Thursday, September 18, 2008

Run for Recovery - 20th Reebok Bristol Half Marathon

After a combination of grey skies and drizzle here in Bristol for the whole of the summer, you can imagine my surprise when the morning of 14th September welcomed me with streams of sunlight pouring into the room.

I knew then that it was going to be a good one. I downed my pint of water, made my normal pre-race breakfast of porridge topped with walnuts, blueberries and greek honey – good slow-burning, low- G.I. unrefined carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and bit of glucose - and sorted out my race number.

The start of the Reebok Bristol Half Marathon is only ½ mile away from my home which made for an unusually leisurely race morning experience, and gave me lots of time to pop a batch of white chocolate chip brownies into the oven for the post-half recovery lunch.

Of course, running past you own house twice during a race demands a certain willpower, especially when you know that the fridge is packed with cold beers and there is a casserole bubbling away in the oven!

Hats off to the race organizers of this year’s Reebok Bristol Half Marathon. They really excelled themselves. I have run the Bristol ½ for the past few years and I my enjoyment of it has always been marred by the sheer number of people running. The start, especially in 2007, was chaotic and busy, unpleasantly so, in fact. Crammed into the start pen like a sheep, I remember thinking “What am I doing. This is hell. I could do the same course tomorrow in peace without all these crowds”. There was hardly any space to run for the first few miles and it didn’t really open up for the whole race.

This year, however, was a totally different story. From start to finish everything appeared well-organised. The start was split into two waves according to predicted times with two different assembly areas. The atmosphere was calm, friendly, less congested and really rather pleasant. We easily met up with our friends, we easily found a good place to stand in the pen 100 metres from the start just behind the pack of elite runners, and we easily set off at a fast sub 8 minute mile pace. My husband, Mark, and I decided to run together for the first time ever. Mark is usually faster than me, but neither of us had trained properly so we decided to just enjoy the race together. This would have been nigh on impossible in the throng of runners last year but this year there was no question of losing each other - we had tons of space.

The finish was well-funneled and the goodie bag was perfect, containing just what a girl needs after running 13.1 miles – a Double Decker chocolate bar and a lucozade.

The run past Bristol’s major sites is very picturesque- the harbourside, the SS Great Britain, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Avon Gorge - but what I find most inspiring is seeing the elite runners running back in towards the city when you are on mile 4 or 5. Everyone claps and cheers and your mind is taken off-focus for a bit as you gaze in awe at them sprinting past. After mile 9 the race suddenly becomes a bit trickier and there are a few nasties to deal with – too many corners to weave around, horrible medieval cobbles around mile 10 and then, just to finish you off, a nasty little hill at mile 11+….all character-building stuff.

Mark and I came in together at a not-particularly-respectable 1:46 and after a few very sweaty hugs (why do men always seem to kiss you on both cheeks after sprinting though the finish line!) we did a quick power-walk home to prepare for the post-half lunch.
No time to sit down and recover for us - after a quick shower I was warming up the two casseroles I had made the day before and preparing the couscous and salad while Mark sorted the drinks situation – plenty of cold beers and wine, J2Os for the kids and fizzy water.
A short while later I was sitting down with my guests, sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and eating a tagine of spiced lamb with flageolet beans, green garlic sauce, couscous with roasted almonds and a lovely crisp green salad. It seemed to hit the spot with everyone. Pudding was a choice of tarts - date and cardamom and chocolate pecan or walnut and white chocolate brownies with cinnamon cream. Good puds full of high GI glucose to get straight to those tired muscles. I have never seen a tray of brownies disappear so rapidly.

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