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The “Eskimo words for snow” claim is a widespread, though disputed, idea that Eskimos have an unusually large number of words for snow. I “amused” myself by trying to come up with a smorgasbord of words to describe the types of rain and sleet that assaulted me throughout my run at the Mizuno Reading Half Marathon. Unfortunately I cannot see my choice of ‘[expletive] rain’ and ‘[expletive expletive] rain’ making it into any dictionary.

The day had started with plenty of grey clouds overhead as a collection of Eagles gathered at Ealing Green to board the coach to Reading. This is one of the rare races that I have not had to drive to so it was nice to pass the time by chatting away at the back of the coach (yes, I embraced my inner teenage self and sat on the back row).

We were soon skirting past the Madejski Stadium, the race start and finish area, and taking our allotted parking space in one of the nearby car parks. Rain clouds were gathering ominously overhead and the first gentle splattering began to land around us as we took a chance to look around the stadium and the race village outside. The various tented areas started to become very popular as the rain gathered pace.

I snagged a spot in the crowded changing area of the men’s baggage tent (numbers 1-6000 – hold that information for later) so I could get changed into my race kit – shorts, running tee, and club vest. The changing area resembled a small battlefield as people were crammed into every available space and steam hovered in the air. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore could have wandered into the area and uttered “I love the smell of Deep Heat in the morning” and he would not have seemed out-of-place.

My bag was dropped off for storage as the nearby tent marshals struggled to keep the flow of traffic moving, mainly due to the number of runners trying to shelter from the now heavy rain. There were bin liners being handed out for runners to use as a temporary cover for the walk down to the start line but I had learnt my lesson from earlier races and brought a hooded long-sleeved top to wear, which I would then dispose of as the race started (thank you Sports Direct for selling dirt cheap clothing!).

Beforehand I was a little worried about my designated starting pen because I had gone for the 1:45-2:00 group and that was selected before my recent 1:43 in Brighton. The marshals were being very strict about making runners enter their correctly colour coded starting areas but thankfully the area was quite clear due to people trying to keep out of the rain for as long as possible. I made my way to the front of the pen so was only a thin plastic taped barrier away from the faster (on paper) group in front.

The organised warm-up proved to be a challenge as heel kicks tend to… well… kick other people when you’re in the middle of a large crowd but I did my best and the race was soon under way.  I jettisoned my cheapo top at the side, waved to (the lovely) Debbie McGee as I passed the starters platform and got into my stride.

The reasonably wide  road meant that congestion was not generally a problem although there were a few early sections where I had to slow down so that I could safely pass slower groups of runners. Everything (well… except the rain) was going well for the first km but then my Garmin watch started to beep.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

What the hell was going on? I glanced at my watch: “Lap Database Almost Full Delete Oldest”. Balls.

The internal memory of the watch can only hold a finite amount of data and my recent marathon training had used almost all the available space. Thankfully I’ve had to deal with this before and it’s just a case of scrolling through the history options and using the selection to delete the older entries. This does not touch or disturb the ‘live run’ and the most recent runs stay on the watch as well. I upload all my data to Garmin Connect, Fetch Everyone and Running Free so all my historical runs are nicely saved in multiple places.

However, fiddling about with a watch is easy on a clear day during a training run because you can just stop. During a race, on a rainy day, where you are aiming for a specific time then it’s a bit more complicated. I spent the next half a km muttering curses as my stubby fingers tried to deal with the wet bezel before I eventually selected the correct option and my watch was happy again.

The rest of the race was bit of a blur for me to be honest as it was ‘head down, run fast and forget about the rain’. A fellow Eagle caught up with me and we ran together for a while. As we entered the main shopping area of Reading, my bladder decided to send messages to my brain demanding an immediate ‘comfort’ stop. My head tried to overrule the bladder but my stomach decided to join the party and randomly throw a cramp in just for the fun of it. I waited until we passed through the crowded section, spotted a suitable bushy section behind a petrol station and sprinted over to water the shrubbery. Instant relief.

I felt so much better and increased my pace to catch up with my running partner and he waved me on as he knew his fitness was not up to scratch and he would be starting to slow a bit. I picked up my pace even further with the intention of finishing sub-1:40 and there is very little else I can remember until the stadium came back into sight. Usually I pick out runners ahead to slowly reel in but the intensity of the rain increased so I was firmly in my own little running world.

There is a deceptive out-and-back loop just before the stadium and I spotted the 1:40 pacer coming back towards me on the other side of the road, which gave me the final incentive to whir my legs a tiny bit faster and I was soon bolting down into the stadium to sprint the final section through to the finish line.

Garmin stopped: 1:39:04.

Job done and even the rain could not wipe the smile off my face.

I quickly made my way out to collect my medal and foil blanket then hurried towards the baggage tents so I could get dry and warm as quickly as possible. There was already a large queue snaking into the second men’s baggage tent (numbers 6000+) and I was mighty relived to walk straight in, collect my bag from the first tent and get a nice spot in the corner of the changing area.

Recent events have taught me that I need a lot of fresh clean layers to wear as quickly as possible once I stop running so I had brought a larger bag than normal and boy was I glad. I had a towel to dry me down and a complete set of dry clothes to change into and a fresh pair of trainers. I also brought an umbrella so was able to safely walk (through the new lengthy queues for both baggage tents) over to the food trucks where I stuffed myself on a roast pork baguette. However,  I also managed to smear mustard all over my face without realising and it wasn’t until sometime later that someone pointed out my faux pas. Oppps.

I cheered the last few Eagles through the finish line, bought myself a Reading Half technical tee and made my way back to the nice warm coach to continue to stretching and snacking. Unfortunately we then had an hours wait to get out of the car park but everyone was in good spirits and we eventually made it back to Ealing.

It was a great race for me in terms of setting a new PB although the deluge of rain and sleet made it tough going. In some ways the weather helped me out because I zipped up my man suit, put my head down and just ran as quickly as possible to reach somewhere undercover. For the first time ever I had to make an emergency toilet stop and it was also the first race where I can barely remember parts of the course. I vaguely remember a few slopes to contend with and some sharp turns but that’s about it.

My only minor gripe is that I do not have an official chip time yet as I do not appear on the official finishers list. I have received an email response from the race organisers that they will look into it so it’s just a case of waiting. That’s not the end of the world though as I have my Garmin time plus medal and the memories of the event, which is good enough for me.

05/04/2013

The updated results were published and I now appear:

  • Gun time: 01:43:09
  • Chip time: 01:38:58
  • Gun position: 2012 / 12863
  • Chip position: 1866 / 12867

So I actually have an official sub-1:39 time although I am not quite sure how the results list 12863 finishers by gun position but 12867 by chip time.