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Running 'Vitality Big Half' half marathon after COVID

Last Sunday, I participated in my first half marathon since COVID hit the Earth. This was the Vitality Big Half. I want to share that experience as whilst it's not directly related to Apple Fitness+, it was still a vital part of knowing my fitness level and being part of my fitness journey.

Let me start off with training... my running during COVID was mainly short runs that were below 5km. I would also run treadmill workouts on Apple Fitness+ which would have given me the HIIT interval training that was crucial in marathon training. However, what I lacked was long distance training.

I have to admit that my mindset for this half marathon was that I wanted to complete it. I didn't really have a time goal, other than the standard of 2 hours. Considering that I had not put in the distance runs and that I would actually be blagging this run, I was not disheartened when I finished with 2:15:37.

Just before the race, I had all the pre-race nerves dancing in my stomach. This event was a flagship event that my running club. The London Frontrunners is an LGBT community of runners that run on a weekly basis and socialise as we bless/curse our running experiences with each other in a friendly environment.

We gathered for a group photo that considering how we were recovering from COVID, had at over a 100 of us posing fresh for our race at 8am in the morning. We then went to the baggage drop which had us herding like sheep into a long line (pictured above).

It's been a while since I have seen some of these faces and I smiled to see that they survived the pandemic and were about to embark on this race with me.

My friend Robert (you can see his name in red on his vest above), was celebrating his birthday that day and so when we set off, I felt compelled to keep him company. It wasn't my intention but I also wanted to play this half marathon safe. Opting to do a negative-split (a running term to start slow then end fast). However, as we saw many of our fellow Frontrunners speed ahead, I actually wanted to stay with him. We discovered that the Limehouse tunnel messed up his Strava GPS and it was misdirecting him that he had run an extra few kilometres after he had left it. Distorting distance like we had entered Narnia. My Apple Watch remained true and so I become crucial for his speed management.

People were shouting encouragement to him as we ran and I made sure to smile as I too encouraged him to go around. Whilst my legs could probably go faster, I found in hindsight that if I did push ahead, I would have suffered a slow and demoralising defeat. By keeping with Robert and matching his speed, I prevented myself from overdoing my post-COVID body. My right glute hiccupped first, following by my right thigh and then my right calf. It was the pain due for not training and I should have fully expected that.

As we slogged on the final miles and it was getting to Robert, our speed reduced and I felt the struggle for both of us. However, I stuck with him. I made sure our photos were of us side-by-side as we kept each other in check. Usually, I would have a sprint finish but this time round, I was just thankful to have company and there was a lot of meaning for us to finish together.

Robert expressed his gratitude of me staying by his side. Not only as a time and distance keeper but also as a motivator when he felt his legs pushed to the limits. It was his birthday, of course I wouldn't have left him by himself!

In conclusion, running a half marathon after COVID, was not only a wake-up call to my body to remember that this type of exercise can be used to push me to my limits but it also helped strengthen my relationships and relight those friendships that have been in slumber during the pandemic.

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