The Road to Birmingham (Half)

Where on earth to start?

My training for the Bupa Great Birmingham Run has been spot on.

Following the plan Captain Shabba Paul Ross did for Shrewsbury half for me, with a few adaptations, meant I’d broken my PBs for 5k, 10k, 5mile, 10mile and even 13.1 miles in a training run. I feel great. Fit, strong and well up for a go at smashing my shrewsbury time of 2hrs 33mins. Even if it was only by 3 minutes to take me to 2hrs 30mins, it was game on.

Then. My foundations went.

A fortnight before Brum, I ran a 10 mile race in Rugby, with fellow shabbas Daz, Simon & Ross. We’d all had good runs, and enjoyed a drink and BBQ afterwards.

I went into work on the Monday to an email confirming that the restructure we’ve been waiting for since February was being announced the next day.

So Tuesday. We get the announcement. Our department is being reduced by 40%. Off you go to wait for your 121 meeting to find out what this means for you.

My 121. A meeting with someone I trust and respect. Hands me a letter. Your role is at risk. And explained my options. I can request to leave with a package, or request to go into a pool for a role. There are 12 people for 4 jobs. You have 2 weeks to decide.

I rejoin my colleagues. We go to the pub. And work from that moment on is a constant battle for information, clarity.

And although I’ve been aware this was coming for some time, the reality was horrible.

Over the fortnight, I’ve drunk too much, cried, ranted, raved, talked Chris’s ears off. But I couldn’t run.

Every time I tried, or planned to, I was overwhelmed by panic, emotion and found an excuse not to go.

I was skipping meals too.

All in all, not good prep for running 13.1 miles.

But I got out the other side.

The constant support from Chris, and the few friends I managed to tell got me to a point where I could run. And I went out and blew up.

I knew I would, but I also knew I couldn’t do that in the middle of a half marathon, I had to break the barrier before then.

The next day, I ran again. And it was fine. I enjoyed it. The demons were at least back in their box!

So Sunday arrives.

I’ve decided, given everything, that PBs were off the table, and the goal was now survival.

I meet my fellow Shabbas. And the girls from RMR I’ve got to know. I Dissolve all over Lozza. Give her sister H a huge hug – H gives great hugs.

Then start to get stressed as I need a replacement timing chip (either I didn’t get one or I chucked it!).

My brain feels remarkably calm at this point, but I’m pretty sure I was twitchy, rambling and leaking nervousness in reality.

I sort my chip out. And find Lee & Charlotte- Lee in full superman outfit, and make sure Charlotte has her brand new Shabba shirt to wear.

We make our way to the starting pens. With a loo stop and a loo queue selfie with Fi Wright my lovely RMR and Twitter friend.

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After a superman moment where Lee lifts a girl over the fence, we find our starting pen. In all the crowds, Lee & I sneak into green start with Charlotte.

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After hearing Tammy & Si getting a shout out for their fab Wonder Woman & Superman outfits, we were off.

First job. Don’t go too fast. Pb or no PB on the table, survival in a long race means slow & steady.

My first mile was 10mins. A little quick but it was down hill. I caught up with Matty B & his sister Kay – she was running her 1st half to raise money for PKD which her son has. After a quick hello, I carried on. I heard ‘go on Shabba!’ From the crowds and there were Matty, Phil & Kay’s family cheering. That was a lovely boost.

After a while, I noticed a familiar group. Wendy, Sam, Marissa and Gray (aka Charlotte!). All were running their first half, driven by Wendy wanting to raise funds for the local breast cancer unit that had treated her. We ran together for a while, but I’m used to running alone, and find it hard to pace myself to others. They were doing brilliantly. So proud of them all.

I also caught up with Phil who was running in a morph suit, as usual, but with the added extra of a gorilla carrying a man in a cage suit. Nutter!

There were a couple of points were you could see runners coming back the other way. I managed a high five with Sara M who I’ve FINALLY met! And a shout to Simon Potter in his Macmillan vest.

Around Edgbaston cricket ground I found a lost looking Simon Partridge waiting for Tammy as they’d gotten separated. Don’t worry they found each other and had a very special family finish.

Around this point I got angry. Questioning what I was doing and why. So I grumbled to myself a bit until I was distracted by a voice saying “you’re Tammy’s friend!” I found out later her name is Erika. We ran together for a while, through the shower, and chatting although I’m pretty sure I wasn’t very coherent!

All of a sudden, I hit the 10 mile marker. I hadn’t really noticed the distance till this point. But this was the mile everyone warns you about. This is the mile with THE HILL. I also realised that even if I walked the next mile, I was going to pb.

Ok. I dug in and all of a sudden I was racing not running anymore.

The hill was tough, long and slow bits as well as short and steep bits. But it was beaten with only a 30 second walk, which was more a mental break than a physical one.

And then there was Broad Street. Toe down. Here I go. I pushed. And then I heard the roar. Above the noise of the crowds, I heard my Shabbas. I grinned and went for it. I heard another shout – Thommo and Emma from the West Brom Harriers.

I crossed the line. Stopped my watch.

2:21:25.

I text Chris.

I then burst into tears. And sobbed my way through the chip removal, water point & goody bag collection.

I met Aimee from the Sweatshop Running Club who Chris runs with and we had a lovely chat.

I got my bags.

I found my Shabbas and went for a celebratory drink.

Everyone had done fantastically. It was great to relax with everyone smiling, laughing, hugging.

And then it was time to go, and celebrate with my family.

But I survived my race. I survived and knocked 12 minutes off my time for Shrewsbury.

But I didn’t do it alone. I may have run alone, but the journey to the start line only happened because of the amazing support I have at home and away.

Thank you.

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