It’s the day after ‘Bolt Round The Holt’ and what can I say, it was without a doubt one of the toughest races I’ve ever ran. I’ve had some experience running off-road, mainly during bootcamps, but nothing compares to the 13.1 miles of hills and uneven ground I had to endure yesterday.
I woke up bright and early, showered and had breakfast before leaving for the race. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so after I collected my race number and timing chip, we went to say hello to some friends who were volunteering to help with the event.
After a quick warm up, I made my way to the start line. I was surprised with how few people there were running the half marathon distance… maybe there was reason for this, maybe I was about to find out! I was excited and looking forward to getting the race underway. I was on the start line, surrounded by other runners all eager to get going. The race began and everyone shot off… standing right at the front probably wasn’t the best idea. It also became apparent that I hadn’t done my shorts up tightly enough, they were literally falling down at the back which probably gave the runners behind a full view. I had running gels weighing down my back pocket too which added to problem. I stopped, did them up and carried on.
The first real challenge came as I ran up the first hill – it was a killer! I had barely ran a mile and I felt knackered! I’m used to warming up gradually, running at a steady pace on the flat until around 25 minutes in. This was full on and intense from the start. The race was set over a 1k lap followed by 4 x 5k laps, this meant I was going to have to run that hill another 4 times! I tried not to think about that and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other until I was warmed up.
One lap down and three to go. I was feeling confident as stuck to a 9 min/mile pace. I started to overtake a few of the 5k runners, which gave me a small confidence boost. It was at around this point that I realised I had changed something on my Garmin. I wasn’t able to see how far I had ran, although luckily, I was still able to track my pace.
Things got easier during the second lap. My muscles had warmed up and I felt in control. I looked up and started enjoying it a bit more. It was great to see so many familiar faces along the route too. Notably from BNI Guildford. It always gives you that little extra push as you run when someone you know shouts your name. I was just over halfway through the race. I felt good and set my sights on that sub 2 hour finish.
The third lap was without a doubt the most enjoyable. I was leaning into the hills, making my legs and gluteus work hard. I had a good supply of running gels and sweets to keep me going, I think they made all the difference really. I ran passed Kim Ronaldson, a friend who runs First Aid Development. The organisers had asked him to marshall a boggy area of the course incase anyone needed medical assistance. He asked if I was enjoying it, to which I replied, “yes, but its the most mentally challenging race ever!” he replied, “don’t think of the mental bit, just keep running!” That really helped.
‘One foot in front of the other’ is something I often say to myself when I’m finding a race or training run tough. It definitely works.
There was one final lap to go. Lauren had been cheering me on at each lap point, but on the final one she wasn’t there! Had she gone home? I hope not, otherwise it would be a very long walk back to Guildford! Thankfully, she hadn’t – I saw her standing up ahead with Kim, both of them shouting, “go on Lee” which was brilliant. Lauren gave me a running gel and I carried on with only about 2.5 miles to go.
There were also a few downhill areas of the track, which were very welcome on that final lap. I was around one mile away from the finish line. I looked at my watch, I had around 11 minutes to run it in if I were to get a sub 2 hour finish. I kept going, ‘one foot in front of the other’ I saw Dave Nyss up ahead, this meant only around 500 metres to go! I had 4 minutes before I hit the 2 hour mark. I looked up at the hill and back at my watch, 3 minutes left! I gave it everything. I had nothing left but I gave it all that was possible. It felt like the worst minute of my life at the time, but when I reached the top and ran passed the supporters cheering us on, it was one of the greatest.
I went for the sprint finish, although when I watched the video back it looked more like a light jog. See the short video below. I finished in 1.58… not my fastest half marathon but I was pleased with it as it was unlike anything I’ve ran before. Hill’s are definitely going into the new training plan from May.
I’d like to say a big thank you for the support around the track from Pauline, Dave, Dene, Caroline, Richard and Kim. Also a special thank you to my partner Lauren, I probably don’t say it enough but she’s always there to support me, not just on the track but during all of my training too. It takes up a lot of our time and I appreciate the support.
Finally I’d like to say a huge thank you to Nerissa Deeks @ Guts Fighting Bowel Cancer, who organised a fantastic event. Guts are a local charity who have achieved great things. Their goal is to improve bowel cancer survival rates through more effective screening, detection and treatment, and by raising awareness of the disease. I’m hoping to find out more in the coming weeks as I want to do more to help.
Races are never meant to be easy, and looking back it was well worth the pain. Here’s to next year!