Wow what a morning.
My day started at 5am. Still very dark and outside was cold freezing fog. Brrr. The drive to Oxford was traffic free thankfully - no surprise at that time in the morning. I managed to find the Mini Plant in Oxford with ease. I then sat and chilled out for an hour munching away on a Millies cookie watching the marshals set up their post and get buses ready for when the crowds get in.
By the time I had my kit ready and checked the mist had cleared and there was a cloudless blue sky. The temperature, however, was still near zero and being in my running shorts and t-shirt it was not going to be a pleasant wait for the start at 9:30am.
I hopped onto one of the buses to take me to the start. Watching all the other runners in similar kit and looking just as cold. You could tell instantly who was running and who was supporting. The supporters looked warm and cosy in their jumpers, hats and gloves. Did I mention it was cold?
Kassam stadium was looking busy by the time I turned up at 8:30am. I was glad I'd given myself so much time to be here and have everything ready. I dropped my bag of at the bag storage. At 8:30am there was no cue and a few people milling around. By 9am it was a completely different scene. A very long cue that snaked around the car park and lots of anxious cold people trying to get their bag stored before the race started at 9:30am.
9:30am is getting close. All 4,000 plus runners are ready and waiting for the starting horn. Rubbing arms, dancing on the spot and basically looking like we're going to freeze in the next 5 minutes. Relief surges through the crowd as the horn sounds. We're all looking towards the start. Waiting our turn to step over the chip plate and get into the running groove.
What felt like an incredibly cold start to the morning was really rather nice once you got running. I saw my targets in the distance and set my pace to a nice easy rate. Easy to breath, easy to run, easy movement with my water pack and enough thought left to search the crowds for my target.
Did I mention there were pacers in this race? Each wearing a red t-shirt with expected finish times on them. What a incentive! I spotted my first target within the first mile. 2:30 finish time. Passed with ease. I then started looking for people wearing red t-shirts, no longer targeting the next person in front of me. I wanted to pass the 2:25 pacer, this was looking like it was going to be fun. I spotted them in the distance, I didn't want to increase my pace to much and end up exhausted by the end of the race so I kept my eye on where they were. Each step bringing me closer..... Passed. Not so easy this time. This went on until I passed the 2:15 pacer, I was staggered I'd managed to catch up with this one. Their pace was very even and even more difficult to pass. This was my pace for this distance and if I wanted to get past this pacer I was going to have to push a little past my comfort zone. Could I do it? Could I still finish if I pushed this hard? Oh what the hell, it's only a race and it's not like I'm coming first is it? Weeeee, past the 2:15 pacer.
Passing the 2:15 pacer took it's toll. I was running at a pace I was not comfortable with for at least 4 miles. By the time I got close to the finish nausea swept over me and robbed me of at least a minute. Thankfully it passed and I was able to carry on running through to the finish line. The clock read 2:14 for the gun finish time. What did that mean for my actual running time? I checked my trusty running watch and saw the time was 2:10 - No, it cant be. I stopped because of the nausea. I must of lost loads of time for that. But yes, that was my time. 2 hours 10 minutes. A whole 3 minutes faster than my previous best time for a half marathon. I was amazed. I was running with a hip and ankle injury that was affecting the whole dynamics of my running and yet I managed a personal best.
So for all those peeps out there that think they cant or shouldn't try. Get out there and have a game of chase. Apart from the last mile I found the Oxford Half Marathon very entertaining. The course was flat. The marshals were excellent and the live bands along the route were a welcome break to the running. Thank you Oxford for a lovely day. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.