On the other hand, my finish time of 1:56:32 does not reflect the effort that I'd thought I put in. In other words, given how fast I thought I was running, I thought maybe I'd finish slightly faster.
Also, why is it that, even though I achieved what I set out to do, it still feels a bit disappointing? This malaise isn't confined to running; it seems as if it's a general attitude that I have to, well, life. Passed PhD without corrections? Oh okay, but examiners' report wasn't glowing. Finally ran a sub-2 half-marathon? Cool, but why wasn't I a minute or two faster?
I guess I really am doomed to a life of perpetual dissatisfaction.
Anyway, now that I've got the required negativity out of the way, on to the run. The organisers changed the route from last year, and I must say that I much prefer this year's route despite some awkward sudden narrowing of the running paths at the start, and some parts that were too narrow (e.g. running through King's College: yes, super pretty, but a bit too narrow as we approached and went over the bridge; and running up the Orgasm Bridge and then through the super narrow lanes to King's Parade wasn't great). The main reason? There was no horrible run up the bridge at the last few kilometres of the race. Last year, I couldn't keep running when I had to run up the bridge; I think I walked for a minute or so. But this year, the last few kilometres was flat and therefore humane, even if it took us down Thompson's Lane and its uneven, badly paved roads. So for this reason, the new route was awesome.
Speaking of roads, though: I don't know if it was my shoes (bought the same pair of shoes in another colour after my experiment with a Saucony pair left my feet in pain), or my comfy but old Reebok socks, or just the harshness of the road's surface; but about halfway through the race, somewhere in Grantchester, my feet were absolutely on fire. And it wasn't an awesome 'omg I've totally got this' on fire; it was a 'omg why are my feet burning omg why is it only 12km omg I want to die' on fire. I don't think I'd experienced this burning sensation in my feet on my long runs - which I guess points to the harshness of the road's surface being the culprit. So I began to run on the pavements whenever I could, and I think it helped a bit.
The weather was a lot better than last year: sunny, with some wind, 13 degrees. I was a bit overdressed; wore way too much black: black pants, black long-sleeve base layer, and black Vegan Runners vest. I definitely felt the heat while running under the unfiltered sun in Grantchester. And I was stupid enough not to take water at the halfway point. My thinking was, I didn't have water when I went on my 18km run (also my fastest run ever; even faster than today's half), so why did I need water now? Well, because the sun is out and bearing down on you, that's why, stupid dolt. I also did not take water at around 11miles. I also regretted this.
I only started consuming my energy gel around 15, 16km, and slowly nursed it for the rest of the run. It took me a lot to keep hanging in there when I was running the last bit, maybe the last 4 or 5km. At around Lion's Yard, I was thinking about how much more distance I had to cover, also thinking that there was no way I could maintain my pace; when running through Jesus College, I thought about the fact that I didn't even know where the fuck the finish was, and so I didn't know how much more there was to go. To get rid of these unhelpful thoughts, I told myself to just keep going; the end was near; just keep going.
I didn't want to sprint until I'd seen the finish. Perhaps I might've sped up a bit if I'd known it was just 1km left. Be that as it may: when I finally saw the finish, I sprinted towards it like there was no tomorrow. There was no euphoria, like I'd imagined, when I saw that I'd finished under two hours; but there was a lot of relief -- relief that the damn run was finally over!
I began the race keeping up with the two-hour pacer. I overtook him sometime around 3 miles or whatever (I hate this miles shit). I was afraid that he'd catch up with me, overtake me; if he had, I would have been super demoralised. But he didn't. I just tried to maintain the pace, tried not to weave through the crowd too much, tried not to let others affect me. And in all honesty, I don't know how I could have ran this any faster -- and yet, I know that it wasn't the fastest that I can run at this stage of my training. It was challenging. A part of me cannot believe that I managed to maintain a decent pace over 21.1km. Another part of me knows that this is the logical outcome of all the training I've put in over the past months. And there is yet another part of me that's simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the London Landmarks Half Marathon in three weeks. Would I be happy with just shaving off a minute from today's time? Should I aim slightly higher?
I will decide in a few days.
In any event, maybe the LLHM will be cancelled because coronavirus. (A part of me wouldn't mind this too much because, at present, I can't bear the thought of running!)
Oh, and we got to the race at around 8.40am, and I spent almost an hour queueing for the toilet. That must have been the reason we're told to arrive at 8.30am. Yay!
One last thing: super happy to have broken the two-hour barrier as a vegan. The two men behind me while waiting to enter the pen started talking about Game Changers, and this shitty Men's Health article that 'debunked' the science in the documentary. There's no point to me mentioning this. But it was nice that I saw two other runners in the club's vest, and one of them said something encouraging to me (she also finished before I did). A few people in the crowd shouted something positive about vegan runners too. And when I finished, this guy who was running at around the same pace as me came up to me and said that he didn't know about the club and he's vegan. How nice! It was interesting that he said he was using me as a pacer...because I kept him in view too!
I should write about other things. But I'm really tired and I don't feel like it, so I will end with two pictures: