It was an early start for both Lucy and I on Sunday 11 August 2019 for my Eton Dorney Half Marathon race. I love this race as it is very flat and a good opportunity to post a PB time. Last year I posted 1 hour and 26 with Stephen Jelly. Earlier this year I went down to race at this venue in February but unfortunately my guide was unwell on race morning.
So, when Lucy said she could do the race I was practically jumping up and down with joy. However, earlier in the week Lucy gave me a heads up that she had picked up a niggle. I was preparing myself for a possibility of pulling out of the race. However, Lucy being the trooper she is told me that she would be fit enough to take me around. That is the kind of person she is and for that (and other reasons) I have a massive amount of respect for her.
After a couple of hours of driving we reached the Olympic Rowing Race where the four lap Eton Dorney Half Marathon was taking place. We started warming up and another runner passed us by.
“Oh, he’s just dropped a gel.” Lucy remarked.
She double backed and picked up the offending gel.
“that’s litter…it’s a SIS gel, grape fruit flavoured. Yuk.”
I had only brought down the one gel with me. I had breakfast at 5.30 am and race start was 10 am so thought it wise to take the additional pre race gel. Lucy asked me how it tasted.
“Not bad for a SIS gel.” I replied laughing.
We lined up for the race after a little warm up which we did with Lucy’s friend Wil who was also racing. There were two wheelchair athletes also competing who were going to be set off 1 minute ahead of everyone else. Lucy had the foresight to ask the Race Director whether we could go off with the wheelchair athletes ahead of the masses. He agreed and we were set off.
The first few hundred meters was slightly trickier than we anticipated with one of the wheelchair competitors having difficulty in getting up the slight incline. We gave him plenty of berth and eventually he sorted out whatever problem he was experiencing with his wheelchair and shot off like a rocket never to be seen or heard by us again.
It was a very warm morning and windy. There isn’t much shelter from the elements as you can imagine at the lake. I felt very thirsty on the first lap which was around 4.5 miles. There were no drink stations other than when runners finished the first loop and were going through the start of the race.
Lucy grabbed some water and she took a sip and then handed me the bottle. The first few miles seemed to go well but I did feel the pace at times especially against the wind. The field had opened up really nicely and we really didn’t have any problems of people traffic at this stage. That was to come later.
As we got to mile 6 I popped another gel. My legs were starting to feel heavy and I was beginning to feel the effects of the training earlier in the week. I really wanted to keep my pace even and steady for the second and third lap, and, if I had anything left I would put it all in to the last lap.
The second lap certainly felt tougher but with Lucy’s unrelenting encouragement I concentrated on my form. As we got around to completing and starting the third lap I began to breathe through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. I must have been making a strange noise as Lucy asked me whether I was OK, and, perhaps I might just want to stick to breathing through my mouth. On the start of the third lap we caught the 5k and 10k runners who had started around 10.45. 45 minutes after us. Lucy warned me that we would start to hit congestion.
“we will be coming across some stragglers but don’t worry I’ll get around those. It’s when there will be parts with a bigger build up of runners we might find it difficult to get by.”
As we started to catch up the slower runners Lucy started shouting,
“Stay on your left…on your left.”
Even with this some runners chose to move to the right, well, some do find it difficult to work out their left from their right. While others simply didn’t hear Lucy because they had headphones in their ears. One lady we passed swerved in to me, who was wearing headphones, and not realising I was their exclaimed in surprise as we bumped each other. Another female runner told the headphone woman that she had been warned that we were coming through.
Make way, coming through
Sadly there were many runners who were wearing headphones much to our annoyance. Personally I think they should be banned. The main reason for me is that there are many blind or visually impaired runners now taking part in mass participation events and it is just simply inconsiderate to be wearing them. Furthermore it is just not safe to do so in my experience. Half the fun of doing a race is being able to appreciate and be aware of what is happening around you.
So we weaved our way through the tangle of other runners. As we got to mile 11 which was very tough, again, going in to the wind, we went past a runner with an odd running style. His feet seemed to be slapping the floor very loudly. Lucy tried to overtake but the chap just speeded up.
“Just ignore him Haseeb. We will soon be overtaking him and he will be gone.”
And, indeed after a few moments we accelerated and started picking up the pace in to the last two miles. Lucy urged me on and on.
“Come on Haseeb, not long to go. Your looking good, your strong. Those dead lifts are working.”
All I can say is that she was doing a great deal for my ego and motivation. It was certainly working. My aim was to finish as quickly as I had started. I put the hammer down for the last mile and knew in my bones that I was going to finish the last mile slightly quicker than my first mile.
We finished on the grass. We crossed the finishing line and Lucy put her arm around my shoulder and congratulated me. It was a great feeling. A feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. We picked up our finishers medals and went for a cool down jog.
I was extremely happy with my time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. My season has been plagued with injuries but my mileage per week is creeping up. This was a great test of my fitness in the run up to the Berlin marathon and my body has held up well. Hopefully the next 7 weeks will go well and I will be in a better state of fitness than I was for Liverpool. Time will tell.
Dorney Lake Half Marathon Split Times
My splits: (minutes per mile)
Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve ever raced the Eton Dorney Half Marathon?