Tag Archives: Half

Race Report: IAAF World Half Marathon Championships

Back when it was announced that the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships were announced to be in Cardiff, Jodie and I immediately signed up. Cardiff is a city close to our hearts, as Jodie studied there, its where we met, and its also where I graduated with my MBA.

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Thursday

We were keen to make a weekend of it, and as it was Easter, I took Thursday off to get up good and early. Much like the London Marathon, the event had an “Expo” where you pick up your number and goody bag in advance of the race, and there were stands/booths for major brands and events to advertise their wares. We won a couple of tee shirts from the Cardiff University stand for beating their buzzer game, and I ate a whole lot of Clif bar samples! The expo wasn’t as large as London but then it is only a third of the size. One thing I was glad of was that we went on Thursday. It was very quiet and we got to see all the stands in relative peace! This also meant picking up our numbers took seconds.

After getting our numbers and having a look around we headed to our hotel as we wanted to get a run in. Whilst we were out, we saw the Canadian elites out on a run which was pretty cool!

One of the most interesting parts of the expo was the guest speaker programme. The main highlights were, Paula Radcliffe on the Thursday evening, and Mo Farah on Friday Lunchtime. We decided to head down to see Paula, and got there good and early, only to find out that she was delayed (eventually, by an hour and a quarter) but whilst we were waiting we heard some inspirational stories I wouldn’t have ordinarily gone to hear.

Steve Jones, former Marathon World Record holder and welsh running legend spoke of his times at the peak of the sport, breaking records, and stopping for a sh!t on the way to winning the London Marathon.

Then, unexpectedly Dave Bedford was asked to speak on stage to fill in for Paula in the meantime. What an absolutely top bloke! Dave Bedford is the former world record holder over 10,000 on the track and became the race director of the London Marathon for 20 years. His most famous story was that he actually ran the first London Marathon as a bet. On the Saturday night he went out, had a skinful, had a late night (early morning!) curry and then dragged himself round in less than 4 hours. His witty repartee was excellent entertainment and he really seemed like the sort of guy I’d like to have a beer with, and could have listened to him for hours!

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Eventually, Paula Arrived and she was as inspirational as I expected. She spoke so eloquently of her experiences as a runner, as a running mum and I’m sure she struck all the right chords with Jodie. It was a real honour to see her in person and rounded off a great first day of the event.

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Friday

I slept in, but Jodie went for a walk to casually bump into team Kenya! Lucky girl, shame she didn’t get a photo! As today was “Mo Farah Day” at the expo we headed over there at about 10.30 to get good seats – and we weren’t disappointed, we got into the second row. We arranged to meet Nikkii and Steve and they joined us on row two as we waited the guest of honour.

The seating area filled quickly, and then there were people standing 4 or 5 deep all around the seating area too – it was crazy!

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When he eventually got on stage the crowd went wild! During his introduction he walked behind the projector and project a mobot onto screen to the delight of the fans.

When he was on stage I was so impressed with how he spoke. He was so enthusiastic, passionate and dedicated and clearly appreciated all the people that came to see him. Often when I’ve seen him with the media he seems a bit closed, or a bit “stiff” but this was the opposite – he was in his absolute element, and was thoroughly entertaining.

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As he left the stage he was totally mobbed by people trying to get his autograph and if he had is way, he’d have stayed to sign every single thing. Unfortunately he had to be dragged away for other commitments.

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We then left the expo to go for a walk and have a picnic. We walked past the start area into the park, ate, then walked back down the finish area to see the finish gantry and grandstands they were building. It was quite exciting!

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We chilled out for the rest of the day before having our usual pre-race ritual dinner – Fish and Chips – and watching telly.

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Saturday

Race day was a weird day. With a 2.10 race time we had an awful lot of anxious waiting around to do. We went for a wander to find the start area and take some snaps. At the time, the weather was good, almost perfect conditions for running. If only it stayed that way!

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I really struggled trying to work out what to eat. I had a porridge pot at about 9, and another at about 11. Other than that I was just drinking lots of water. We were literally in our hotel room bored, waiting to check out and head to the start.

Chris came to meet us at our Hotel, as did Nikkii and Steve. We got a good club photo before heading off to the baggage areas.

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This is when things started buzzing. The atmosphere was great, and organisationally the whole race was fantastic. From the runners village, baggage storage, signage, access to all the right areas, road closures and start pens were all superbly managed.

Unfortunately, the sky got darker. Thankfully the temperature was OK and the wind was quite low, so putting on our free ponchos we deposited our bags and headed for the start pens. Chris and I were in White near the front, so had to leave Jodie quite early on. Again, the marshals getting people to the right pens were superb, even to the point where when Chris and I got separated they were very strict. I was meant to be in the pen ahead of Chris – we tried to get Chris forward one, but instead they offered for me to go back one… Sorry to Chris, but I chose the forward pen!

There was plenty of room so I managed to have a bit of a warm up as I got there so early, but the pen soon filled up. The pre-race entertainment was quite emotive, with the Cardiff Arms Park Mens Choir singing welsh hymns with Rhydian off of the X Factor and after some speeches from the Chairman of the organising committee and Lord Sebastian Coe, the elite ladies were paraded out (that sounds kinda wrong…) and off they went, lightning fast as you’d expect.

Nervously we waited for another half an hour before the men got their big announcement and we were ushered toward the start… After a good amount of fanfare and some giant flames coming out of the castle… we were off.

The Race

The course itself was advertised as “fast, flat and iconic”. The course itself is similar to the one which is run in the regular October edition of the race, which is held annually. The course has changed slightly from that but not too much. I’m not too convinced on the “flat and fast” part, though it is certainly flatter than most – though not as flat as I remember! There were some tough longish climbs which to be honest, I wasn’t expecting. The elevation profile below shows that the second half seems to be most uphill!

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The route takes in Cardiff’s biggest landmarks. Starting in front of Cardiff Castle, you run past the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff City Stadium, Penarth Marina, The Barrage, The Doctor Who Experience, Roald Dahl Plass, the Millenium Centre and Roath Park before finishing in the grounds of the university. Aside from a few industrial areas, the route was varied and interesting – not that I was able to take much of it in! The crowd support in places was amazing, which, considering the weather was testament to the people of Cardiff.

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Speaking of the weather, it was a hot topic of conversation throughout the weekend. It was just destined to be a torrential downpour at some point with reported 41mph winds. The first half of the race for me was relatively weather free. But at the 6/7 mile mark, the wind kicked in and the heavens opened. Within seconds, I was drenched and the howling wind, no matter what direction we ran in, seemed to be in our faces. The worst of it passed in a few minutes, but it was still rainy and windy for the second half.

The grandstand finish was excellent, it was fantastic hearing the cheers of all the magnificent supporters as we rounded the last corner onto the wide finish straight. It was quite an experience crossing the line of such a big event, with sponsor board and TV cameras lining the funnel.

Additionally, the bling and finish tee shirt were superb!

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My Race

My race itself was a tale of two halves. The first half I went out a little ahead of pace. I felt like I was in control to a degree, I was running with people of a similar pace and tracking quite nicely towards a comfortable 1.27. After about 6 miles it started to feel a bit of a struggle, but this was expected. I hoped I had built enough of a buffer to continue slightly behind pace and still come in at 1.27. But then there was a long uphill which I really struggled with. My quads started to burn and I started thinking about revising my goal.

This became inevitable when the weather hit me and really took the wind out of my sails. I struggled on for the rest of the race. Roath Park was really hard and another seemingly endless uphill to the far end. I had to walk a few steps at 10 miles and I at that point I knew I’d have to fight for every second to try and come in under 1.30. As we turned at the end of Roath Lake it started gradually going back downhill until the 12 mile marker which was a short sharp uphill that I just had to walk up for a few steps. After this it was pretty much downhill as I puffed and panted my way through to the finish. As amazing as that finish funnel was, I wish I could have enjoyed it more.

Looking at the race analysis below you can see it all fall apart during the second half.

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Yet my heart rate maintained a steady pace. This meant I literally couldn’t have put any more effort in – my legs just couldn’t keep up with my heart rate.

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I’v been annoying Jodie trying to analyse where it “Went wrong”, even though it didn’t really. My finish time was 1.29.27, a 40 second PB which I am really pleased with – But I was hoping for a bit faster.

The conditions obviously didn’t help, and I do think I went out a bit quick. I think a few seconds per mile slower in the first 10k probably would have helped. My legs feeling dead though was purely fuelling. I needed more to eat in the morning. If it had been a 9am race, I think I would have been just fine as I’m used to that routine and what to eat pre-race. With hindsight, I probably should have taken on some gels. Additionally, a 22 miler 6 days before probably affected things too.

Jodie finished in an amazing 2.01 – faster than Yeovil last week, and 5 months pregnant. So very very proud of her!

Summary

We had a brilliant weekend. Cardiff were the most welcoming hosts to such a big event as you can ask for. It is a shame the weather tried to ruin the party but everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was a brilliantly organised race and the crowd support, considering the weather was excellent.

Thank you once again Cardiff. You were ace.

 

Race Report: Yeovil Half Marathon 2015

The start of British Summertime not only signals an hours extra daylight at the end of the day, but its also the day that Total buzz Events hosts the Yeovil Half Marathon. Growing each year, its an opportunity for local people to set their sights on a challenging but achievable goal, and it boosts runner numbers that I see pounding the streets over the winter, hopefully to continue their running careers!

For me, its a poignant reminder of how far I’ve come. 2 years to the day since my first race, my first half marathon time was 2:07, and at Reading last week it was 1:30.

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Its not a massive race, and there are only a few road closures which can make it difficult I think to attract more people to the event. Furthermore the route could be improved to take in some more of the lovely countryside of the area (Camp Road would be a good addition). But it is what it is.

The weather this year was miserable. Cold, wet and windy. I needed to do 20 miles, which meant a super early start (5am in real terms). I decided to drive to the venue, the magnificent Huish Park, home of Yeovil Town FC! As I was so early though, the gates weren’t even open. I resorted to parking at nearby Abbey Manner to run my 7 mile loop. I found it tougher than i thought it would, which didn’t bode too well. Once I finished the loop I got to the car and headed to the car park, by which point there was a massive queue!

The parking was great, once you got in the car park. The problem was, they had 2 lanes of traffic which they merged together which caused a bottle neck. I think they’d have been better with a single stream.

Packet pick up was collection on the day, so i got out of the car to go and get it before heading back to pin on my bib and attach my chip in the comfort of my car. It was very easy to pick up the packet, and I was surprised just how many people I saw that I knew, either socially, through parkrun, or through the running club. I remember that first year being stood in the freezing cold, just me and Jodie, too scared to speak to anyone and not feeling like I really belonged – which I know know to be ridiculous!

I met with the guys from Running for Time where well chatted about our ambitions for the race, and moaned about the weather. We got a photo, and then Simon and I ran to get the obligatory club photo too. I was trying my hand at pacing for the first time, as I was only using the run as part of a 20 miler I offered to help Ryan round to a 1:57, who was struggling a bit with Injury.

Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to the Western Gazette
Credit to the Western Gazette

With a relatively small field, there were no timed start pens, and unlike other years there were also no signs which advised people where to start based upon their expected finish times. With a few minutes to spare people headed for the line and without too much pomp and ceremony we were off.

The route started with a 3/4 lap of the Huish Park Stadium, and gave us the opportunity to find our pace. Simon and Hannah were pacing for a similar time to us and we spent a good portion of the race going ahead/behind each other.

The route was run over a lot of roads which are the bread and butter of my training, and aside from the weather it was quite a straightforward, sociable run. I saw so many parkrun friends, Strava friends and club friends and chatted with people all the way around – not only runners either, the support was great, better at some parts of the course than others though, but for a smaller race I think it was quite well represented.

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Despite it being so called “bread and butter” running, I still managed to go head over backside. Running towards the Airfield Tavern, I put my foot down on the curb and slipped off it. I managed somehow to hit the deck, protect my Garmin and carry my momentum into a forward roll of sorts, which meant I was able to get back up, feeling only a little sheepish and with a small graze to the elbow. I did hobble a bit afterwards but seems OK now. Thankfully, this was 100 yards before the biggest cheer point on the course so that saved my blushes! Though my friend Will captured these snaps of me right after my tumble.

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We managed to maintain pace all the way through to about 9 miles until we had to slow. As Ryan’s injury had prevented him training as much as he needed to, he started cramping up and struggling, so it was a tough last 4 miles for him, and the last 2 involved a few walk breaks too. Though I did manage to motivate him into a sprint finish for the line, and I have to say the support at the finish line was brilliant.

We got a decent medal, though they are always like a chromey/silver and look, to be honest, a bit cheap, despite being sizable. The goody bag wasn’t much to write home about, though the dairy milk chocolate went down a treat!

All in all, another good Half Marathon – Maybe I’ll even race it next year. Though this was still a course best for me!

 

Race Report: Reading Half Marathon

I’m not a huge fan of waking up before 7 on a Sunday morning, but when its the morning of a half marathon I’m shooting for a PB at, I make an exception.

Reading has been on my “To do” list pretty much since my first Yeovil Half 2 years ago. It’s billed as the fastest half marathon in the UK*, has 16,000 runners, a big city race vibe and a fantastic finish in the amazing Madejski Stadium, home of Reading FC and London Irish RFC.

It’s an added bonus that Jodie’s folks live in Basingstoke, just 20 minutes down the road. This made travelling to the event a breeze. I’ve visited Reading before and I am categorically NOT a fan of the roads there. I always end up lost or angry, so I made sure I picked a car park nearby, on the Basingstoke side of the course. Parking had to be pre-booked, and I was “lucky” to get a space. All car parks were full, though they released extra spaces a few weeks beforehand in 2 car parks. The Blue car park was close to the M4 with easy access to and from it. The Red car park was smack bang in the middle of the course and advised that cars wouldn’t be allowed out til 2.30 at the earliest.

Imagine my (un)surprise when people were complaining on Facebook that they were still in the Red car park, despite all other car parks seemingly having no issues! People need to exercise common sense, my my sympathy for these people is limited.

That sympathy however, only goes so far to the event organisers though, who charged the princely sum of £9 to park and in exchange for a lovely blue parking ticket to hang from the rear view mirror. That’s all very well, but on the way in, no-one checked it – and no more than an hour later the parents-in-law parked in there, totally gratis without a problem, so that seems to me to be a bit of a rip off.

Aside from that though, I have to say the traffic was managed excellently. From approaching and getting into the car park everything was incredibly well sign posted, coned and cordoned off, and for such a large event I actually thought this was very impressive.

Walking to the stadium, the runners headed to the village were buzzing. The sun had come out, and despite it being a little chilly in the breeze, I had a feeling the weather was going to defy the forecast – and I was right. All day the sun shone, to the point Jodie got a bit sun-burnt.

I’ve not been to the Mad Stad before (Despite a couple of close calls for the football) but it really is a lovely stadium. Walking to the race village we thought we’d stop in and look at the finish area, and it was magnificent!

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There weren’t many people around yet, but there was a commentator already waxing lyrical and I just knew it would be buzzing for the finish. We soon realized the reason the commentator had started was the “Green Park Challenge” race had started and the first runners were coming in for the finish! It was quite the race for the win, the first 4 or so were all from Reading AC and the first two were only seconds apart!

It was here that we met Lucy who was doing her first ever Half Marathon, and she was suitably excited/nervous!  We headed to the race village which was starting to get busy. It was still cold, but the sun was trying to get through. The race village itself was enormous – it was more like a festival site. Much bigger than similarly sized events like the Bristol Half. We met Dave and had a chat with him whilst we waited for Simon to turn up, who we met near the bag drop. And speaking of the bag drop, what an absolute delight! Zero queue, stacks of amazing volunteers and both drop off and collection were a pleasure. Great people, many races can learn a lot from the team here. Good job!

Jodie and Lucy were in a different starting pen to Simon and I so we wished each other luck and went our separate ways. It was a bit of a walk through “Green Park” which was quite picturesque, but the lake was a bit smelly – maybe it should have been called “Brown Park”! We got to the pens about 30 minutes before the start, which, unsurprisingly, were excellently controlled. Marshals were checking the colours of race numbers to grant access to the fenced start pens, and each marshal seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where to send people. It was absolutely seamless. We decided as were were targetting 90ish minutes we’d head toward the front, which is exactly where we found ourselves! The joys of getting to the pens early!

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I started getting a bit nervous, mainly because everyone around me was talking about 80-85 minute times! But I held my own in there and pretended I belonged there. There was the obligatory Zumba style warm up and when that was over the chap leading it strapped on a 1h30 pacer flag and the proceedings were getting underway. After an (underwhelming) speech by John Madejski, the first wave was counted down and started. The waves were separated 3 minutes apart, which was intended to ease congestion. Although we were only the second wave, I have to say from my point of view, it worked, I had to do very little weaving around and was another sign of an excellently organised race.

As our wave was heading for the line, I shouted “Cheers John!” to Mr Madejski, who gave me a little wave and after an agonising 25 second wait, the gun went and we were off.

Not 200 yards later did an unfortunate woman absolutely stack it into ground and I was lucky not to get ripped myself, but I kept my head focussed and carried on.

From here on in, my memory has gotten a bit flakey. because I was absolutely flat out, and I can’t really remember much of large portions of the course, so here’s what I do remember.

Mile 1 – 2: We headed around Green Park and ran through a trading estate. I felt comfortable at 6.45m/m pace, which was faster than my 7m/m target, so i decided to keep at it. Brilliant support.

Mile 3: UPHILL! For a good half mile this was just up hill and then started what seemed like a gradual downhill towards the university. Pace slowed and I was worried I might not be able to maintain it. Brilliant support. *Apparently its the fastest half because of the number of fast runners who do it. It’s definitely not because its sodding flat after this mountain!

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Miles 4-5: Slightly down hill and I remember heading around the university. It was really windy and my Garmin messed up with all the sharp bends. A bit sparser but still good support. Thought Sub 90 might be on.

Miles 6-7: Through town, windy a few uphills, I remember brilliant support but this is where things started getting a bit hazy. Thought sub-90 had gone. The onset of runners tummy came on.

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Mile 8: UPHILL! This one seemed to go on and on and on. Convinced myself sub-90 was gone. Sparse support I think I really can’t remember.

Mile 9-11: Flattened out, brain was mush and basic addition and subtraction was beyond me but figured if I did 7m/m for the rest of the race I’d break my target. I have no idea what the crowd were like. Bowels growling on a consistent basis.

Mile 12: Pain, suffering and torture, but somehow banged in a quick mile. Crowd sparse, long drag bag to the stadium, which didn’t seem to get any bloody closer at all. Bowels were screaming at me and had to try my best to talk them out of doing a Paula on the A33.

Mile 13: More suffering, wound round into the stadium complex and wow, what a sight, the run up to the stadium was just lined with people cheering them home. I looked at my watch but I had no idea what I was going to do except that I know I’d beat my target 92 minutes. Saw Dave here, but I could barely raise a hand for him, I was spent. Had to go around the outside of the stadium before reaching the last…

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Mile 13.1: As I entered the stadium it was deafening! Such good support, the commentator was going and I had about 30 seconds to beat 90 minutes. I gave it all I had, but nothing was in the tank. On the home stretch I heard Jodie’s Dad yell “Go on Matty boy!” and I managed a little fist pump in the general direction (I couldn’t see anything) and crossed the line in 90:08 official time!

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That’s a massive 5+ minute PB which I am absolutely over the moon with, but I keep reflecting on the time and wondering if I should be upset not to go 9 seconds faster. Ultimately though, I gave the race absolutely everything and left nothing out there. That was as good as I could have given on the day – though I could have gone quicker on a flat course on tapered leg instead of in the peak mileage phase of marathon training, but thats another story!

Much like the rest of the race, the finish funnel was absolutely exemplary. Well orchestrated collection of goody bag (With tee shirt and water bottle – good haul!) and the most magnificent Half medal I’ve ever gotten, all the way through to collecting my bag again, which was an absolute pleasure.

After collecting my bag, I headed over to where I thought I’d seen Dave – and though I didn’t find him, I did see Simon, who smashed his target with an amazing 88m plus change! We got the obligatory victory photo in our vests!

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Then I headed back to try and find Jodie’s parents and watch Jodie come in. But I couldn’t find Jodie’s parents for ages until I called them. When I found them we waited for over half an hour, watching people carefully trying to spot Jodie. As the pacer flags came in, it was getting more and more difficult to come up with reasons why we hadn’t seen her. “Maybe she started at the back of the pen”, “Maybe she started a pen back”, “Maybe she started with Lucy”. Eventually, worried, I headed to the original meeting point – and lo and behold, there were both Jodie AND Lucy! Jodie had even seen Lucy cross the line! I felt awful for Jodie’s parents who came along to support but only saw me! But on the plus side, both Jodie AND Lucy smashed their targets.

Unfortunately due to the kerfuffle I didn’t get a chance to head to the Reading Road Runners tent to see Kezza from parkrun, but even so it was great to watch people come home. We saw one guy, who unfortunately had to be carried near the end, but was totally out of it. He collapsed and the St Johns Ambulance people had to go and get him. Its a stark reminder to people that a half marathon is a big challenge and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Train well, eat and hydrate properly and you will be fine though.

Anyway, before we saw Lucy of and headed to the car we got a photo together.

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We walked back to the car and left the car park without a hitch (Because I wasn’t stupid and didn’t pick the Red car park…)

What a truly brilliant race, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Top marks in every single department except for parking value for money. Credit to all the volunteers for making it possible, and absolute kudos to the thousands of people who either came to support or had their travel disrupted for the sake of this magnificent race.

Reading, we will be back!

 

Race Report: Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon 2015

What seems like ages ago, though was actually only the 22nd February, Jodie and I took part in the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon. Its taken that long for me to find time to write about it!

Back in December we noticed both our training plans had a cutback week this weekend, and thought a cheeky half might fit in quite nicely – the prospect of added bling helped the decision making process! I always prefer running a race (Even at training pace) as there are aid stations and other people around – less to worry about yourself and people to keep you motivated – far less lonely! We spotted this race as it was relatively local, was reasonably priced, had a medal and was pretty flat. So we pencilled it in, booked a budget hotel for the night and though we’d give it a try.

We arrived with plenty of time on the morning of the race and parked up by the seafront near the Race HQ, and we could see it was a much smaller race than the Great South Run! There were actually around 1000 entrants. It was “packet pickup” on the day in the Pyramids centre, which was seemingly an entertainment venue. The venue was bustling with runners. HQ was excellently organised, number pickup was slick and there was well attended bag storage.

When we arrived, we noticed how, although it was cold and a bit windy, the weather was actually quite pleasant. This would soon change… Inside the Pyramid Center was warm and toasty though and we hung out there, attaching our numbers and hydrating. it got busier and busier, and before long we were called to the start.

We got an obligatory pre-race selfie though!
We got an obligatory pre-race selfie though!

There were no instructions to gather according to perceived pace or anything here, just one giant corral, which undoubtedly caused some congestion at the start – but as we were only training and not PB hunting we weren’t too concerned. The race started on schedule and we made our way along the promenade. There was a bottle neck early on which caused many to walk whilst a promenade ramp was negotiated.

The weather seemed all too good even at this point, even the wind had dropped! (Or so i thought…) I decided upon my pace early on and Jodie went ahead of me for the first 3 miles. She was on fire!

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The course itself kicks off with 3 miles along the front all the way down the headland of “Lock lake” before doubling back and doing a quick loop of the “Muddy beach”, which is basically the shore of Lock lake. The beach itself wasn’t too bad, if you picked the right line to run. Some people didn’t pick a good line and had to come back for their shoes! It was around this section where I caught Jodie and ran with her for a bit. There were some good photos along the beach.

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I had to stop for a bathroom break though and then spent the next mile or so gradually catching up with her. This was still all along seafront on coastal path until we reached some civilization and cycle path. Jodie and I ran together again for a while until about half way. And that’s where things got a bit silly…

Remember I said it didn’t seem windy? Well that will be because the wind was behind us!

Remember I said the sun was shining? This is when it started raining!

Remember I said I was running at a training pace? This is when, for some stupid reason, I thought it would be a good idea to run a Marathon Pace for the rest of the race! Idiotic I know. 6 miles at MP with a strong headwind meant my perceived effort was much higher and made it a tough second half.

We came through some playing fields, around some football pitches (Including one that had a funny marsh name) before we ended up back on the seafront for the brutal last 4 miles. The weather got worse and worse, and then we passed the Start/Finish for the final 2ish mile loop. Psychologically that was quite hard, and it seemed much longer than 2 miles! You would have thought though after that final loop things would have gotten a bit easier as the wind would be behind again? Nope, you would be wrong. Somehow it was in your face no matter what way you ran.

I saw Jodie as we “crossed over” in the last section, I’m sure I looked a sight! Coming toward the finish I was relieved to see the end, but still managed to pick up some pace for a sprint finish.

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I'm even off the ground!
I’m even off the ground!

One of the issues with the race seemed to be distance measurement. When we passed what my watch determined to be the first mile, I heard a rapture of watches beep all around me, but the first mile marker was about 0.18 miles after that. Each mile marker seemed to be consistent after that though. So the race ended up, by my watch, to be 0.18 miles long! Normally I wouldn’t mention it as GPS can be anomalous, but both mine and Jodies, and every other watch beeping around me at the same time every mile was a little too much evidence!

I managed to catch some Snaps of Jodie as she finished, along with the official ones I’ve liberated.

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The marshalling was excellent, the aid stations were great too and had Jaffa Cakes and Chocolate! I’m not a fan of water in cups, though that’s my own preference and I can’t complain about that.

The medal was nice and the goody bag actually contained goodies, much better than the usual flyers and nothing else! Peanut butter, cereal bar, energy gel, energy drink mix and a bottle of water.

It was an brilliant race, and we both said we’d do it again. In the days after the race, my body really knew about it though and I struggled for the week after. I clearly over did it in the context of my training plan, the perceived effort being much higher than it should have done. Add to the mix I set my 5k PB at Newbury parkrun the day before I really was a bit stupid.

Cold and wet we may have been, but happy and pleased we were too!

Oh, and did I mention that despite running it at a “training pace” Jodie set a Half Marathon PB? On a long course in bad conditions? WELL DONE! Bring on Reading!

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Race Report: Blackmore Vale Half Marathon 2015

This was somewhat of a late addition to our race schedule. Jodie and I are both marathon training, and whilst we are trying to do some “Races” this didn’t really fit with our plans. However, the announcement that personal inspiration Steve Way was doing it made us change those plans a little! (And I did get to see him briefly, regrettably though I did not speak to him 🙁 )

I was scheduled to do a 20 miler, my first of the campaign, and Jodie 19. We switched Jodie’s cutback week so this would be her “recovery” week, and I decided to do a 7 mile “warm up”. The intention was to both treat the race like a training run and take it nice and easy.

As such, our preparation wasn’t the best! A friends birthday the night before resulted in one of us (And it wasn’t me…) getting in at 2.30am! A very short nights sleep later, thanks to my need to do 7 miles beforehand, meant we got there super early and we were the first car to park in the car park – and there were plenty of attendants to help with this. Very slickly organised. Though it was a sunny, pretty morning, it was bitingly cold in the wind. I went off on my first warm up to clear my head and after 3 miles I’d forgotten about the cold, and the wind and my head was relatively sober!

Getting back to the carpark, I couldn’t believe it was the same place I left an hour before! It  was a transformation, heaving full with runners everywhere. I found the car and Jodie and we went to get registered. I was a little surprised it wasn’t chip timed, but that’s not really a big deal to me and on the whole the registration was very well organised. Though like seemingly every race it was a bit short of toilets with some long queues.

It didn’t take long for us all to be called to the start area – no time allocated start pens here! Proper old school. And then we were off.

I spent the first bit with Jodie before going our separate ways. The first mile or so was downhill and good to get some momentum. The sun was shining and the countryside route was stunning! Picturesque views and although there were no road closures, traffic wasn’t much of a concern. The drivers were very accommodating.

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Water stations were plentiful, though in plastic cups which I find it tough to drink from, especially at race pace. All the volunteers were an absolute credit and as I wasn’t racing I think I managed to say thank you to every one I passed. Their efforts really are appreciated!

The route was very much “Undulating”, with one enormous hill in the middle – at the top of which were parkrun friends Neil and Aime taking some pictures and cheering us on! Thank you to them for the motivation!

I’d managed to keep my pace at around 8:30s, which was faster than I really should have been going/wanting to go. But Dave summed it up afterwards – you just roll off the hills. I actually think its not a slow course at all, just not brilliantly fast.

I even managed to stop for a (prearranged) cup of team in Kings Stag, as my friends farm was directly on the route! Made a nice pitstop, though it did mean trying to re-overtake everyone I’d spent 9 miles passing!

The last mile and a half was a slog though, all uphill! Crossing the line I forgot the free tee shirt, a nice cotton souvenir which was nice for such a cheap race. Catching up with Dave and Si (Dave paced Si to a massive PB! Good work both of them!) after the finish, we started chatting about what time Jodie was going for. I thought she was only doing a training run – so it was quite the shock to see her, with the clock just ticking over 1:59, rounding the last corner! Dave saw her first and I couldn’t believe it – Jodie was going to do it in under two hours! That was her target for the much flatter Reading half in 2 months!

She absolutely smashed it and she was beaming from ear to ear after the run. I am extremely proud of her. 16 minute PB, sub 2 hours. Chuffed as nuts!

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It was a brilliantly organised and beautiful race and I have nothing but praise for it. Despite not being chip timed, the results were up very promptly! I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again, though I can’t promise I’d be saying the same if it was cold and wet!

More Photos:

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