On Sunday, I ran a sub- 2 hour half marathon.
You know, that huge running goal I'd been fretting about for months but didn't think I'd hit?
Turns out, I'd been so nervous to tell anyone about my goal, my real goal, not just "I want a PB", that even my parents didn't really get why I was so overwhelmed with my time.
It was hard. In fact, it was horrible.
It was one of the least enjoyable races I'd ever run.
After my anxiety wobble on Saturday I'd almost given up on the idea of sub-2 hours and was starting to be okay with pushing towards any personal best.
I knew I was going to be so close, seconds, that I was going to have to push at my limit for the whole race.
For once, I controlled myself for the first few miles. Not doing a classic "run the first mile like a maniac, shave a minute off your mile time but then die for the rest of the race."
I knew I had to keep a 9:10 pace, and I started out running negative splits.
To begin with, the pace felt good.
I decided to aim to hit an average 9:10 pace about mile 10 (I have my watch the show overall pace, not lap pace. I talked about that here), but when I started hitting pace at mile 6 I got excited. But then at mile 8 my pace started to flicker between 9:11 and 9:12 and I started to panic.
I was so in my head and constantly staring at my watch.
I didn't feel like I was "in" the race at all.
It was a world away from last year's "smiling the whole way round" half marathon.
I was pushing hard constantly but I knew I couldn't ease up at any point.
At mile 11, I overtook one of the 2 hour pacers, but I knew he'd set off a few minutes behind me, and the other 2 hour paces seemed so far away in the distance. And I was so tired.
I had moments where I just stopped caring. When I thought, you know what, if it's 2 hours 30 seconds, that's okay.
I was physically and mentally spent.
But then it was mile 12.
And cruelly, a perfectly straight, flat finish.
You could see the Finish on the horizon like a mirage.
It was torture.
As I got closer and closer, my watch got closer and closer to that 59 minute mark.
But I had nothing left in the tank.
I wanted to speed up for the last few hundred metres.
Had to speed up for those last few hundreds metres.
But I couldn't couldn't couldn't.
Finally, with one final push, I sprinted over the line.
And, after stopping my watch with a cursory glance at my watch, burst into hyperventilating sobs.
I'd done it. A sub 2 hour half marathon. The goal I didn't think I'd hit today.
I cried and cried and cried and cried.
And then I saw Phil, waiting for me just past the finish.
We were both cold and wet and sweaty and disgusting and I hugged him so hard and sobbed into his chest.
Two and a half years ago, I ran my first half marathon.
It was 3 hours of pain, drudgery and mental torture.
As much as I hate to admit it, I've always been embarrassed by my first half marathon time,
And I know that's terrible. Because I worked hard, I'd started running 9 months prior and I ran a bloody half marathon.
But I've worked so, so, so hard since then.
And yes, this race was hard and awful and I looked at my watch every 20 seconds and I still can't quite walk properly but it was worth it.
It was all worth it.
Interval sessions I used to hate, tempo runs, all the parkruns and long runs and the slow running that you don't think will help then magically does.
I've gone from being almost last -one of the last people to finish in my first half marathon - to being in the top third for my age category. Sure I'm not elite or anything, but that is absolutely incredible (and something I hadn't even thought about until one of my colleagues made a passing comment of "I bet that's in the top third for females" and I checked it out).
For the first few days I still couldn't believe it. Kept checking my running app. Kept staring at my splits. Still not believing.
This was a huge goal for me, and I'm completely relieved now. All I can do now is work on getting better!
Thanks for all your support!