The talk amongst the Shabba's pre-race was all about 2 subjects, hills and support (you will read more on this in the reports).
The race had a reputation for being 'undulating' and after discussions with the local knowledge (Shabba Lee Riding) this was confirmed.
There was no talk of smashing times from people at this race, it was all about supporting the runners who were making their half marathon debuts. Special mention here goes to Lee Riding and Nikki Reeves who both ran there races to support other runners, Lee supporting his girlfriend Charlotte, and Nikki supporting our very own Lady P.
This is the first of our Shrewsbury reports, and is Lady P's story (otherwise known as Sarah Tucker!)
About 8 weeks ago, a random conversation with fellow Shabba Ian, found me entering Shrewsbury Half Marathon.
My reasoning? Well If I'm going to do Birmingham Half in October, I want to be confident I can do it, therefore I'm going to do one first.
I have a habit of saying 'this one will be my first' then finding one to do sooner, to make sure I'm capable of doing the one I've already planned.
After entering, I decided not to tell many people until I'd got my confidence up and made sure I was able to complete it. One of the first people I told was Paul. Who straight away sorted me out a training plan to get me from 10k to 13.1 miles. By doing as I was told (yes I can do this occasionally!), I broke all my PBs at 5k and 10k and extended my furthest runs from 6 miles to 12 miles.
After I did my 10 mile training run, I went public with my plan. The level of support I got from the Shabbas, the running family and my friends and family was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging - it always amazes me how much faith people have in me - more than I have in myself!
In the run up to the half, I had one or two races booked in:
Market Drayton 10k - got a massive PB (1:01:29) despite suffering from food poisoning as I found out 3 days later! But had an amazing day.
Walsall Parkrun - went under 30minutes there for the 1st time (29:46).
Race for Life - my birthday celebration, found this tough, but still managed 30:01, and had an absolute blast running with Marissa.
Great Midlands Fun Run - 8.5 miles of hills, heat & fun! This is still the most fun race I've done so far. (1:29:36) - even Cardiac Hill couldn't wipe the grin off my face!
Mersey Tunnel 10k - hard race in heat. The tunnel was stuffy, sweaty & very hard, but very funny (imagine 4000 people shouting Oggy Oggy Oggy in an echoing place!) followed by a flat run along the seafront. Best bit? Running with Chris, my cousin & my aunt doing her first 10k, and being met on the finish line by family.
I know all of those great events wouldn't have gone as well, or as joyously without me putting the work in, but I just want to say, that the only way I knew WHAT work to do, is because Paul Ross put together a plan that I could cope with and that stretched and challenged me to achieve things at one point I never thought I'd be capable of. So thank you Paul.
So. Race day.
Had a great night's sleep, and woke up early enough to get ready calmly, following the checklist that Ian had sent me a few days earlier. Apart from my number being pinned & re-pinned about 6 times I was ready. Water bottles came out of the freezer and it was time to go.
After being dropped off at Baz & Annmarie's house, saying goodbye to Chris & the kids, and picking up Paul, & Ross, the nerves began kicking in. But the good kind. The "I just want to do well" nerves, not the "oh no what have I done?" nerves.
All too soon the journey was over, and we met up with Ian, Nikki, Chris C, Greg, Lee & Charlotte & Garry Craddock who'd cycled over to be super-support again.
I got the giggles straight away, as after a twitter chat about race packs not having baggage tags, Ian presented me with one he'd made with his daughter Martha, which was purple, glittery (silver not gold) with a feather, just as specified!
Nikki had been very ill in the run up to the race, and was having some niggles, so at the last minute decided to run with me rather than race. She'd kindly offered a few weeks ago, but until that moment I hadn't been sure what I wanted, but I was secretly glad to have the choice taken away from me. I think I was more nervous than I'd realised and felt a weight lift that I wasn't going to be alone.
We'd also by now found our lovely twitter friend Fi Wright - Fi has become a good friend, and we chat loads, it was so nice to finally meet her face to face. Her husband Gav was running and we found ourselves with Gav while waiting for the (delayed) start. This was when Andie Ford found us - another friend from twitter. We exchanged hugs, and all of us bemoaned the heat, the delay and the coming hills, and then we were off.
I knew this race was going to be hard, hilly & hot. None of this was going to be my challenge. My challenge was always going to be my head.
At the back of my mind, I knew a time around 2:30 was going to be realistic for my weight, pace, training and experience. But I also knew this race wasn't about time, it was about finishing healthily and happily, and enjoying the day.
The first moment of joy came in the first mile. My cousin (Tommy) his daughter & son were running to raise money for the local cancer unit that had treated Tommy's wife Sarah, so I was on the look out for them. And suddenly there was Tommy. I recognised him instantly, even though we haven't seen each other for years - he looks like my dad! I managed to catch up with him and we had a brief hug & wished each other good luck. I found out afterwards, he completed it in 3hrs 22minutes and has raised over £1000 for the unit.
Nikki had worked out what pace I needed to average to hit around 2:30, and I was averaging 11min miles and feeling strong, so we played it by ear.
Along the way, we put the world to rights. Child birth, race stories, Boosts vs New Balance, running technique for uphill & downhill, and much more. Nikki can chat for England, sometimes I was able to respond, other times I couldn't, but that was fine as I found listening to Nikki rather than my head helped! While we were chatting, I remembered my first ever run that was further than 5k. It was back in January when I was running with West Bromwich Harriers. I'd run the first 3 miles with Kat, and remember saying to her 'I've never run further than this before, I don't know if I can do it'. Both her & the run leader Jim encouraged me to keep going. The last 2 miles were run with Lorraine. We'd never met before, but she chatted & distracted, and encouraged me the whole way back to base. Since then I've called her my 'running mom' and we've become good friends, and I've become a 'running mom' to her daughter Emma. But that moment in January was an important one, and has always stayed with me.
Every now & then Garry would catch up, take some pictures, take the Mickey, and just generally keep us company.
People around us found this funny, and Nikki was asked if her and Garry would be swapping later. The thought horrified her! At other points, other runners commented that Nikki's encouragement of me was helping them too, especially one older lady on a particularly tough uphill section.
It was great to see the Shabba supporters as we passed through town, especially since Annmarie, Ross & Chris had been joined by Sam & Gray (new Shabbas) and their family. I had a little moment after passing them (once we'd finished posing for the cameras!). I was so touched to see them
At a few points, the route loops back on itself, and we saw Lee & Charlotte a couple of times. It was great to shout 'Shabba!' And wave and smile. Especially as Charlotte was doing her first half marathon too, with Lee supporting her.
We also saw Fi again who offered drinks and gels - thanks Fi!
We got some Shabba shouts, a "go on Tigger & Lady Plock" and a few "go red team!" And one "go hammer runners or whatever!" The support round the course was brilliant. The hose pipes, water & wipes were very welcome.
Between mile 8 & 9, there was a hill. The biggest, steepest one on the course. I nearly made it. But I just couldn't, and made the decision to walk until the gradient lessened. This was only about 50 metres, and it was the right decision.
After this point, my pace dropped to 12:30(ish) miles. This was consistent with my training runs, so was fine. What I was struggling with, was that I'd realised I was tired. The 4 miles between 9 & 12 dragged. Even the gel I'd had earlier didn't seem to help (thanks Lozza, it was one of yours!) But I think that's because by this point, the race wasn't in my legs, it was in my head. I told Nikki I was switching the display on my watch off, I didn't want to know my pace or distance as it was becoming annoying.
Garry joined us again at some point, and made me laugh telling me he'd fallen off his bike. (Sorry Garry, not funny, but it helped distract me!).
At mile 12, I saw 2 red shirts. Paul & Ian. They'd both said they'd run me home, and there they were.
I'm glad they were there.
Mile 12 - 13 was the hardest mile. My legs felt like they were done. I was fighting to keep going. There was no way I was going to stop, but I had no earthly idea how the hell I was going to drag myself that last mile.
Having Nikki, Paul, Ian & Gaz there made the difference. As did the promise that beer was waiting!
If I'd been on my own, I'd have still done it, but it would have been miserable.
One last hill, one last small walk as I had no legs left, then we were home.
Including a silly picture for the photographer. (We hope - the official pics aren't out yet!)
The finishing straight seemed to go on for ever. There were the Shabbas cheering. And then it was done.
Someone shoved a glass of water at me. Nikki and Ian were hugging me. I couldn't speak or move.
The paramedics thought I was in trouble (I think, it's a bit of a blur). But it was more I couldn't quite focus. After all that and it was suddenly over!
I remember not being able to take my ankle tag off <insert scouse joke here>, and Paul & Ian having to do it for me.
I remember getting a goody bag given to me & looking blankly at Paul when he told me to find the medal out. In the end he did it for me.
And that was it. 13.1 miles done. In 2:33:39.
I did it.
I'm still processing it. But I'm grinning (and aching still!). But I did it.
I had a huge amount of help & support.
I've mentioned Paul & his training plan, but he did more than that.
I've mentioned Ian and his checklist & talking me into it in the first place. But he did more than that.
I've mentioned Gaz and Nikki and how they looked after me all the way round. But they did more than that.
I've mentioned the other Shabbas who were there to cheer & support - on the day, and the ones who weren't but always there, quietly in the background when I needed a friend or big brother. But they did more than that.
The Shabbas have become more than just friends. And every single one of them has been there when it was important. Whether that was for a giggle on Facebook or twitter, to cheer me on at Parkrun or a race, for help and advice with my running, and have been there when things have got tough in general.
One Shabba in particular. My husband, Chris. He quietly just trusts I can do whatever I put my mind to, and is always there.
So although this is my race, my challenge, my story, I just want to say a massive thank you to ALL the Shabbas, and everyone who believed I could do this.
I believe it now.
We hope to have more tales from Shrewsbury over the next few days - keep an eye out!