hill past another park, before 5km through residential streets downhill to the athletics track for 300m and then done.
I won’t go into detail, mainly as I don’t remember it all, but it was a nice course – pretty, scenic and of good terrain. There were hills, which I knew of but nothing about, and I tackled the first two with a slow, small-stepped run. The third was fine until the top when I gave in and mission-walked, and the fourth (the ‘big one’ that everyone just kept talking about ALL. THE. TIME.) wasn’t actually that bad. It was after 10 miles, and it was high and long, but it wasn’t steep. Saying that though, I walked 80% of it.
I was very glad to be moving downhill for that last 3m, even though it was all residential and there were no moving cars, stepping up and down all of the kerbs was a bit of a pain, but smiley marshals with jelly babies helped!
Upon entering the park again from a different side (I had no idea where we were at any point on the route!), we finally came back to within view of the track and the finishing arch. But, they make you run off, around the park, messing with you that you are so close, but then adding on what seemed like a massive loop around some flower beds, before taking you into the arena, onto the bright blue track and on to the finish.
Julie Creffield, creator of #TooFatToRun once wrote of a game to play in the second half of a race. Once past half-way, start to count the number of people you pass, taking away any that pass you. In a large race, the aim is to get to 100. So after the third water station, about 7.5 miles in, I started counting, with the aim of maybe getting to 50. This dropped to 25 when I got to a long straight road and saw how thinned-out the field now was.
Before re-entering the park I was at 11, passing 12 in total but with one person sprinting ahead (she must have started late or stopped for the loo or something as I never saw her again). During that last lap of the park I was on 13, and then on the track in those last 300m I took 2 more. Happy days!
I passed the line in a time of 2:35:37, which I will take happily. It was a harder course than Brighton, and I took a few walking breaks through the water-stations and on the hills, it was also much warmer than Brighton, which was a surprise!
I always try to work out my goals for a race, but I couldn’t lock ones for this one down. I was thinking maybe: C – complete and not be broken, B – sub 2:37 (my pre-Brighton PB), A – around 2:30.
While I was running these very swiftly changed to: finish, if you get under 2:37 then good, under 2:35 would be great. I didn’t get to great, and got ‘good’, but it was my fastest half on Strava as the course came up as 13:19m giving me a time for the half of 2:34:51.
I felt quite good afterwards – I pushed in the last 80m or so as I like to finish strong (even though I never feel it!), and so had to walk around a bit to recover, but with hugs from Adam, my Mum (who came to see me finish and keep Adam company) and Jo, I was feeling OK. (Jo got a PB too with 1:54:02, a week after completing the Cambridge Half, in 1:54:50, and two weeks after the Tarpley 20m, in 3:06! BLOODY HELL JO!)
A trip to Harvester for all of us, lots of chicken and a de-brief closed out the events, and going home meant I could have a not-intentionally tepid Epsom salt bath, a good sit down and lots of chocolate.
I now have the Ranscombe Spring Challenge on 8th April (hoping for another half), and then a large gap (minus Harvel5) until the next biggy which will be the Cotswold 24hr Relay Race at end-July.