In which “parkrun” does a sub-2hr half-marathon!

Chip time 01:58:05 🙂 🙂 Marvellous weather, wonderful organisation, a great weekend!

I start off with pb&j bagel and a cup of tea in the airbnb in Jericho. I leave at 8:30 and head over to the “race village” in University Parks, with many other people. I get complimented by a tramp, miss the warm up session, jog over to the start line in Broad Street. It turns out that my starting pen (F, out of A-I) is actually round the corner in Parks Road, unsurprisingly – THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE!!!!! I get pretty cold waiting in the shade, feeling glad I brought a throwaway top with me. Eventually we get started and for once I am dying to get in the sun! Even so, I chuck my top, thankful they are collecting them in charity bags. I pass the start line fiddling with my phone, as Endo is saying there is no GPS, not the most auspicious beginning. I give up and start it sans GPS, so I feel a little miffed for the first couple of minutes (although seemingly it tracked me anyway!). Other than than that, and the usual misgivings of the first 10 minutes of a run, I feel pretty good. I actually have a cold, and felt rotten the day before, but it seems to have backed off for today! Oxford is very jolly, the crowds! We loop around quaint college streets, and I get confused about where I am. “I’ve just done my 10,000 steps!” a woman observes. We pass a small brass band playing ‘Africa’ by Toto, giving me the first of many big grins. Eventually we eject from Central Oxford and head Northwards up the well-to-do backstreet of Norham Gardens, passing many familiar sights from my old walks around Oxford. Banbury Road: we pass a man holding court with a charity group, dressed as a squirrel. I near the street where I used to live: there’s old Joanna, our ex-neighbour, at the street entrance – I wave and yell JOANNA!! She sees me, waves and smiles. Through Summertown we go, oh it’s Summertown! I think. Then going up towards the end of Banbury road, I discover a bit of a downhill incline – fabulous fun! I had no idea that this would end up being my favourite part of the whole race 🙂 Passing us in the other direction I note a man dressed as a green muppet – how is he going so fast in all those clothes? I wonder. We hit a road block with a truck and a bus and do an about-turn back down Banbury Road. I spot a 2 hour pacer behind me at the turn – can it be that I might finish in under 2 hours? Maybe not, I reason, the pacer will probably speed up later. But still I start to hope… We turn the corner onto Marston Ferry Road and seem to leave civilisation behind for a while – “no people to cheer any more” a woman sighs. I take advantage of the downhill incline to make up some time – I have the bit between my teeth, although my legs are feeling a little tired. But I still haven’t felt in any way breathless. We circle through Marston, nice bit of villagey-ness, and more crowds. I high-five with many children; after the first few I remember not to hit them so hard 🙂 Brass bands, children with jelly-babies. I’m wearing my parkrun tangerine t-shirt, and so am called ‘parkrun’ by several people. We have to move to the side of the road to let an ambulance past, nothing serious I hope. The water and Lucozade stations are frequent (and there’re jelly babies on offer at the halfway point), I take water from all but one. I’m carrying my own Luco, and babies. Back on Marston Ferry I feel the acid in my stomach and slow to a jog to root out two of the said infants from my belt. I pass the loos at the end of MFR; they don’t have a queue, and I should really visit, but I decide to tough it out. I think I may actually be able to run all the way! Back on Banbury Road I see Joanna again, and pass Mr Squirrel who is giving out high-fives (I try to high-five Joanna, but she doesn’t seem to understand). The crowds are smiling and amazing. I start to peer at faces, but I don’t recognise anyone. Back to University Parks, we run beside the river as it twinkles in the sun. I pick up my pace a little, and then I see J, and high-five him. He looks surprised, perhaps only children understand high-fives? We continue round the Parks, kicking up a lot of dust. The crowd of runners has never thinned out, and I am still overtaking people. I pass J again – he’s tracking me on the app and has caught up with me. “RUN!” he commands. I pass the 12 mile marker, and try to pick up my feet faster. I slow down, I speed up again. Central Oxford, but where is the Radcliffe Camera? Maybe we don’t actually run round it after all? Oh no, there it is! The temporary surface put down to shield us from the cobbles is badly rucked up, so I grin quickly at the Camera then keep my eyes firmly on the ground in front of me. I do spy a poor young lad being tended by ambulancers – hope he got to the finish before it happened, but he looks very cross. There’s the last corner! The path is narrow and we have to scramble around each other. We’re told to smile for the cameras, so I smile, but I’ve been doing so most of the time anyway. I get clear of some people and start to sprint – there’s the pink arch! I run under it, hands aloft. There’s my medal. There’s my Mum! There’s my phone congratulating me. Big grin 😀 Awesome. I ran all the way!

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