Cheltenham Half Marathon was added in to my training plan about 6 weeks ago in a bid to build endurance and stamina over longer distances.
My Small Break
After taking August bank holiday weekend off running after my coach, Rory Coleman, advised me to (read my blog here about what I got up to that weekend Short Break From Training – Charlie’s Challenges (charlieschallenges.co.uk) ) the week before Cheltenham Half Marathon proved to be challenging.
When I ran for the first time after taking the 4 days off on the Tuesday before the half marathon, I was horrified to feel like I had a breeze block on the end of each leg instead of my lightweight trainers, and the road felt like I was wading through gloopy cement . I had fully expected to be bouncing off the road with grace in a cheetah like fashion….how naive of me! 🙄
And things didn’t really improve over the rest of the week. I couldn’t even knock out a 9 minute mile let alone a 7 minute something which was what I was aiming for.
On the morning of the half marathon I got up early to get the compression boots on. I took my supplements as always and promptly threw them back up. Urgh…I think it was a mixture of nerves and apprehension. I didn’t dare take on any food after that before the start of the race.
So, stood at the start line of Cheltenham half marathon at the racecourse, I had no idea what was going to happen, how I was going to feel and what I was going to be able to achieve. I needed to set a PB; anything under a 1.40 time was acceptable but getting closer to 1.35 was the target. If I wanted a 1.40, this meant 7.38mins/mile.
Ready, Steady, Go!
At just after 9am the start gun sounded and off we went on the Cheltenham Half Marathon 2023. It started off with a really nice couple of miles set slightly downhill towards Cheltenham town and I stupidly got caught up in that mad dash that happens at the start of every race. The first three miles I clocked 7.12, 7.02 and 7.11. This is probably where it went wrong.
By the 4th mile I wanted it to be over. The slight downhill quickly turned into slight uphill and this really stung my legs. I took on a gel at 4 miles and 9 miles and an anadin at the 6 mile mark (it was supposed to be 2 but I lost one as I tried to carefully free it from the packaging).
I just put my head down, knowing that it wasn’t going to last for ever. My pace dropped a little bit (unsurprisingly) and as I hit 11.5 miles we returned to Cheltenham racecourse where the only thing separating that mark and the finish line was a lap of the racecourse. Urgh, what a horrible last mile and a half. Into a headwind, mainly uphill, feeling like I was going backwards. My pace dropped again and as the route left the racecourse there was a tiny bit of flat before an uphill finish at the entrance of the paddock (where the horses parade before heading to the start on their raceday).
Crossing the finish line of Cheltenham Half Marathon, I can still feel the pain and the relief. Relief that it was over, pain from the gruelling finish and having lost a bit of fitness over the previous fortnight.
I also took the opportunity to run ‘naked’. No don’t worry, I kept my clothes on. I just mean that I ran without any diabetic medications or devices which felt very strange. I currently use an Omnipod insulin pump with it stuck on me 24/7 with a catheter that trickles a basal (background) insulin dose all the time. That stayed with me on the half marathon but I didn’t take my phone and so had no idea what my blood glucose levels were doing for the duration of the race. As a result they did run a bit high temporarily, but I can keep going when this happens, unlike when my blood glucose levels drop too low.
I crossed the line in 1.38.59. Initially I was a little bit disappointed however on reflection I think it’s an accurate display of my current fitness. I gave it my all; it was tough; I got under the 1.40 mark. I was 18th overall and 6th in my age category – and a half marathon isn’t necessarily my distance.
Many thanks to the team who organised and officiated the Cheltenham Half Marathon. It was a well organised race and next time I will be prepared for the gruelling finish.
In summary, I’m glad I did it. I now have a benchmark. It was tough and I didn’t really enjoy it but it’s all part of the training process and I need to do more races like this. Maybe next time I will be less nervous and might be able to stomach some breakfast other than caffeine and energy gels. Next up, Chester marathon at the start of October.