Ok then, my sister (Suz West for those who do not know) and her hubby have said I should write a race report for the BVH site about my first ever half marathon, that being the Birmingham one of course that happened, as I write this, last Sunday.
Not really sure where I should begin as being a virgin to everything that happened on Sunday means, I guess, I should start right at the start! I am not even talking about the start of the race, but the opening of my letter to recieve my number and tag.
Even that in this case needs to be mentioned. The reason is simple, the tag for your shoes. The instructions that came with it seem very simple. Tie this to your laces. Easy, accept if you do not have laces, but velcro. Buy some trainers with laces then you may say. Simple enough for most people. Not for me.
During the weeks of practice on the beginners course I was getting fed up with the way my laces seemed to take on a life of their own, having to stop every so often to sort them out. So I decided in time for the half marathon, I would buy some trainers with velcro. After buying them, I did what I always have to do with new shoes. Took them to the hospital to have the soles built up by quarter of an inch. This is because I was in a road accident when I was fourteen, my left leg was bent and broken and is now shorter than the right. Wearing normal trainers or shoes that are not built up is very painful for me. That’s just to walk in, imagine how painful a thirteen mile jog would be!
The trainers take a couple of weeks to get sorted at the hospital, and they only do a limited amount a year, so by the time I recieved my chip and number it was too late to do anything about. This meant that I had no where on my trainers to place the chip.
On the morning of the run I decided to put my chip in my pocket and hope for the best. The next obstacle for me was how to get to town, as I live in Rowley Regis. Knowing the roads were going to be blocked meant driving was out of the question, and the local trains did not start till ten o’clock. To be fair if I had jumped on one I may have just got to the start on time, but I did not want to take the risk. Getting a taxi may of been a bad idea too. If the taxi had to take a lot of detours then the price might of gone skyhigh.
The only real solution was getting the bus. So, at eight o clock, me, the missus and our little one climbed aboard the 140 from Blackheath to Colmore Row. Sitting opposite was a runner who would be taking part in the orange wave (I was in the green by the way), so instantly conversation started to flow. This was my first taste of the comradie for these events. It is not a sport in the same vein as football or rugby. Everyone is on the same side, the only person anyone is competing against is themselves!
The bus eventually got to town, after stopping to ask for directions of another west midlands travel employee because of the diversions! To say this did not fill me with confidence was an understatement. Still, we got off the bus at Colmore Row at eight thirty and headed towards Paradise Forum so that my two supporters could grab some breakfast from the Wetherspoons within. I had already stocked up on carbs with porridge back at home.
On the way to Wetherspoons I phoned Rob, my running partner, who had driven into town. He was experiencing the problems I had luckily avoided, and was struggling to find a place to park. I had also noticed as we walked towards the pub a slow trickle of white wave runners.
Soon enough we were sitting in the pub where my supporters tucked into their breakfast and I had a juice and a piece of toast to keep my energy up. Rob finally found us and as he did the trickle of white wave runners had become a swarm of white, orange and green wave runners. There were hundreds of them both walking past the pub and through it, using doors on either side as a short cut.
We stayed in the pub for a while, before heading out, and noticing that even though I had popped to the loo, Robert still needed to go and there were deep queues for portable loos outside. Rob pointed out that he could use the marriot hotel, just thought i would pop that in here as a tip for future runs! Sure enough, no queue!
Walking down to join the other greens and now pinks my adrenaline was starting to pump, especially when Rob and I joined in with the warm up excercises being held. I had been chatting to a girl on facebook who was a few years below me back at school, not a harrier, but a friend and had wished her via the net good luck. It was a girl, well, lady now who I had not seen in over twenty years and even in this big crowd she appeared beside me. That was strange, but lovely at the same time.
Before I knew it the klaxon had started for the start of our race! However this was about five to eleven, Robert and I very slowly approached the start line, we did not get past it until ten past, I was keeping an eye on the time on my phone as was not sure whether my chip which as we started I held in my left hand would register, I obviously found out later that it did not!
We were away!
A slow paced start, which is exactly how I wanted it, winding through the city center streets, past several onlookers who waved and cheered and as people played music from various p.a systems, as well as in different areas most noticeably down by the bullring markets groups of people sung and played instruments. Four pieces of music are going to stick in my head from that day, the first being Footloose, the second the theme from Rocky and joint last Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and We Will Rock You.
It was amazing and exhilerating seeing all these people come together, both to join in and support. I did not know till later but my partner and daughter had been cheering me on from the sidelines at the start too, just out of my view!
The one thing that was obvious within ten minutes of the start of the race was that not everyone had trained as Rob and I had. I was quite surprised by the amount of people that had slowed down to a walking pace by the time we were on the Pershore Road, but as I have said before, it’s the taking part that counts.
Still, having to weave in and out of slower runners was making my journey slightly longer, something that at this point I was not bothered about but would affect my overall time, a time. I wanted to do the race in two hours thirty, my average running speed was nine to ten minutes a mile, but even with the training I had only run none stop as far as seven miles. So in my mind I decided if I could even beat that before I had to have a rest it would be a win for team Boone (I’ll include my sister in that team!).
At the third mile I grabbed a water bottle and as we ran further into Selly Park I told Rob that I would need to slow down slightly but urged him to carry on at his slightly faster pace which he did, just before we began the long ascent to Bournville. The hill leading up to Cadburys was slowing even more people down and I must admit, now I had to slow down myself, not quite to a walk, to get up.
As I ran I tried to greet as many well wishers with high fives as possible, not only was it good for them, but also good for my spirits. Once in Bournville I picked up pace again, after all I did not want to many of the club seeing me going slow did I? Heading towards Maryvale Road I heard my name called, it was my brother-in-law and fellow harrier Alan cheering me on, this and the fact that again I did not want Steven Rossiter, owner of Rossiter Butchers in Maryvale Road, a shop where I occasionally lend a hand or any of his custermors see me running at a slow pace at this point!
Turning into Maryvale for the run down hill back to Stirchley was a relief. So was seeing a clock that some well wishers had brought out stating that it was now twelve fifteen. I had been running, almost non stop for an hour and five minutes. I could feel my body wanting to give in now though.
I felt myself slowing down, but at this point different people from the sidelines were screaming, ‘Go on John!’ and ‘Go on Bournville!’, I was of course wearing my harriers top. The people urging me on were unfamiliar faces and this in itself made me want to carry on, just to show them i could.
I just about made it back on to the main Pershore road and as we headed back to town I could see the slower runners coming the other way. I gave myself a bit of inspiration, saying if I could just pass the final runner coming the other way, then I would give myself a rest. I did too! It turned out that the final runner was an old man, I’m not going to guess his exact age, but he had to be over eighty, followed by the marshalls bikes. I could not run any further, but by this point i had clocked up over eight miles and decided to use a little thing i had learnt in my early days with the harriers, that was to give myself a five minute recovery of fast walking and then a five minute slow jog. I also checked my phone for the time and realised that even if I walked from this distance i would still finish in under three hours. Hopefully with the little jogging boosts i could get it down to two and a half.
People continued to cheer, and as I ran into Cannon Hill park I was spurred on by the sound of a band playing ‘We Will Rock You’, I actually started to jog to the drum beat! In the park itself I had to take a slight detour, to the toilet!
Soon enough I was back in the park, doing my run/walk/run, making sure I ran through any crowds! As I came out I received a text on my phone telling me that Suzanne had finished it in one hour and forty minutes. I might one day, but not today!
The last part of the race saw me slow down a bit more, but at this point I realised that I was just about going to hit my time, and now I ran on the flat ground when i could, and the downhills. Supporters offered me much needed jelly baby fuel! Including one of my fellow harriers Steve. The nice thing about this part of the race was that their was a lot of people who had slowed down who had done their best and were savng there energy for the final push through Broad Street and were now chatting amongst themselves.
I joined in these chats as we headed down the final tunnel before Broad Street, coming out I new I had to put the last reserves of energy into the final few hundred meters, again the cheers from the crowd egged me on. As I hit the finish line I checked my phone, I had done it in two hours thirty minutes and sixteen seconds. Picking up my ‘goodie bag’ I found Rob and my supporters and checked with Rob his time. His was two hours fourteen. He also said that I had finished about fifteen minutes after him, so though I may not be right down to the second, I had done the time I wanted.
My chip as I had guessed had not registered, but I was content with a rough finish time. After all its the taking part that counts!
We joined Suzanne and the other Harriers for a celebration drink in Bill Clintons favourite Brummie pub the Malt House and then slowly all headed home.
It is now the Wednesday after the race, and my legs are just starting to recover. The main lesson I have learned is to get trainers with laces! Oh, and keep training!
To sum up my first half marathon in one word though?