Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Lucky Number 13 (.1): Run Hackney Half Marathon done!

If you’re friends with me on Facebook or Instagram you may have noticed that over the last 8 weeks I’ve been in training for the Run Hackney half marathon. (Apologies to all my friends for the over-sharing of my sponsorship page, but it’s all for the kids so thank you for putting up with me!).  

Before I signed up to the half marathon I was a casual jogger – yes, I enjoyed jogging 3-5 miles at least 3 times a week and was pretty religious about it, but never did I have the urge to go any further. I’d hit 5 miles and that was more than enough for me! But on returning from India I was visiting my good friends in the Street Child United offices (that’s the NGO that I used to work for in my pre-yoga teacher life), and two of my former colleagues said they were running the Hackney half alongside some of their wonderful supporters and somehow they convinced me to sign up too (thanks guys!). I think it must’ve been down to a combination of being high-on-life and feeling invincible having only just returned from India, and also not being able to say “no” to anything related to raising funds and awareness for Street Child United.  Either way, I’d signed up and there was no turning back! (Especially since my sister swiftly decided to sign up too, there was most definitely no backing out after that!).

Street Child United half marathon team

So my 8-week training plan began! I kept 2-3 shorter runs in my weekly routine, and as advised by many-a half marathon training plan, began to include one longer, slower run each week. The first time I went on my longer, slower run I estimated that I managed about 7 miles, but I'd totally guessed the distance and didn't really track the time so for the next one I decided that it was time to download the Nike+ App. 

Over the weeks I gradually added a mile or two to my longer run and surprised myself at my ability to keep going no matter how much pain I was in! It really is true that these types of events are mind over matter...aside from one week where I was aiming for 11 miles and ended up running 6 and walking 3 before giving up due to major dehydration (oops!). It was lunchtime on the hottest day of the year so far and I'd very cleverly not taken any water with me - big lesson learnt! Despite this minor setback in the penultimate week before the race I ran a steady 13.5 miles, so I felt confident that I could at least finish on the big day!

For 3 weeks before the race I'd been relatively careful with my diet (cutting down on carbs and upping my protein intake) and had pretty much given up alcohol (I had one small glass on wine and one prosecco during that time, so I don't think they really count, right?); so how did I prepare the night before the big race? With a massive calzone and two pints of Peroni of course! I'm not sure how wise this move was, but I was having dinner with some of my fellow half marathoners and we were having too much of a nice time not to. That being said, I didn't manage to get a wink of sleep that night and I'm still not sure if it was the nerves or the dough baby in my tummy!

Nevertheless on the morning of the race I was up and ready to go along with my sister and a fellow Street Child United team members. The start and finish of the Hackney Half was the Hackney Marshes, which was a pretty perfect location as we got to run through part of the Olympic Village (no, it didn't make me feel like an athlete unfortunately as this was mile 11-12 and I was bloody knackered by then!), and it offered a nice grassy area to prepare for the race in. It was all very well organised and the atmosphere was great - my only criticism would be that massive queue for the loos from 45mins before the race; it meant that 3 of us from the team had to wee in the bushes (I'm so sorry Hackney, but needs must!). 

As we were fairly near the back of the race line up we didn't end up starting until 20mins after the official start time, but once we were off it was a great feeling! The first 3 miles we all stuck together and ran pretty quickly (we were averaging about 9mins per mile), but between 3-4 we spread out a bit and began to find our own paces, so before long I was going at it alone. This is where the wonderful people of Hackney come in - they were out in force on Sunday and were incredible sideline supporters; they offered water, jelly babies, oranges, high-fives and lots of cheering, and they really did help to keep us all going. Thank you to everyone who came to support us - we couldn't have done it without you!

The weather on Sunday was hotter and sunnier than I'd anticipated and so the regular water stops were very much appreciated. After mile 5 I decided that I wasn't going to just drink the water but I was going to tip it all over my head too! By this point I looked like a sweaty, wet, hot mess but I just had to keep reminding myself why I was doing's all for the kids! 

I hit 'the wall' somewhere between 9 and 10, but by that point I felt like I was so close to the end and just couldn't stop running. So I powered through and things did get slightly easier as I passed mile 11 - I think it was the thought of the pub lunch we had planned that made me run that little bit faster. I saw a few friendly faces at mile 12 (thank you ladies!) and from then on I just kept pushing on, knowing that the finish line was very much within reach. Coming round the final corner I did my best attempt at a sprint (?!) finish and clocked the time on my Nike+ App as 2 hours 13 mins. 

My first thought was rather embarrassingly that I needed to find the loo asap (there's a bit of a theme going on here!), and I don't think it had really set in just yet that I'd actually finished. After the deed was done I went to find my fellow Street Child United runners and they'd all finished and had done an amazing job. My incredible sister got 2 hours 0 mins 47 seconds for her very first half marathon! What an absolute star! 
YAY! We've done it!

We were all absolutely delighted that we'd finished (and that it was now time for a burger in the pub), but more importantly that together we'd raised over £6,000 for Street Child United. They work tirelessly to spread the message that each and every child deserves the right to dream and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Street Child United provides a platform for street children to be heard and for their rights to be realised. We couldn't be more honoured to be raising money for such an incredible cause. 

It's been humbling to see so many amazingly generous people donate to our JustGiving page - someone very close to me made an incredible donation of £150, you know who are - thank you! And just the other day we had an anonymous donor give £500!!! I couldn't believe it and we have no idea who you are, but THANK YOU. So far we've raised just over £1,150! There are some wonderful people in this world and together we can help to ensure that no child should have to live on the streets. 

If you haven't yet and you'd still like to make a donation to our JustGiving page then we would be very grateful. 

On the back of our running vests were the words "I am Somebody". It's the message that the children, Street Child United, and their partner projects want the world to hear. One of my amazing fellow runners said "Yes, yes you are. You are Somebody" as they ran past me, and it really spurred me on. Hearing those words said to me made me feel as if I really was Somebody. And that's how each and every child on this planet should feel. Let's continue to ensure that the message spreads. They are Somebody. You are Somebody. I am Somebody. 

At the end of the day it really wasn't about the race, or times, or athletic ability - it was about coming together to support a cause that we all care deeply about, and about showing street children that there are people in the world who care about them. Please head to the Street Child United website if you'd like to find out more.

And the final question: would I do it again? On the day I said definitely not (on the way around the course I was cursing myself for even doing it once!), but finishing was a great feeling...and by Tuesday I'd already recovered enough to go for a run...

So don't forget: You are Somebody, and You can do Something. 


Love Lucy x

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