Firstly, what a great event. Fair play I was pretty cynical about this one as I didn’t think the route looked that inspiring, but it really worked and the organisation was flawless. Anybody out there looking to challenge themselves to a half I don’t think you’ll find many better of the ‘lots of people, t-shit and medal at the end’ type of half. Plenty of drinks stations, loads of marshals, decent support pretty much all of the way around and the best finish!
I don’t usually run the larger more commercial races as I prefer the club runner feel of something like the Helsby four villages – which still remains my favourite half (to be fair I’m not the most experienced half marathon runner) but I think the guys that have taken over this race got it right. You can tell they are runners themselves.
I entered because Laura was running it. She entered because our friend Mikey P had decided to target it and try to get in shape for it. The last time we saw him he was losing weight faster than anything and was clearly loving the running. Ross and Michelle also said they were doing it so we figured it would be a great day out. It was, although out of the five of us only Laura and myself made it to the start line. Injuries for Mikey and Michelle and ineptitude for the Hanson (he forgot to enter).
Having run possibly 8 times since the birth of our second (James) Laura just rocked up. Now don’t get me wrong, Laura had put some miles in, but it was always going to be a challenge given the impact of pregnancy/ child birth has on the body and the exhaustion of looking after the boys doesn’t make training the first thing on the agenda. 5 miles in and she’s in pain. Still toughs it out to a magnificent sub 2 hour time and sprint finish. She never walked a step up the final hill and I couldn’t have been more proud of her on race day. Inspiring stuff!
I had a good day out too. The field isn’t amazingly quick, and I finished hard to take 51st place out of 5000 people – most of whom were running for charity (think Great North Run on a much smaller scale). I’d managed 3 runs since the fellsman all less than an hour so to knock 4 minutes off my PB coming in at 1:24:04 was excellent as far as I was concerned!
I paced myself very well and kept the intensity up which is what the half is all about. I firmly believe that there is no better speed work for Ultras than a half marathon as you can run it hard all the way and it’s about good pacing. Increasing in speed as I went on.
Technicalities aside I will remember this event for the chap that I finally out sprinted to the line. He passed me around mile 5 with the most unusual style I have ever seen. It was like he ran with a hunched back. His head must have dipped half a foot each stride so he bobbed up and down every step. As he passed I thought to myself, “He’ll blow up running like that” but I found myself still behind him 5 miles later so fair play to the man.
I never look back when I run in a race so I thought I’d left him and the others behind as they started to fad in the final 3. A gap had opened up between me and the person in front and in turn a gap had opened up behind me too. No man’s land again! Being totally disorganised I hadn’t looked at the course so I figured we were finishing on the race course where we’d started. Oh no. We headed back up into town past Telfords and then up to the library.
As I ran up the hill to the Bull and Stirrup I still thought we were finishing at the race course so I didn’t really push on, but I knew somebody was reasonably close. Turning onto the top road with 600 metres to go I was totally taken aback by the roar of the crowd. I’d never had that before and I started to sprint as I saw the finish line. To give an impression of how loud the crowd was, I couldn’t hear my father shouting for me which is ridiculous!
Somebody shouted, “you can take him” so I knew it was on. I really put the hammer down hoping to break whoever it was behind me, but with 15-20 yards to go I was overtaken by the loloping man. I gave a wry smile and squeezed out just a little more speed to take the line (the tape had long gone :)). As I turned to shake the guy’s hand I saw he was only standing by virtue of the paramedics either side of him. Eyes gone, clearly no idea where or who he was. An epic finish… I just wish there had been a video of us face on.
Anyway, job done. PB. Will be back next year.