Sunday, 25 March 2012

Show me your brass

Many moons ago (ie in the days before the Ultra) Kim and her Hastings crew convinced me to run the Hastings half marathon so I could get the much famous Hastings Brass (so famous though I can't tell you anything about it, and neither can wikipedia).

I didn't give a lot of thought to training as I thought there would be some muscle memory from the Ultra and I'd have done a 5, 10, 15k race each weekend before. But that was the plan in my training diary and not what happened in reality and as my regular 1.5 readers will know, I couldn't do the 15km due to Gambia Foot and so went into Hastings quite unprepared.

The day before I did a wee jog down the lane with Kim and realised I hadn't tested my burns and blisters for chafing but felt like the feet would be the least of my concerns as the race featured some big hills. I could tell that the half marathon was a big deal in town when the local sports shop had a 40 page event brochure in it. Featuring my name in print. I still get a kick out of little things like that!

The race start was down the road from those cute little wooden huts that line British sea sides and set next to a bustling mini expo! I was able to stock up on souvenir tshirts (who doesn't want one featuring King Harold getting an arrow in his eye on the front and their name on the back!?), free samples of Clifbar and more. Being outside London, bags were left on a trust basis, again something I got a kick out of, then it was off to spot some sun to bask in while waiting for the start. The event had provided pace makers for up to 12 minute milers which is really thoughtful so I aligned myself with a 10minute mile pacer due to being out of shape and out of respect for the notorious hills. This start group was full of eccentric entries: a man with his son in a shopping trolley looked the most perilous. A lovely man whose name I have now forgotten gave me lots of great route advice including how to tackle the hills.

I have to say that I felt the hills from the first incline through suburbia and I was really making a lot of effort to keep with the pacer. The pacer was a beautiful young man called Jules with the shiny smooth legs of a triathlete. In fact he was a double ironman. Bow in awe. Because of the heat, Jules made a bit of an error quaffing water ahead of the start and had to take to the bushes, instructing me to hold the pacemaker sign! Me! I'm a pace maker. The runners around me loved it and gave me a cheer and I tried really hard to keep pace as much as possible. It was a very cool moment. I tell you, it's the little things.

I stayed with Jules for about 3 miles as we came into the big hill of Queens Way. Jules was running a constant pace regardless of incline and I couldn't keep up and had to let the pack go. It was gutting. The hill just never stopped and even when the spectators told me it was the last hill, it never was. The crowds were great though - so many of them, super cheerful and true supporters of running. There were countless trays of jellybeans, jelly tots and orange slices provided by people out of kindness.

As well as hilly, the route was a bit tough for lack of water. There were only four water stations and after miles of staring fixated at spectator's personal drinks (and two beers) I had to pick up someone's drink from the road side. I'd seen that done in Prague and figured the runner must've been desperate - now that person was me!

I wasn't the only person struggling on the hills and it was nice that I could chat to others as we slowed to a walk and struggled to a run together. I could see the pace sign on the horizon and while on the flats and downhills I could make some distance, it would elude me again on the hills.

At one point I passed a Pirate and struck up conversation. Meldy was competing in IronMan Lanzarote next year and it sort of came out that I was too. (oh really Rowena?!) She told me that lots of Pirates would be doing it and too look her up. She also chastised me for not making the effort to run with Jules for the eye candy!

After so many hills, you would think I would be really happy to come down through the old town to the waterfront. I was not. It was more exposed in the heat and suddenly everything stopped working. My middle toes cramped along with my forefoot. I had to stop and take off my shoe and stretch it. Meldy passed and called out to check on me. All I wanted to do was finish. I fell in with a man I think called Rob from Macmillan and we walked-ran together. Alongside us (as had been for nearly 6 miles) was the Rye Team boxing club - a group carrying a stretcher full of sand bags and showing amazing team work.

I crossed the line in something like 2:13 with a massive smile on my face. The atmosphere was excellent and while the course was hard, it was truly rewarding. Plus I had my name on a tshirt!

A week later the organisers sent me a copy of the local paper with the event footage and our results printed. I still don't what a Hastings Brass is but I had so much fun I think I'll lead a campaign for Hastings For Capital!

Someone's happy

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