It’s tempting to pretend that if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve only run for 10 minutes in the past 6 weeks I’d be returning to the scene of my first ever half marathon tomorrow morning. The truth of the matter is that I probably won’t be back in Hastings in too much of a hurry as I’m still recovering from the scars of 2010.
The target was to complete the 13.1 miles and it would have been a bonus to cross the finishing line in less that 2 hours. My memories of the day were as follows:
1. The train journey down included my first ever experience of the tactical toilet trip (TTT). This meant waiting for the queue of people dressed in running gear to diminish enough for it to be worth joining as I sat near the only functioning lavatory. In fact the queue got longer and longer and as we drew closer to Hastings I reckon only the train driver and I hadn’t joined it. To kill time and calm the nerves I’d been checking out previous reviews of today’s event but was horrified to note they nearly all mentioned the steep climb out of town for the first few miles. This was news to me as I toyed with various hopeless ideas on how I could do last minute hill training on a train where everyone else was queuing for the toilet.
2. And so to the start line. Yes there was a big hill – it seemed to go on forever and the 2:00 “virtual partner” I’d set up on my Garmin sneered and pulled further away from me as time went on. However,I finally reached the “summit” and so we shook off the mountain goats, planted flags and pressed on for the descent.
3. The next thing I learned was that running down a steep hill might be fun for 20 seconds as a child, but my burst of “speed” had to be sustained quite a bit longer and when I reached the sea front I wasn’t exactly shouting “Again! Again!”
4. With my fuel gauge flashing on “Empty” and the hallucinations kicking in, I confused miles for kilometres and failed to notice the little jog along the sea front actually entailed leaving Hastings and running to the next town along the coast.
5. Finally the big black semi-circle of the finish line loomed into view. I ignored the sensible devil on my shoulder shouting “Lie down on the beach – you know you want to” and heeded the reckless angel reminding me of my irrational hatred of people who shamelessly walk any part of a running race. It was at this point that the “finish line” came into sharp focus – it was in fact the raised back door of an estate car and the real finishing line was nowhere to be seen.
6. Who knows how I covered that last mile or so along the seafront into St Leonard’s. The welcome for this all-conquering fine physical specimen was very special – a steward said “Are you ok mate, shall I ask St John’s for a wheelchair?”
7. It was probably half an hour before I eased out of my promenade bench, commemorative horse-brass in hand to get the train back into London. I’d “smashed” my two hour target by 7 whole seconds. As would become the custom, my final conclusion was “Never again”.