I’m really annoyed that I’m only just getting round to telling you about Hackney Half Marathon, because I had so many feelings at the time that I really wanted to share. But as is life, things got in the way — work, travels, priorities — meaning it’s a month on and I’m only just getting round to telling you. Truth is, Hackney Half was a slog. A long, hard, unbearably hot slog. 21.1km of struggle. But I knew it was going to be. And if I ran for PBs or times, I’d never have done it. In fact, people told me not to run it, but on a personal level I desperately, desperately wanted to. Because a year ago, Hackney 2015 was my first ever half marathon. I did that having only ever ran 10km and felt so alive and amazed when I finished. It gave me the bug, I went on to do more, and a month ago, a year on, Hackney Half Marathon 2016 was going to be my 6th 21.1km race. And I’m pretty damn proud of that. 0 to 6 half marathon medals in 12 months is something I never thought I could achieve, so even though I my legs were shot, I desperately wanted to run this race because it felt like a personal milestone.
In the week running up to it, the temperatures on the forecast soared. It was 25 degrees on race day, which is freaking hot for London at the best of times, let alone for doing anything more active than sunbathing. My legs still hadn’t improved from Berlin so in desperate attempt to make them better, I booked a last minute sports massage with Urban Massage the afternoon before the race. Now on any other day, this would have been the best idea ever. The massage was bloody brilliant, so horrendously vigorous that it really sorted out my soleus muscle once and for all — the one that’s been giving me so much grief for weeks. My calves felt incredible for the first time in forever, but my hamstrings felt totally bizarre after a lot of kneading out knots around there and in my glutes. Whatever though, I went to bed feeling super relaxed, assuming I’d be golden by morning.
Lesson learnt: don’t ever get a sports massage the day before a race. My legs were like jelly. My calves felt better than ever, strapped up though no pain, but I had zero power in my hamstrings to get me anywhere. Felt like I was treading through mud from kilometre three. I had to stop to walk a lot, which was frustrating but I simply couldn’t keep running. My friend, Harx held my hand and kept me going through mile 5 which was what I needed, but I didn’t want to slow her down as I couldn’t keep up.
After a lot of walking intervals and water breaks (lest we forget the blistering temperature) I made it to mile nine, where another friend from Run Dem, Sarah found me just when I needed her to. She kept me going through mile nine, talking me through mantras and keeping me focused. It sounds mad when you look back, and I’m not as hippy as all that, but actually, when you’re really struggling, in pain, in tears, and so desperate to conquer, you need someone lie that helping you take a different approach. It helped; I repeated “my legs are strong, my legs are strong” right through to mile 10.5 where Cheer Dem were waiting with bountiful support and energy. Running through that made you feel invincible. I forgot about the heat and my lack of energy and made it through the next bit of the course on happiness and adrenaline. By then, mile 12 or so, most of the runners on the course had slowed down or taken to a walking pace, so to survive the combo of scorching sun with no shade and the horrible gravel underfoot around Olympic Park. The finish line was in sight, and little running/ walking later, I crossed the line in 2 hours 29 — a good 28 minutes off my PB but I was just elated to have finished.
Hackney Half Marathon 2016, you were tough and you were horrible, my hardest race yet, but I’m proud I struggled on, got the medal, and to be honest, I know I’ll be back at that start line next year. Try, try and try again, right?