The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind and sureal to say the least. Especailly when you find yourself in a race with the greatest runner of all time 'Haile Gebresaile' and being paced by a human banana en route to victory in the Great Birmingham half marathon it makes me wonder if I was actually dreaming!
I did my first interview for channel 5 before the race and was a bit like a deer caught in the headlights for a start but after a few takes I managed to come across as quite natural. I was actually more nervous about that than the race but again it something I have to get used to and when I heard the voice of Stuart Story who wanted to interview me I recognized it straight a way as the commentator on the BBC who covers the Great run series and was thrilled that he actually wanted to get to know me and find out in his words 'what makes me tick!' which was great as well.
When I found out Haile was in the same hotel as me I was in 'Stalker mode' ready to pounce for an autograph or 5 but he was late from an awards evening and retired to his room for the night with room service which I don't blame him for especailly when he had the honeymoon suite. I got what I wanted in the end anyway!
Anyway the race went without a hitch. I didn't intend to lead from the off but found the support on the streets of Brum fueled my adrenaline. I was joined for the first 3 miles by Louise Damen as we went through 5k in 17 minutes. A lot of people came out of the houses to watch the Great man grace thier pavements and I got alot of support too at this point running beside some 'fast food' which became the focal point for some media attention! He was regularly referred to as banana man and he was prooving to be my main opposition and pace maker for the time being. One man said to me glad you didn't slip on the banana! what a punch line! He was hot on my heels for the next few miles and tried to spit from the bunch at 10k but I reeled him back in put my foot down and shook him off just after 10k going down a gradual hill! I went through 10k in 34.15 which was even splits anyway but for now it was bye bye banana man!
I was sorry to part company as it was quite a lonely run from then on through 8 to 9 miles through the park and reaching 10 miles in just under 55 minutes I was still going strong and had gathered momentum. However the worst was still to come! At 11 miles there was the most aweful hill which is never a welcome sight in a half marathon just when it starts to bite! I grited my teeth and hoped my legs would carry me which they did luckily. It lasted for about 800m but seemed more like a mile and what was referred to as a grudual incline was more like a mountain! Those hills payed off at Bradgate Park anyway! Even Gebresasase said he was crying going up that hill which is saying something! The trademark smile was definately not present going up that one! Coming off and feeling slighly jelly legged I still had 1 and a half miles to run which doesn't sound a lot but after that hill the finish line could not have come quick enough! With 800m to go my friend Claire had kindly made a banner saying 'go Gembo!' which really spurred me on and gave me that sprint finish to smash my PB by 1 min 10 seconds! It was hard on my own and with the wind in my face for the last 7 miles but I did myself proud to come in over a minute in front of Louise who I respect had a lot of mileage in her legs but never the less it was another good scalp as she is an Olympic marathon hopeful and has already ran the time for it. I was glad she beat the infamous Banana man as well as that could have been a bit embarassing! We are good friends from the European Cross country chamionships where we were room mates so it was nice to see her and wish her luck with her endevours before she does her next marathon.
After the race I did a live interview for channel 5 which went well and Brendon Foster said weldone. The first thing I said was 'I was glad I beat the Banana which was the main thing!' Aparently he knows me and has been in the same races a few times but I wouldn't recognise him without his banana suit. Anyway thanks to him and Gebresalase it really was a memorable event and he certainly kept me entertained- Top Banana! :)