Loughborough Half Marathon

My first race of the year; actually, it was my first race for well over a year. The training schedule had in a half marathon race, and Loughborough, being just up the road, was ideal. This is the first year, the organisers hope, for this race.

The plan was to use the run as a training run, to dispel some of the nerves I have, and to re-acquaint myself with the race day atmosphere. I’ve had a bad few weeks, with illness and injury, and I wasn’t expecting much from this race. So seeing as I wasn’t going for a time, I left the Garmin Forerunner at home, and relied on the Nike+ app on my phone to log the run. I use this on an armband, and it’s impossible to see your pace/time, the theory being to run at a comfortable pace.

Arriving at the start on the day of the race, it certainly looked a great day for running. However the blue sky and sunshine was very deceptive, and having got rid of the tracksuit, I was freezing in my running gear. Staying in the sun, where it was slightly warmer, became a mission, as I wasn’t the only person with the same idea.

This hill may have gone on for longer than I wanted,
but the worst was yet to come…

I’d read that the course would be rolling, with most of the hills out of the way before the halfway stage, allowing for a negative split (where the first half is slower than the second). It turned out that this was not the case. I never knew Burleigh College was on a hill, and running downhill as we went past on the way out did not lift my spirits as I knew I would be coming back up it on the way back.

The course seemed to have more uphill than down, with the worst bits after 6.5 miles. The course, and the hills, reminded me of the old Leicester Half course, which started and finished at the Caterpillar plant in Desford.

Looking a mess, but

Keeping a steady pace on the flat was good, and I felt okay. The hills? Only my stubbornness stopped me from giving up and walking up them, even if at times my running pace must have been barely above that of a casual stroll. I certainly didn’t feel that I was pushing myself, and I felt as though I was running at a pace that would see me home some time around the 2 hour mark.

The finishing line was a welcome sight, and I didn’t register the clock, as I was too busy stopping the Nike+ app; this was reading a finishing time of 1:51:29, 5 whole minutes off my previous best time! The official chip time was 2 seconds quicker at 1:51:27, giving me a top half finish!

Overall, the race was well run. The proximity of the car park meant that we didn’t need to use the drop-off facilities. But there were a few points where the race day experience could have been improved.

The race field wasn’t too big (538 runners), but if the race does get bigger in the future, better segregation of the runners from spectators would be appreciated, especially closer to the start time. Some of the spectators were completely oblivious to runners who were trying to warm up or stretch before the race had started.

The volunteers at the water stations did the best that they could, but there weren’t enough to make them useful. I had planned on taking on some water at 6.5 miles, but the volunteers hadn’t got enough cups of water ready, so I had to wait until the last water station. If it had been a warmer day, this may have been a bigger issue.

The goody bag at the end of the race wasn’t really a goody bag, but a load of advertisements that were of no interest.

Running clubs – please do not leave your details under car windscreen wipers. Not everyone taking part is local, and therefore interested in joining your club. In fact, some of the people using the car park might not have been running at all! I noticed that most leaflets were littering the car park. By all means, advertise your club, but please come and speak to people, and hand leaflets to those interested, and where there is more chance of walking past a bin where unwanted leaflets can be disposed of appropriately.

However the encouragement from the volunteers/marshalls was very welcome, and thanks also to those who came out to cheer on the runners. It was much appreciated, especially on the way back!

I’m still nervous about the Big One, and there’s still a way to go. But I go forward with more confidence than I’ve had for a long time.

* * * * *

I’m in the market for a running club, and can at least strike one off, even if it wasn’t really ever going to be a realistic candidate.

Shepshed Running Club, you should hang your collective head in shame. From barging, to advice in the form of unwarranted abuse, some of your representatives on Sunday were an absolute disgrace. I thought running was as much about camaraderie as competitiveness. Clearly Shepshed Running Club doesn’t encourage the former to anyone outside of their organisation.

* * * * *

You can sponsor me at www.virginmoneygiving.com/Leesoh

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