I ran Severn Bridge Half on 26 August with some friends. It wasn’t my first time taking part in this event, but I wasn’t taking part for me. This running adventure is a story about my friends and the work they put in to achieve their first half marathon.
Before becoming a PT, I was a complaint handler for many years. In 2017 I was lucky enough to get a job on a contract in Reading where I made some great friends (this doesn’t always happen in contracting). I can be quite passionate when I talk about my nutrition, training etc and the positive impact it all has on life in general. To cut a long story short, colleagues and now friends Gerard and Jaimie began running as a result of my ramblings about races I’d done.
We completed the Tough Mudder together, and a short while later Gerard decided he’d like to give a half marathon a try, which may or may not have involved a bit of persuasion on my part. Gerard had moved back home to Wales and so I suggested Severn Bridge Half Marathon. Not necessarily the easiest half for a first one, but really well organised, with good support and not too huge a distance for either of us to travel. Between us we persuaded Jaimie to join us and her partner Carlos signed up too.
I found a 12 week beginner half marathon training plan and gave some advice on regular runs to do in the run up to starting the plan in June. When I did my first half marathon, I’d been running for almost a year and had experience of several OCR’s, trail and road races up to 10k so a half marathon felt like a natural progression at the time. This wasn’t the case for Gerard, Jaimie and Carlos, this half marathon would be a big step to take, but I knew they could do it.
Training began and I managed to meet up with Gerard and Jaimie to do a Parkrun and I also did a couple of other training runs with Jaimie. The rest of my guidance through their training was through messenger. I don’t think many people could say they did every single run as per their training plan and so I had expected this to be the case. We worked together to pick each other up and try to keep them both as on track as possible. The day arrived, not without nerves, but everyone was determined to get the race completed and ideally within the three hour time cap.
Since starting running I have met some incredible people and made some great friendships. Another ex-contracting friend is Iain, who talked me into first braving Parkrun, my first half marathon and can take some credit for my first marathon too. He was my running buddy in the early days and helped me achieve several PB’s. With one thing and another we haven’t ended up racing together much in the last couple of years, so seeing him for a quick chat and hug before the start of Severn Bridge Half was very welcome. In fact, I signed up to my first Severn Bridge half with Iain back in 2015.
We started walking along the road to the start line, on the bridge. We took our time and stayed as relaxed as possible. When we were almost caught up with the back of everyone waiting to start, the race began and we continued to walk. When people ask my advice about how to approach a race I remind them this is their race, no-one else’s, so to start off don’t get caught up with the start line rush. With the adrenaline pumping its very easy to get caught up in the moment and before you know it you’re running much faster than you want to, and this can cause early burnout in a race. So, walking almost right up to the start gantry meant there was no pressure to keep up with anyone and we could start at a pace that was comfortable for everyone, as can be seen by the happy smiling faces below!
As I said before, this isn’t the easiest half marathon to do for a first one. The reason for that is ‘The Hill’. I had run this race twice previously and it was a different route each time, so I couldn’t be sure what the route would be this year. It was guaranteed to be hilly though, purely due to the area. The organiser of this event has a great sense of humour, which is shown in communications about the race and also on the day. There are various signs put up to help lighten things up, such as one in the portaloo saying ‘This is as good as you’re going to feel, all day!’ There are also some telling you which hills are not ‘The Hill’ and one just to confirm that you are, in fact, on ‘The Hill’, as if you didn’t know by the sheer steepness of the thing! Just to add more joy to having reached ‘The Hill’, it’s right about half way through the race.
Gerard and Jaimie hadn’t had the smoothest of training journeys, with both having battled injuries. We had taken the approach to walk up hills, run down them and jog everything in between. With the occasional nudge, this is exactly what they did. However, Jaimie had begun to struggle with hip pain not long before half way, she wasn’t going to give up though and we stuck together all the way back to the bridge. Still smiling, look!
Gerard, Jaimie and Carlos were all running to raise funds for charity, and Gerard had made a promise to match the highest donation he received, if he completed the race in under three hours. Once we got onto the bridge, we realised that getting to the finish inside three hours was possible. Gerard and I started to slowly creep ahead of Jaimie and Carlos with the finish so close. The rain, which had been non-stop, got heavier and the bridge seemed to go on forever. With tired legs we broke it down into sections of jog/walk, keeping an eye on the time. I knew there was a short uphill leading up to the finishing straight that we would need to walk, so I kept this in mind and tried to keep walks to a minimum.
We came off the bridge and got a good run in downhill underneath the road to the bottom of the uphill. We walked up the hill and soon came to the clearing that was the finishing straight. With the finish gantry in sight we pushed on again to the finish line. There was a lady just ahead of us who Gerard, ever the gentleman, stayed behind and he made it across the line in 2:55:10, with Jaimie and Carlos not far behind in 2:56:19 and 2:56:22 respectively.
I am so extremely proud of Gerard, Jaimie and Carlos for their achievement. I might have helped them along the way, but ultimately the hard work was all theirs. If you put you mind to it, you really can achieve amazing things.
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