I continually checked iPhone weather throughout the week leading up to the event and much to my delight (Sarcasm here),the predicted race day temperature continued to rise. Next came the newspaper headlines “UK predicted to be hotter than Ibiza!” And then, for me, then came the fear.
I’d had a tough 5 mile run in around 18 degrees earlier in the week, where I was dehydrated, hungry, and sunburnt. At this point, I’d seriously started to contemplate whether 13.1 miles in potentially 26-27 degrees was actually going to be something I could manage. I’m happy to report that it was!
Preparation was always going to be key, and I realised that these days, when it comes to training runs, and also in the build up to race days, I may have developed a certain (somewhat unproductive) arrogance. When I signed up for my first race, my preparation, both physical and mental was meticulous. And not just in terms of running and training. As soon as I took up running on a regular basis as a hobby , I started forcing myself to eat more and drink more water. In the week leading up to a race, I’d pay closer attention to my diet than ever and ‘carb-loading’ became a thing, as did sipping my way through pint glasses of water whilst seated at my desk at work. In addition to this, as part of my pre-race day routine, I’d ensure an early night the night beforehand, to counter-balance race morning’s invariably early start. And then there was my race morning diet which consisted of several Weetabix, followed up by a banana on the tube, and accompanied by the continual sipping of Volvic strawberry water. A killer playlist, and a pocket lined with Paracetamol and jelly sweets were also priority items of the day. This combination served me well and got me through my first few races unscathed. Then at some point (probably fully undeserved) confidence took over and gradually I started to neglect this routine. I’d forget to pack the Paracetamol and suffer from a pain in my knee, I’d be out of Weetabix and so substitue in a less substantial cereal, and fail to properly hydrate. Consequently, I’d often feel hungry or thirsty and my performance would be impaired.
This weekend however, a combination of rising temperatures, uncertainty and pre-race nerves, combined with a genuine lack of knowing what else to try, I returned to the pre-race programme that had served me so well in the past, and once again, it worked wonders. Whilst everyone’s pre-race routines will undoubtedly be different, the motto here is; if it works for you, DO IT. Even if you think you don’t need to; do it anyway!
All things considered I had a pretty decent race, and actually enjoyed it too. Initially the heat felt unbearable. “I hate this!” I hissed at my boyfriend as I found myself running alongside him somewhere along mile 2. But, I have something of a penchant for the dramatic at times, and by mile 3-4 I’d started to actually have a good time. The Hackney half had been organised pretty well, with a water station every 1.5 miles in light of the intense conditions, with at least 3 Lucozade stations en-route too. I grabbed my first bottle of water at mile 1.5, and barely went a moment without a bottle in my hand for the duration of the race. I probably chucked as much of it over my head as I did down my throat though! The crowd were amazing. I did the race last year too, and I do remember the support being pretty special, but this year it was needed more than ever. Special thanks must go to the onlookers who brought spray cans or set up hosepipes leading from their gardens to provide some, much need, cold and watery relief!
By mile 7 I was still feeling pretty decent and if ever I’d been experiencing any nerves and self-doubt, by this point I felt reassured that it was going to be okay. By mile 10, temperatures had reached 27 degrees, and I wasn’t feeling quite so perky. For me timing wise, it all fell apart a little during those final 3 miles. Still, I had started this race with a somewhat different agenda to usual – Striving for a PB, or to beat a certain time, seemed an overly ambitious goal, given the weather, so I went without a watch and made a point of not looking at the time as I crossed the start line. With the pressure (and all timing devices) off, I took things entirely at my own pace, simply going for what felt good at the time. Consequently, despite being incredibly hot, I actually had a very enjoyable run! For me, whilst initially daunting, the temperature presented a new and different challenge, and one that ultimately, I relished.