How I won the Ikano Bank Robin Hood Half Marathon

E Waugh BA Champ 21k 2017

Emily Waugh (handicap 0.6) was a surprise and inspirational winner of the 2017 Ikano Bank Robin Hood Half Marathon  in Nottingham. Here she elaborates of the tribulations and of the making of this champion runner. 

Q: What was the hardest part of the race and how did you conquer this?

EW: The hills! Around the 5k mark you hit the biggest hill of the race - 80m max elevation. Try to tactic this calmly, take it steady and don’t get too discouraged by the sudden burn in your legs and lungs this early on, as it’s followed by an equally steep downhill, which if taken easily gives you some chance to recover. The hill at 10k is arguably tougher but the climb is within the grounds of Wollaton Park, where the crowd support is amazing and this will really spur you on. Also the wonderful scenery serves as a beautiful distraction.

It’s important not to fully exert yourself on the hills because you can make up for lost time running down them and during the flatter sections. If you burn yourself out too early, you will suffer for the rest of the race. When running downhill I would aim to run relaxed, focusing on keeping your form strong to reduce the chances of any injuries, especially with tired legs.

Q: If you ran the race today what would you do differently?

EW: I would have viewed the finish area before I started. I actually sprinted to what I thought was the finish line and stopped, only to discover that I had reached the full marathon finish line instead of the half marathon one, which was another 600m away! The course distance markers were great but in the moment it is easy to lose track of how far you have to go, particularly in the latter parts of the race when you are running low on energy. Having said that I was wearing my GPS watch, so I didn’t really have any excuse for making this mistake, oops!

Q: When did you think you could win?

EW: When I caught up with the early leader on Wollaton Road before entering the park, I sat in behind her and decided to match her for pace until we turned into the park itself. I had seen her really go for it on the first hill at 5k which I chose to hold back on a little, so I knew she would be feeling tired. I was feeling comfortable and so I surged hard when I went passed her, ensuring I wouldn’t give her an opportunity to catch up. The decisive move paid off and I created a gap that wasn't closed for the rest of the race.

Q: Advice for first timers?

EW: I would check the weather and make kit and hydration decisions based on this. With the race being in September, the weather is a little unpredictable and it could affect how you need to prepare for it. For example if it's a warm day then you would require additional fluids and cooler clothing. I live in Dubai and hate running in the cold, so if it’s a cooler day, I will start in arm warmers, long socks or gloves. Being comfortable in what you race in has a lot to do with how well you will perform.

Q: What to eat before, during, after?

EW: On the eve of the race I would have a meal that I’m used to having before a long-distance run and I would never eat anything new that I wasn’t familiar with. I like to go for rice or pasta with a plain sauce, avoiding too much fibre. I also snack on lots of additional carbs throughout the day (my 'fave' choice being doughy pretzels American style). On the morning of the race I always have porridge, for a half marathon you need the extra fuel, so I would add a banana and lots of coffee. During the race it’s a good idea to take on a gel or some sports drink. I have a sensitive stomach so it's important to know what products you can tolerate. Afterwards I like to think that I will stuff my face with unhealthy treats as a reward, but I often feel very nauseous so I quickly drank a recovery shake (I don't eat dairy, so this would be a soya milkshake). I tend to crave fruit until the nausea passes and then you'll find me at the cake stand.

Q: The crowd’s impact?

EW: The atmosphere on the course was incredible, especially around Wollaton Park where the additional support gave me that extra boost to push me up the hill. The course loops back on itself a couple of times, meaning you get added support from the runners on the other side of the road. There's nothing more inspiring than being able to see other runners challenging and enjoying themselves. I received a lot of cheers from fellow runners showing great sportsmanship, which really highlights how fantastic and inclusive the whole event was.