The Flaming June Histon Half Marathon

This one was worrying me a little.

If you’ve read the previous post you’ll know that I was struggling a little with injury and hadn’t really prepared as much as I would have liked to. I look back at my training for the Cambridge Half Marathon and remember carefully ramping up my distance until I was confident that I could complete the distance.

This time I had been laid low by a mysterious and irritating pain in a ligament behind my knee. Every now and again it would cut in and cause me immense amounts of pain. I took the decision to ease waaaay back on my running and see if it would heal. This isn’t an approach I often take. More often, I will stupidly soldier on and just assume the pain will eventually just go away .

Carrie and I turned up to the Histon and Impington recreation ground and looked for somewhere to fasten our bikes. This was a difficult process as a forest of bikes had already sprung up throughout the village and were attached to anything that looked like it may stay still for a few hours. We managed to find a fence and went in search of the registration tent. Richard met us just outside the tent and showed us the way. He too was a little worried by his lack of preparation for the run but still excited to see what the day would bring. Lloyd arrived a little later and hurriedly ran off in entirely the wrong direction to get his race number too. I must assume he zoned in on the correct location eventually as he returned some time later with a race number pinned to his chest.

About 15 minutes before the race we were all led away through the streets to find the starting point. We looked like a herd of migrating wildebeest as we mooched across the roads in search of our temporary home.

pic of migrating Wildebeest
To the start line

The first wave of the fastest runners were all lined up and given vital pre-race information (run in that direction and don’t wander into the busway tracks to get mowed down by rampaging buses). They all nodded sagely, were counted down and sent on their way. The next wave went a few minutes later and then we slower runners were given the same pre-race talk and released onto the course.

I set off slowly. I always set off slowly. I hear so much, when I listen to running podcasts such as ‘marathon talk‘ that everyone sets off too fast on longer runs and inevitably pays for it later. I think that because I usually start with fairly slow runners that I have no choice but to set off quite slowly, as I’m usually following a whole bunch of other people. We meandered through the streets a little and then headed out onto the busway. A couple of kilometres in, I have a bit of space around me and am beginning to settle into my own regular pace. I’ve just got settled into the long straight of the busway when we are directed off into a bit of cross country. There was a little dash toward Girton and then we nipped back onto the busway. Then the course took a long shambling meander out and about, veering off toward Oakington. Some of this was quite a tough trail to run. The grass was high and we were often running in single file. I was quite grateful here that so many people had run in front of me and trampled the grass down a little. Nine and a half kilometres in and we’re back on the busway. I’m partly relieved in that it’s easier running on the flat ground. I’m also aware, however, that it’s easy to get lost in the relentless plodding along on this type of surface. I tend to slow down on sections like this. I just float off into my own little world and can hear the hypnotic thump as my feet hit the floor, over and over and over again. I check my phone and the time is pretty good. I’m at about an hour for 10K so everything is going well. We turned right near Rampton along Reynolds Drove and then right again along Cuckoo Lane. I was a little mystified here by a group of wild hairy people cavorting along in what looked like the wrong direction. Some of them were blowing trumpets and others were shouting ‘On, On.’ I eventually figured out that these must be Hashers doing their own crazy running thing.

We’re running along Cuckoo Lane and there’s quite a bit of uphill here. We’re at 13 kilometres and the tiredness is beginning to tell on my legs. They tell me that they would be awfully grateful if I would perhaps stop for a bit and bathe them in warm water whilst covering them in soft soapy suds. My plan for them was quite different. The order of the day as far as I was concerned was that they still had eight kilometres left to run. My legs thought that this was a ridiculous idea.

At 15 km I’m running along Gun’s Lane and my legs are threatening to go into complete revolt. They tell me that I haven’t trained for this and I shouldn’t expect them to sustain this kind of punishment. I try to close my ears to their bitter criticisms.

At 16 and a half kilometres we’re back into housing estates and there’s lots of marshalls about yelling encouragement. I must pay tribute here to the vast number of people who give up their time to volunteer for these events and help us all to have such a good time. There are all the wonderful people who dish out the drinks at the water stations and all those people who point out the right way to go on the course. At 16 kilometres in this incredible heat my brain isn’t really up to orienteering so I’m extremely happy to have people point and shout that I should go that way.

At 18 kilometres we are back in Impington and I am beginning to get excited about finishing. Unfortunately my body is trying to close itself down. It has already decided that we’ve run far further than any sane person should do so and the legs are refusing the next stride in the way that a horse might refuse to jump a high fence. I’m reduced to walking for a few paces while I try to talk my body into moving again. Eventually I manage to spur it once more into action and I’m on my way. I totter onto the recreation ground and spot the finish line waaaaay over there. I try to make a sprint for the line but it’s more an ungainly wobble. The time isn’t great at getting on for 2 and a half hours but it was incredibly hot and I did finish without dying so I call that a good result. Many others didn’t and the St John’s Ambulance group were extremely busy tending to those who had collapsed along the course.

Richard finished well and Lloyd did a pretty good time. Unfortunately I think that the heat got to Lloyd a bit and he felt quite unwell for some time after finishing.

Here’s me taking it easy in the sun with my finishers medal on the ground behind me.


jim laying down
Aaaand Relax


Proportionate Response

I intended to do an early morning 10K or so. One of my regular routes takes me along the A10. Then I turn right through Waterbeach, past the station to the River Cam and then right turn along the Cam, back to Milton. It’s a lovely route that has become one of the favourites among my Sunday morning runs. This morning it didn’t go entirely to plan.

I set off feeling fine. The first bit along the A10 is the least pleasant section of the run. I think the only joy of this section is that I know the scenery gets a lot better further along. I had travelled around 2 kilometres when I started to feel a slight pain at the back of my right knee. It felt like some kind of stretchy ligament thing. I’ve had this pain before and it keeps re-occurring. It does sometimes go numb so that I can carry on. This time it just kept getting worse. At 3 km I was gritting my teeth and wincing. I turned off the A10 toward Waterbeach and the pain became unbearable. I staggered along a few yards more but I couldn’t cope with it any more.

I checked my phone and found that I had only completed 4 km of my projected 10 k run. I was frustrated and upset. I felt that I could have wept. I was thinking about the upcoming Flaming June half marathon and that this injury might prevent my taking part in that. Alternatively the injury might heal but only if I rested it completely and then I wouldn’t be fit enough to take part in the half marathon.

Woe is (was) me.

I was staggering about and looking up at the sky. I felt distraught. I turned around to limp back home. I looked up at the sky metaphorically shaking my fist at the unfairness of it all.

Then I actually saw the sky. It was a delightfully clear day. I was outside, in the sunshine on a beautiful day, in the village of Waterbeach and not so far away from the glorious scenery around the River Cam. The injury would heal. I may not be able to take part in the Flaming June half marathon but that’s just one run. There would be many more.

It’s a strange reaction when you find you can’t finish a run. I’ve seen it before in myself and many others. The reaction seems massively disproportionate to the circumstance. When you consider the sort of tragedies that can hit us, all too often (friends or family suffering illness or death or being the victim of a violent crime or being put in prison) and compare that to the tragedy of not finishing a run then it doesn’t seem to fit. There must be some kind of competitive thing going on. It’s a striving for goals. You invest quite a lot into attaining these goals and if you don’t achieve them, then it feels like that investment was wasted. However, when you step back and see what’s really going on (especially in the case I’m talking about here) it’s only a run. I know, I know. A heretical view indeed. I expect to be stripped of my running shoes and drummed out of the corps in disgrace. However, it’s only a few weeks out of training. I can always get new goals. I can sign up for a different race and ramp up the training for that one. Meanwhile, I’m out in the sunshine and it’s a beautiful day. I can walk the rest of the route so I’m still getting some exercise and take a few photos too.

The first thing that prompted me to whip out the phone and take photos was the fantastically impressive St John’s Church, named for St John the Evangelist.

St John's Church
St John’s Church

I’m often amazed at the sheer scale of these churches in quite tiny villages.

I walked down to the train station across the level crossing. Then through the station car park toward the river.

pic of level crossing
Waterbeach level crossing

I was walking a path I’d run often but I had a little more time to look around. I noticed to my right a kissing gate and a sign. It said ‘Mouse Gate’. It seemed a quaint sign so I went through and saw some more signs. These said ‘Living Bridge’ and ‘Explorers Hangout’. Excellent thinks I.  There’s some exploring to be done here.

pic of kissing gate
Mouse Gate


The Living Bridge
The Living Bridge

I walked back and forth along the trails finding several other similar signs and hidden treasures. Not all of them amazing, I will admit. The explorers hangout is a bench.explorershangoutHowever, I suspect the idea is to spark off children’s imagination so that they have the beginnings from which to create something magical. It was a lovely little woodland area called Cow Hollow Wood.

Cow Hollow Wood sign
Cow Hollow Wood

I continued onwards coming back out onto the river. I tried to run again and managed to get a few hundred yards before the pain returned.

I distracted myself by taking a few more photographs.

boats on cam
and finally

Flowers and path along the camDespite the disappointment of the injury it was still a delightful morning. I did manage to run a little more but it was quite painful. I’m now here a couple of weeks later. I’ve been resting the leg as much as possible. I did parkrun yesterday and it didn’t hurt. So, I’ll be running the Flaming June half marathon tomorrow. I think I’m unlikely to get a good time but it should still be a lot of fun