This weekend I completed my first (maybe only?) half-marathon, pounding the streets in and around Hastings with 3,000 others.
I've really enjoyed running, building up from virtually nothing to running around 30k a week. But a lot of what's good about it – the solitude, the spontaneity – is totally lacking in organised races. I was absolutely dreading the day, feeling I hadn't done enough training and "big day" nerves would get the better of me. To some extent I was right. I was feeling sick and nervous as the race started. The route is well known for its early hills and I had to stop and walk several times. I would probably have walked a lot more if it wasn't for the encouragement of my lovely running buddy, Shirley. She knew the course and would spur me on with promises (not entirely true) that "it's all downhill from here". But I felt she could have gone quicker without me. And I even felt mule-ishly discouraged by the shouts of support from spectators or camaraderie from other runners. I just wanted to be running alone, where how I was doing didn't matter or affect anyone else.
Still, the main aim of the run was to raise money for Cancer Research and honour mum's memory, both of which I did. And coming towards the finishing line, wearing mum's running shoes, and seeing my partner and small daughter cheering me on and holding Shirley's hand as we crossed over was a tremendous feeling. I was just under two hours thirty, far off mum's usual times of around two hours ten, but I know she would have been proud and would have said "all that matters is getting round".
I will keep up the running but I don't know if organised races are for me - still, as a colleague pointed out, you need something to aim for, would I have kept it up without the half-marathon to spur me on?
So what's your view? Which do you prefer – the solitude of your training runs, or the excitement of race day?