Easter Sunday 2024

I had entered Gloucester half moreover as a “training run” for the bigger picture and goal for the 2024 season and to comfortably get the distance under my belt and to work on a pacing strategy.

In the past I had only actually completed 2 half marathons, Edinburgh in 2019 and the most recent , the run leg of the Cotswold 113 in 2023. In 2019, I had signed up for the Bath Half in the March , but had to withdraw due to injury, and it was then a fight and struggle to train and be ready for Edinburgh in the May. I managed to get to the start line, but being better supported, prepared and trained for Gloucester this time round made me realise what I had done for Edinburgh wasn’t anywhere near enough and I was still carrying and injury… I had entered Stroud in 2022 but again didn’t make the start line because of injury. The run leg of the 113 was hard , as after the first mile , cramp was the order for the day, again, on reflection, the training and build up wasn’t anywhere near as good as it could have been, so if nothing else, I am learning ! Both in Edinburgh and the 113  I completed a run time of approximately 2:27 . 

Gloucester was entered and what I thought was a realistic and achievable goal of 2 hours was set. It was a training run after all.

The build up wasn’t the greatest, with a mild chest infection 4 weeks out, and then a two week residential course in London, swiftly followed by the Norovirus at the start of the week leading up to the Run. Little niggles and concerns crept in, but some helpful and calming reassurance from the maestro that is my coach, I rested up and set a target in my head to do what I seem to do regardless, pick a pace, stick to it and get it done, the good ol’ trusty TTG mindset.

Run day arrived. Race start was posted as 9 am, on Easter Sunday , which in reality was 8am because BST had sprung upon on us.

Gloucester Park, the start point, was a bit damp under foot and muddy from the extended winter rain that we had suffered for most of March (and February, and January and Dec… I think you get the idea ). The Easter fayre was on in the park, but Run Through events had laid on a decent event village with music, stalls and Marshalls to get people in the mindset. 

Quite quickly I was able to spot and chat with Von (Yvonne F), who as always was happy and full of the joys of spring. Both of us joined what seems to be an eternal queue for the portapotties before the run got under way before we made our way to our respective running “pens”.  I headed for the 2:00 Pacer, a lovely chap called James and then without warning the whole crowd seemingly started surging forward.

At this point, I saw Jason K. We spoke briefly about each other’s runs (Jason was doing the 10k) and plans , and crossed the start line together, but seemingly Jason was looking for a Sub 54 minute 10k, which in all reality was not part of my pacing strategy so we slowly drifted apart, but as the run progressed, and 10k runners turned back from home, Jason was still in view and a close distance to me.

The run started in Gloucester park, out along Spa Road and then onto Southgate Street, with the roads lined with spectators and supporters. The first mile or so to me was all about not getting dragged in and going off too quick, too quick at the start was going to hurt me at the business end.

Up Southgate street, and few twists and turns took us past the Crown court, Cathedral and to Archdeacon street, all on closed roads , and then continued past HQ , The Pelican, and up to Hare lane. Mile 1 clocked over at around 9 mins. Perfect. I was happy was holding a steady pace but still had to be restrained knowing that I couldn’t fall into a “I’m comfortable, let’s push it a little bit more” mindset. The 2 hour pacer was about 200m up the road from me, so my goal was to just keep him there . If I reeled him in, then so be it.

Up Northgate, and the down Eastgate to Barton Gates, past GL1 and then turning back to Trier way towards the park. Before I knew it Mile 2 was upon me, again around the 9 mins mark, and this seems to be the theme for the rest of the run. I had found a rhythm, I was comfortable, Heart rate looked good , dare I say it, I was enjoying myself .

Past the park, over St Anne’s Bridge and left towards Hempsted and the first of the 4 aid stations appeared. My pre race strategy was a gel at each station with some water, to practice some fuelling and moving . This first aid station caught me by surprise , so I grabbed a gel, inhaled it, grabbed a water and drank it , ably hitting the target on the side of the road for bottle disposal, winning ! in all of this fun, I missed the 3 mile marker, but could see the long slow “climb” to the Hempsted lights where the 10k and Half runners were to go their separate ways for the day.  The 2 hour pacer was only about 50-60 metres from me by this point and in front of him, I could see a work colleague slowly going about her business on the run, and thought, “that’s my target” as although the run was busy, it’s a lonely place to be if you don’t know any body.

As we went over the swing bridge over the canal, which later in the run we would have to run under , I caught and took the pacer . Now the goal is to keep him behind me!  On to the Cole Avenue / Bristol Road lights, I caught Shelly and made my decision that she was going to be my running buddy for the day… a friendly face and all that. 

Up the Bristol Road and towards Tescos , we passed mile 5 and chatted in the little group we were in. I was happy with my pace, still consistently around the 9 minute mile mark and despite all of the worries and concerns before hand, I still felt comfortable and within my means.

A few old folk had been wheeled out from the care home in their chairs and were roadside supporting, along with families and friends on runners lining the route. We reached Tescos and then to Severn vale drive which in turn took us towards the Pilot inn.

Aid station 2 appeared at mile 6, quick Gel and drink and it was back to business.

Just before this, one of my close friends appeared at the side of the road on his bike , so we chatted as he rode alongside me , before he peeled off into Hardwicke.

Me and Shelly continued our pace and kept moving along as we went out towards Elmore court before having to do a dead leg out and back before tracking the river back along Elmore lane west. 

Before I knew it, another aid station hit which meant mile 9. Still hitting a comfortable 9 minute mile pace, which took on another gel and this time two bottles of water, one for the head and the other for the drink… and I kept moving up. I was more surprised at this point that I was still enjoying myself, and chatting away, but this was the first real time I thought to myself, I can feel this now .

We joined the canal path and headed back toward the Hempsted swing bridge and mile 10 clocked up. Still holding pace , I thought … Only a park run to go… I checked my watch and I was at 1 hr 30. Some reasonably quick maths (for me anyway) on my current pacing meant 27 minutes to go. I started to believe that sub 2 hours was actually going to happen for me . In reality, it was still 27 minutes at least away and a lot can happen in that time….

Cue mile 11. A twinge in my left calve which felt like cramp and started on every other stride, but soon resulted in every stride. I checked my HR, which had crept up slightly, more through fatigue, so I eased off and this was the first real time I started to struggle slightly.  Following the canal path up, a usual social run for us TTGers,  we passed Sainsbury’s and headed for Llanthony Road and the quays. In my head I knew that mile 12 was fast approaching which meant too an aid station, so I quickly took on the last of my gels, and made my way back to Southgate street , and then headed up the road . Mile 11 did me in and took me for 9:29. Some 30 seconds slower than my pretty well paced previous 10 miles ! I saw Ryan at this point, who was more than encouraging, despite my moans of what was now double cramp in both calves. I slowed for water at the aid station and carried on up. 

This was the first real time that I could hear James (the pacer) who was right on my heels. Fair play to him, he looked strong and confident and through every mile, he was shouting out to people encouraging and motivating them as they went.  I did not want to let him past me and he was pretty set on not letting me get behind him! 

Cramp getting stronger by this point, it was down  Eastgate street, towards Brunswick Road and then the final turn to the park.  James caught me and turn to me saying “Come on Tri Team Glos we ain’t leaving you behind, get in front of me!” Encouraging as it was , I mumbled something back about cramp but was not going to let that stop me. I could see the finishing line in the park … mile 13 marker passed!

I started to open the legs up a bit more, despite the cramp and then could see my eldest son screaming at the top of his lungs next to my parents,  and as I turned the final corner, my youngest stood with his mother and his hand held high, requesting the highest of 5s. This was a much needed boost that helped me power over the finishing line. 

James (the pacer) offered one last little boost by slowing slightly and then increasing his pace as I went past him to encourage me to do the same …. Before I knew it … boom, it was done. I had done it … what did the watch say … 1:58:59

My 3rd Half marathon done and dusted, a PB and goal time reached.

Official chip timing was 1:58:54.

A quick change of clothes and then back the mile 13 marker to support Katie K, Ray, Yvonne and other runners I knew that were racing .

All in all, it was a good day. A good run, great atmosphere, a good mix of urban and rural scenery. It was a safe run that was well organised and well marshalled.