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Sunday 14 August 2011

A Race Of Two Halves

A half marathon today in Newark, which I’m regarding as a training run. As I will next week’s in Leek. I’ve been injured you know. The overriding aim is to get up to something approaching a PB by Nottingham on 11th September. Then go quicker at Birmingham and Cardiff in October.

Parking is great, we were warned about parking charges applying on a Sunday but in the end we parked in the street, just behind the start, for free. Can’t get better than that.

It’s the 30th anniversary of this race which is another reason to do it. L likes being inaugural, I like being celebratory. The race started out as a humble six-miler, which due to the explosion in the popularity of running in the early 1980’s could no longer cope with the amount of people wanting to run it and so the half marathon was born.

They’re also saying it could be the last due to the increasing costs associated with road closures along with the introduction of chip timing and technical t-shirts for this year. True, the start on Appletongate is very narrow and congested, so probably warrants chip timing because some of the 1,000 runners will take a while to cross the start line. They could of course always look to move the start, it was very chaotic getting everybody into position in the reduced space they have at the current location but that is probably easier said than done.

The t-shirt argument is less clear cut. Probably only two years ago getting a technical t-shirt from a race was a rarity, now they’re all doing it. So that I don’t have to do any clothes shopping, my wardrobe requires a mix of normal t-shirts as well as technical ones. So personally I think that’s an unnecessary change. Hopefully the race will go on next year because generally it’s a very well organised and popular race.

We start and I try to get myself into a steady pace, around 7:30 per mile but my overriding aim is to not do any miles in over 8:00, which I almost but don’t quite achieve. My pace is too steady at first but it reaps benefits. In the crowded start I end up running behind a young girl whose running kit, or lack of it, renders her practically naked. Imagine skimpy running top matched with skimpy running shorts. She also has a belt around her waist on which she is carrying a drinks bottle and, I think, a GPS. The weight of which, as she runs along, gradually tugs her already low slung shorts lower and lower. By now it’s getting quite crowded behind her as runners gather, ok male runners gather, to see how far she’ll let them go before she rescues the situation.

Sadly for me, the pace is just too slow and I give up my front row position, overtake her and push on. I wasn’t interested anyway but if anyone knows what happened next please feel free to let me know.

About three miles in I get myself into a little group, a sensibly clothed group, all running at about my pace. I like little groups; it makes me feel like I’m in a real race.

The race itself is a race of two halves. The first half was through a few housing estates and was a bit boring, well apart from the girl losing her shorts, whereas the second half took us out in to some pleasant countryside and through Balderton and Coddington.

There are six drinks stations which, as it’s a fairly warm day, is a good thing but as they only have plastic cups and I can’t drink out of plastics cups, it affects my rhythm a touch. Each time I grab a drink, and I do at five of the stops, I have to walk a bit in order not to tip it all down my front.

It also means that each time I lose touch with my group and have to work my way back up to them. I do this three times but after the third time a few in the group decide to push on just as I get back to them. I see this as a rather cruel trick that is usually employed by racing cyclists. In reality, they were just doing their own thing I’m sure. Either way I hadn’t got the legs to go with them.

In fact I die at bit at that point, at around nine miles, but on only two weeks training, with a longest distance of nine miles, it wasn't exactly surprising. A gel boost at 10.5 miles manages to get me through the rest of the race.

Still, the last thing I needed was a crazy woman with a hose pipe at one of the later water stations. I manage to dodge her and only get one leg wet. Admittedly some people like to run through water but where she was standing she was practically unavoidable.

Someone told me this is race is flat, it isn't. It isn’t particularly hilly either but I wouldn’t call it flat. Between mile 11 and 12 we seemed to be gradually climbing uphill all the time. Someone also said it was downhill from the 12 mile point, it isn't. Well it is, until the final kick uphill to the line in the Market Place.

I cross the line in 1:41. Happy but not ecstatic with that. A minute less would have been perfect. I’m knackered but not as bad as the chap who finished after me whom after lifting his foot to an attendant to have his timing chip removed, seized up and had to be fireman lifted away by the St Johns' Ambulance people. Oh dear.

The technical t-shirts are only being issued in large for men and medium for women. So they tended to look big on almost everyone. Another reason to go back to normal t-shirts.

The queue for the massages is too long, so I head back to the car, change my shirt and head off up the course to meet L. I miss her again, as I did the other week. If she’s going to bomb round in 2:12 every week I’m going to have to get my act together. I return to the finish area to find her checking in all the ambulances for me. Bless.

L says it’s the perfect day. We head home, chill in the bath, chill in the bedroom, then chill in the pub with Sunday lunch and cheeseboard. Almost worth running for.

(Sunday 14th August)

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