ImageThe race today (this weekend’s races were) was in support of veterans and service men and women, retired and active, wounded, struggling to find employment and the homeless. And it was a great event. Somebody organized the weather and that always makes a huge difference. The company was great and so supportive, thanks David and Bekah. And the volunteers, police, road marshals, race officials etc were brilliant.

The day began at 4:20am with 5 minutes snooze button then it was drag my ass out of bed and get ready to leave. David grunted a good morning and at around 5am we bailed out of the house and set off, in the chilly air, for Norfolk. Of course, because of the lack of traffic, the trip didn’t take as long as planned so we were parked up ahead of schedule. Starbucks wasn’t yet open so we sat in the car for 10 minutes to keep warm.

5:30am the coffee shop opened its welcoming doors and in we went along with 4 other runners. Part of this was so that David could get a tea but also so that we could use the loo in comfort. Made our way to the bag drop off as time rolled round to the start. Lined up at the rather inadequate number of portajohns. Actually I lined up; David ran back to Starbucks and was back at the line before I had been. Go figure.

The start was delayed by about 8 minutes; that could have been for technical reasons or could have been that there was an errant car on the race course and the police were trying to clear it. No matter, it wasn’t raining and the atmosphere was good. Lots of energy and anticipation. And then we were off.

Tried not to rush out of the starting blocks; tried to conserve my energy. Haven’t run/raced a half for, oh, seems like ages. The run portion of the ultra triathlons, I don’t race. I complete. So this was like learning to race all over again. Settled in to a comfortable steady pace, focused my mind on counting and just went. I had absolutely no idea of what pace I was running because I didn’t see any mile markers. (David said that they were there, just small.) The only indication of how far I was around the course, was by the location of the water stops and that was approximate because I hadn’t really paid much attention to their placement on the course. I did know when I got to mile 7 because that was the relay exchange so I knew then that I was over half way.

Running through the relay exchange gave me a slight distraction. In the middle of the exchange area were a set of timing mats and a notice that said all relay runners had to run over the mats. Didn’t mention other runners. I was about to run around the outside of the mats when the guy standing by them, huddled up in his cape, coat, scarf, hat etc gave me a short wave indicating that I needed to go over the mats. No, “All runners over the mats.” Just a hand flick towards them. Oh well, I guess you had to be there.

The other distraction was the police boats stationed at each of the bridges we crossed. My thoughts were that they were there to rescue runners who decided that they had had enough and jumped off the bridge. Don’t think they had to rescue anyone. Hope not.

And my last booboo was as I turned the last corner towards the finish. Turned too soon and started running on the wrong side of the road, so focused was I on the finish. I could hear people shouting “this way, this way”. I wonder who is going the wrong way. Oops that would be me! Had to laugh at that one.

Quarter of a mile to go and my legs were D.E.A.D. but I gave it all I had. And the last 0.1 there was David yelling at me to ‘give my all’. Difficult, as I was already there. But I tried and dug a little more and lifted my knees as I crossed the line. Then I had to sit down. That was when I looked at my watch and saw my time. I had hoped to (1)  finish, (2) finish in under 2 hours, (3) finish in 1hr 50min. And I got 1:47.10 OMG. I couldn’t believe it. I was so pumped. Well, as pumped as my tired self could be at that moment in time. But what was even better was that David had finished 3rd overall. So happy for him.

And then it was over. Hmm, this didn’t seem quite right. The last few events I have done, I would still have many miles to bike and run at that time in the morning. But it was a good feeling. I had raced the race, rather than completing it. Quite a different feeling.

But, you know what? For all my pain as I crossed the finish line, it was a fleeting instance when compared to what our service men and women give us every day. So especially this weekend, I give them a huge shout out and say THANK  YOU to you and your families for keeping us safe and affording us the opportunities to take part in all the activities we do.           Joanna

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