Oxford Half Marathon!

Hey all- Have a cup of tea because this is a long one!

Saturday started off with a yummy breakfast:

Malt loaf with honey pb, papaya and fig, and mint tea. Like my new butterfly tea towel? I only bought it to make my photos look pretty!

Then we packed and headed off- we decided to make the most of our National Trust memberships, and went to Waddesdon Manor. We have been before, but years ago. It has lovely grounds (we usually only go for a walk around the grounds) but we used our membership to have a look around the house. Not really my thing, although there were a few nice paintings. Luckily it rained as we were inside, then didn’t for the rest of the time.

Some of the trees were just beautiful- I love it when the leaves turn at this time of year.

The house looked very pretty too- I like the turret on one side of the building.

They were displaying different sculptures around the grounds too- I liked this one.

Then we went for lunch- I didn’t fancy any of the veggie options, but I was tempted by about ten of the cakes (I am not even joking: fruit cake, flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake, scones..)

So I went for a slice of lemon drizzle cake, and an Earl Grey tea. Perfect.

After we walked around for a bit more, we drove to our hotel, then went to a nearby town for some dinner. Andy had a pizza express voucher, so we went there. This turned out not so good- I had dough balls for starter (carb loading of course) and then I ordered the goats cheese salad. Only it came with big lumps of chicken in it. Now to some veggies this might not put them off (I know people who pick the meat off pizza and eat that) but I cannot stand the thought of meat touching my food. Anyway, no-one even came over to ask how everything was, so I had to go and get someone in the end (and I went to get a menu to double check- you can get the salad with added chicken but there is no way I said anything that sounded like it, and it was not offered to me either). I asked for a new one, and it did look like a new one (different dough-sticks) but near one side I found some more little bits of chicken. I ate the salad from the side of the plate away from the chicken (poor Andy was then telling me not to think about it and reassuring me that I had not eaten any by mistake), and when the person collected our plates I mentioned it, and he told me I was wrong and it was artichoke. I did tell him I didn’t believe him- there was artichoke in the salad but that is more green, plus it peels into layers. Andy took a photo with his phone- it wasย definitelyย chicken. ย Urgh. Anyway, I am going to write to them because I really was not happy. Pizza Express are normally so good as they mark things so clearly on the menu, plus there are a lot of options, but I really didn’t have confidence in them. Anyway, the voucher was for 3 courses so we finished with some fudge cake. Hmm, 2 cakes in one day- taking the carb loading too far?? After that we headed to the hotel to get things ready for the morning- as the weather looked like it would be bright but cold I chose capris, a loose long sleeved top (I remembered wearing it on Autumn runs before) with a vest (with race number) over the top, and gloves.

Anyway, the next morning we were up early (to a frost), had some malt loaf for breakfast and drove to the start. We got stuck in loads of traffic, and we did leave plenty of time, but anyway we made it to the car park with about 5 mins to spare, and I needed the toilet! Luckily people in the queue told me that last year they delayed the start because of the traffic, and as there were loads of people in the queue behind me I thought I would be OK. I rushed to the start (and bumped back into Andy- I left him when I went to the toilets)- and it seemed people were already crossing over the start line- it took me by surprise!

Then, to the recap!

My main aim was to beat my GNR time (which was 2.27), and I knew I wanted to keep my miles under 11 mins. The first few miles were not the prettiest- running on dual carriageway and through an industrial park (although going around the Mini plant was interesting)- but I managed to keep the pace pretty well (10.35, 10.48, 10.49 miles 1-3), but after that the route was just wonderful. Past some pretty chocolate box cottages, through some nice suburbs, through parks, alongside the canal, into the city, back along the canal. Again, I managed pretty consistent pacing (for me)- 10.35, 10.35, 10.33, 10.44, 10.54 for miles 4-8. Along the route there were a few bands (I loved the drumming one the best) and quite a few people cheering. Not the huge crowds of the GNR, but I didn’t expect it to be. The marshals and supporters were the most encouraging I have ever experienced- so many people saying “well done, you are looking good, only … far to go, amazing job” and even a homeless man in one of the parks saying something to every runner like “you have to make that finish line” (to the man in front of me) and “keep going missy” (to me!). I was also impressed at how many runners thanked the marshals – I try to say (gasp/ pant) thanks to the people who cheer and the marshals who give directions, and I heard so many other runners doing the same- it was lovely. Anyway, for the next few miles I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, and it shows as my pace went to 10.59, 10.51 for miles 9-10. I knew I had slowed, partly because the tow-path was more uneven and I always run slower in parks than on the roads, but also partly because I was tiring. I decided to have some jelly beans- not the easiest things to eat with gloves. Then my stomach started hurting- well sort of feeling a bit bloated I think. I had taken a bottle of water with me, with a nuun tab in it, and by that point I had drunk most of it. But then I also think it could have been hunger as I only managed about 10 jelly beans I think. Who knows. Anyway, somewhere along the path I realised my pace was too slow (my 11th mile was my slowest at 11.12 – although on my screen it flashed 11.11 which I quite liked), so I started choosing people in front of me to overtake, and that seemed to help. I think sometimes in races I end up a bit slower because I naturally just fall behind the person in front. Because this race didn’t start in timed sections (with the faster runners nearer the front) I was being overtaken by speedy people for most of it, but also came across people walking after less than a mile, so it was harder to judge than most races I think. Anyway, I was so happy to see that when I reached the 11 mile marker, my time said 1.59! At that point I knew I would beat my GNR time! ๐Ÿ™‚

After that there was a long hill, right into the sun, and alongside a dual carriageway, and I was finding it very tough indeed. But I had managed to up my pace- the last 2 miles were 10.41 and 10.36. There were still so many people out encouraging all the runners- one lady was going “you are all amazing, I could not do what you are doing” and someone else was holding a sign “run like you stole something”- they gave me a chuckle anyway.

Then there was the 13 mile marker- hooray! Hardly any distance left- and my watch said 2.20 I think! The course then curved into the stadium, and then the finish arch was in sight! The official clock said 2.25, but I had not even heard the start (probably still in the toilets)- annoyingly as I pressed stop on my watch the “save” message popped up, so I had to wait until I got home! No official chip time yet, but my Garmin time is 2.20.55 which I am so pleased with! My all-time pb is 2.19- so close!

Anyway, by that point I was exhausted, but I suppose you should feel like that really. The goodie bag had a clif bar in it, so I had that right away.

Photo: Oxford Half Marathon- done!

Best picture ever??? Ha ha Andy took it for me, while he was still sat in the car! I just wanted to show off my medal!

Now, for a little moan. On the race information pack it said that runners would be able to have showers in the sports centre, right by the start. Our plan was to have showers (Andy would have his while he waited for me to finish), then we would head to the park and ride, and spend the afternoon in Oxford- Giraffe for lunch. But when I got to the car Andy told me that the gym had been taken over by new management (DW fitness) and they didn’t want to let us use it. But it was still on the website that it would be available for runners after the race. I think it is a shame, because most runners would be local and go home, but partly why we chose it was because of that reason- it would not be as if they had to let thousands of people use the facilities Moan over. So we headed home, as we didn’t fancy walking around Oxford in sweaty running clothes.

Hooray for being home (still wearing my medal- kept it on the entire journey)! After a shower, we headed out to town, mainly to visit Starbucks as I had a free drink voucher. Another chai tea latte with pumpkin syrup- and a cinnamon roll to share. Not sure if that was the best post-run lunch, but tasted so good.

The medal is pretty cool- with a little mini on it, and some of the buildings of Oxford.

By the time I finished they had run out of small shirts (even though that is what I requested when I entered- it even said the size on the envelope) so I have a medium, which is a unisex medium- pretty big. But a nice technical t-shirt- will have to see if it is too big. Anyway, the goody bag was pretty good with a clif bar (eaten), energy gel (Andy saw someone having one on the finish line- not sure if they quite got the idea of them), Running Fitness mag, a bottle and a draw-string bag.

Anyway, after our drink and a walk around the shops, we came home to a big pot of tea and the Grand Prix. Man I was so tired!

I really enjoyed the race- I think the weather was perfect, and the route was lovely (the first bit on the dual carriageways was not great, but you can’t have it all), the crowd support was good, the marshals were so enthusiastic, and finishing in the stadium was pretty good too. Not quite on the scale of the stadium in Stockholm! The downfalls with the bad traffic, no showers and no small size t-shirts don’t take away from what was a really good experience.

Phew.

Well done for reading all that- what a long post!

Did you have wonderful autumnal weather near you? What did I miss this weekend?

PS Some nice photos from the local newspaper here.

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15 thoughts on “Oxford Half Marathon!

  1. Congratulations on such a great time! I like it when races give away technical t-shirts, they’re so much better than normal t-shirts. Shame about the sizing. The last race that I did they had ran out of smalls too so I got a towel which was useful I guess.

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes a towel is good too! I would not be so bothered as usually I use the cotton ones for decorating/ gardening so a bigger size is fine.

  2. Great recap, congrats on almost beating your pb. Sounds like you did awesome! Ugh dual carriageways are a nightmare, there was one in my first half in Cardiff last year, and it was an out and back along it for 3 miles, it just mentally defeated so many people! Nice goody bag, shame about the sizing of the t-shirt though.

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I was so pleased to beat my GNR time by quite a few mins ๐Ÿ™‚ My actual pb was from a few years ago so I didn’t even think I would get that close to it!
      The dual carriageway was not for too long, so it was OK, but not the best I agree.

  3. We had the same weather as you (although I was in Leicester, so I suppose ‘we’ isn’t quite the same as when I’m at home up North!) I thought it was perfect racing conditions on Sunday – it’s funny you mentioned the t-shirt because I always get a size medium (I hate tight things) and I had to request one because the kind lady at the finish of my race kept on trying to give me a small. And they were on the ‘small’ side of small so I doubt I’d have fitted in one anyway!

    Congrats on being so close to a PR – considering you haven’t been back running that long I am sure you’ll break that 2:19 very soon!

    xxx

    • It was unisex, so Andy also had a medium which fit him with some room to spare. I might have to take a photo wearing it! My Stockholm one is medium, but that is female sizing, and that is fine (a female small would be rather snug on me!). Does that make sense? You would fit a small for sure!
      Thanks- I am pleased to be close to my all time best, and still my best time since back running. ๐Ÿ™‚ Roll on Brighton!

  4. It sounds like you had a great race – congratulations! It was cold this weekend, but if you’re wearing the right clothes that can be good for racing.
    It sounds like a nice race despite the hiccups. I usually go for a medium T-shirt anyway because I like them over-sized. I usually use them as a PJ top!

    • I prefer the cold to the warm anyway- I melt a bit in the heat!
      I would usually use for something else (like gardening) but because it was a technical t I really wanted to be able to use it. Ah well.

  5. Wow congrats on the race! That’s amazing! Sounds like a good race (despite your tummy).
    Your experience with Pizza Express made me so mad! Customer service is something that really gets to me. You are the customer! They treated you like an inconvenience. I would have got really angry. And I would have sent back that second salad. Sorry, rant over. I just think that’s terrible…good plan to write a letter!

    • I did try to, but the waiter was trying to convince me that it was artichoke- it certainly was not!
      Yes I will do a letter anyway, as you say they are there to serve the customer after all.
      Thanks also about the race- I did enjoy most of it ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’ve had bad experiences like that with Pizza Express, when I’ve explained why I need no dough sticks and they put them on anyway and can’t understand why I can’t take them off! I’d definitely write, they need to know…
    Huge congratulations on the run and the time, it’s brilliant anyway and especially when you think what you were doing six months ago! I love your race recaps, they always make me feel I was there – and I love the homeless man and the one with the sign ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Well for you that is even worse- I don’t have any medical reason not to eat it after all.
      Glad you liked the recap ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Congratulations on your time girl. Sounds like you had an awesome race ๐Ÿ™‚ So sorry to hear about the poor pizza express dinner. What a bummer. I mean didn’t they realize you were trying to carb up for a race? Geesh!! haha ๐Ÿ™‚

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