Whooooooo! This was awesome! So awesome! I’m so happy that I did it!
The Eden half has been a journey for me – I’d wanted to do this for several years, so I trained (hiking, running, swimming, and circuits) and finally booked my place in January 2019. I continued to train but then in August, I injured my shin (new shoes, bad choice) and suddenly instead of running 8 miles, I was hopping and cursing after half a mile and barely able to manage stairs. This led to a hair-raising two months of practically no running and the growing fear that my leg wouldn’t heal in time.
By the time I was able to walk normally, there was only a week to go. I tried a parkrun to see if I could run three miles: the answer was “sort of”. Then I bumped into the friend who’d first recommended it and she asked if I was still going?
I said yes.
Yes, because YES, just YES-YES-YES, and all of a sudden it was exciting again!
I had no idea whether I’d even be able to complete the first mile, let alone the whole thing, but I wasn’t going to succeed if I didn’t show up, so hey. I was nervous, though. Really, really nervous.
On the day, I got up at 5:30, ate, showered, put on my running kit, and drove to Eden. We rocked up beside the start line and the heavens opened and soon hundreds of us were shivering in the rain. Someone told me that it was a hard, hilly course and the “wrong” choice for a first half-marathon. I stood quietly hoping that my love of hills would see me through…
I felt a bit dwarfed by the event until my friends showed up – and then there they were, awesome people. Two were planning on running quite slowly together due to injury/training and friendship so I decided to follow them until my leg gave out (we agreed up front that they would not wait for me – we’d see each other at the end; I didn’t want to slow anyone down), and we headed to the back of the starting queue. The music was thumping, the excitement was building, the little honker thing honked, and we were off!
The first bit was a start-line queue, then we jogged for a couple of gentle km (~7min/km) before slowing for mud and a stile. So far so easy. The next section was a rolling, slightly hilly, chilled out series of little villages and woods, which was LOVELY. The rain eased and a bit of gentle sunshine dried us, there was a gorgeous breeze to stop us overheating, and we all lolloped along together at a 6.2 to 7ish min/km to the sound of gurgling streams and birdsong, and chatting about the club, and friends and life. Running with these guys saved my day; we’d run a lot together before, and they were lovely company so the time passed easily. There were drinks stations all along the way, serving mostly water but once isotonic drinks, and lots of marshals clapping and offering sweets and chocolate (it’s really well marked and impossible to get lost). Since two of us were injured, we walked and ate up a couple of the steeper sections to preserve our legs, and then trotted away again at the top.
By 11km / 7 miles, I could feel the lack of training through the summer; my legs were saying that they’d had a lovely run, thank you, and they’d like to sit down now – but they weren’t, to my relief, really complaining (although by mile #2 I’d realised that I wasn’t going to be able to push off at all from my left leg, so my right leg basically ran the whole thing by herself – am looking forward to having one leg a lot chunkier than the other…)
As on most medium-distance runs, things tend to get tougher towards the end. By 16km I was clearly feeling that I’d done 10 miles and starting to dig: I’m a mountain person, I can do this. At the drinks station, I poured water down the inside of my leg bandage to ease the inflammation, which helped beyond words; a few minutes of bliss and a shared smile with other runners who were all making their own little adjustments.
By the beautiful forest tracks at 18km we’d started talking about the last 3km, imagining the second half of our home parkrun or the lower flanks of Snowdon, or looking forward to a cold swim (that might just have been me!).
It was all fine until exactly 19.35km.
19.35km was a monster. My stomach cramped, I gurgled a bit, felt a bit crap, rumbled loudly, and suddenly felt a spinning, nauseating head-rush of hunger.
“Are you ok?”
“FIIIINE, thanks – YOU?” I sounded a bit shrill.
“Yeah, fine thanks.”
We were fine (I told myself): we were tired, our thighs hurt, our stomachs were empty, our feet were wet and muddy and hot, but this was the same for everyone and essentially we were all OK. My right leg, which had carried me the whole way on its own, started to burn, but this was NOT the time to moan. Or even think.
“You guys run ahead, I’m a bit slow,” I said.
But they wouldn’t – we’d come this far together, they were taking me with them – and I will love them forever for that generous show of solidarity. So we bashed on through the last mile and bounced down the steep, zigzag descent towards the Eden project biomes and the finish.
And someone took a pic of the moment we saw the finish!!
This was SUCH a lovely milestone for me, and a fab end to a really amazing day. Hugs and pasties, talk of finish times (my very gentle time of 2:39 – just grateful to have finished without anything dropping off!), cold water on our faces, happy runners, lovely friends and supporters, huge, frothy lattes, afternoon sunshine on the terrace by the café, t-shirts celebrating 10 years of Eden marathon and half marathon, medals, and most of all, fab, fab memories of a really, really enjoyable, gorgeous run.
I can’t believe how lucky I am that this was my first half-marathon.
I can’t wait to do it again!
(After the run, walking back up the hill, I watched the marathon runners coming down towards the finish and we all clapped and called “well done!” and sympathised with the pain on their faces but celebrated for them too because they were nearly home and in a few minutes would be enjoying the most incredible rush of a run completed – and a huge pasty – and milestone memories of their own.)
Do I recommend this as a run? Yes, definitely – do it!
For all details of the Eden marathon or half-marathon see their website.