This report was written by a friend of TRA, Marcus, this race was his first running event and was our local race, the ABP Southampton Half.
Signing up for your first running race can be a daunting prospect, so deciding to do a half marathon first time out is borderline mad. My local half, The APB race in Southampton, offers distances from below 5k for young runners all the way up to a full 42.2km marathon which take in various landmarks in and around Southampton.Being in May temperatures are usually favourable, but this edition was a sweltering 28deg – not ideal for anyone who struggles in heat, aka me!
Pre-race preparation included a light breakfast and walking the 3k or so to the start, there were free buses on for competitors however they weren’t too reliable so we decided to walk with the added benefit of a long warm up. Registration was all completed prior, so no sign in was required, just place yourself near the ‘zone’ you expect to run at. With thousands of competitors it’s not the end of the world if you’re nearer the back though, which is where we decided to place ourselves, fully immersed in the excitable pre race nervous buzz.
The half marathon route loosely goes through the city centre towards the docks, out and back over the never-ending Itchen Bridge to go through St Mary’s Football Stadium at the halfway point; before a longer slow drag up to the city common, signalling the final downhill blast to the finish. The full marathon is two laps.
Like I’m sure every runner in every race ever, you get caught up in the hysteria for the first mile or so, I’m a numbers person so am frequently checking my pace or heart rate to make sure I’m not overdoing it but this went out of the window at the start!! Settling into a rhythm is definitely easier said than done, which is why it’s so important to train smart to allow not just your body to be accustomed to a desired effort, but also to boost your own confidence and know that a slower start will yield a stronger overall performance.
One of the most impressive things I noticed during the event was the variety of local clubs and communities at frequent points along the route, cheering and offering support for everyone. There was even one point at around km 14 where local residents were outside their houses with hoses cooling runners down, a godsend! Was a shame that this support dwindled slightly for the runners at the back end of full marathon as the numbers reduced but for the half it was perfect.
I’d managed to hold a reasonable pace for the first 70% of the run, however on the drag up to the common I stopped to re-hydrate at one of the water stations, there didn’t seem to be much water to fill demand for many more behind me, probably due to the very hot conditions. The main upside to a local event is the fact your friends and family can be there cheering you on, and they provided the last bit of ‘oomph’ at the common, that or the fact I knew it was all downhill to the finish anwyay! A finish line sprint to finish somewhere in the middle probably looked a bit odd, but as far as I was concerned it was a huge success, even if one of the post-race freebies was an alcohol-free beer that felt rather underwhelming!
Once my calves had started functioning again, and I’d had a phenomenal chocolate milkshake to get rid of the warm beer taste, it was really nice to sit back and soak up the atmosphere in the race village, seeing everyone with their well earned medals before they start training for the next one, wherever that may be!