Purple Patch Grand Union Canal Half Marathon – Race Report

Sometimes a race just goes badly. That was this one! I had roughly a month between Bournemouth Half and this one. My training was all planned. Then I was struck down with a stomach bug for over a week and then as I felt better from that I was struck down by a knee injury. My months training went out the window and I only managed snippets of it so I knew going into this race it was going to be tough. It just surprised me how tough it was!

The purple patch half starts at Cowely Recreation ground which is only about 30 mins from my house so we didn’t have to leave too early which was nice. We arrived and followed the signs to the car park on the nearby industrial estate got parked and walked back around to the start. It was a pick up on the day situation for race numbers so I grabbed mine before spotting some RMR friends. We got ourselves numbered up and gear on before it was time to remove my lovely warm hoodie! A horrible moment! For the first time I had done the bin bag trick! I’ve seen people do it and always swore I never would, I now realise how clever they are! The wind was kept off me and I stayed relatively warm! There were horribly long queues for the toilets, not enough toilets for a race of this size in my opinion. A few people were getting tetchy they were going to miss their start time and we let a lady skip a couple of places as her wave was about to start!

Our start had been scheduled for 1010 although my garmin shows we started at 1015, I hadn’t noted the delay when we were lining up. Once we got underway the first part of the course was a lap of the park, boring, I think their theory was it would space people out ready for the canal path, it didn’t! We then got onto the canal path and came to a stop as there was a bottleneck as the path narrowed dramatically. This was not going to be a pb race clearly! A bit further on there was a gate which again slowed everyone down as we waited to go through it with a few people daring to take the narrow strip of path next to the canal! Once we had cleared that gate there were no futher bottlenecks and delays.

I had been excited about the course, it was somewhere I had never run before and I hoped it would be interesting. It wasn’t! We crossed numerous bridges, went under various other bridges, steadily climbed as the whole route was going upstream of the canal so there were frequent sharp rises at locks which were tough. Thrillingly the photographers all seemed to be positioned at the top of these slopes, DREADING the race photos! After 4 miles or so it started to really space out and I felt like I was totally alone. There werent many marshalls other than some at occasional bridges and at water stations. A couple of marshalls offered no encouragement at all, a bit of a bug bear of mine!

My Dad and eldest son had come to cheer me on and managed to see me at mile 2, 4 and 7 which was lovely, it really kept me going as mentally I found it a really tough race. My legs felt tired, despite the fact I’ve not run much at all this week to try and ensure my knee injury was as settled as it could be! I felt drained in myself and I think that was partly due to this weeks lack of sleep thanks to a poorly little one. It became apparent early on this wasn’t going to be my race. I knew my slowest time for a half marathon was going to be beaten! I felt like I could be near the back but wasnt fussed if I was, I’ve been last in races before and it doesn’t phase me, in fact I was kind of wishing I was to have the company of the sweeper bike!! The route was mind numbingly dull. Once you’ve seen one canal boat you’ve seen them all along that stretch! That and the trees were all the same! At one lock we saw a field of horses, that was a pleasant change, and I spotted one run down building that looked really cool, but other than that it bored the heck out of me!! At mile 12 the marshall said the finish wasn’t far we were just through the park and that was it! A mile of thinking ‘we must be nearly there’ was awful and it was a steady incline through the park, 2 ladies in front of me stopped and walked it and I decided to just keep on running. I’d put my spotify on half a mile before and it was playing out loud as I had no headphones, one of my favourite songs came on and I told myself to push. I could see the finish but not the turn back to it, eventually I reached it and after 400m over wet soggy leaves and uneven ground the home stretch was in sight. I spotted my son right next to the finish line and felt quite emotional to finally cross the line! Mentally it had been a really tough race.

You win some you lose some and I know not every race will be good which is why I’m not getting hung up on this one. I think had my training gone well then I’d be annoyed if I’d run it like this but I didn’t train how I wanted to and that showed in the run!

Onto the next one! Brighton 10km next Sunday!


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