My original plan upon returning from my trans-Siberian adventure was to run a 10K and then do the Shrewsbury Half Marathon. I didn’t really know what to expect from this race; but after missing Coventry Half due to illness, and barely having recovered enough to run the Milton Keynes Half, this one would be my first proper Half Marathon of the year.
However, whilst in Moscow I managed to slip on some stairs at a metro station and twisted my ankle – something that resulted in a loud cracking sound. In the first instant I thought I’d broken something, and could barely walk on it for the next couple of days whilst still trying to hobble around Moscow to not miss out on the sights. The day I did it however it had swollen so much it looked more like an elephants leg than the ankle of a human, and the following day it started to show signs of bad bruising. The photos I took of it really didn’t show how much it had actually swollen and bruised though.
With how difficult it was to walk on it initially I knew I couldn’t run on it and didn’t get to run again that week. This didn’t help when over the previous several weeks I’d only done 5K runs (and the odd 10K). In fact, the last time I’d seen 13.11 miles on my running watch was during the Brighton Marathon in April. Training hadn’t gone well, and whilst on holiday I’d dropped from my usual minimum of 4 runs a week to have only run 3 times in 16 days.
By the time I should have been doing the Two Castles Run I hadn’t run for almost two weeks, so attempted a short 2.5 mile run instead; but found between the humidity, and the discomfort from my ankle it didn’t go well. I had one week to go until I’d be racing Shrewsbury and was still incredibly under-prepared and unsure if I could still run. I had just one week to heal and to try and prepare myself for a longer run. To make the most of this healing time I chose to not run again until race day, even though I was eager to try.
It got to the Friday before the race, and my ankle still didn’t feel right, but after work I drove to Shrewsbury anyway as it had been arranged as a #ukrunchat weekend. The day passed reasonably quickly and just after 16:00 I was on my way. It took 2hrs20 to get to the YHA Bridges hostel, and had a tingly foot for the last hour. The hostel was formerly a school house until there weren’t enough children for it to be used as one; eventually in 1931 it became a youth hostel and is now one of the oldest in the country.
When I got there I didn’t think there was anyone there to start with, but then came across Nicola (@addingvalue2u) showing @jen_f16 around and was shown to where I’d be sleeping. There are a few rooms there, and us guys got the room named “Long Mynd” which is named after the nearby hills.
The Long Mynd room
By 19:30 the rest (almost) of those who would be staying this first evening had arrived, and we had a three course meal consisting of minestrone soup, sausage casserole, and sponge cake with blackberries. Amazingly this only cost £12.50, and whilst there also paid for the next day’s food as well. Once we’d all done the washing up we then headed down the road to the pub where they had Wi-Fi. Since the area had no mobile phone signal this was our only link to the outside world. We sat inside and talked whilst outside they had something called a Sineater festival going on which was playing some “music” that sounded more like feedback from a microphone. This was there way of celebrating the summer solstice.
By 23:00 we’d all headed back to the hostel, and I went straight to bed whilst the others sat up and talked in the dining room for some time after.
It was a very sleepless night, but I got up a little after 07:00 to some light drizzle. After a light breakfast (crunchy nut cornflakes and a banana for me) we headed out for a morning walk.
The path we took was off road and muddy, and due to the mist and rain we couldn’t see much other than sheep – but apparently over Long Mynd it’s possible to see views across the valley to Wales. Not this day though. We walked for around 2 hours and covered 7.5km and my ankle handled it more or less okay. It was a little questionable though when I stood on the side of an embankment photographing a derelict building and slipped in the mud on the same ankle. Fortunately it seems I was lucky and between the ankle support, walking socks, and walking shoes it cushioned it pretty well.
Back at the hostel we had a second breakfast – bacon cobs (or rolls depending upon the part of the country you’re from) and tea. It might sound like we were being Hobbits (see Lords of the Rings), but I think technically it was more of a brunch/lunch thing really. After that we sat around talking until 13:00 when we headed out to the Shrewsbury showground for an afternoon of talks.
With the roads closed in Shrewsbury for a carnival from 13:30 we had to take a diversion which meant we couldn’t get to the talks until 14:15. After a couple of hours hearing about various running related topics, we headed back to the hostel for the remainder of the day – having gained a few extra people along the way. For the next few hours I sat in the hostel’s garden with the others, and even had a go on the swing in the garden.
For the evening meal it was a vegetable soup, lasagna with chips, and for dessert it was an apple and rhubarb crumble with custard. Once everyone had eaten and the washing up done, we headed over to the pub again to spend the remainder of the evening. This time we were outside and got to hear some of the “music” from the Sineater festival a little closer than previously. It was a good evening, and I really enjoyed it. I was also amazed by the size of a Wolfhound – I’m pretty sure it had been crossed with a horse.
With a race the next day, most of us headed back to the hostel just before 22:00 so we could get some rest for an early start.
I had been awake for some time when I got up at 05:40. Some of the others were already up too as some were going to be marshalling the Shrewsbury Half Marathon and so needed to be there before the runners. I always have crunchy nut cornflakes before a race, and today was no exception. Once I’d eaten and was all packed I headed over to the West Midlands Showground in Shrewsbury where the race village was located. I was almost 2 hours early, but it was one last chance to talk to others before the race – and there were plenty of #ukrunchat people to talk to!
Knowing I wouldn’t be able to manage what I normally would due to both lack of running and my ankle I decided to go for the sub-1hr45 pen. I did think this was a bit optimistic but figured that people starting there would be going about the same pace as what I’d be starting at, even though I knew at some point I would be walking.
To start with I headed off at a pace that felt okay, which I knew earlier in the year I’d have been able to do as a relaxed pace, and one which it felt like my ankle could for the time being cope with. This first bit went from the showground headed south through the town and passed the castle. The support was great and everyone was getting cheers as they passed. Around this time I said “hi” to @1SteveMac and @runginger. I’d not gone far and had already seen some familiar faces!
After we crossed the River Severn we started to encounter more hills and I soon found that my ankle was no so good at the up-hill sections – it wasn’t bending the right way without it causing discomfort. Going downhill on the other hand was okay so I came up with a strategy to not push too hard up the hills and to instead walk the majority of them.
Although I’d hoped I’d have been able to run at least half the race before giving in to my ankle I did start to walk to get up a hill just before mile 4. At this point one runner ran passed calling me a disgrace for walking before I’d even made it half way. Obviously he didn’t know I was injured, but it felt a little unfair for some random person to judge.
Once we got to the farthest point in Kingsland we then looped back and the majority of that back to bridge was down hill, though still found the need to walk occasionally to try and let me ankle recover. During the frequent walking breaks that followed the rest of the runners that passed me were encouraging and acted the way most runners do – proving that although there was one idiot, the rest were good people.
On this loop back to the bridge I passed and high-fived @DouglasKurt and then @FiaCarter, and waved to @jen_f16 – I don’t think I’ve ever recognised so many people in one race before!
By the time I got to mile 7 the ankle support was starting to have a detrimental effect. It was making my foot warmer and was causing it to sweat, which in turn caused blisters where the support was rubbing against my foot. This further discomfort caused the walking breaks to become more frequent. As my watch rolled around to one hour into the run I’d just reached the 8 mile marker – 2 miles less than I would normally have wanted to be at by this point. Even though I went into the race not knowing if I’d even get more than a few miles into it without needing to pull out, I did feel a little disappointed by this, but then I was also pleased that I’d still managed to get as far as 8 miles (even if that did involve a lot of walking).
Not long after this I saw @runginger again as he passed me, and a few miles later I saw @1SteveMac pass me as well. I’d hoped after this, as I passed mile 10 that I’d be able to run the last 3 miles without stopping. I couldn’t though – the blisters were getting more uncomfortable and were getting to the point where they were worse than the ankle. Even at mile 12 I though I could run the last mile, but couldn’t do that either. After half a mile the course went off road and onto a gravel path – the worst thing my blisters and ankle could imagine.
I tried to run as often as I could, but it was extremely infrequent. Eventually I saw the “mile 13” marker and started to run – determined that no matter how uncomfortable it was I would run this last bit as fast as I could manage. As it turned out wanting to minimise the time I was on my feet for sped me up quite a bit and I’d just reached 4min/mile pace as I crossed the finish.
It was a nice course, and very well organised, but it was a race I was glad to be over. Somehow though I still managed to finish with a time of 1:44:12 in position 263 of 1339 finishers (first 19.6%). It was also good to see a friendly face at the finish as @Sherieamore1 and the other #UKRunChat ambassadors were keeping everything organised at the finish and were doing a good job of making sure the finish was not overcrowded as some races I’ve seen previously.
To start with you’re handed a water bottle and a goodie bag that included:
- finisher’s medal,
- a packet of salt & vinegar crisps,
- jelly tots,
- strawberry SiS REGO rapid recovery,
- £5 off at Chiquitos,
- a copy of the June/July issue RunABC Midlands,
- two sachets of Truestart Performance Coffee.
They then followed this up with handing over some Sun Pat peanut butter, and a finishers technical tee! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a great selection in a goodie bag at the end of a race. Throughout the race they’d been taking photos as well and these were automatically posted to Facebook not long after crossing the finish line – for FREE!
The event was very well organised and had the feeling of a big event, in a good way that is. The route was well marked, supported, and marshalled and had a good variety of scenery whilst managing to provide some challenges (at least to an injured runner anyway). It’s a race I’m very likely to do again, but without the ankle injury hopefully.
A massive thank you to @Howard50at50 for organising the weekend before the race, and to @iRunJoe and co. for the race itself – it was an enjoyable one!