Seeing as it’s three days later as I write this, curled up in bed, my hip still making loud clicks when I’m caught unaware, you would be forgiven for thinking that my half marathon in Reading last weekend went badly. And, in some ways, I suppose it did. For the first time since 2013 I had to stop to walk during the half and I found myself limping, rather than really jogging. But appearances are worse than reality.
My hip is probably the only thing I am really concerned about, which is also why I chose to walk around 3.5 kilometers of the 21 kilometer race. The pain that resurfaces even when I think that everything is in order is my wake-up call that I need to stop running and only running. I knew this, and I knew it when the pain first started two weeks ago. I ignored it. I’ll stop ignoring it now.
And with the ‘downside’ out of the way, I can concentrate on all of the great things that Sunday the 3rd of April gave me. First, the weather. I’ve run the Reading half before: in the pouring rain, wind, cold temperatures and all together unwelcoming grey version of the town. This year was like the complete other side of the coin. Sunny but cool, the race got ideal running conditions and as a result there were many more runners on the course than in my miserable experience years before. In fact, we were like a massive herd: 16000 runners all plodding towards the finish line at our own paces.
The course was a wonderful one for me, as well. The half marathon looped its way through the city, from my first place of employment, up the hill I used to train my cycling muscles on, through the university campus, past the gym in which I spent hours, along towards my old house, down past my favourite club, pub, through the shopping centre, past the parks… a real run down memory lane, with each turn bringing the smile to my face.
The best part was spectators though- we had music, we had encouragement, we had free treats. We had high fives and low fives, jokes, and extra donations for those collecting. There was always someone there to give you a grin or a cheerful word, so often calling us by name, by the things printed on our shirt, by our race number, so we, specifically felt addressed, inspired. Runners encouraged each other, teamed up, cheered each other on. We chatted about the strange water bags (still confusingly not bottles), about the weather, the views. We laughed at the costumes and grinned at family and friends.
Not only was this surprisingly emotional to run through a place I considered my home town for so long, it was such a contrast to the recent races that I’ve completed. It had so much more energy, so much more atmosphere, so much more love.
Thanks Reading, I had a great time.