Getting ready
My training went a lot better than last year, although it tailed off a little in the last month, due to stresses outside of running, which I think did affect my performance (see "lessons learned").  I’d got my Tshirt printed at Printigo in Stirchley – I got a white technical tee and got the LUCIA logo done without a background, so the top could breathe as much as possible.

For once, I was very organised, and sorted out everything – including my number being pinned onto my Tshirt – the night before.  Matthew and I made up an "immediately I finish" bag (using my new Running4Women bag) which had bread, face wipes and the top from the Dudley 5 to pop on when I got through.  Strictly Come Dancing and an early night and there we were…

On the way
Shreddies for breakfast as usual and off we went at 8am. Matthew came with me as I didn’t want to put my bag in storage.  I had warm tracky bottoms and hoody on – somehow I managed to make myself look about 15! The bus was great, full of runners, bananas and lucozade and a good atmosphere. I saw one lady I recognised from being out training and we said hello.  We had to get off in Fazeley St, which wasn’t too bad, and made our way up New St to the start.  Saw the Elite Women start off – amazing. Matthew was surprised they were so tiny.

I wasn’t too scared at this point – much better being my 2nd go at the distance, also easier having it start in the city centre.  We made our way to the ICC for a loo trip (for me) then up Cambridge St for the start. 

At the start
If I could change one thing about road racing, it would be the relentlessly cheery DJ they feel they must have. Argh! Some woman from heartfm babbling on – let’s just say a cheer went up when the mic cut out at one point! I climbed out of my tracksuit and got my arm bag ready with mobile and bus pass, my big water bottle and my packet of jelly beans. We hung around the orange balloon area which was where people with my expected time were meant to go, there didn’t seem to be many people there so I went and stood in the road at the back.  Matthew went off to stand at the side to cheer me through the start.  Chatted to a girl from Cadbury and an older man – both of their first Halfs and I felt a lot calmer than last time.  They started us off in waves so a bit of waiting and we were started at about 10:20.  I heard an announcement that Dame Kelly Holmes was doing the start…

And they’re off!
As we finally started to jog forward, I spotted Matthew off to the side and we managed to wave. Then, there was Kelly Holmes high-fiving people as they set off. I shot off to the right and as I touched her hand shouted "I come from Hildenborough!" (this is not insanity – she comes from there too!) and she did a little whoop. And then I pressed the button on my watch as we went through the start and off we went!

The race
Soon after starting I heard my name and there were Alison and Ian coming up behind me.  We went under an underpass and down towards Hill St. I knew Jen would be there and on the left so I let Alison and Ian speed off (they both got round fine with Personal Bests) and managed to high-five Jen too. So appreciated her being on Hill St as it’s steep to run down and the weather was a little wet. I did manage OK though.  

We went down through Digbeth – odd to be running where the bus usually goes – and through a bit of Balsall Heath towards Cannon Hill Park.  I was trying to run steadily, not too fast, but I was seriously hampered by the lack of mile markers. I saw a 2km marker and had to do sums in my head – never a favourite of mine – and then worked out a pace per km that was a little too fast still.   Support through Balsall Heath was fantastic – loads of people out in front of their houses cheering us on.  Even though there were lots of runners, I found myself in a little area of my own quite a lot.  I preferred this to the "bunfight" of a closer crowd.  At some point in the first part of the race I was alongside a guy in army uniform with a big backpack that I knew was not full of polystyrene.  I checked, and yes, he was the chap who helped me along the way last year! So I thanked him, shook his hand and carried on.  I saw a 3 mile marker and checked my time – 33:45

I wasn’t looking forward to Cannon Hill Park – too many fears of leaves and memories of bundly Race for Lifes, but it was actually OK, with a saxophonist in the bandstand and a big hot air balloon (saving energy, EDF?) being sent up.  Then we were onto Pershore and saw a lot of the fast men and women coming up the other way towards town.   It was odd running up the middle of Pershore Road as my training runs take me along there quite reguarly. I especially didn’t like the junction with Dads Lane, where I could have turned left and got home in 25 mins!

I was expecting to see the LUCIA folk and other friends in Bournville but was very happily surprised going through Selly Park by a shout of "LIZ!" and my colleague Qi darting forward to touch my hand! I had thought she wasn’t around, so that was brilliant and I got a little choked up for a moment!  Into Bournville and up Mary Vale Road. Apparently some people were surprised the course wasn’t that flat, but I’m used to Bournville. Mary Vale was a bit of a struggle but I knew I had to look good because – yes – there’s Bridget at the end of her road, cheering me on! Hooray! And a little later, her friend Daisy, who I didn’t know would be there!  Round the corner and there’s Theresa from work (she’s seen me in my lycra before!) and then to my surprise, Becky, Jill and Sylvia (plus dogs) from LUCIA; they’d found a way to nip between two places on the course.  Steve was a little further along with camera raised.  Such a bonus to see all these friendly faces!

I chatted to a couple of girls from the Navy who had come up for the day, they are from the ship that Birmingham supports, and another girl from Dublin via London.  A lot of people shouted "Come On LUCIA" which really helped me.  Bournville was up and down but enjoyable.  I clocked my time at 6 miles – 1:08:47 (that equals my 10k PB!; 3 miles in 35:02).  I looked out for Nicola and didn’t see her but did enjoy the folk band she was roped into joining.

Coming out of Bournville and towards Selly Park and there’s Tracy’s house, with a couple of huge banners! Tracy shouted out for me and then I saw the others just past her house, having rushed across while I was going round.  Along Raddlebarn road and down Bournbrook – another running route and the way I walk into work! I realised that a lot of the crowd along there were students, so I called out to some of them "I’m one of your librarians!" which got a cheer! Saw Karen from BookCrossing and then Steve from work, who I didn’t expect to see! As I came round the corner I did the librarian thing again and got a HUGE cheer which really sped me along back towards Pershore Road.

Pershore Road and Street into town were HARD.  My hip flexors started to hurt and I began to slow.  The support was still fab, lots of kids out shouting "you can do it" and a bunch of ladies with biscuits!  I encouraged a girl who was struggling a bit, as it took my mind off my own struggle.  Time at 10 miles was 1:56:41 (4 miles done in 47:54)  and I began to realise I could beat my target time of 2 hours 36, although I did slow and slow.   Into town the crowds thinned and I had to have a sharp word with myself about NOT walking – I’d run all the way so far.  That bit from 11.5 to 12.5 was hard and I was glad of the km and mile markers then!

A really odd twisty route into town.  Going up Hill St was actually fine, as we didn’t do the steep bit.  But going up past the mailbox with some upward slopes and cobbles ("who put those there?" we said to each other – lovely cameraderie) was difficult. Then I could see we were going to turn right onto Broad St and I knew the end was in sight…

The finish
I managed to drag something extra out of the bag for the last bit on Broad St, although it does curve so I couldn’t see the finish line and wondered if I’d peaked too soon! I wouldn’t say I was sprinting, but I have a bugbear of looking like I’m walking in photos of runs, and you can see on the pics that I was definitely RUNNING! I had the road to myself.  There was a young lad limping along with a bandaged knee – I encouraged him on, such a shame to limp through the finish (Come on mate, you’ve got years on me, if I can do it…) and he managed to run through with me (hope it didn’t shatter his knee or something!).  I saw Jen and Mick on my right and Mick got some fab pics of me running along.  Looking out for Matthew I saw tall Arthur pointing downwards at Matthew’s head so I managed to give them a wave too – then head up, don’t look at the watch and I was THROUGH!  Watch said 2:35:24 (so it took me 38:41 to do the last 3.1 miles) and official chip time 2:35:22 – very pleased with that as I knocked 7 mins (over 30 s per mile) off my time last year!

Getting sorted out
Like last year, the post-finish bit was a bit messy.  I got given a medal and a little box (turned out to have a nice keyring in), a drink and a Tshirt, then a goody bag then one of those shiny foil capes! Someone made me put my foot up HIGH on a bench to have my chip taken off my trainer.  Then we were corralled round Cambridge Street towards the NIA so I managed to divert back round to Broad St. Phoned Matthew and met him by the War Memorial with Arthur, then we found Jen and Mick, I babbled about it all, had a bit of bread and put my top and tracky bottoms on, and we went down to Pizza Hut. Said goodbye to Arthur, queued at Pizza Hut for a bit, Jen accompanied me when I felt a bit unwell (I was fine) and then the lovely girl in PH brought me garlic bread VERY quickly.  

On the way home
Went down to get the no 50 and saw a notice in the Pavillions that a branch of one of my favourite shops, Occitane, had opened there. So we popped along and had a look – and they gave us a cup of green tea to have as we browsed!  I showed the girl my medal and she thought I’d won – yeah, right!!!  Got the 50 which was quite full and had the cast of Skins (not really, just like them) and a madman on, so about per usual. Home, shower, ouchy legs and sleep!

Lessons learned
I was pleased with how I did. Going out too fast was more down to the mile markers than my being too enthusiastic and I need to just work out my pace in mins per km as well as mile.  
I did miss out on some of the stamina/speedwork beforehand.  I could have done with having done the distance or longer not in race conditions, and I’ll try to build up to that next time.  I also worked out how to build my speed up but a bit late for building in distance too.  I’m going to try to build some speed up over the winter then work on the stamina for the next one.
It was GREAT to have my big water bottle (with Squash in)  – meant I didn’t have to stop at the water stations, try to drink out of a cup while running etc, and could just sip as I went

Proud of myself, really grateful for all the support both on the day and before and after!
Pace summary:
Mile 1-3          33:45 total 33:45
Mile 3-6          35:02 total 1:08:47
Mile 6-10       47:54 total 1:56:41
Mile 10-13.1 38:41 total 2:35:23