‘Our hearts beat for many reasons, but we run together’ – Brussels Half Marathon 2022 ❤️
This morning – Sunday 2nd October 2022 – I took part in the Brussels Half Marathon.
Oh my days, I am absolutely BUZZING!
I smashed my PB!! I took four minutes off my previous PB, achieved in Malta back in March. I also wiped no less than 14 minutes off my recent average training times!
I finished with a time of 01:32, placing 16th female and 5th in my age category. I was the third runner from Great Britain to finish, and the first British female finisher!
Perhaps snacking on luminous blue Smurf sweets, Belgian chocolate chip cookies and 3D ‘three cheese’ Bugle crisps is the secret to a PB after all... Although don’t quote me on that one - somehow, I can’t see Joe Wicks jumping on the Cazza B pre-workout diet...! 🤣
In addition to my questionable fuelling, I also only had three and a half hours sleep. I just couldn’t drift off last night. I think it must have been a combination of all of the Brugge fervour and excited apprehension for the race.
Found my name! 😁
This morning was the tonic for a difficult few weeks.
I have exceeded 100k a week over the past month or so. Mostly, this was down to me genuinely enjoying my exercise and making the most of the last of the summer nights, but as will always be the case with my anorexia, there is a fine line between me enjoying exercise and becoming obsessed with it, particularly when I have other additional stress to deal with.
A lot of the time, I don’t even realise that the line has been crossed until it’s too late.
Last week – my birthday – totally threw me, as I highlighted in my Brussels Day One blog. Occasions are always testing for those battling anorexia, because they disturb the routine that many of us strive upon to pacify our illness.
I ate cake for three days in a row and subsequently felt as though I’d lost control of my entire life. Dramatic, but anorexia doesn’t deal in sense.
After an intense few weeks of high mileage, I promised myself that I’d taper – properly this time – and cut back on running the week before Brussels. I ran two 5ks early in the week, and that was it. And it was tough. Without having my usual routine of running to fall back on, I was a pacing mess. Everything else just totally blew up in my head.
Think of it as an extreme version of when you’ve had a taxing week and then you drop your toast butter-side down and respond by threatening your partner with divorce.
Basically, if I’m stressed, the devil on my shoulder encourages me turn to exercise for the want of something to control, and control it to the extreme I do. Then, if I can’t fulfil that need to exercise, I become even tenser. Anorexia can be such a wonderful Catch 22 at times!
The course was UNREAL!!!! 🤯
Anyway, thankfully nowadays I do enjoy my exercise so much more than I used to, and that is all down to getting into competitive running, as I blog about so often.
Days like today are what it’s all about: determination, strength, bravery, and pride. A worldwide community united.
All it takes is for one morning like this to turn it all around and come to rescue me.
The tapering seemed to do the trick (who knew! It’s like the experts recommend it for a reason, ha!), because I felt so fresh as soon as that starting claxon sounded this morning.
My legs felt really supple and my feet gave off the sensation that I was skimming the ground.
It goes to show – yet again – what my body can achieve if I work alongside it and not against it. Although I found it mentally challenging, I knew that deep down, I was doing the right thing by taking my foot off the pedal for a few days to allow my body to recuperate and heal. In return, it exceeded my every expectation and allowed me to take the glory of a PB.
It definitely helped that it was my ideal weather for running, too. I stand by the fact that I run faster in the rain. While 4,999 other runners grimly dodged puddles, I surged right through the middle of them, delighting in the refreshing shower of droplets cascading up my calves.
'Running up that road, running up that hill...' 🖤
The organisation of the Brussels Marathon & Half Marathon made other large scale international events look like amateur sports days. It was so impeccably professional, yet managed to remain personal at the same time.
How they made the whole thing work so faultlessly, with several races of various distances taking place at the same time, and just under 5,000 runners doing the Half alone, I will never be able to fathom. Absolutely sensational execution.
It was such a thrill arriving at the King Baudouin Stadium! The race village was the best I have ever encountered. I especially liked the DJ set inside the stadium.
Every corner I turned, I was greeted with a barrage of contagious excitement from both the staff and my fellow runners. The atmosphere just made me feel so hyped, and as always, so, so honoured to be a part of the running community.
Singing along to Gala’s Free From Desire with thousands of others at the Half Marathon starting line was a moment I will never forget!
Another thing I really appreciated was the massive ‘BREAK THE WALL’ arch at 15k. For the following half a kilometre, dance music was blasted out from speakers along the roadside. After Lisbon, I had been extremely apprehensive about the 15k wall, and this was EXACTLY what I needed to push through!
You can definitely tell that this event had been planned by runners!
The course was a dream. Well, apart from those ‘lovely’ hills at 17k and 20k! (I mean come on, was there any need?! Just cruel!) 🤣
The short cobbled sections of the course were an interesting alternative to the usual terrain, and just made the whole thing feel even more authentic.
There wasn’t one part of the course I didn’t love (... apart from the hills. Swear that last one has given me a gammy ankle 🤣). If I had to pinpoint my three favourite points, it would have to be running down the hill under the bridge with a view of the church up ahead, pounding along the waterside where the ferocious wind provided a much-needed break from the muggy temperature, and the final 5k through the park, shrouded by the magnificent oak trees.
The latter section was a highlight for me; the gold and emerald Autumnal hues of the woodland were spellbinding. The settings of fable-quality exerted the belief that anything was possible...
The route most definitely did what it set out to achieve: it took us on a tour of the city and showcased Brussels in all of its diverse beauty, covering an array of its stunning selling points en-route.
Running in beautiful Brussels was an unforgettable experience 😍
I felt a lot stronger than I did in Lisbon, and even Malta. I didn’t start to tire until around 18k. The last kilometre seemed to go on forever, but as soon as I hit the event village, I came alive again.
Finishing on the race track inside the stadium was honestly the stuff dreams are made of! Hearing the cheers from the crowds spurred me on for a sprint finish, and I gave it everything I had.
One hour and 32 minutes. I couldn’t have wished for anything more.
24 and 32 have been my lucky numbers since I was a kid. I wear a charm bracelet every single day with these numbers on. Weirdly, my PBs in every distance contain one of my lucky numbers!
5k - 20:32
10k - 40:24
Half Marathon - 01:32
Full Marathon - 03:32
Also, when I placed first female at Tatton Park, I ran in the number 2248! Coincidence? I think not.
Updated my PB board! And check out my 'lucky number' bracelet! 🔮
I’d just like to refer back to the official tag line of the Brussels Marathon & Half Marathon: ‘Our hearts beat for many reasons, but we run together.’
This is just my story – there are thousands of others, each forming a brand new chapter this morning.
I witnessed so many heart-warming moments out on the course. One that sticks in my mind was the young girl who ran through the crowds to accompany her Dad on his last kilometre.
Celebratory Biscoff waffle in Brussels after the run! 🤤
I’m still in a bit of daze and I don’t think my result has fully sunk in yet, but I do know that I am utterly overwhelmed by a fierce love for this sport and all that it stands for.
Because as we all know, being a runner is so much more than just running...
Once the power of running has you under its spell, it is no longer a hobby, but a way of life. Somehow, it breathes purpose into every element of your existence. It will change your life in ways you could never have envisioned as you evolve.
The opulence of the seasons, so delicately showcased with immersive intricacy
The first footprints to christen the frost
The sunrises that feel like a private show; those 5am rays the world sleeps through
The refreshing spray of April showers
The nostalgic marvel of a red carpet of autumn leaves
The enchanting spangle of spiders webs winking in the dew
The subtle reminders of being alive.
The burning chest
The surging muscles
The rhythmic feet - taking off, floating, flying...
The physical discomfort a welcome distraction
The mental pains evaporating through every pore
The beautiful release.
The painfully early alarms that you don’t always love, but never regret
The remedy for stress, despair, and all melancholy compressions in-between
The catalyst for happiness, joy, and the channelling of energy
The celebratory hours and the commiserations
The silent screams released through every draw of breath
The songs sung in the form of a rapidly beating heart
The consistent atom throughout every emotion
The dancing through puddles, basking in the temporary explosion of droplets
The mud-speckled calves
The wind bitten face
The purity of rain-soaked hair
The graceful kiss of the sun upon your skin
The unrivalled glow that takes residency on your cheeks, unachievable by cosmetics
The dark, empty streets
The cheers of the crowds
The unspoken understanding
The comfort of a runner’s dialogue: PB, splits, tapering...
The start of the stopwatch
The end of a workout
The hanging of a medal around your neck
The refreshing of the results page
The sharp disappointments
The sheer high of a PB
The cloud nine...
A tad windswept, but the happiest EVER 🥰
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©