Hackney Half and how not to fuel for a half marathon

I had the funnest day on Saturday.

I started with a whip round my local parkrun before getting my glad rags on to head off for a Michelin starred 7 course tasting menu (more on this soon). Afterwards we caught Far From The Madding Crowd at the cinema (loved it) and scoffed popcorn. We didn’t get home until 9pm so I made myself a yummy dinner plate of soft boiled eggs, salad, blue cheese, oatcakes and anything else I could find in my fridge.


I went to bed at a decent time knowing I had a big day ahead of me with a belly full of joy.

Hackney Half MarathonI’m training for a race with my friend Travis and Run Hackney formed part of my training run, so Travis joined me on the way there and we enjoyed exploring a new part of London whilst the streets were still empty.

A few miles later Travis and I arrived in Hackney, after the poor boy had dealt with me bitching and moaning about needing the toilet for about two miles. “How do you feel about going in a bush Steph” “This is not a bush kind of toilet visit” I replied. Sorry Travis. Talk about TMI.

I spent the time between arriving at the start area and 9:15 in the queue for the toilets, getting pretty stressed which probably didn’t help matters. I should have been spending this time finding my Run Dem Crew family. Lissy found me in the loo queue after most of the runners had gone and pretty much got a mouthful of profanities from me.

Hackney Half RaceHackney Half 2015 Hackney Half May










Finally at quarter past nine. I headed off, I thought I was going to hate Hackney Half marathon, I thought it was going to be an immensely boring route. But boy was I wrong.

In between finding all the possible toilets on the course and those in lovely cute cafes and those in the velodrome I had time to enjoy the scenery. Running past Netil market which looked cute and in need of a return visit and through the Olympic Park was a joy.

The best bit of Hackney Half Marathon was the support. I suspect being close to London Marathon helps, Londoners get a taste of cheering and want more! But there were pockets of cheers all round Hackney, from youngsters holding out high fives to twenty somethings drinking on roofs.

It was also great to see so many people I knew on the route, Lauren (who got most of my grump), Hannah, Kiera, Sian and lots of RDC.

Thanks Hackney, you helped me through. But the cheer I was waiting for was the Cheer Dem station after mile 10. If Cheer Dem hadn’t been there I think I would have given up during one of my toilet stops but I just wanted to get to them, if I could get that far there wasn’t far to go. I heard cheer dem before I could see them, just at a time when I was feeling pretty low. The thought of the moment I’d been waiting for finally arriving became overwhelming and I was sobbing as I turned the corner, I could see some of the crew on ladders, I could hear mega phones but I couldn’t think of how I would get through the three miles after them.

I started waving for them as I ran up the slope towards the crew, I needed them, I needed this moment. As I approached the noise ERUPTED. Ellie was screaming at me telling me I could do this, just ahead of the cacophony. I couldn’t pick out anyone’s face, or hear any particular cheer, my eyes were too full of tears but as you can see above they became tears of joy. I think Cheer Dem at Hackney and the concentration of people actually trumped London Cheer Dem or maybe it’s because this time I needed you guys – and you were there. I’m welling up thinking about it. These are the moments when it is affirmed that we are a crew, a family, a community and certainly not a running club.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, I made it to the finish line. Not in my expected time, not in any sort of style. I got panicked by the crowds who seemingly didn’t want to let us out of the finish funnel. So panicked that I called David up and started sobbing down the phone that I just wanted to go home and the people of Hackney wouldn’t let me. I think the poor boy thought I was being held hostage. Instead of joining my crew I took my grumpy and sorry self home. Past Becs – who tried to have a conversations with me, sorry! David coaxed me into a shower with promise of a roast and I became myself again whilst eating the biggest pig belly I’ve ever seen – even the landlord was surprised I finished it.

Hackney Half Goody BagThe goody bag was excellent but come on Vitality, I’ve run three of your races this year and binned all the T-shirts, the Small’s are HUGE. [Image Courtesy of Gareth]

But I tell you what Hackney, I’ll be back and next time I’m going to do you properly.

So just to recap

– Don’t eat stupidly late the night before a race

– Don’t eat hugely rich foods the day before a race

– Don’t let yourself get dehydrated

– Don’t run a race when you have a bad tum, it’s not going to improve from running.

Has your tummy ever played havoc during a race? I know Lissy’s didn’t play fair during London marathon.

Do you avoid any foods the night before race day?

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    • Stephanie says:

      Thansk Keith, I have the go faster food recipe book which normally does me proud, I’ve already planned one for next weekend before Richmond. Phew! Mac and Cheese is delish though, maybe I should try it. Ooof a pint, I don’t think I’d make it through the pint let alone the race haha

  1. Jennie says:

    Wow! So impressed you even got to the finish considering what you were going through!

    I’ve had IBS for over 10 years and only got it under control for the last 2 so this is a very real fear for me. 3 years ago there was no way I could run a mile, let alone compete!

    I too didn’t feel good all Saturday night and Sunday morning either but I too decided to run. Luckily for me by the time I started the huge dose of meds I took had kicked in and despite some cramping and stitch pain I got through the race (toilet stop free). Not my fastest either, but I was still proud of myself for not pulling out!

    Give yourself more credit my friend…. You still ran it faster than me despite all those loo breaks and the fact that you could even run, let alone at that speed given the fact you would of been dehydrated, probably in pain and depleted of energy amazes me!

    On another positive, I guess the worse the race, the more you learn from it. The harder you find it the more proud you should be at the end. And, sometimes hitting a PB can be easier than battling through these tough experiences, so give yourself a pat on the back for that! 😀

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks Jennie, don’t get me wrong I’m not down on the time, I’m also impressed I made it round haha. Can I ask how you manage your IBS, are you on a special diet? Big congrats to you too on getting round. WE DID IT!!!! I agree about the tough times 🙂

      • Catherine Smith says:

        Ahhh I second this comment – if you have any tips then please do share! I also have IBS and while I find running is a great way to manage it, I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences.

        Amazing work for sticking with the race, though, Stephanie, and I agree with the other comments that sometimes a bad race is the best way to learn about running and racing. When your already uncomfortable and anxious, crows and tiredness can make these things so much worse – I try and have some ‘wise words’ in my head for these difficult times but it usually just ends in panic.

        As for eating, I try and have breakfast as early as possible and stay away from anything reasonably fatty the day before (I always have to forego the cheese on my pasta 🙁 ). Plain carby goodness and not too much veg! What boring advice 😉

  2. Gill Bland says:

    Oh love! What a nightmare, but cool that you still got some enjoyment out it. Also, interesting that it was a good route after all. I have to admit, I assumed it’d be boring too.

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks Gill, I did enjoy it, and looking back now I look back fondly, I felt it was important to write this while it was still raw. I want people to know we all have tough ones and we all make mistakes. When are you running next? we need to hit an event together sometime. x

  3. Maria @ runningcupcake says:

    Oh dear it sounds very tough indeed. I get put off by London races because I find the travelling so stressful- I would much rather be able to walk, or drive somewhere local.
    I did the Brighton half, which is Vitality and we didn’t get t-shirt- boo! I feel short changed. Although if it was too big then not much of a loss.

  4. Abi says:

    Unfortunately I know this horrible feeling too, I experienced it during the London Bupa 10k last year when I was trying for a PB. Admire your determination to get through your half 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks Abi, it seems like I’m not alone, I’m quite glad I shared as many people seem to have had the same! Thanks hun, I hope not to do it the same again soon though 😉

  5. Gareth Davies says:

    Great work Stephanie, toilet trouble when running is awful I unfortunately have a few bad tales to tell. Theres not much you can do though, as they say when you gotta go you gotta go! You did well to keep going after each stop.

  6. Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) says:

    Sorry you had a rough day out there, the heat probably didn’t help with having a dodgy stomach either. I’ve suffered in the past, although not in races- so I sympathize! Honestly, I think we learn more from the bad experiences and runs so it’s not a bad thing to have a bad one every once in a while and it’s makes the good ones even more worthwhile. See you Sunday?

  7. Justin says:

    Running with a bad stomach is not much fun – I feel your pain. But it’s just one run out of thousands and hopefully there’s no long-term harm done so it’s good to see you got some positives out of it.

    I’ve had one bad race in this vein and it was the toughest afternoon of running I’ve had. But it helped me realise I could get through almost anything so it was worth it in the end. You may have read it before but here it is anyway… http://jb73.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-picnic-marathon.html

    • Stephanie says:

      I loved reading it, I can relate to every bit, unluckily for me being in central london there were no bushes I had to take a 5 minute detour to loos in the velodrome at one point! It’s nice to know I’m not alone, I definitely think heat makes it worse. I just kept thinking “this brings a new meaning to keep your shit together”

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