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Sunday 27 September 2015

Nottingham's Robin Hood Half Marathon

Today is my fourth attempt at my home town half marathon and the third different course I’ve ran it on. After the dark days of the last three years where they made everyone explore industrial parks that even us local residents didn’t know existed, then made everyone run two miles up and down the Embankment just to make up the distance, this year we are back to something far more interesting.

Key are the return of the loop around the Castle and the re-addition of Wollaton Park. If you’re a marathoner you even get to run through the Market Square. They have also added a few hills. Nottingham is hilly, so embrace it. They have.

It’s the first time I’ve not driven and parked at the start but attempts to get there by public transport seem a total no starter. All the buses have been rerouted and the tram isn’t running. So L tries to drop me off and we get the first inclining of the traffic chaos to come when we find the QMC roundabout shut from 5:30am rather than the usual 8.00am. No idea why.

L drops me off as close as she can and I walk the rest of the way to the race village whilst she heads home to go line the course. The whole of the Embankment is already one big toilet queue with lines of people snaking off in all directions. I hunt out the secret unmarked urinals which I know will be there somewhere and where they’ll be no queue. If only they advertised these with a big sign and put a load more of them in then it would remove the majority of the men from the portaloo queues.

I do a warm up, then strip and dump my excess kit in the baggage tent before heading to the start in the ‘red’ zone, which is quite near the front. Now to find out how much I’ve over-tapered.

The morning had started out quite cool, in fact the Embankment was shrouded in fog at first but that is now lifting and it looks like it could be a sunny one.

The wheelchairs get a head start, as do the elite (not sure they need it) and then we’re off. Time to check out this new course. The first two miles are great, if a little evil. A short, steep climb up around the Castle, a lot of it on the cobbles where it was also a bit narrow and congested. Then downhill into the Park estate before climbing up out the other side on to Derby Road. This is quite a hill but most likely the highest point of the course.

Surprisingly, as there’s been talk of how hilly the route is this year, from mile 2 onwards it’s pretty flat. Not pan flat, slightly undulating with a few bridges like Abbey Bridge to cross that involve a small climb but nothing really to disrupt your pace much. Even the bit through Wollaton Park is flat as they avoid going anywhere near the hall itself.

I miss a drink station in Wollaton Park which upsets my fuelling strategy slightly but I’ve got a steady eight minute pace on now, as planned. Only problem is that I dawdled to nine minute miles on the first two hilly miles and I never get those minutes back.

I pass L and the boys at four miles but miss them at seven when apparently Doggo decided the correct way was the way I went and not the short way to meet me at the next point as I head back out for a loop alongside the University Lake.

It’s great to do your local race and know large chunks of the route, and this year I certainly do. Unlike on the old course where even I didn’t know where I was at times and the crowds are fantastic this year. I don't think there is a section of the course that doesn't have spectators on  it unlike before when in some places it was just us and the tumble weed.

The University had gone to town by providing their own cheerleaders who gave us all a rousing cheer, wave their pompoms at us then for good measure flashed their chests and knickers as well. Utterly disgusting and incredibly sexist of course but exactly what you need eight miles into a half marathon. Although, I probably don’t speak for all the female competitors when I say that.

I see L and the boys again at ten miles as I kick on towards the finish. I feel I’ve really got the hammer down now but then clock 9:25 between miles ten and eleven. What??? Now that’s demotivating. Then I do 7:10 for the next mile, clearly an impossible feat at that stage of my race and then 7:30 for the next one, all without adjusting my pace. So I think someone put that eleven mile marker in the wrong place.

Finally, the first of three finish lines loom into sight. The first one turned out to actually be the start line again, which we run back through. Then we turn right and run through a big inflatable arch, which wasn’t the finish either but was actually to mark the 13 mile point. Then finally THE finish and they are not lying this time.

My time of 01:47:16 is two minutes outside my planned pace but as I said, I lost those two minutes right at the start and never got them back. Never mind, it’s a good marker before I do the new Derby City Half in two weeks’ time.

I grab my kit and join the massage queue. Sadly I’m allocated a big bruising bloke with tattoos to unlock my calves as does the chap beside me. However the female masseur with the impossibly tight leggings working away at the next table lifts our spirits somewhat.

Then I crawl towards town, walking down the middle of the road between the two rows of stationary traffic. Oh dear, this is going to generate many column inches in the local paper. I pick up the Marathon route on Stoney Street and cheer through those hardly souls doing the Full. The route then takes them right through the Market Square, where they get some fantastic support from the public. I meet L here and then we follow them up Derby Road which is a killer hill to have 20 miles in. We have a pint in the Hand & Heart, then a couple at the Borlase, all the time offering our increasingly drunken support.

The new Marathon route is truly inspiring and I vow to do my first ever Full in my home race next year if I can stay injury free. That is if they keep the same route, which is a big ‘if’ as they seem to have made a bit of a mess of the traffic management. Not sure why Derby Road still needs to be totally shut for a single file of Marathon runners.

Having seen the last runner through, we have a final drink in the Blue Monkey before heading home.

We attempt to order a curry from the Park Tandoori but they reject our order. I’ve never known that happen before. We have one from Kathmandu Delight instead. L liked it but I didn’t think it was that delightful.

(Sunday 27th September)

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