On the 4th March 2018 I took part in the inaugural Big Half as the 1:45 Pacer. This was the 44th event I have paced at. After unseasonably cold weather had forced many events to cancel we were lucky that London had warmed up and being a busy city the snow had cleared quickly. Look anywhere else in the country and snow was still very present, but on the streets of London there were very few signs that it had ever snowed.
I was really pleased to get the opportunity to Pace this warm up event for #LondonMarathon for Runners World. The new sponsors for the series are New Balance so I had the good fortune to be given a new pair of trainers to run in. Love the colour of my new top, and always a bonus when I have socks to match.
There is always something special about running in London, sights and support unrivalled by other events. Originally I had entered Kirsty to take part in this event. She was very nervous about the event after setbacks in training and injuries, but it is lovely to go to a start line together.
I got up early to meet the other pacers, and dropped my bag before crossing Tower Bridge to meet everyone. The orange bag drop was the other side of the bridge than everything else. Bag drop was quick and easy, but it always is if you get there early before the crowds. I love the experience of crossing Tower Bridge in the London Marathon, something I talk about in my 2017 blog, which you can read HERE. I had to take the opportunity with closed roads to get a nice picture.
After a few selfies and talking with lots of runners, I finally made our #RWPacers meet point. Managed to get a nice lineup picture before we went our separate ways. A low number of pacers for an event this size, but an increase from Silverstone Half with an extra Pacer for 2:45 and 3:00, which looking at the crowds was a good decision.
After our Pacer selfie I headed to Orange B where I started at the back. I liked that there were toilets in each start wave. For an event with so many runners I never witnessed any queues for toilets, and it’s little things like this which make a difference. Slowly my group got bigger and bigger, and I knew it was going to be a good day. I Pace a lot of events, and many smaller events excel with the personal experience where larger events fail. However, one thing events like Big Half benefits from is the numbers, and I thrive in big crowds. It was great to see lots of familiar faces join my group and start with a fantastic group of runners.
My #funbus was so big that I couldn’t fit everyone in the pre run selfie. Ironic that we all thought it would be freezing and instead we have a squinting picture because the sun was so bright. As we approached the start line my gps lost its signal because of the tall buildings, and this is a downside of starting in big cities. I wasn’t too bothered as worst case would run to stopwatch. I told everyone around me the plan which was to average 7:55 min/miles which would provide a slight cushion and allow for running longer. I said we would stay at this pace until about 7 miles and reassess.
At 5k the Pace was perfect as planned at average of 7:55. The second mile was almost entirely in the Limehouse link. I was surprised that it didn’t mess with me Pace on my watch, and it remained steady. That is until about half a mile later… then my watch messed up, every pacers worst nightmare. All of a sudden my watch said I was running 5 min/miles and it jumped half a mile. I asked around me and numerous others had experienced the same. At 4 miles my watch now said I had run 4.5 miles and was averaging 7:17 min/miles. Now this is where experience comes in, this made my life very difficult, but I remained confident. The last thing runners need is to realise that from this point I was just running on feel, and my safety blanket was gone. For a good two miles my watch was saying I was running about 10 min/miles even though I felt confident in my pace.
So what did I do? Remain confident and reset laps on my watch at each mile marker. Fortunately I was impressed with the mile markers up to this point so confident to rely on them. I then just checked how long each mile (according to the markers) took me. My garmin laps are all over the place because of this, but considering I was running on feel I am happy with my strava splits (can you see where it all went wrong)?
After about 6-7 miles it seemed as though my watch started recording my current pace right again. The only thing is distance travelled and average pace would be wrong throughout now.
At 7 miles we reached the highlight of the course. I was really looking forward to this point, and it didn’t fail to impress. I must admit though, outside of this the rest of the course was a little uninspired and I can’t help but feel there could have been a better route to take in more sights.
There have been a few negative comments about the event, but I had a fantastic time. I think it’s easy to overlook all the amazing aspects of an event of this size and get caught up with the bits that could have been better. The crowds could have been better in places, and I’m sure the weather across the country had an impact. However, compare this to many other events you run, these crowds were amazing. Water was frequent in small water bottles, perfect. Toilets were frequent with no queues. The medal was unique, and I’m sure will be like marmite, but a nice extra touch that the organisers will send to runners that couldn’t make it because of the weather if they run 13.1 during the week. The mile markers were accurate (which you would be surprised how often they aren’t, even in big events) and the markers were visible with a clock at each. I enjoyed most of the course and although it could have been better in places, let’s put it in perspective, how often do you run an event where you like all of the course? Only real downside for me was the long tunnel, not because of the tunnel, but because it’s a bad move messing up everyone’s GPS.
I had a fantastic race and really pleased that even with a messed up watch I was able to get a consistent pace and finish on time. Towards the end, in the last mile or two, I was picking up a lot of people struggling. This is where my job really kicks in. I try to motivate people to push a little bit more to get them to the end. I told everyone that they needed to get ahead of me if they wanted sub 1:45, one of them asked me to slow down. I made them pick up the Pace.
What I love at the finish is seeing so many happy faces, and lots of people hitting their time. I must have had 30-40 people come up to me and say thank you, and shake my hand or give me a hug. Why do I Pace, because I see how much of a difference it can make to people’s races, and I love sharing these experiences with people.
My official finish has come in as 1:44:35 which I am really happy with. The medal is unique, and I liked the finishers top. I must say though, the rest of the goody bag was a bit rubbish, I would have expected more in there to be honest. I wanted to hang around and see some more finish, but the marshals were very strict at moving us along. It was a long walk to the Big Festival, past the baggage tent which was quick for me, but I imagine this could have got busy.
The Big Festival had a selection of food counters, a music stage, massage, a New Balance tent and much more. There were some treadmill challenges and I ran at the max speed, which is 15.2 miles per hour, which was a nice shake out of the legs. I also ran almost 10 miles per hour backwards, but this resulted in me falling and hitting my head… ops.
Overall I had a great day and looking forward to going back next year for some more. Next up I have Surrey Half, followed by Limassol Marathon, who will be joining me?