The Story Of A Half Marathoner Who Ran Such A Good Race He Was Awarded Two Medals For His Efforts.
What follows is a race report of the East London Half Marathon 2013 from my good friend Paul from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. We ran the Great North Run 2012 together after a horrendous night of drinking, disco-dancing and Spaghetti Cheestrings/Leffe. He finished in 2:20 with little to no training and I didn’t even record a fucking time at all.
I have something of an uneasy relationship with running.
I like the idea of it, love the feeling of elation after a good run but I just hate having to actually do it. So I managed to surprise myself by signing up for the East London Half Marathon having only ever done one half marathon before, the Great North Run.
My training schedule was less than ambitious, only managing 3 runs before the big day, one of which I coughed and spluttered my way through like an asthmatic donkey.
Even so I figured I’d be ok; after all I didn’t train much for the Great North Run and spent the day before it with one of the most debilitating hangovers in the history of alcoholism and still managed to get a time of 2:20, of which I was very proud.
The main thing I learned at the ELHM was that organisation is key. Not for me but for those actually in charge of the run.
There was a 10k run happening at the same time so distance markers were all over the place and the fact that the course looped back on itself and you had to run past the same bit each time made it a little confusing – after all the last thing you want to do when on a half marathon is to pay close attention to where you’re going as it interferes greatly with the feelings of self-loathing you’re currently building up.
Also, due to the nature of the run in comparison to the GNR there weren’t a great deal of well-wishers and spectators at the side cheering you on and I suspect that their presence really spurred me on last time.
My first hour was fine although I did stop a few times as my feet started to go numb, a factor I attributed to the tight lacing of my shoes.
That didn’t stop me running around the course terrified my feet were going to swell up and drop off, leaving me with the unenviable decision of whether to go to a hospital with my stumpy legs or carry on the race without any feet.
Thankfully the numbness stopped although it did impair my speed somewhat for the first hour.
After that initial setback I got into a good pace and felt like I was really able to take on the run. I felt good about it and almost began to actually enjoy it for a while. About an hour and a half in I started to lag a bit but my spirits were duly lifted by a large group of spectators shouting “Come on now” You’re nearly there!”
I was only an hour and a half in! Had I, by some miracle, managed to go faster than I ever thought possible? Or were these people just a bunch of hateful sarcastic idiots trying to put me off and laughing at my misfortune?
No, the finish line was in sight and I was still running alongside others who were wearing half marathon vests! Amazing! What an incredible turn of events! I speeded up as fast as my legs could carry me and passed the victory line in a rush of fantastic achievement. I was handed my half marathon medal, my complimentary t-shirt and goodie bag to rapturous applause.
For the first time in my sorry life I felt like one of life’s winners.
As I slowed down I checked my Garmin watch. I had only done 7 and a half miles.
I carried on, walking in a state of great confusion. The temptation was to call it a day and go for a lie down, after all I had my medal as proof and I had no idea how I had made it past the finish line. Maybe my watch was wrong? Maybe the rules had changed and 7 and a half miles was now the new half marathon?
Maybe I’d run so fast I’d managed to turn the world on its axis and made time go backwards, much like the end of Superman II?
“You’ve just missed part of the course” came a voice behind me. I turned around to see my friend Claire who was running.
“What?” I replied? “The marshals must have misdirected you” she continued “you missed out that bit there and came through the finish line. The other guys you were with who had stopped running after the finish line would have been the first ones to start and so have done the full 13 miles now”
Ah, that made more sense.
So I still had a long way to go. With a new burst of determination I threw aside my t-shirt and goodie bag but pocketed the medal in case I never made it until the end again and carried on running.
My spirit was a little crushed as my time had already been recorded when I past the finish line and I was never going to be able to claim to have run the full half now either but I persevered and tried not to let this unfortunate and odd turn of events ruin the experience.
Then my knee gave in.
I’m not sure what happened but I started to get an awful pain in my knee whenever it bent. I stopped for a bit and walked which helped considerably but there was no way I was able to run any further making the last 4 miles incredible slow.
The only thing that made me feel slightly better was that I wasn’t the poor woman I just passed leaning against a wall throwing up what appeared to be her internal organs.
I was struck by the irony that I already had my medal and a time recorded and so was quite tempted to just hobble off onto a bus and lie about my wonderful achievement while sitting in a pub somewhere but sadly I had no money upon my person. So I hobbled on in an awful and uneven combination of running and walking depending on the strength of pain residing in my knee.
I finally made my way past the finish line for my second and final time of the day, clocking in at 2 hours 35 minutes which I’m still considering a small victory although in the interests of full disclosure I should say I only completed 12.93 miles of the course.
I’m now curious as to whether or not I am the only half marathon runner to be ever awarded 2 medals in spite of never fully completing the course?
Whatever happens, I have two medals and they can’t take that away from me.
The main thing this experience taught me is that preparation is everything, your feet probably won’t fall off if you lace your shoes too tight, having strong sturdy knees is critical to a successful run (although not as much as actually knowing where you’re going) and finally, I am never ever doing another half marathon again.