A tale of 2 halfs – Shelley Hughes
On Sunday the 1st of July along with over 1500 other runners I ran my first half marathon in Southport, I signed up for the race in January and not long after this my grandad passed away, I left my job and moved back to my hometown St Helens and the journey began. I’d developed a love for running in 2017 when I signed up for the St Helens 10k and hadn’t ran even a 5k at that stage, I completed a number of virtual runs and even signed up for Park Run. I completed the 10k in under and hour and wanted to carry on and do more, at the time I signed myself up for the English Half Marathon in September 2017 and ran one more 10k at Birchwood in August 2017 but had done zero training and returning from holiday only a few days before the EHM I decided not to participate on the day….did I regret it YES.
So Southport was my way of making up for the disappointment of never running that half marathon. So eventually I got round to training in February 2018 with a couple of runs a week and the odd park run. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Terry Bates of BeUrBest who offered to coach me and send me weekly training plans , this introduced me to a new way of training but in a way were I slowly built up my pace and it was also giving me more confidence. I started to run 3-4 times a week with one day in the gym working on cardio and core strength. I also had a really good friend who cane out to run with me on most sessions and although I knew on the day it was about running solo and your own self belief these two things really helped me focus and have very little doubt leading up to the race that i wouldn’t complete the 13.1 miles.
I also need to mention Striders in all of this as having that place to go very week knowing that you had that support really helped, I did my first long run of a 9 mile muster run with the bandstanders one sunny Sunday and that set my pace for the coming weeks. I also has a few good chats on that Sunday along the way and each and everyone of them said how I’d be fine on the day and be ready for Southport there support was there throughout even on the day hearing someone shout `Strider’ was all I needed to keep going.
So raceday approached and I had trained to plan all week and felt really confident if anything I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I prepped well the night before eating what felt like my body weight in pasta (I never eat pasta) but my coach said it was allowed!!
The morning of the race again no nerves just imaging getting to the finish line and actually running further than I ever had before, I’d checked the weather all week and knew it was set to be a hot one so I’d packed energy gels, race belt and two water bottles with electrolyte and magnesium tablets, as it was my first half marathon I was purely going on instinct. Despite a slight incident with some off milk I was fuelled and ready to go.
I’d arrived in Southport very early so I had plenty of time to walk around and check out the surroundings, along the walk I passed the 11 mile marker and that was the first time I wondered if I’d reach that point. Then time passed and it was 30 minutes until the start so headed down to race hq to enjoy the build up and get ready for the race. Although I hadn’t decided on a finish time 2hrs and 30mins had stuck in my mind and based on my training pace it seemed possible?
If the nerves weren’t starting to kick in just before 9 they certainly were when the delay came and we didn’t start until 9:15!! Then we were off, steady pace and my only aim was to get around and finish without getting too dehydrated, needing to stop and pee (which I’d did at the first water station) or possibly fall and hurt myself. So I took it slow and eventually made it up towards the coast road which I’m sure anyone who has ran it knows it’s a test when you are running straight ahead with no idea were the road might end. Before I knew it we hit water station 2 and was heading towards the 8 mile mark, that quickly went and we hit 9 miles…that was the test. I’d never ran further than 9 miles so it was a case of my legs felt heavy and the sun seemed to get hotter, but I knew at that point I was hitting new ground so I had to keep going, I also still felt like I had much more in the tank. We hit water station 3 and then it was around the lake and back up towards that 11 mile marker.
I’d been lucky with lots of advice along the way so had taken on energy gels, salt tablets and lots of water although at this point I was throwing the water over me to cool down it was one hot day!!
There is was the 11 mile mark god it felt good, after that it was another long coast road and then we could hear the drums in the Park…the finish line was insight.
We passed 12 miles and it was time to go for gold and up the pace, I wasn’t really looking for an epic finish I just wanted to get to the finish.
The final run through the Park felt like the longest mile ever! But everyone was cheering and shouting support and it felt amazing, so there it was the clock I could see it was 2:14:24ish and I’d finish in less than 2:15, official time 2:12:49.
Not only is it a relief when you reach that point but it’s also euphoric as you’ve had that goal in your mind throughout the training and then the moment is here and you don’t want to forget it.
I’m really grateful for all the support I had along the way, my best friend Gracie who ran on all my runs even when I didn’t want to run at all. Also for my coach and striders for making me love running and having the confidence to enjoy it.