The Vitality Big Half with New Balance

This month I ran my first ever half marathon- The Vitality Big Half. Here’s how I got on…

As a natural sprinter, half marathons aren’t my usual thing. In fact, you’d usually have a struggle getting me to run anything over 5k. However, late last year I committed to running The Vitality Big Half Marathon, meaning that my training was about to have some huge changes.

Before training, the furthest that I’d ever run had been 10k. I’d done it as a fun run with friends and didn’t sign up until the last minute because, you know, I’m a sprinter and the thought of anything that long scares the life out of me. Did scare the life out of me. My first half marathon training session took place in the gym. I headed straight over to the treadmill and set 5k as my target. I ran 6 and then completed a weights session. This felt good!

Session two, was again in the gym. I liked the fact that the treadmill told me my exact distance and pace. Oh and it was warm in there! 7k completed. I was doing great. Then session number three arrived. By 1k I was already struggling- I’d set off way too fast. I managed to run a total of 4k with a good few walking periods in between before taking myself off to the mats to stretch. The disappointment kicked in and I thought about my possible downfalls. I’d not eaten enough that day for one, so knew that diet would play a part on race day and in my training up to it. We all have workouts that we’re not happy with now and again, so I put it to one side and looked ahead.

The rest of my training was outside. I’d put a great playlist together and ran through the local common. It was around week four that I set myself a 12k target. It was that same day that something strange came over me and I kept running and running, exceeded 12k and ran the full 13.1miles- I’d just completed my first half marathon! Absolutely astounded by what had just happened I called as many people as possible to tell them the news. I couldn’t believe it! I’d run it in 1 hour and 50 minutes, so knew now that my task for race day would be to beat that time.

Race day was soon upon us and I received an abundance of texts that morning to wish me luck- my friends and family were so supportive throughout the entire journey. I was feeling sceptical about the race but was glad that the sun had made an appearance for the big day (that’s after a week of snow and lows of -10degrees in the week running up to it)! We crossed tower bridge to reach the start line and before I knew it the race had begun.

Honestly, it was such an incredible experience. I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting but I remember being shocked by the energy from the cheering crowds and other participants. We were all in this together and it was amazing. People were wearing t-shirts and waving flags in support of loved ones and different charities. I was running for Teenage Cancer Trust, so knew for sure that the whole run would be worth it. There were people of all different ages, sizes and walks of life. It was something quite surreal.

For me, mile 7 was the most difficult. I’d already run far and knew that I was only just passed half way! Eeek… but I kept pushing. Before I knew it I was at mile 9 and could feel the finish line and sense of accomplishment getting closer. When I saw the sign reading, ‘500m’, I couldn’t believe it and by 100m I knew that I had to sprint to the end. I picked up the pace all the way through to the end, having a friendly little sprint race with a fellow runner through the finish line! We shook hands grinning and gave a look of congratulations to one and other. It was then that I realised that it wasn’t just me who had completed the race, I’d run it with every other participant and we’d all done it together. Nothing could beat that feeling.

Wow. Just wow. The months of running, dread, excitement, discussing progress. It was all down to this moment and now, it had all been worth it. I also smashed my 1 hour 50 minute target and came in with 1 hour 44 minutes. Result! I headed home with a big smile on my face, feeling super proud.

Now that the race is over, I definitely will continue to include longer runs in my training. I was away on holiday a few days after the race and even did some longer runs there, which was so dreamy to run in the sun! Due to my body type, I had been concerned that I would loose a lot of weight when running that far, however it actually helped tone my legs, bum and abs- result!! Not only that, but running is great for fitness. Of course, I’ll still keep my sprint and hill sprint sessions but running for longer has helped with my overall fitness and endurance. I think mixing up your training is key (if you’re not training for something specific), as you see benefits all round.

For anybody considering running a half marathon or longer, my biggest advice is to believe in yourself. Buy kit that fits well and that you feel great in and also, train train train! It will make race day so much easier.

My whole kit was from New Balance and I had no difficulties whatsoever. It stayed in place, kept me at a nice temperature and I didn’t have any discomfort at all from my trainers.

Keen to hear more about the race or any tips for training? Get in touch by commenting below or head over to my Instagram @kirbyanne. I’d love to hear from you x

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