Our writers Paddy and Nora competed against each other in the recent Rock and Road half marathon in the first of many challenges for our Run Fat Boy Run series. Did Nora’s training give her the edge? Did Paddy’s general lack of fitness and motivation outweigh his fervent desire to never be beaten by a woman? Read on to find out:
When I agreed to take part in Run Fatboy Run, I did so because I thought it would give me the motivation to get out and train. I also naively thought we might build up to doing a half marathon sometime towards the end of the year by which time I would miraculously have transformed myself into an elite athlete. Neither of these things worked exactly the way I thought they would. Yes I’ve been going to EVO, eating better and I’ve been feeling the benefits (hurray I’ve started to lose fat & build muscle) but I still haven’t found any great desire to go running.
I started with the best of intentions but in all honesty, in the 9 weeks I had to train for the Kinvara Rock and Road Half Marathon, I managed to do a paltry four 5km runs and a measly two 3km runs. I trained for roughly 3 hours when a standard 12 week training plan recommends over 32 hours. I was screwed and as race day loomed fear kicked in. I carb loaded like my life depended on it, because, well, it did. When I should have spent the final lead up high on exercise endorphins, I was actually off my face on cold and flu tablets. Absolutely none of this was going to plan but I’d committed to doing it and all backing out would hand Paddy a default win. Not a hope!
Packing for race weekend was like no other packing I’ve done before. Out went the dancing shoes and in went the trainers. My hairdryer was sacrificed to allow room for “just add water porridge pots” in case our hotel only offered a full Irish. Therein lay one of my downfalls – I brought enough porridge and bananas for both of us to have slow release energy throughout the course and in hindsight I should have left Paddy to his greasy fry.
Nothing could have prepared me for race day. Kinvara was heaving with healthy athletic types while Paddy and I seemed to be the only unfit people prepared (or more accurately UNprepared) to throw caution to the 100kmph wind and give the a half marathon a bash. If there’d been an option to switch to the 10km I’d have talked Paddy into it. I attempted a few stretches at the starting line (copying other runners bodily contortions) while Paddy’s pre-race preparation involved lighting up one cigarette after another, much to the bemusement of the other runners. I just wanted this over and done with. At 12:10 we were off and the elite raced to the front preserving their chances of completing the course in under 1 hour 20 mins while I jogged off at snails pace preserving my energy to just see me through.
We did a lap of the town and then headed out towards the Burren. It didn’t feel like we’d been going long when we hit the 1 mile mark and I felt the overwhelming urge to burst into tears. I don’t know if it was gratitude to the family who were standing at their front gate cheering us on, or despair at having 12 more miles to go but I had an early falter. It must have been evident because just then a fellow runner jogged up beside me and told me I was doing great. He was clearly an experienced runner and probably had a Personal Best to beat, but I will be eternally grateful to him for taking the time to run alongside me for about half a mile providing reassurance, all the while telling me no one runs 13 miles, we all just take it one at a time. By the time I had to slow to a walk he checked I was okay before building back up to his own pace and carrying on. After that, my ups and downs were thankfully less frequent than the many hills we faced.
I alternated between jogging and walking and I knew I was plodding along somewhere at the back of the pack but I was struck with fear when I realised there was a car behind me. In my very limited experience with races, I knew that a car on a closed road could only mean one thing. I was actually coming last. This was the sympathy car, the one sent out to pick up the casualties and the nutters who do half marathons with no training just to give it a bash. How long before I could no longer ignore the front bumper on my heels and I had to give in and ask for a lift? I don’t think I’d even made 3 miles yet. God, I was never going to live this down. Slowly though, realisation dawned that the car was overtaking me. More fear kicked in… Do they just open the door and pull me in for being too slow? Do I even get a say in wanting to finish what I’ve started? A quick glance behind me confirmed my tendency to over exaggerate as there were a handful of neon lycra clad bodies behind me plodding along, overtaken by the car that would just wait further along should we want to hitch a lift.
That driver is the second person I wanted to thank that day because my panic related adrenaline rush gave me the stamina to overtake Paddy. He’d been within my eye line for most of the race but any attempt to overtake would have meant an energy sapping sprint so when his decision to walk a bit coincided with my adrenaline rush, it gave me my opening. I was nice about it though, I patted him on the back and discussed how we were fairly close to the back of the pack before I took off leaving him in my wake. Confidence then saw me find my stride as I carried on jogging / walking for quite a while actually enjoying the scenery. Paddy overtook me again but I was actually enjoying myself and after all it was a half marathon not a sprint surely we’d overtake each other a few times before a final race to the finish line.
The wind calmed down, a drizzle of rain cooled my boiling head and my shuffled playlist became timed to perfection. As I found my stride, Eye of the Tiger blasted out of my iPod and I happily bounced along overtaking five other runners. It was at that stage that I saw Paddy on the crest of a hill far too far into the distance for comfort. I had two choices; attempt to catch up and risk exhaustion with 5 miles to go, or just be content that I was on track to complete a half marathon. At that point it became just about finishing. I also felt the excruciating pain of muscle spasm up the side of my left leg and growing blisters on at least three of my toes but I was getting to the home stretch and I couldn’t give up after 10 miles.
The last mile was tough. I knew this should all be finished in under 15 minutes but with the previous 12 miles slowing me down my pace was frustrating me. It wasn’t helped by the fact that what seemed like a billion of fellow racers were walking the opposite way past me wearing their medals and heading home having probably enjoyed a post race drink. I plodded along for what seemed like an eternity before I saw a sign “200m to go”. A beer garden full of runners erupted into cheers as I passed and the finish line came into view. I’d like to think I sped up, but I was probably limping pitifully as I crossed the finish line. I could have cried as the lady handing out medals popped the ribbon over my head, I’d actually gone and done it and I’d gotten there in 2:35:24 Not exactly a time an actual runner would be proud of but as a first attempt with little training I have to say I don’t think it’s too bad. Not even Paddy’s smarmy grin as he sarcastically applauded me across the line as I finished could take away from my sense of achievement.
Paddy may have won the battle but the war has just begun.
Read on to see how Paddy reacts to completing the half marathon and beating his rival: