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Teamwork making the dream work: Big Half race report

Emmie, Jojo, Natalie, Monika at Gildas at the Big Half.

On February 5th 2019 I was told I had breast cancer. When they asked me if I had any questions I asked: "Would still be able to race the Big Half and the Marathon de Paris?" 

In my defence, I had no clue what was going on at that moment, but it does give an indicator of how much I love running and how into the training I was. Surgery looked like it would be the beginning of March, therefore meaning no races. I was really sad but had other priorities now. 

I continued with my training plan as much as I could mostly because I was really loving it! But also the routine was a great distraction for me mentally and I had the go-ahead to keep up my usual exercise in order to stay as strong as possible for the operation. Perfect!

The beginning of March was getting closer and I still didn’t have a date, so although Paris was definitely out, I started wondering if maybe I would end up doing The Big Half after all.

I got my date for surgery: March 14th. Although I was upset to have to wait, I was able to race, so there was a bright side! It was brilliant as I could focus on that rather than anything else. 

March 10th: Race day. It was wet, a bit cold and windy, but I put my many throwaway layers on, as well as my glamorous bin bag, and headed over to Tower Bridge with some of the QPH crew. Bag drop was pretty easy and we headed to the loos over in our pen which were quite busy but we had enough time that we weren’t stressing.

When we were waiting for our pen to be released, a big wave of emotion suddenly hit me. I was exhausted after surviving on very little sleep for the past month (Two hours the night before the race!) but I really wanted this to go well.

Everything was extremely surreal, but I felt like this could be be the race of my life! Monika,

Jojo, Emma and Gildas were waiting behind me but Amelia was next to me and I think she noticed I was just starting to have a big wobble/cry! Oh no–that would ruin my hydration! And my mascara (I know, I wear make-up to race – but it is a performance!).

I can’t remember what she actually did and said, but she was lovely and smiley and encouraging and I felt really comforted. It snapped me out of it and I felt really happy and excited to RACE!!!

I had been training for a sub 1:45. The rest of the crew were marathon training and were happy to aim for the same pace so off we trotted together!

I felt fantastic! I didn’t want to let myself get too cocky but I felt strong and as the miles went by I felt confident that this was going to have a happy ending! It was so lovely to be racing in among my friends. We naturally took turns in pacing and we stuck together keeping a really even pace of just under eight minute miles.

I really enjoy the Big Half course, with the highlight for me being going over Tower Bridge at around mile seven; I literally felt high as we crossed it! It was really windy on that part, with our legs nearly being blown from under us, but this just made me laugh. 

We saw Will cheering us on in the crowd which gave us a boost, and Gildas was filming and taking photos whilst running. It was brilliant and for a while I forgot I really needed the toilet–those gels! 

Gildas kindly adopted the role of water boy and was handing us drinks when we needed them–amazing! And after around 10 miles, we all speeded up a bit. Emma and Monika ended up ahead a little, and I stayed with Jojo and Gildas either side of me. I know that they were staying with me in order to deliver me to the finishing line safely and in my target time and I felt really looked after!

800 metres to go. Gildas: “Just 2 laps of the track.” 

400 metres to go. Gildas and Jojo: “GO!!”

Me: “F**K YOU CANCER!” (Oh dear!!) and off I went!

I felt wild and like I wanted to scream the whole way to the finish. But instead I just ran my heart out. And it felt soooooo good!

It’s a pretty finish right at the Cutty Sark with loads of great support. 

1:43:18! A comfy sub 1:45 and a 4 minute and 33 second PB – I did it! Or should I say we did it? 

It was a team effort with lots of speedy QPH PBs, and I am really grateful to my friends for all the love and making it such an incredible and memorable experience for me. I smiled a lot and used what we learn at track to try and keep my posture and form strong throughout. I learned a lot about how to race and pace sensibly and successfully, and I can’t wait to do it again.

I would recommend this race to everyone and it really was the race of my life. It kept me on a high and gave me strength all the way through to surgery and I will never, ever forget it.


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