Back in 2009 at my 1st half I had a charity place with the National Autistic Society at the Great North Run & I remember getting to South Shields in a right state. I think the longest training run I had done was 10k and the trainers I wore were chosen by me on the basis of “they look a nice colour and wow only £25 at Sports Direct” Fast forward 6 years and I was lining up at the start of the MK Half with a few making their half debuts in the shadow of the impressive Stadium MK.
I looked around at the nervous energy. One guy asked me how quick I was running. “Just under 10 min miles mate” as I saw his green 26.2 marathon number. A tall guy, almost Peter Crouch tall, he looked like he could knock out a few strides and be back at the finish before some of my fellow runners made their way to 2 miles! The customary good luck was exchanged and off he went on what he told me was his 1st marathon. “Just to finish” was the aim. Sounded good to me as the clouds broke and the temperature ramped up before the off. I then felt the presence of a few others asking me questions about what pace I was running at.
Two months ago I had seen a post on the MK Marathon facebook page asking for pacers to help on the event. I asked for a nice and steady 2h30, based on one week after the London Marathon I thought this was manageable. Ten mins after my email to the Race Director and I was allocated the 2h10 slot. Ah OK, so that’s like 10m miles? In fact 9.55 to be precise. No problem I replied in confident Dave mode, thinking I would need to ensure my post London celebrations / commiserations didn’t last ALL week as the MK team were relying on me.
Arriving at the stadium just before 9 for the briefing I felt calm but sensed the buzz that you get at races was going to be different that day. I picked up my Tango orange t shirt with “SUB 2.10” on the back and my massive orange helium balloon on a string. A chat with a few others in the pace team made me realise that I was a novice at this. One guy pacing the 5hr marathon had also paced the London and Manchester fulls in the last 4 wks. I thought “nice one pal” no moans from you about the cost of race entries!
We set off and a few stuck with me like glue as the race opened up and the field spread out into the first 5 miles around the periphery of the MK shopping district I could feel a rhythm and after 5 miles I was 2 seconds off the pace. 6.5 miles came & I hit 1.04 something. I called out “halfway guys “! to the folk around me and a few groaned. Feeling steady at this point I guy came up behind me and asked what pace I was running at. I explained and he said rather ambitiously that he wanted sub 2, was going to hang for a mile with me and push on. Incidentally he dropped back just after 10 miles. We have all had some runs where you feel great, others just urgh. Today was a feel good day. Shout outs round the (sometimes boring) switchbacks from Cathy, Rachel & the other pace teams was great & we even had the bonus of spotting Massey ladies Elaine and Kelli at the “Run Mummy Run” cheering point.
Despite the balloon flapping in the wind and politely whacking a few on the head en route in the light breeze, the overall pace didn’t drop. Two of my runners one from Swindon and one from MK Redway Runners stuck with me til 9m. I could see they were flagging so offered up a bit of “Dave mid run chit chat. Responses ranged from full on descriptions of the Swindon half route (summary its hilly – don’t do it) an update on Jenny from MK’s children and a few grunts. Ten miles ! OK time to share my bag of Jelly Babies and announce to the crowd just a parkrun to go. Ignoring the “don’t take sweets from strange men” rule the gannets plunged into my yellow bag of running food nectar. Four babies for me and the rest to the group.
Unfortunately the few that stuck with me peeled off between 10 & 11 and I ran the last 2 miles almost solo, until two people stuck with me (experienced marathon father & first time half marathon daughter) for the last mile. The Dad & I talked about the event & running in general for the last 15 mins, interspersed with a “yeah dad yeah” from the young runner.
Entering the Stadium MK I knew my job was done. I saw Anne-Marie booming from the crowd in the MF hoody and I even had time to high five every kid on the front row as I took the plaudits on the pitch side perimeter lap. I caught up with two guys with 300m to go and said “oi you don’t want to get beat by a bloke with an orange balloon”. They looked. They looked again & powered off the last 150m with what looked like a Rio 2016 Team GB 100m Qualifier.
Crossing the line and a big handshake from the stadium announcer when i saw 2.09.52 on my watch YES – done it ! What a way to celebrate my 50th half marathon! As I plodded round to pick up my chunky medal, and reflect on the achievement I saw Cathy & Rachel for some cheesy photos in the goal mouth. Lets just say it was 1980s retro Spot the Ball with the balloon taking the place of the oft missing size 5 football.
Just as we saw Anne-Marie in the crowd again and two Northbrookers who had taken part, a few of my running pals that had dropped off came in & thanked me for helping them round. A few PB’s reported – what a day – especially when I thought I had lost them it seemed they had kept the balloon in sight.
We followed up with a beer and burger at the pub a mile away at Caldicotte Lake and raised a glass when found out that Virginia had a PB to take home as well!
Virginia Silio 1.36.37 PB
Jose Sanchez 1.39.51
Rachel Brock 2.03.03
Cathy Keay 2.04.00
Dave Goodwin 2.09.49
Race report by Dave Goodwin