21 October 2007

Henley Half Marathon

I've had a week to get over this now, and over the loss of my blog on the subject (the office computer system refused to handle it when I pressed the "post" button), so it's time now to get back to it.

The instructions for the event contained a plea to gentlemen taking part to make "full use" of the urinals. Yuk. Fortunately I was unable to tell how full the use was that had been made of them, as it was dark in the toilets - no doubt making matters even worse ...

The race passes through some delightful countryside, along the riverbank that I have come to know well from Mel's rowing there and from attending the Royal Regatta, though without all the temproary buildings erected along the river for that event it all looks rather empty. I foolishly set off at slightly more than seven minutes per mile pace, which if the mile markers are to be believed I upped substantially for mile four: but I can't sustain that sort of speed, which only eighteen months ago would have seemed pretty relaxed. After a loop on the Berkshire side, the route came back through the town and passed the start before heading off through Fawley Court, where the signs were in English and Polish (accounted for by the fact that it belongs to a Polish religious order) where I stopped at a water station for a long drink, never having mastered the technique (if there is one) of doing that on the move. Then we crossed the road and set off up Fawley Hill.

I'd read about this mile-and-a-half long ascent, going up from about 40 metres above sea level to the peak of 145 metres and then down again pretty steeply at first, becoming more gradual towards the finish. It would have been a tough climb if I'd been fresh, but it started at mile 8 and I'd done the first four miles at a mad pace, so I struggled up.

Coming down was another matter - I put into practice what a fell-runner had told me on the Compton 40 last year, and let myself go. I reasoned that it would be hard on my knee to slow myself down anyway, and passed dozens of people in my headlong descent until at mile 10 cramp stopped me for a few minutes and they all passed me again, probably remarking to themselves that it served me right.

I covered the final three miles or so with a guy from Didcot Runners and someone else he was running with (thanks for the encouragement!) and a lady who, it turns out, is also running Marlow in November - I'll see if I can beat her then ...

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