Yep... I’ve pinched myself multiple times, and YES this really did happen, and NO, it wasn’t a dream! I’m still on a high!!!!!
On Sunday 8th May 2022, I took part in the Lisbon Half Marathon.
Although it wasn’t a PB or my best performance, it was one of my proudest achievements.
Ah my God, where to start?! My brain is just bubbling over wanting to get every single detail of Sunday morning down on paper so that I can preserve it forever.
I guess I should start at the beginning, on Saturday afternoon, when I went to collect my race bib from the expo.
Foolishly, I opted to walk 10k there and 10k back, which probably wasn’t my wisest move in 32 degree heat the day before a half marathon...! But I was riding the wave of Lisbon for the very first time (having landed at 9 o’clock that morning), getting high on the city as my feet hungrily ate up every step I took.
It was my first expo experience, and I really enjoyed it. There was something uplifting about being slap-bang in the middle of the pre-race excitement.
I left armed with a complimentary silver bucket hat (I won’t burden you with my selfies...🤣), numerous vouchers and magazines, a t-shirt, and my bib.
Sunday morning: race ready!
35,000 of us were up before the city on Sunday morning.
I took the train to the starting line. The butterflies circled my tummy as the train rattled across the very bridge that I would soon be running over...
10:20am arrived, and like champagne bursting its cork, we were released into the city.
Pounding across the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge with 35,000 other runners was a sensational moment. It’s an image well renowned across the worldwide running community, and this year, I was actually a part of it!
From our bird’s eye view, we dwarfed the city spanning out either side of us. It really did feel as though we were running through the sky, taking off into the clouds.
The support throughout Lisbon was phenomenal. I couldn’t believe how many people had come out to see us!
The streets were lined with supporters, and passing cars beeped their encouragement.
I was particularly touched when a huddle of paramedics at the roadside cheered and clapped as we ran past. Being applauded by actual real-life heroes felt incredibly humbling.
The whole city just felt as though it was blazing with the fever of the event. And I was running through the actual beating heart of this fervour!!
At the starting line!
Watching the Elites tear down the track opposite was incredible. I am literally in awe of them! Talk about superhuman! It was an honour to share the track with these legends.
They all looked so cool and collected, while I was there wondering how it was possible to have boob sweat when you don’t actually have any boobs... 🤣
Cool fact: the Half Marathon World Record of 57 minutes was actually set in Lisbon during the 2021 event!
The Lisbon Half Marathon was, without a doubt, the most testing run of my life.
The temperature reached 31 degrees in Lisbon on Sunday. I’m from Manchester – anything above 5 degrees evokes heat stroke and a gorgeous ‘Drumstick’ style ‘tan.’
Suffice to say, it was TOUGH.
It was intense out there. There were people collapsing against the railings, people being sick, and paramedics pulling runners off the course on stretchers.
It was fast becoming apartment that this was going to be more of an endurance test than it was your average half marathon.
The route lacked shade of any kind, which was gruelling in the midday sun. At one point, we passed under a bridge which contained the smallest strip of shade. Every single runner suddenly veered to the left and relished the precious few seconds of basking in this temporary heaven.
I’ve run a half marathon pretty much every weekend for the past two years and it’s a distance I’m very comfortable with. I never struggle or feel the need to stop or walk throughout the entire 13 miles.
On Sunday, I hit the dreaded ‘wall’ at 15k and almost burst into tears. SIX kilometres left?!
I tried to reason with myself that it was just a ParkRun plus a walk to the big Tesco.
I could do this!
I’m not gonna’ lie – at that moment, even the thought of walking to the front door to welcome in the Tesco online big shop made me want to wither up and scream until someone pacified me with a foot massage and pretzels.
If anorexia has made me anything, it’s stubborn, so I pushed on. There was no way on earth that I was going to stop.
In contrast, if running has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my body. I knew something wasn’t right. This wasn’t just fatigue; my heart was fluttering and I was really struggling to regulate my breathing. I was absolutely baking, but spattered with goosebumps.
Anorexia – and admittedly my inner pride – encouraged me to run through it.
But deep down, I knew that if I didn’t take a break now, there was a chance that I would finish in a very bad way, or not finish at all.
So despite anorexia smirking maliciously at my ‘weakness,’ I slowed to a walk.
I walked for a few minutes, taking deep breaths and desperately trying bring my body temperate down.
Usually, I’d have been absolutely furious with myself for walking mid-race, especially in a distance I run weekly without stopping. However, weirdly, I just felt... Proud. I was actually proud of the fact that I had listened to my body, and I knew that it was for the best.
It’s funny the things you do when you hit that wall. There were grown men literally sobbing aloud, people groaning loudly, and one guy randomly started blasting out ‘Holiday’ by Madonna on his phone. Why not?
I started muttering under my breath and gave myself a bit of a pep talk.
“Do NOT give up,” I said. “You’ve got this. You’ve taken down eight years of anorexia – 6k is NOTHING compared to that. Think of those 3D Bugles crisps back at the apartment - the kind you only seem to be able to get abroad. Do it for them. Do it for the Bugles.”
My brief stop rejuvenated some of my energy, and I was able to make my way steadily to the finish line. It was a battle – the longest 6k of my life – but I made it home safely.
At 20k, I was hosed down by a load of Portuguese firemen, and I thought the heat had finally got the better of me. Surely I was hallucinating? If I’d been presented with a bowl of salt and pepper tofu and a bag of jelly beans, I’d have believed that I’d died and gone to heaven.
I don’t know what they gave me during the last 2k, but it ended up being thrown over my head. Think it might have been orangeade. It could have even been energy gel. I was past caring.
At every aid station, I was torn between chucking the full bottle of water over my head, or downing as much fluid as possible. Mostly, I tried to do both.
God I hope nobody captured my dribbling, beetroot face on camera. I have paid for my video footage which I haven’t received yet, and I’m a bit nervous about what I’m going to find, ha! 😳
The last kilometre peeled away. We rounded the corner and the Mosteiros dos Jeronimos came into view.
The yells of the crowd sparked my feet like a million tiny bolts of electricity.
I flew down the straight and leapt over the finish line, flinging my arms in the air.
I don’t usually do big poses at the finish, but the sheer elation I felt to have got round made a puppet out of me. The joy that engulfed me picked up my arms and widened my smile. I was free-falling through exhausted, deliriously happy adrenaline.
The first thing I did after the race was stagger to the nearby Starbucks. I’m not one for fizzy drinks, but I can’t even describe how goddam amazing that first sip of lemonade tasted. It was like drinking angels through a straw. (... That sounds kinda weird. In fact, that sounds a LOT weird. I think I’m still slightly feverish.) 🤣
At the finish line, outside the beautiful Mosteiros dos Jeronimos
I started the day determined to beat my half marathon PB of 01:36. As the race got underway and the heat became unbearably blistering, I told myself I’d be happy to finish in under two hours. And when the wall hit, I knew I’d just be thankful just to finish at all.
I ran the Lisbon Half Marathon 2022 in 01:43:30. I was placed 96th female out 8,341, 1,202 out of 35,000 overall, and 40 out of 2,286 in my age category.
I didn’t really process my time after the race. It wasn’t a PB, so I didn’t feel it deserved a great deal of thought. It was only when the results came through at 7pm that it hit me. I actually came in the top 100 females!
I got a bit teary at the Time Out Lisbon market over my quinoa. You know me – it doesn’t take much to render me emosh’! 🙊
Despite the seven minute increase on my PB and the fact that I had given in to a quick walking break, I think this has to be one of my biggest achievement to date.
It was certainly the biggest struggle, which, in turn, makes it feel like the biggest triumph.
And perhaps, the fact that I did walk for those few minutes was the most valuable accomplishment of all?
I don’t see it as a failure; I see it as another small victory against anorexia. Day by day, I am learning to listen to the needs of my body more and more, and in return, my body is loving me back.
And that, is winning. ❤️
Cara Jasmine Bradley