Oxford Half Marathon (2 Years On)

When: October 11th 2015
Where: Oxford, UK
Course: City Centre roads
Other routes touched: NCN 51
Finish Time: 1:46 (PB)

The Oxford Half marathon was the finishing line of my Growlerthon challenge: a year of fund raising events book-ended by 2 big city Halfs. A year ago was the Royal Parks Half in London, which at the time was my personal best (PB). I managed 5 minutes faster than my average mostly due to the combination of a flat course, good running weather and generally feeling awesome. 

Getting a new PB at Oxford hadn't occurred to me until mile 8. Until then I'd been running ahead of the 1 hour 45 minute pacer but then he'd overtaken me. It was getting warm and I was feeling the pressure of keeping up a faster than normal pace. I stayed with the pacer til mile 10 when he shouted out "only a parkrun to go". I looked at my watch and saw that I could get a PB if I ran my normal parkrun average of 25 mins. By mile 12 I was slowing a bit and the pacer was now ahead but still in sight. 400 meters to go and I'd lost the pacer in the crowds as the course wiggled in and out of the old city. One final push and I'd crossed the finish line at 1:46, less than a minute faster than a year ago but still a PB.

Sometimes when I finish a big or important race I get a sudden wave of emotion immediately after crossing the finish line. I got it on all of my full Marathons and occasionally on Halfs where I really push myself. Normal it lasts 3 seconds then I'm back to normal and then I'm concentrating on getting my medal and getting out. Today it lasted significantly longer. I'd not started the Oxford Half with any particular sense of significance, but it all came back to me at once at the finish line.

It was two years on from the day we lost my dad to lung cancer and one year from the start of Growlerthon. In the last year I'd ran 5 half marathons, one Ultra  Marathon, cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats plus a collection of other cycling trips. I'd beaten my £2,500 fundraising goal by a £1,000 and, together with the other LEJOG team mates, jointly raised £15,000 for 5 charities. It was an amazing year full of new memories. Whereas a PB in a half marathon is not normally something I get excited about, today it was the final special thing that put a nice closure on the year.

Reading back over my original blog about my Dad's death (One Year On), it's interesting to reflect on how things are different now. The sharpness of the memories of his last 2 weeks has drifted away and I'm left with the happy memories of when he was here. A lot of who I am come from what I learnt from him and that will stay with me forever. I wrote a year ago about funerals not working for me as a means of closure or a focus for grieving. Growlerthon did that for me. It was my way of doing something very positive in his memory and it really worked.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way, from My wife Timea, my Mum, the LEJOG team to all of my sponsors who were very generous throughout. Not only couldn't I have done it without you, but most importantly it's my friends and family that made it such an amazing year.

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