For reasons I still can’t quite grasp, I did the Tenby Half marathon yesterday. I don’t run. I don’t even want to run, except when things are chasing me. I didn’t run much at all during this running race, either. There were hills. And I’m pretty sure I walk faster than I run, especially if you factor in the extra time spent laying on the ground moaning that running necessitates.
I think I entered this event due to peer pressure. Mother, brother, two of Mother’s sisters and one of their husbands were all in it as well. Cousin, his wife and baby went along as well, and Father was there to drive me and mum around. It was actually a really fun family occasion, and Tenby is a beautiful seaside town. Sadly, there was no time for the beach. We drove in on Saturday, said hi, had a drink and went to sleep. Sunday we were up early, putting on running clothes (yes I bought sport clothes especially for this) and getting into the specially laid on coaches. The day started warm and pleasant, but by the time we got to the start point at Pembroke Castle, cold rain was falling hard from a sky stretching grey to the horizon. Thunder boomed. as we huddled under a marquee in the castle courtyard, staring up at the grey stone walls and trying to avoid the huge drops of water dripping from the edge of the tent.
We had two and a half hours to wait, and the castle grounds were filling up with runners. We took shelter in the museum under a case of military uniforms and those weird helmets with a horsetail sticking out of the top.
The dingy stone-flagged museum, part of the castle keep, was filled with runners. Some were quiet and intense, others gossiped happily. Eventually it was time to go. The half marathon was part of a huge event. There were people already begun running the full length marathon, and on the previous days there had been running and swimming events. A stage was set up on the grass, and from it a guy shouted at us and told us where to run, before sending us on our way in a lyrca-clad procession up Pembroke high street to the start point, following (what else?) an amateur samba band.
On the other side of the road the marathon runners were passing, and the people of South Wales were out to cheer them on, and to cheer us on as we started running. The route wound through secluded lanes and tiny villages, where the people stood in front of their houses ringing bells and shouting encouragement. It looked like they’d made a day of it, some of them waiting along the verges in vans, others setting up unofficial food and water points. At the first village, some kindly (?) person had fixed a garden sprinkler at head level to irrigate us as we passed. It was cold and still raining on and off, but it was a sweet gesture. The levels of enthusiasm were alarming. Village life must be incredibly boring. If a bunch of weirdos decided to run in a line in front of my house, no way would I be encouraging that.
The route was really, really beautiful. The sun started to come out as I reached the road along the coast. The beautiful views distracted me for a while from the pain and general boredom of trying to make myself move quickly.
I broke my personal best for ‘longest continuous jog’, a record previously standing at 20 minutes, now at 27. Having done basically no training, I was planning to just walk really fast, but everyone at the start was running, and I guess I got caught up in the general enthusiasm.
This was a terrible idea, as once people had seen me jogging, they looked and spoke to me like I was One Of Them, so I felt obliged to break into a run every now and then so as not to disappoint them, or the spectators. My mum was jogging too, so I ended up keeping pace with her. A half marathon is 13 miles long. Half way through, I was pretty tired, but enjoying it. By the time there were 4 miles to go, I felt pain in my leg, left thigh muscles for some reason hating me. It had been hurting the day before as well, one of the random pains I seem to get all the damn time for no good reason. I figured I could write it off as hypochondria like I usually do, but I was wrong.
For the last two miles I was powered only by cursed rage, hate for all the children lining the route with encouraging signs, hate for oxygen and humans and running and most of all, hate for myself for my terrible life choices. Getting back into Tenby, the end was near. I caught up with Mum. Reaching a corner, a woman said, ‘Only two more corners to go. You’ve got to run now, there are people there!’
And there were people. Hundreds of them lining the streets cheering, including brother, aunty and uncle who had already finished and were waiting to high five us on the final stretch. A PA announced our names as we jogged through the streets and through the finish arch which was topped with flames. Tacky dance music (sorry, I mean pumping motivational beats) blared as the mayor of Tenby shook our sweaty hands and I felt momentarily better, ie. I didn’t throw myself to the floor gasping, as I had envisaged, but rather walked to get my medal without falling over.
We finished in 3 hours 3 minutes. I came 273rd, with a pace of 4.2mph. Aunty who did actually walk the whole thing came in 25 minutes afterwards. Bro was the fastest with 1h 55, because he exercises. Other Aunty had actually done the cycling event the day before, because she might actually be insane. I’m really glad everyone finished, and nobody got injured. Everyone seemed to have some kind of fun, possibly. Only one uncle swore ‘NEVER AGAIN!’
I still have no idea why I did that, and today I’m so achy I can’t believe it. I don’t know why I’m surprised, even gentle walks leave me in pain half the time, because for some reason my muscles are persistently shite. My thighs hurt so bad I can hardly walk down stairs, although in a random blessing, my crappy knee is fine. Its movements have the usual weird grinding texture, but no pain. Right shoulder hurts for some weird reason, a lot more than the left one. I don’t appreciate the lack of symmetry. Altogether though, I’m pretty glad I tried that out, if only for the views of the coast and the psychological boost of finishing something. If I do it again I’ll train a bit so that I don’t suffer. Sporty aunty is already asking, ‘Next year then?’