Today was a pretty historic day in the history of amateur running – marking (to the best of my knowledge) the first ever recorded “half marathon before work” group run. Whilst there are almost 2 million #halfmarathon hashtags on Instagram, there are only 41 #halfmarathonbeforework hashtags – pretty much all of them from my own slightly crazy training runs, and a couple of other lone running fanatics. On February 9th 2017, at 6.30am, a group of 6 south west Londoners set off from Putney Bridge to take on an early morning challenge of completing 21.1km whilst getting to work bang on 9am. Here are our stories.
Cameron: The Pacemaker
I’m pretty strict around my training schedule; family and work always take priority over my desire to go out for a run. That means running before or after work, and pretty much always a 10km runcommute. Clearly training for a marathon or an ultrarun means practicing longer distances, which means disappearing for hours on end at weekends, right? Nope!
Now, even for most serious runners a half marathon is a pretty major endeavour, to be taken seriously and with proper preparation and recovery. I’m not a serious runner, but early on I had read that having too much “respect for the distance” often proved a mental block for people. In particular, many people training for their first half marathon never ever ran any further than this – creating a mental block that makes this the acme of their running achievement.
I only started running a few years ago, and I remember the exhaustion of my first 10km. But having achieved a decent fitness level I felt I could simply keep going. A half marathon is about the distance to which a fit runner can run without hitting extreme exhaustion. It’s about the limit of your natural supplies of glucose and carbohydrates, as well as the mental capacity to keep pushing against your body’s desire to stop. Which makes it a good training distance for endurance running – running on the edge – and one to eat up before breakfast.
What I love most about Instagram is its ability to reach similarly crazy (dedicated) runners like me. People at work and on Facebook are simply baffled how (or why) I’d run a half marathon before work. On Instagram I can tell that others think instead “Now that’s an awesome idea, I could do that”. And so we did! Running with a group helped encourage everyone to make a special early start, and not be put off by the freezing cold February wind along the weather. Everyone had chance to get in some serious #runchat with new people, and the 21.1km simply breezed by as we ran all the way along the Thames to Tower Bridge, then back into central London (a breakaway group turned back earlier, to go back to Putney).
Maybe it’s the start of a new trend? It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for some people!
Amelia: The Ringleader
The power of Instagram constantly amazes me – as cheesy as it sounds. I started following Cameron on Instagram after going along to a TRIBE run he’d organised. His posts were always full of amazing runs that he’d managed to fit into his working day. So I told him that I was amazed and I wished I could do something like that! Next thing I know he’s challenged me to do the same, and run a half marathon before work. Challenge accepted. We both posted a couple of times on Instagram and managed to get 4 other people to run along with us – the challenge clearly wasn’t too crazy?! We all met up at 6.30am and ran along the Thames, running with so many people and getting to talk to everyone made the kilometres whizz by. Before I knew it I was saying goodbye and doing the final leg from Waterloo to my office. This morning was all about just getting out there and doing it. I never thought I’d be the person to run a half before work, it just took someone else’s belief to make it happen!
Claire: The Comeback Kid
I get huge FOMO when it comes to running events – case in point when I was stuck on the sofa unable to run I entered so may ballots that, if successful, I’d need to re-mortgage my house. At the end of last year I had to take a very unwelcome break from all exercise, running included. Three and a half weeks ago on a not particularly challenging trail run, I had a mini breakdown at the thought of a 10km race I’d entered on the 5th Feb. It seemed a million miles away. A day later, the #halfmarathonbeforework chat happened. There was no point arguing with myself, the FOMO meant I WOULD be doing that run. Christ, the 10km was now the least of the worries.
I’m easily capable of a half marathon. It isn’t a distance that I run regularly, but in marathon season (every year since 2013 until now) you think nothing of ticking off 21.1km or more twice a week. A half marathon becomes one of your ‘shorter’ runs, which in itself it madness.
Running is full of ups and downs. Resilience is essential as unfortunately injury is inevitable. It’s how you recover from those downs, emotionally and physically that defines you as a runner. With so little time to get ‘half marathon ready’, I had to do it sensibly. For the past three weeks I’ve run like clockwork three times a week. A trail long run, some interval and hill training. Fitness is almost back to 100%. The 10km race of course wasn’t a PB, but a respectable time.
Saying I was anxious today was an understatement, and I seriously doubted that I would manage the whole distance. Whilst I’m obsessed with pace/splits and can tell you exactly how quick I’m going, I’ve run with Cameron enough to know that he doesn’t obsess over this. He just runs quickly, and far. That’s his approach, and it works. So knowing that we were setting off at a pace that would finish me off less than half way (not to mention result in serious words from my surgeon), I found a comfortable pace and stuck at it. But what a team. Supportive and understanding, paces were adjusted accordingly. Runners are an awesome bunch and we have instagram to thank for that. I challenge anyone to rally a team of 6 to run a half marathon in freezing temperatures. Cameron inspired, Amelia organised, we all ran.
13.1 miles is still 13.1 miles whether you do it sub 90 or it takes you three hours. We completed a #halfmarathonbeforework today, that’s pretty amazing, right?