Great Birmingham Run, 13.1 miles

I very nearly didn't run this race.

You see, it turns out that between us me and my mum have some pretty questionable navigational skills. Well, unless we had wanted to go to Wolverhampton. Then we would have been bang on.

So, with half an hour until my pen closed, we found ourselves careering around the 'A' roads of the midlands, trying to find a motorway and attempting not to be involved in an RTC. I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it, but in some feat of (possibly illegal) Mad Max style driving we did, with moments to spare. I've never been so relieved to see the start of a race.

Unfortunately the missed exit means I can't tell you much about anything at the start. I have no idea where the bag drop was, although I can tell you that I did find a portaloo without a queue, which is always a good sign! 

The upside of spending the 30 minutes before a race in a state of abject panic is that you don't have a lot of time to worry about the race. Even once I was safely in the green start pen I was just so happy and relieved to be there that what I was about to do barely crossed my mind. A couple of quick repetitions of my mantra between flinging my arms around as part of the customary awkward group warm up and before I knew it I was moving! 

I didn't have an agenda when I went in to this race. I wanted to get around, ideally in around 2 hours and 10 minutes, but any result would have been a new PB. I didn't watch my pace, I just went with how I felt. If I felt good I kept my pace steady, if I felt tired I slowed it down a bit, when I felt terrible in the last 800 meters I ignored how I felt and focused on finishing.

The first 10 miles of this race were awesome. I felt really good. The atmosphere was amazing, the route weaves through residential areas and everyone had come out to see what was going on. Pubs and churches were playing music, and I've never had so many bowls of jelly babies thrust under my nose in my life! I felt like I was part of something really special - especially when I got to mile 9 where my Mum and cousin were waiting with the most spectacular sign! Having fans is awesome - I want them at every race!!

By mile 10 things started to get harder, just in time for 'The Hill'. Birmingham is a hilly course, with ups and downs the whole way around, but 'The Hill' is a bit of a beast. Close to two miles all uphill at the very end of the race is hard psychologically. I had to focus so hard to push myself through those last few miles, mustering everything I had to get to the finish line. I had never imagined that this run would be emotional, but in those last three miles there were moments I was howling. I was so happy to be there, so amazed at what I was capable of and so proud of myself. Stumbling over the finish line in to the arms of a Red Cross medic who beamed at me and told me that I'd done it was the most amazing thing. I still can't quite believe that it happened.

And I finished in 02:02:12!

I don't know whether it was the stress of my journey to Birmingham, the range of emotions I felt during the race, or simply the fact that I had just run over 13 miles, but when I came off the course I really wanted a drink! While gin probably isn't an approved recovery strategy, it is one that definitely worked for me!

The Great Birmingham Run was a fantastic experience. It was beautifully organised (although I can't talk about the bag drop) with more water stations than I could count, awesome supporters and a brilliant atmosphere. It's one I would definitely recommend, and entries for next year have opened already! Although if you are driving there I would recommend investing in a sat nav.