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How does that look to you? Muddy? Slippery? Wet? Flood area? You are absolutely right! I paid more than 20 quid to go through all of that!

So how does that sound to you? Crazy, totally un-doable? I can assure you – totally untrue! My first wettest half marathon ever in cold November. Before I even got to the starting point, I had a couple of hiccups.

1. I missed a train at Hammersmith so I had to wait for the next one.
2. When the train reached Paddington station, it was closed for the particular line I was on so I had to take another train at the next stop to return back.
3. When it came to the transfer at Maidenhead station, the train was severely delayed by 20 minutes as the drivers were late on their way to work(due to train delays and had to take a taxi from Nottinghill).
4. When the train reached Marlow at around 920 am, the other participants ran so fast ahead, I lost sight of them and I was further delayed to get to the starting point.
5. Hence when I finally got to the starting point, the rest of them were already gone and I had yet to collect my race number and be properly attired.

I guess everyone is probably wondering, did I ever get started? Yes! First time I started a race 20minutes later than everyone else which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If you take a closer look at the first picture, that was the first ‘puddle’ at the bottom of slope one. It was probably 200 metres covered in water and I spent the first bit trying to keep my shoes dry by stepping on the muddy patch on the grass. Nearly slipped and fell a couple of times but I managed to hang on and persevered. There were a handful of folks who turned around after the first puddle and slope. I guess it must have been the rudest shock when they saw the flood! So I had the entire area to myself and the option of selecting whichever path looked the ‘easiest’ with no pressure of people behind me. My goal was simply to stride on. It worked perfectly and in the end I did get my shoes wet as there were simply no other options. Looking at the positive side, the cold water did help to clean my muddy shoes(from the second picture above) when I started off.

Three tough slopes where I felt like giving up and start walking. I pushed on and somehow I actually got faster at one point. Except that was when I hit the second slope and once again, that slowed me down tremendously. However, it was also the point when I started overtaking the other runners. When I hit the fourth mile, I saw more people whom I managed to catch up with.

Even during the times when I needed to keep the pace on, I turned my head from time to time to catch scenic views of the countryside. Horses, cows and sheep – all grazing silently on the wide open fields. I simply loved them. That’s one of the reasons why I love the English countryside – it allows breathing space and it is simply soothing to listen to the sounds of nature and relax.

I was encouraged by the atmosphere of the cheering marshals and touched by their turnout on a cold and wet Sunday morning. Waving hi and thanking them along the way, it really made the race extremely enjoyable. This was the first race I had no clue on the route and absolutely had no chance to feel bored as an uphill or downhill slope could be just around the corner! Furthermore, the water puddles added to the challenge and I could almost feel that I was doing an obstacle course similar to national service training!

Pressing on hard, I tried to make up for lost time as much as possible without stopping. A sense of peace and determination settled properly after I covered about half the distance. The feeling of continuous forward movement despite the difficulties so much reflected life and hardships especially during our downtime when we feel sad and our view looks bleak. Every uphill challenge looks so much tougher and feels like an eternity while the downhill challenge reflects the breeze and freedom that we are speeding ahead with exhilaration. When things hit the pits, it would not get any worse – for that’s when things will start looking up. We need to be patient, chin up and increase our strides and we will soon see the peak with the amazing sights. It does feel demoralising when you see people doing U-turns but remember the fruits of the labour lies in patience and hard work.

That is what I did. When I settled into the rhythm of the run during the last two miles, I sped up and opened my steps. Though I was late into the game, but I was able to catch up properly with focus and willpower. I would say, this is the attitude I hope to adopt permanently in my life. Wet, muddy and cold feet – a small price to pay for the completion of a fantastic 13.1 miles race.
My last and the most difficult for 2012 yet with the second best timing. I am all up for the next run!

Are you?

PS: Added in a image of the race gradient – feel even prouder of myself 🙂