Reading Between The Lines

Over 70 forumites chose the Reading Half this March - a big-race classic that put a lot of effort into improvement for 2004. How was it? You can see the forum thread. And here's how it went for one forum regular:

It is said that if you don’t like the weather in England all you have to do is wait 10 minutes. And so it proved at the Reading Half-Marathon on 7 March 2004.

The forecast promised it would be cold with sunshine and showers. Hippo suggested a visit to the charity shop for an old jumper that could be abandoned at the start. Lucky for me I have a wardrobe full of those so I packed two, just to be on the safe side.

The forumites had arranged to meet near the start and it was great to renew old acquaintances and meet others for the first time, including my race partner, OB.

My idea of a race strategy is to go off fast and hope to hang on at the end. At best, I can see the merits of even pacing. However, I agreed to defer to the more experienced runner, especially as he was the man with the gadget, or Garmin Forerunner.

Leaving one "charity shop" jumper behind I had the first of many anxious moments when I realised I had lost OB. The race started, the huge crowd of runners started to surge forward, and then I saw OB standing on a wall looking for me! I shouted, "Get down off that wall and run" and we were off.

It would have been difficult to go off like a greyhound from the traps given the number of other runners so we took it easy for the first mile, chatting and getting into our stride. The sun came out and I optimistically peeled off a layer. There was great support along the way, plenty of drinks stations and even people proffering Vaseline, which we politely declined. Apart from the first slow mile, we were cruising nicely around 9 minute/mile pace.

At mile 6-7 there was a long uphill stretch. Far from taking a little breather, OB decided it was time to up the pace. Then the weather took a turn for the worse: - a cold wind blew up followed by rain, which at first was not too unpleasant. Then the rain turned to sleet and snow. I was wet through, frozen and lost all feeling in my arms. We ran mile 10 in 7:41. By mile 11 I was struggling badly. Incapable of talking and unable to remember how far we had run or how far there was to go.

OB was still running strongly and refused to go on without me. We found ourselves out of the city centre, back near the Madejski stadium. I had an impression of a bleak urban landscape with huge office blocks but it was all a horrible blur. Never has a "Mile 13" sign been so welcome. We ran on into the Madejski Stadium where I had been expecting we would run one lap but, oh my God, there was the finish line. Sprint! Sprint! Sprint! I stopped my watch on 1:56:18. A pb for both of us. We were totally elated.

Unfortunately, there was a huge crush of runners outside the stadium, all suffering from the cold, waiting for medals, goody bags and foil blankets. My fingers were agony, my teeth were chattering and I was starting to shake. Finally, we retrieved our bags and my lovely, thick, warm jumper which is never going to the charity shop – it saved me from hypothermia and, after all, what are a few moth holes between friends?

Back at the Holiday Inn it was good to be reunited with family, friends and hot chocolate. Congratulations to everyone who got a pb. And thank you to OB for helping me to get mine!