Newton’s Fraction half marathon hammy hell

I should have been well prepared for the Newton’s Fraction (aka Grantham) half marathon. I should have been in great form. I’d just spent two weeks at altitude knocking out some miles on the trail; and Newton’s was supposed to be a tempo ready for a 100km race the following week but in reality things went a little pear-shaped.

Even the locals had wrapped up warm for the Newton's Fraction 2015 (Photo thanks to Free Running Club Photos by Sarah Burton).

Even the locals had wrapped up warm for the Newton’s Fraction 2015 (Photo thanks to Free Running Club Photos by Sarah Burton).

I arrived in the UK just over a week before the race and it was cold, well freezing  to me after 20C in Qatar and mid-teens in Spain. On the Tuesday before the race I had some long intervals planned, to get my leg turnover up before the race. All was going well, I did a good 15 minute warm up and then started. Unfortunately the first interval took me down a gravel road (this used be tarmac) and running on the right side of the road my right hip ends up lower than my left. My good old right hip decides it’s not happy with the combination of the surface and being in a hole and tightens putting extra stress down the hammies. Pulling up, I stretch before it seizes up completely and walk/ jog home – I had to keep moving as it was too cold to hang around.

Resting up, it felt okay come Sunday but it was cold very cold. Even the locals were wrapped up in winter kit and I was nervous about what to wear, one layer, two layers, who knew? I ended up opting for short compressions and calf guards with a short sleeve tech top and windproof jacket on the top. Leaving my warm up as late as I could, I made the start line just as we were ready for the off. The gun went and off we went. I could just ‘feel’ the hammy.

The route takes runners out of Grantham from the local sports centre, to a village on the outskirts, and onto the canal tow path, headed west. Runners then pop up from the canal at about 5 miles and go through Woolsthorpe (of Sir Isaac Newton falling apple fame) before pushing up a moderate hill. Turning east, the route goes along a good straight for a couple of miles towards the village of Denton until ouch my right hip totally seizes up. I’d been making great progress with just a little of the ‘feeling’ in my hammies, on time for a 1:35 –ish  and first prize in my age group.

The end of a painful half marathon - spot the classic knocked knees and collapsed core of pain. (Photo credit: Free Running Club Photos by Sarah Burton).

The end of a painful half marathon – spot the classic knocked knees and collapsed core of pain. (Photo credit: Free Running Club Photos by Sarah Burton).

Opting against stopping since I was in the middle of nowhere and would have had to walk home anyway, I managed to devise a hop on my left leg to drag my right leg home strategy. It was so demoralising, to have worked so hard, to have so many folks sail past particularly on the hill at mile 10. There was nothing I could do to hold them off, and I think this certainly added to the discomfort. Continuing to hop back to Grantham, the last three miles were slightly downhill which I couldn’t use not being able to extend my right hip and I was relieved when the sports stadium finally came in sight. The dull, overcast and slightly damp weather matched my mood. It was gruesome crossing the line in 1:37.

The next day, aside from the right hammy/hip, I was absolutely fine – clearly my left leg could have gone much faster and further.

After some too-ing and fro-ing between the local physio and Aspetar (Qatar’s sport hospital), I just had to wait for an appointment for the Wednesday. The countdown was on as to whether I’d be ready for 100km the following Sunday.

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