A tale of two Croydon Half Marathons

In 2012, while training for my first marathon, I ran the Croydon Half Marathon, organised by my running club, Striders of Croydon, in a PB of 1:40:24. Last weekend, I ran the Croydon HM again. It was my first half marathon for three years, because I’d spent 2012 working up the distances to 50 miles, and 2013 running five 50-mile races, before the tendon injury from my cycling accident prevented me from running for six months.

My time last week was 1:46:42, a PW for that distance! I did however manage 2nd Fv45 and was part of the winning women’s team for my club.

Looking back, I’ve found it interesting to compare and contrast my state of mind during the two races.

In 2012, I remember feeling nervous while driving to the clubhouse, because in my previous two HMs, in October 2011, I’d not run as well as I’d expected. Then, just before I arrived at the club, I had a revelation: since I’d been training for and run a 50K (London Ultra) and was now training for a marathon, 13.1 miles was no longer “a long way”. I could just set off as fast as I could and really go for it – and I did, taking a good three minutes off my previous PB. It was good, hard running the whole way, really pushing it up the hills, throwing myself along the downhill sections, and I finished very tired but really .pleased with my time

This year, I arrived early to help registering the runners, leaving that task with only about 10 minutes to go before the race started, to change into my running shoes, shed excess clothing and dash to join the crowd behind the start line. In the past few months I’ve regained my ability to run long distances, working up as far as 27.5 or 28 miles, but the only fast running I’ve done has been the occasional parkrun and a few cross-countries. I had only made the decision to enter the race on the Friday and I suddenly realised that I hadn’t the slightest idea what time I wanted to try for or what pace I wanted to run – as well as being still a bit uncertain whether my healing (healed?) tendon would cope with relatively fast running for that distance.

I set off quite conservatively and decided that I would be fine if I came in no slower than 1:50. The course consists of a mini-lap followed by two much longer laps. About halfway through the first full lap, I had something of an epiphany and switched from thinking “only one more time that I have to run up that hill” to “I only get to run up this hill once more in this race!” I felt myself grinning. I was running, in an actual HM, after all those months when I hadn’t been sure I would be able to race, or even to run, ever again. I was so LUCKY to be able to do this! I found myself feeling sorry for the many people who wouldn’t ever feel the delight of a proper long run or long distance race. I started to really have fun.

In the last few miles, while regretting that there was such a short time and short distance of the race remaining, I started to push on a bit, overtaking a few people. For some time I had been able to see two women a few hundred yards ahead of me and now I set my sights on closing the gap. One of them was evidently tiring, even walking for a few strides on the section up Sandilands, and I overtook her with about half a mile to go, then I started to gain on the other woman, speeding up, sprinting from about 200 metres out and accelerating towards the finish line, to complete the race as eighth woman overall.

Looking forward, I do hope to regain some more of my previous speed, as well as to move out again to 30-mile and 50-mile races, but I hope that as I do so I will remember, at all times, how marvellous it is to be able to run like this, how lucky I am to do it – and that I should always, always, have FUN!


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