Event 2 of our epic running weekend away – the Cadbury half marathon in Hobart (prepare yourself for a long post!). This one had been on my running wishlist for a while – how can you turn down the combination of running and chocolate?!
We spent our afternoon relaxing, resting our legs and fuelling up for the next day (pretzels and powerade!) and generally trying to get into the right headspace. The one I was in was very much a ‘just get this done’. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to it, I just really didn’t know what to expect from my body or mind and I suspected it was going to be slower than the half I ran this time last year. So I worked on being ok with that. Spending this time before the event with running friends was absolutely brilliant – we were all going through the same thoughts, doubts and nerves and it made it feel ok. Preparations finished with a pasta dinner and a very early night to bed.
4.00am and our alarms went off. I’d slept pretty well and it wasn’t too bad getting out of bed – the nerves were starting to feel more excited than terrified so I just kept going through various mantras while I got ready (you’ve done this before, you can do it; pain is temporary, pride is permanent; you paid for this so you may as well enjoy it!).
We taxied it out to the event and arrived about 5.30ish – it was just starting to think about getting light and all the marathoners were there, preparing for their 6am start. We found the VIP area and joined the toilet queue then hung around, soaking it all in. The finish line was right next to the VIP area and I tried to picture how I would feel crossing over it as they blew up the arch and got it all ready.
Soon enough, it was 6.30am and our turn to start. Being a small event, everyone starts together and you just figure out where to put yourself in the crowd – we headed for the back. We took a final selfie and off we went. The first part of the course is a little loop around the streets surrounding the Cadbury factory then back over the start line before heading down the hill. I ran with one of my friends for the first 2km which was great – she helped slow me down and get into the right rhythm. Starting off with a downhill was also great for my confidence as it kicked the first 2km off feeling strong and happy.
The first drink station was at the bottom of the hill and we said good luck and parted at our own paces. At this stage, I was still really unsure how the run would turn out and needed to get into the zone and figure out a comfortable pace.
The next couple of kilometres to the second drink station were quite quick – I started running some very loose intervals but then got sick of looking at my watch so just ran by feel. Run when I want, slow down when I want. Just after the drink station, I had a very brief ‘this is hard’ moment because I’d allowed myself to think about the run in its entirety and 21km seemed like a very long way. I pushed the thought from my head by thinking again in chunks – 5km to the bridge (and the turn around point) or 4km to the next drink station. Smaller distances seemed ok and my brain could cope with them so I just kept plodding along.
I had worried that I’d feel disheartened as, being at the back of the pack, you’re often out there on your own. I didn’t feel that once on this course. Firstly, I wasn’t alone at the back of the pack – there were some other runners with similar speeds who were not far away. I could actually see my friends in front until about 9km – consistently ahead but just too far to catch. And we were also out there with the marathoners who had started half an hour before us. The first one overtook me (on his second lap of the course) somewhere before the halfway point and it started a steady stream of marathoners running in both directions. So there was never any question of feeling alone.
I also hadn’t thought about how scenic the course was going to be. I’d only briefly looked at the course map and had focused on the ‘highway’ bit, not how close it was to the river. Hobart is gorgeous and the course didn’t disappoint, with frequent mountain and river views to both distract me and remind me of the positives of running.
In fact, it was definitely a day of happy running. Of course it wasn’t all easy – there were some undulations on the course, particularly the long hill on the bridge before the turn around point. But it wasn’t hard to remember why I’d paid to do this and I had lots of random smiling moments and even a few moments of tearing up, thinking about how lucky I was to get to fly somewhere gorgeous to indulge in one of my favourite things to do.
I saw my friends just before the turn around point which was a big boost – one was running her first half and looked so happy to be there. From the turn around point, the distance felt ok – I was on the way back and could almost sniff the chocolate at the finish. Probably the hardest stretch was between the 13km and 18km drink station which felt longer than 5km as I was starting to get thirsty. I had another Clif shot block at 14km, even though I really didn’t feel like eating anything by then but knew I’d need it to get me through the last bit.
The big difference between my first half and this one is that I didn’t run out of ‘run’ at all. In my first half, I’d pretty much turned it into a walk with about 7km to go, mostly as the sun was out and I was baking. This time, with perfect overcast weather, I kept up my run/walk throughout and, even on the walking bits, was power-walking and managing 9:30min/kms. I just was in the zone and got on with it, smiling all the way. Seeing some of the back of the pack marathoners starting on their second lap as I was approaching my last 2km was also quite stirring – I couldn’t imagine having to run another 21km on top of what I’d done and made sure I applauded each of them for their efforts and determination.
We’d been warned about the hill at the end (and had run down it at the start so knew what to expect) but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought. The incentive of the finish line at the top was enough to keep me going. As was my time – I’d been running really well and, all along, had known that I was on track for a PB. My 5km time was about the same as my current parkrun times, my 10km was my equal best in 12 months and I thought my 15km time might be a PB (turns out I missed out by 20 seconds!). Getting to the bottom of the hill with 1.2km to go, I knew it was definitely going to be a PB and that helped get me up the hill quicker. I ran a bit and power walked the rest then ran for the finish as fast as my tired legs could carry me.
I crossed the finish line having knocked 11 minutes and 41 seconds off my previous best half marathon time and feeling absolutely amazing. A fellow five30 runner was there to offer congratulations, give me a hug and present me with my goodie bag (including chocolate!) then I made my way to the VIP area to see my friends. We’d all finished in times we were elated about, having achieved our personal goals. The VIP area was the perfect place to celebrate with post-race massages (nothing like a physio’s elbow in your glutes to make you feel alive!), bacon and egg roll breakfast (which I couldn’t actually bring myself to eat), all the sugary drinks we needed and chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate (which, ironically, I wasn’t up to eating!).
The rest of the day was spent relaxing back in our apartment and celebrating – pizza, cider and a km by km recount of our race for dinner then a long and happy sleep, thoroughly exhausted.
2 days later and I’m still on a high, so proud of what I achieved and basking in the memories of a fabulous weekend. When can we do it all again!?!