May held the most daunting challenge in the lead-up to August’s tetradecathlon. Prior to committing to learn 14 events, and in the rosy after-glow of my first 10k last November, I signed up to the Hackney Half Marathon.
On Hackney Half days for the past two years, I’ve whiled away a pleasant morning at Inaki’s house, whose kitchen table looks over the route about 500m from the finish-line. Last year I was particularly smug as my partner, Arron, sweated it over the 13.1 miles as Inaki and I shared a relaxed breakfast. Not this year, though.
I was absolutely under-prepared, having focussed on sprinting the last few months. Longer runs have not only got less regular, they had also got slower- my park run has grown by 2 minutes since the autumn. My only longer run was 11.5k (just over half the necessary distance), a week before the race- and I must admit, there was a bit of walking involved.
My apprehension about the race was not helped by the weather forecast- it was set to be hot- 27° c. Once this transpired, Matt Pang suggested that I try running for 9 minutes, and walking for one, throughout the whole race. I agreed to give it a go.
On the day, I went in search of the 2h 45 pace-keeper, to find there was no such thing- just a pen of similarly underprepared people as myself, under the banner “over 2 h 30”. The heat was searing my Scottish skin even before the race got underway around 9.20am. The kind people of Hackney were out in force with music, hosepipes and good vibes. I would’t say it flew by, but the atmosphere was brilliant. Using Matt’s technique meant that I never had a more daunting task than 9 minutes of running ahead, before I got a little rest.
As the morning drew on and the temperature rose, I passed more and more collapsed bodies with paramedics surrounding them. By mile 11, I felt close to joining them, as now in the Olympic Park, there were no grannies cheering from their balconies; no corner-shop owners offering bananas; and no hosepipes spraying out of front gardens. My 9:1 minute walk-run ratio slipped towards 5:5 for a couple of rounds.
As I turned the corner onto Inaki’s road, I made a final push for the finish with half a mile to go (mostly because I knew Arron would be waiting to point a camera in my direction- and I didn’t want to be walking in that photo!). On the finish line, I almost cried. I’d been on the course for 2 hours 31 minutes.