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Downton Half 30 November 2014

Kelly Williams reports on her experience at Downton

2014 hasn't been a brilliant year for me.  I seemed to have been plagued with illness and injury.  Of the 10 races I'd lined up at, I can only say I ran 2.  The others had me reduced to walking at some point.  Therefore I wanted to finish the year on a high and set myself 5 goals:

1)         Run the whole distance
2)         Achieve a course PB (2:05:30)
3)         Achieve a distance PB (2:00:44)
4)         Run sub 2 hours
5)         Reduce my RunBritain handicap to at least the best itís ever been (18.5)

So on a misty morning I lined up at the start of the Downton Half.  Having run this 3 times before I knew that once I reached 10 miles the worst was over.  So the plan was to get to 10 miles then assess the situation to see which of my goals I could achieve.

The hooter sounded and I started my watch.  I'd started near the back to stop me going off too fast but this didn't quite work as I glanced at my watch at the 1 mile mark to see 8:55. 

The first 2.5 miles are undulating and I was feeling good.  I approached the first water station to see runners having to stop and wait for cups to be filled.  I decided I didn't need water at this point and ran through.  Turned the corner and onto the first of the three major hills.

Now this hill is deceptive. The road is quite twisty and you keep thinking you've cracked it only to find more up.  What makes it worse are the few little declines along the way!  The hill finishes at about the 4 mile mark when you skirt round the cattle grid and enter the New Forest. 

At this point my legs were beginning to ache and I was hoping to have the company of some New Forest animals but this year there were none.  Previously I've had to dodge ponies, cattle and one year had a pig running alongside me!

The route becomes undulating again as you pass round Hale.  I started to calculate when I needed to take my gel as I wanted to be sure it was in my system before I hit the next hill at 7 miles.  Decided to take it just around the 6 mile mark shortly after the water station and before the nice downhill section.

This is quite a steep downhill but I lengthened my stride and let gravity help me along.  Reached the bottom and immediately start the climb, turn the corner and continue to climb up Castle Hill.  It is at this point that you get to see the faster runners that are approximately 2.5 miles ahead.  At the top of the hill is the third water station which is very welcome at this point.  2 hills down, 1 to go.

Continued around Castle Hill to be rewarded with fantastic views over the river Avon.  Then pass the 9 mile mark and onto hill number 3.  This is short and sharp but completely saps you.  At the top my lungs were burning.

Then comes the descent.  Round the corner to see someone 2.5 miles behind me.  Clapped some encouragement and continued down the hill.  It was at this point some cyclists came past me saying "isn't downhill nice".  All I could think was "yes you can freewheel on a bike but running still takes some effort!"

Got to the 10 mile mark in Woodgreen and my legs were hurting, my lungs were still burning and I'd developed a stitch.  I no longer cared about goals 2 to 5 and just wanted to achieve goal 1, so didn't even look at my watch.

Continued through Woodgreen and round the side of the cattle grid to leave the New Forest.  Turned back onto the road we'd come out on and through the last water station.

Things weren't really improving.  By mile 11 my hands had ballooned and were becoming extremely painful, my toes had gone numb, but worse than either of these, I could feel pressure in the back of my head which made me think my head was going to explode!  The only plus was the stitch had subsided.  Told myself the faster I run, the sooner the pain will stop.  However, I didn't feel as if I was running fast at all.

Eventually passed the 13 mile mark and decided to give the last 200 yards everything I had left.  Now this race is a gun-to-chip and there is no clock at the finish to spur you on.  Stepped off the road into the finish funnel, over the timing map, "beep", stopped my watch.  Glanced down in amazement to see 1:59:51. 4 of 5 goals achieved.

Wandered off to get my free soup and roll.  This made me feel a little better physically - I was already there mentally!

Checked the provisional results when they came out to see my time had been reduced to 1:59:54.  Still a sub 2. 

Then on 1st December I checked RunBritain.  My result had been rounded down to 1:59:55 but my handicap had reduced back to 18.5.  So all 5 goals achieved.  Maybe 2014 hasn't been so bad after all!

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