Gosport Half Marathon

Montage of Tamsyn running at Gosport Half Marathon

Today was my last ‘proper’* race of the year. Although I knew I hadn’t prepared adequately for it, I was actually feeling quite good. I ran 10 miles a couple of times when I was on holiday in Portugal, did a 10-mile training run on 2nd November and a 15k run last weekend. None of these were at the pace I wanted to run at, but they were better than I’ve managed for a long time.

As part of my final preparations for Gosport, I went out to Liz’s flat for a party last night. I didn’t drink any alcohol, but I did have a bit of chocolate cake. I’m not sure that’s how the elites roll, but it was good!

Getting to the start

I got up at 7am today, dressed for the race and ate a bowl of porridge with dried mango, before heading off to pick up Justin at 8:15am.

We arrived at race HQ fairly early and were able to get our race numbers and chips. As usual, there was a long queue for the toilets. At least they were real loos and not just portaloos. After I came out, I saw a few people I know, so I stopped to chat with them. I think it was a good move as I realised that it was raining hard outside. Last year, the weather was cold when this race took place, but I overheated at 8 miles. I was hoping that it would be cold again and that I wouldn’t have similar issues.

Soon it was time to line up at the start. I was with Jenny and Helena, who were both hoping to finish in under 2 hours. I knew that I needed to keep my pace at <5:40/km, but I didn’t want to go off too quickly, which is one of my bad habits. Last year, I resolved not to check my watch until I had run two miles. I decided that would be a sensible option again this year. I could see several LRRs up ahead, and Jenny went speeding off, but I decided to hold back a little.

Jon shared this video of the start of the race. I can be seen in the centre of the picture at 4:23 onwards!

The first half of the race

At the two-mile marker, I could see that I was running at about 5:15/km, but I was feeling good. I decided to slow slightly, but that I wouldn’t slow right down to 5:40/km. A little while later, I saw my husband, Stu, who had cycled over from Southampton to cheer runners on. It was lovely to see a friendly face.

I continued on, but at six miles, I started to wonder why I had entered the race. There just seemed to be so much further to run and I was already feeling a little bit tired. Fortunately, there were quite a few LRR supporters at the 10km turnaround point, which helped to motivate me. It was also good to see John, one of Stu’s training partners, and his son.

The turnaround helped to motivate me as I was able to see quite a few LRRs. First, there was Kelly, then Paul and then I saw Elaine, Aurelio, Rachel and Luana… but I can’t remember what order they were in. Becky from STC was there… and I could see that James wasn’t too far ahead. I also heard a familiar voice. I couldn’t see him, but I saw the front wheel of the lead bike announcing that the first finisher was on his way. My buddy Jules is currently on the road to recovery from a foot/ankle injury, so he decided to use the opportunity to take his new wheels out for a spin!

Catching up with James

I thought that I might be able to catch up with James who was also targeting sub 2 hours, but I didn’t want to pick up my pace too much to catch up with him as I knew I would pay for it later. I decided that a more sensible tactic would be to slowly reel him in. Unfortunately, James was not having a happy race and had started to slow.

It wasn’t long before Kelly ran past me. We did our first ever half marathon together, but Kelly is on great form know, so I expected her to beat me. Then Lisa ran past. I hadn’t noticed her at the turnaround, but she was moving at a great pace. I saw her slow a little to chat to James before heading off into the distance.

Just before the 8-mile water station, I caught up with James, but I was starting to feel fatigued and was not breathing as well as I wanted to, so I was unable to speak to him. I had my inhaler zipped into my pocket, but I’m not good at using it whilst moving, so I was hoping that I wouldn’t need it.

Taking on water

I was very concerned that I would overheat like last year, so I decided to try to take on a mouthful of water at every drinks station and to throw the rest of the cup over me. Although this helped a little, I was still starting to overheat. I think my pace dropped a little, so I had to tell myself to harden up and pick up the pace. I knew how disappointed I would feel if I finished just outside of my goal time again.

Although I was feeling warm, it wasn’t as bad as last year and my legs and lungs seemed to be doing OK, so I pushed on. It seemed to take a long time before I got to the loop at the far end of the course, but eventually, I made it and a lovely little downhill section took me on to the long home straight.

A small section of the race was on shingle, which is one of the surfaces that I hate to run on most as I always get pebbles in my shoes, but fortune was smiling on me today, and I managed not to pick up any gravel!

Seeing supporters

Quite a few LRRs were out supporting on the course, which was great. Having my name on my club shirt means that quite a few people shout encouragement, but it’s even better when it’s someone you know. Lawrence and Mike had cycled out to cheer us on and had positioned themselves on opposite sides of the path: Lawrence had a camera on my left and Mike was on the shingle to my right. I was so happy when I saw them that I gave a big cheer!

Tamsyn running near the sea whilst waving at the camera with both arms.
Pleased to see Lawrence and Mike out cheering on runners © Lawrence Chen
Tamsyn smiling at someone whilst running. © Lawrence Chen.
Smiling at Mike who was on my right © Lawrence Chen

I knew that the next supporter I saw would be Stu, just at the top of a ramp. I was so happy to see him, but I also warned him that I was feeling unwell and asked him to go to the finish.

The last mile

I found the final mile really difficult. It was windy and I was feeling very hot and tired, but I was so desperate to achieve my goal and knew that as long as I didn’t slow down too much I would make it. A lovely older chap from Winchester tried to encourage me. He said that he had been following me for quite a long time. I said that I was struggling to breathe, so he very kindly counted for a little bit in the hope that it would get me back into a rhythm. I couldn’t stick with him but knew that the final turn would be coming up soon.

As I turned the final corner, I knew I had about 400m left to go. Quite a few people were passing me, but I was too focused on my own personal goal to care about taking them on. Eventually, I saw the 13-mile sign and then saw Kim cheering people on. I was so happy to see her and knew I was going to reach my target. I shouted, “I’m going to do it” and sprinted for the line, passing the chap from Winchester.

The finish

The time on the clock (gun time) was 1:58:43. I had achieved my goal! I felt so elated… but knew that I couldn’t just stop as I was feeling dehydrated and really shaky. After several races I’ve fainted and I wanted to cool down a bit. LRR Captain Emily came over to me and helped me to get a cup of water before I had my chip removed and was presented with a medal and a goody bag.

The goody bag at Gosport Half Marathon is always packed with lovely stuff:

  • Finger of fudge
  • Wagon wheel
  • Hula hoops
  • Slice of carrot cake
  • Pen
  • Banana

It’s also a reusable drawstring cotton bag, which is handy.

My chip time

I had a look at my watch and could see that it said 1:57, but could not find out where the seconds were displayed until I got home. My chip time and my Garmin time were identical: 1:57:37. I had smashed my goal 😀 Frustratingly, I was 59/117 in my category (F35-39), so not quite in the top half, but that’s not too bad. I’ve been so desperate to run a half marathon in under 2 hours.

Amongst my running friends, I don’t think it’s a terribly impressive achievement, so I was surprised when one friend told me that only 15% of female half marathoners manage to finish in under 2 hours! http://www.runnersgoal.com/how-to-run-a-half-marathon-in-under-2-hours/ I think this race is different as it’s part of the Hampshire Road Race League and is therefore very popular with club runners (rather than ‘ordinary’ people). The race’s popularity is such that it even featured on the local news.

My next goal

I still need to take another 5:30 off my time before Southampton Half Marathon in April, but if I can maintain my confidence and my training as well as eat well and lose weight, I’m genuinely starting to think it could be possible 🙂

This result has been a long time coming and there are several people who have helped me to get to this point this year: Stu for always looking after me; Ant for helping me at Run Camp; all of the Embrace Sports guys, but especially Graeme; all of my amazing team-mates from SOAS racing – when the race felt bleak I thought of you all and didn’t want to let you down! – and Huw for pushing me at Tri Club track sessions. THANK YOU!

It also seems fitting that this has happened on the same weekend when I’ve found out that I am going to be a brand ambassador for SOAS in 2015. I am so proud of this and feel honoured to join so many inspirational women who are achieving at levels that I can only dream of!

Catching up with friends

At the end of the race, I caught up with quite a few fellow club runners and friends from Southampton Tri Club. Many of them got PBs and the ones who didn’t generally had good races, which was great. It was also lovely to catch up with Sam who I met on my last Embrace Sports holiday.

Tamsyn posing with Sam after Gosport Half Marathon.
Posing with Sam after Gosport Half Marathon

Sadly, Sam has a foot injury, so her race didn’t turn out as planned. I know that as soon as it’s fixed she’ll be back out there getting PBs (and celebrating with bubbly) again!

Full results for Gosport Half Marathon.

What to do with old race t-shirts?

I’ve been having a clear out and have been trying to decide what to do with all of my old race t-shirts. I used to wear some of them at the gym, but I do fewer classes now and have plenty of technical t-shirts, so I don’t use them any more. I think I’ll probably make a quilt out of them.

An article that I’ve read this afternoon is Human body: the ‘ultra-athletes’ aged 60+. It’s a really interesting article that suggests that people shouldn’t just ‘give up’ when they retire.

*I’m planning to do several more parkruns and a ‘Santa dash’ before December 31st. There are no more cross-country races for me to do until January and I haven’t paid to enter any more running events.

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