I had been looking forward to this event for many reasons; the main one being that it marked the end of my first week at my new job.
If you regularly read my blog, you'll probably have picked up on how nervous I was to be starting my lifetime dream job as a Content Writer, after 5 years working in HR. I was struck with major 'Imposter Syndrome' and worried endlessly.
I won't lie - the looming Buxton Half Marathon was my own little personal beacon of hope. I kept telling myself that whatever happened, I'd always have running - my one constant and comfort - and no matter how strange things might have felt in my first week, normality would resume on Sunday at the race.
As it happens, I absolutely LOVE my new job! 🥰 And so the Buxton Half Marathon became less of a need for comfort, and more of a chance to celebrate!
Buxton Pavilion Gardens just casually being one of the most heavenly Race HQs... EVER! 😍
I'd heard really great things about this event and was excited to be a part of it for the first time. I had also been warned about the challenging (albeit very beautiful!) course.
... Yeah, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for that! 🤣
As a runner, when you hear the word 'hilly,' you do tend to downplay it a bit, especially if you've spent half of your life clocking up your miles in the Peak District!
Hills - meh. They're not exactly convenient, but they're usually pretty manageable, right?
In the aftermath of the Buxton Half Marathon, let me just clarify something: there are hills, and there are HILLS. And those showcased during the Buxton Half were definitely veering more towards Everest. 🥵🤣
The first couple of miles genuinely made me question both my sanity and my choice of hobby.
I fully expected to wake up resembling The Rock this morning after that painstaking workout!
(Update: I didn't wake up looking like The Rock. No abs to report, although my calves no longer feel as though they belong to my body. I am essentially numb from the glutes down!)
I took this from the Buxton Half Marathon website to show the course elevation! 😨
While I knew a PB was unlikely on this course, I had been hoping to run sub-1:40. As soon as I saw that first hill, I had a stern word with myself. At that point, a finishing time of 1:50+ seemed a more realistic goal.
That first ascent... Wow. It went on and on... And on.
I kept looking up (big mistake!) and all I could see was just this steady stream of runners high up ahead, still climbing. It was absolutely insane!
I was grateful for the breeze, as I think the conditions would have been even more challenging had we been running without it in relentless highs of 18 degrees.
Despite its physical demands, the course was stunning. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up locally and spent a lot of time hiking and running around the Peaks, but I'd never seen anything quite as magnificent as this route.
I think part of the reason many of us made it to the top of those hills with our sanity still intact was attributable to the sweeping opulence that accompanied us every step of the way.
While I found the incessant hills tiring, my intrigue to devour the views from the top was my ultimate incentive.
Staggering peaks exploded from every angle, interwoven with a labyrinth of country lanes. Chocolate-box villages peered through the plethora of shimmering meadows and craggy hillsides.
As an avid animal lover, I was in my element. The route took in many fields containing calves and lambs, who watched us with curiosity as we thundered past.
I very rarely take photos mid-race, but I couldn't resist! It's not the best quality picture as I carried on running to take it, but just look at that view 😍
One of my favourite parts of the course was the last kilometre, which led us through the spectacular Pavilion Gardens.
The gentle afternoon sun held the impeccable daisy-studded lawns and tumbling quaint streams in the palm of its hand.
How lucky I felt to be doing something I love so much - running - in such a serene setting.
The final stretch to the line was on the flat, which was a huge relief. It meant I was able to put in a sprint-finish and grant my angry hamstrings some release.
I'm still unsure how this even happened, but I finished with a time of 1:35! 🤯 Although this is a 5 minute increase on my PB, it is actually my third best ever Half Marathon time -something I would NEVER have expected on that course! I placed 5th female and 2nd in my age category.
I cannot even begin to explain how buzzing I am with my time! I really don't know how that happened. At some points while going up the hills, I felt like I was going so slow I may as well have been walking,m. Remarkably, my time totally exceeded my every expectation!
My awesome medal! 😃
I had such a wonderful morning at the Buxton Half Marathon. It really was the perfect end to a great week for me, and there was nowhere else I would have wanted to celebrate. ❤️
If you're seeking a challenge, or you want to have your breath taken away (quite literally!) at some glorious scenery, then this is the race for you. It's not an easy course, but its most certainly rewarding.
The event was exemplary.
I had a few queries prior to the run, and Paul couldn't have been any more helpful. He got back to me really quickly via email and answered all of my questions.
This just set the tone for the race itself, where the marshals and volunteers honestly couldn't have done enough for us. Everybody was so friendly and obliging.
The the cheery marshals and the banter they dished out as we passed really were the tonic for depleting motivation.
(BIG shout out to the lovely marshal standing at the bottom of the hill into the town who called out, "Number 361 - still smiling!!!" As I raced past. You really made me smile 😀)
The same has to be said for the locals of Buxton and those enjoying a day out in the town. It was heartwarming to see so many people behind us, giving us that all important boost.
Cars beeped, cyclists pulled over to clap, and dog walkers, hikers and day-trippers cheered us on.
Non-runners probably don't fully realise the impact their kind words of encouragement can have, but it's totally invaluable. ❤️
Race HQ was located at the Buxton Pavilion and registration took no more than five minutes.
(The entry fee included a t-shirt, which could also be picked up during registration. Who doesn't love a cheeky race tee?! 😍)
The race starting line was a one minute walk from the HQ - past the iconic Opera House - and the finish line was situated directly in-front of the Pavilion.
Everything was very centrally located to both the town and local public transport stops (all within five minutes of Race HQ).
The Buxton Half Marathon final straight! 🏃🏻♀️
There were plenty of places to sit down outside the Pavilion, and a vast array of food stalls to satisfy those post-race nibbles!
The Pavilion Gardens alone are a great way to spend a morning, so friends and family won't be short of things to do while they wait for you to finish.
I have been utterly ecstatic with my results so far this season, and I'm only five races in. In February, I got my Half Marathon PB down to 1:30 in the Stockport Trail, and a few weeks ago, I finally got my 10k time back inside 40 minutes at thr Alderley Edge Bypass.
Last year l, I felt my times were pretty stagnant, particularly in the 10k distance. My hopes of running a sub-40 10k and a sub-1:30 Half seemed impossible. Now, they feel within reach again.
If I can run a 1:35 Half with such gruelling elevation, I feel I should be able to run a sub-1:30 Half on the flat.
I haven't blogged about my anorexia for a while, as I didn't want to jinx anything, but this is the healthiest I have felt (and hopefully looked) for three and a half years. Over the past few months, I have definitely let go of some of that intense need for control over my own body. As a result of this, I have allowed myself to enjoy food a lot more again, rather than dread it. On Friday, I even had a McDonald's breakfast with my new work colleagues, which is practically unheard of for me! Usually, I try to avoid eating in-front of people, and I would never indulge in fast food.
I've also loosened my grip on my obsession with exercise. I've blogged about this many times, but anorexia can really blur the lines between a healthy and unhealthy relationship with exercise. The scary thing is, you often fail to differentiate until it's too late.
While I love running more than anything in the entire world, it got to a point last year and the beginning of this year where I was covering over 100k a week, and wracking up injuries as a result. I was physically fit, yes, but definitely not healthy.
I think this had a massive impact on my race times last year. Overtraining and giving my body no time to recover in-between sessions meant my form was slipping rather than improving.
If I wanted to maintain my positive relationship with running, I knew soemthing had to change. So I started to eat more and offer my body adequate rest in-between runs, even it meant a few days off on the bounce. I had to really listen to my body, and not accuse it of being lazy when it was simply crying out for a rest, teetering on the verge of injury.
The more I've fuelled and looked after my body, the better I've run, as proven in my recent results. Since I've been eating and resting more, my body has felt so incredibly powerful.
It's no secret that happiness is the biggest threat to anorexia. When you're truly happy, your mind leaves little room for the poision of anoexia to seep through.
I'm finally in the writing job I've dreamed of since I was little, and now that my first week nerves have passed, I'm able to appreciate the achievement and feel the sheer joy of hard work paid off.
Finally, it feels like things are falling into place. I've started the job, I've got the escape of my writing, and above all, I've got my running.
I don't need anything else. ❤️
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
💙 Buxton Half Marathon:
💙 Buxton AC:
Bryan Dale took the fantastic professional photo, which - as always - really captures the natural essence of the joy of running.
📸 Bryan Dale photos: