The biggest event aside from the race itself was the arrival of extra supporters on Saturday. Here was I, enjoying a steak sandwich in a local bistro with Stephen, when suddenly I felt a strange presence near me on the bench, turned around, and found Arnaud, then Rob, then Cyril. Arnaud and Rob had driven all the way from London, and Cyril flew in from Paris to be there. Apparently the boys had been plotting this for months, with Stephen informing them of our hotel and train arrangements since December - I was so pleased! The look on my face must have been priceless really. So here was I, surrounded by some of my favourite people, in a charming Roman city bathed in sun, ready for the ending of my six-month project. We took that opportunity to have a stroll in the city centre and take some classy pictures of Cyril in front of sausage parlours...
The evening was rather uneventful - we ended up dining at the hotel as all the restaurants in town were fully booked, and I went to bed rather early, and a little nervous, too.
After a hearty breakfast, Stephen and I headed to the runners village to collect supporter's t-shirts. The race wasn't massively well organised as far as crowd control is concerned - we had to queue for quite a while to get to the starting point because thousands of runners and their friends were entering and exiting the runners' village via the same tiny entrance... All in all the race start got delayed for half an hour, so I stood there in my starting pen, shivering in the shade for a while. I just looked at the constant flow of spectators arriving for the show...
The build up to the start was great: we all counted down to ten for the elite runners to start, and my turn came up about 5 minutes later. There were 15,000 of us at the start!!! It was a great feeling, I even got a bit teary when I saw how many people had come to cheer us up. There were people all around the course, cheering, clapping, playing music and waving banners. The funniest one was the group of CLIC Sargent charity supporters, all packed in an open-top tour bus and brandishing pink flags and balloons; whenever one of their runners went by, the whole thing went shaking.
I spotted my crowd of fans the first time just near some Brazilian drums band, at the beginning. I'd been looking out for them for a while, and almost missed them! I started feeling the strain at the 4th or 5th mile, by which time some people had already stopped running and were getting support from the first-aid point. I figured then that I would probably run the whole thing in a little over 2 hours, as I was running at a pace of about 10 minutes per mile. I decided to keep running easy, focusing on steady breathing and drinking small gulps whenever I felt thirsty.
After about 40 minutes we got asked to stay on the left hand side of the road because the first runner was lapping us! The guy was incredible - so fast! Everybody cheered at him as he run past. The second runner was at least 5 minutes behind him, and then we got to see a few small packs of fast runners that followed, along with the first woman, a tiny lady who was just completely rocking it.
I spotted my fans at the end of my first lap, about an hour into the race. There they were, smiling and cheering :) And there was I, thinking "oh dear, I'm half way - is that just or already?"... Apparently I missed them the third time they saw me - I remember hearing my name though, and learnt afterwards that it had been Rob calling me out.
The course was great with just the right amount of hills, slopes and flat bits. It was however very exposed to the sun, and as I kept feeling thirsty and hot I really felt for the people who were running in furry animal outfits and wigs. There were plenty of drinking stations all headed by the army and boy scouts, but the only part of the course in the shade was about half a mile long. I was so glad I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved vest.
Towards the 8th mile we started spotting an increasing number of people who broke into a walk, and casualties. People collapsed on the side, breathing in through oxygen masks...
I did run alongside some strange characters too, including several men dressed as women, a group of cats and tigers, and a guy wearing just shiny pink hot pants... The guys took pictures of some of these people, and few of which are shown below (and yes, there was a guy who run the whole thing carrying a surf board):
I spotted the boys at the end of the second lap, by which time I was running nice and steady, enjoying the ride and feeling quite cheerful, aside from my toes starting to really hurt. I think I run the last 2 miles completely askew, because I was trying not to have the three smallest toes on each of my feet touching the ground too hard - clearly I could feel that blisters had formed and they were turning really quite nasty.
But as we were approaching the finish, there were more and more spectators around and they were growing louder and louder, going crazy with cheers and encouragement. And then I saw the finish line :) I passed three Shelter runners along the way. I believe their names were James, Mark and Andrew, judging from the race results which can be found here.
I felt incredibly elated as I passed the finish. What a treat! The clock showed 2 hours 17 minutes if I remember well. My actual time as per chip is 2 hours, 11 minutes and 16 seconds. Not bad for somebody who couldn't train for most of the month leading up to the race!!! The race position results are somewhat temporary as I believe they are still being processed, but as of today I appear to have finished 6891st :)
After that, I felt slightly woozy for about 10 minutes, most probably because the sun had been beating on my head for two hours. I chatted with the three Shelter runners who seemed pretty happy too, collected my goody bag (which, oddly, contained a jar of cranberry sauce...), medal and t-shirt (5 sizes too big obviously), and waited patiently for the guys to join me.
Back at the hotel I peeled off the socks from my massacred toes (six blisters in total, some so nasty looking that a photo isn't even appropriate - one of my nails is actually black), enjoyed a nice shower, and caught up with Stephen, Arnaud, Rob and Cyril for a few drinks. The evening ended with a great dinner with Stephen, a very dozy journey in the late train to London, and a fabulous night of blissful sleep in our very own bed. Done!!!
Now, it is the end of the "Karen Runs the Bath Half!" blog.
I would like to thank all the people who supported me in this effort.
- To start with, Stephen, who has been a great coach and loving partner throughout these six months of craziness, early mornings, intervalling & fartleking.
- Then, Arnaud, Rob and Cyril, for plotting the wonderful surprise. I have to add that Cyril even had me believe he was attending some hairdressers' show in Angouleme for the weekend (to the extent of sending me the poster for it, and texting me "from" it while he was actually sipping coffee in a bar with Arnaud & Rob and waiting for Stephen's signal...).
- And then, all the people who helped me with the fundraising, made generous donations and sent some really motivating comments either on Just Giving, on this blog or on Facebook.
Let's see what my next weird project will be. But for now, I'm off nursing my toes and lazying in front of the telly, for a change!