I do love an adventure and the weekend of the 22nd September was definitely an adventure.
Now let me tell you a story –
At the end of last year I had decided that I was going to do some fundraising for St Clare Hospice. Who, as most of you will know, looked after my little nan and were the very reason I ran Brighton marathon in 2016. When I was looking for my September race I asked the @UKRUNCHAT community on Twitter for some help. Ealing Half kept coming up again and again as a race I should book. So I did!
Now picture the scene –
It’s a Sunday evening, the week before the Ealing Half and I’m sitting on the sofa with the lovely JK @Kennedy107. We had seen on the internet a one mile open water event at Hever Castle and we kept going back to look at it. I had never done an open water swim (I can swim breaststroke and that’s it) but there was something about this event that seemed to entice me. It was advertised as a leisurely swim with breaststroke encouraged. JK has done a few Triathlons in the past and is a big fan of open water swimming so between drinking a cup of tea and doing the washing up JK signed us up for the swim. Now the swim was on Saturday 23rd September….Ealing Half was on Sunday 24th September! Mile swim Saturday, Half Marathon Sunday…..why not chuck a Parkrun in too! Next thing we are googling Parkrun locations close to Hever. Tonbridge came up and the plan came together.
Friday evening arrived, it must have taken us about two hours to get everything together, I was exhausted already. Going through things over and over in our heads – run kit for Tonbridge Parkrun, Wetsuit, Goggles, swimming costume and then a whole new set of running clothes for Ealing. Alarm set for 6.30am and we were ready to go!
The Adventure Begins –
Saturday morning and the alarm goes off, 6.30am always feels so early, especially at the weekend. Up, a little bit of breakfast and out of the house by 7.10am. We headed down the M25 towards Tonbridge, clear roads all the way, a plus point of leaving early. We arrived by 8.45am, parked and headed for the start. The Tonbridge Parkrun starts on a recreational ground near Castle Road and heads out into a wooded area before heading around a lake and back to the start. There are a few places where the path narrows to cross bridges so that slows runners down a little but that didn’t matter to me as I wasn’t going to push it, after all I’d got a 1 mile swim at 12.15pm. As I started the Parkrun I realised it was quite a flat course, JK is a much quicker runner than me and he was pushing the pace a little so I tried to keep up. I really enjoyed this Parkrun it had a bit of everything, nice views, gravel off road paths as well as the concrete paths around the park. This is probably the largest Parkrun I have ever been too with attendance at around 500 most weeks and it just so happened to be their 200th event on Saturday – Congratulations Tonbridge! Turns out that my time was 29:53, finishing in 333rd place and coming 9th in my age category. Not too bad for taking it easy but I knew I was going to feel it later.
After a quick trip to ‘Spoons’ (be rude not to!) for a coffee and some more breakfast JK and I headed over to Hever Castle. I was really nervous at this point, I can swim but I am not quick, I didn’t care if I came last, but I didn’t want to get too tired and have to be dragged away by a safety canoe. In my head I had imagined the swim to be in a moat around a castle, probably like Snow White’s castle with a big drawbridge and we would be doing laps around the moat until we reached 1 mile. How silly of me….it was nothing like that..it was a big lake and an island to swim round.
First thought – RUN…Run away and hide….but instead I put on my cheap wetsuit, timing chip, goggles and swimming hat and jumped into the lake, it was freezing! Absolutely freezing! Before I could catch my breath we were off. The speedy crew were quickly off leaving the water relatively clear for me to breaststroke my way round the swimming route. My goggles had steamed up (rookie error on my part) and I couldn’t see a thing. JK shouted over to me to take my goggles off and look around, I’m glad he did or I would have just carried on and missed the view. It was beautiful. I was really enjoying myself, it was a slow swim and although I did feel tired, no safety canoe was required, I managed to completed the course in 1:03:10 I did swallow a little bit of lake water, yuck! and I was not prepared for the jelly legs when I exited the lake, a very strange sensation! It was so nice to be doing something other than running but I do need to learn how to be a stronger swimmer, I also need a decent wetsuit, I am still recovering from the chafing under my arm but would I do it again…hell yes! Did someone say Triathlon?
We had a coffee and chat with Dani from Bishops Stortford Tri Club and then we travelled into London to stay with JK’s family and have a bite to eat with Kaya and Baz. Kaya was running Ealing with me on Sunday and JK & Baz were marshalling.
The Ealing Half –
Sunday morning and another early alarm. Baz & Kaya were travelling with us to Ealing so we all piled into my car and headed to Ealing. I managed to find a parking space close to the park #bonus! And we were in the starters’ village by 7:30am. My legs weren’t feeling their best, I was tired and I had to tell myself not to push it too much as I didn’t want an injury before the end of my 12 races. Baz & JK had headed off to their volunteering posts so Kaya and I went over to the Race Check flag and spoke with @leekemp and @caterinapresi. The running community is so inclusive and it’s great to know you could go to any event and say hello to old friends as well as being introduced to new ones.
The Ealing Half started at 9am, I find this to be my ideal time, get there early get the job done and get to the pub by lunch. Perfect! Kaya and I had decided to try and stick with Spencer (@SMillbery) who was pacing the 2:20 funbus but that didn’t work; I managed to stay with Spencer until the first water station, a massive bunch of sweaty runners fighting for a little bottle of water, I soooo needed water. I hadn’t drunk enough before starting and was feeling really thirsty, silly mistake. After water I got a good pace going and overtook the 2:20 funbus, I was really enjoying myself as I’d got into a lovely pace. Then the wheels started to fall off a little bit, it was warm and I was tired also it turns out that Ealing is a little undulating. I have always been of the mindset that I enter a race to take part in the event not to get a time. If I have to run/walk I will, yes, it would be amazing to run the whole race but with Beachy Head on 28th October I wasn’t going to push my tired legs to breaking point. In 2015 I had a calf tear due to not slowing down when I needed too, I hadn’t felt pain like it before (apart from childbirth!) and I was out of action for 6 weeks so I always get really nervous when I have niggles, maybe too nervous.
Spencer and his bus overtook me about mile 6 and I plodded along managing to complete the Ealing Half in 2:26:18. I have to say this was probably one of my favourite half marathons. It was well organised, the marshalls were lovely (I have to say that or JK & Baz will be after me!) and the medal was cool but most of all the support from the local community was just fantastic, local residents were out handing out water, cheering people on and handing out Jelly Babies. It really did make the event for me, I have done halfs around residential streets before but never has there been so many people out watching and cheering. I loved it! If you ever get the opportunity to run the Ealing Half you should, yes it can be a little tough in places, but if I can do it so can you!
So after finishing Kaya, Baz, JK and I went to the pub! It’s a Sunday afternoon, it’s warm and I was craving a sugary drink. We then headed home where JK and I crashed by about 9.30pm. I was going to work on Monday for a rest! I’d had sooo much fun and I can’t wait to start planning the next crazy weekend.
I can’t wait for Beachy Head now, one more long run and then tapering time.
If you want to sponsor me you can at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/claregallagher1