Sunday saw the inaugural Leicestershire Half Marathon take place at Prestwold Hall near Loughborough. New to the calendar, it was also my first stab at 13.1 miles since last October’s Birmingham Marathon.
I had been building up steadily to this one since Christmas, with regular outings and a long run of just over 11 miles, so I felt well prepared. As ever (or at least it feels like that), injury niggles were at the back of my mind, and despite some nasty twinges while climbing stairs during the week, I’m pleased to say nothing went wrong on race day.
In fact, it was a pretty solid day at the office, all things considered. Not my fastest by any stretch, and a touch off my rough target of 1hr 45 – but given the conditions, a 1hr 47 flat was still very satisfying.
Ah yes, the weather. I’m no stranger to running in the cold – it’s an occupational hazard for anyone who does spring races and trains over the winter. But it was the wind that really challenged us on Sunday, particularly as a good third of the course was on a disused airfield (now a racing track, Prestwold Driving Centre) with next to no shelter from the gusts.
It meant a couple of the early miles, and then also 10 and 12 (part of the course was repeated), were into a strong icy headwind, plus mile 12 also happened to coincide with a badly timed hail shower. I’d been running solid low eight minute miles until that point, but dropped a good minute or so battling the elements.
The rest of the course was really nice, winding through a couple of local villages, although some parts were off road and very muddy given the amount of rain we’d had the day before. The village sections were also well supported, unlike the airfield miles which were bleak to say the least.
Not wishing to be overly critical of the organisers (especially for a debut event), but to bill it as a run set in the picturesque surroundings of a stately home…and then route us around a tarmac airfield marked out with cones, akin to something out of a school sports day… Well, it did feel a bit of a cheat.
Credit to them though, they found some of the most enthusiastic marshals I think I’ve ever encountered on a run. Presumably to stay warm, they were clapping, cheering, dancing, shaking tambourines, banging drums and in one case even playing the saxophone! It really helped and they deservedly got lots of ‘thank yous’ and high fives.
The start and finish area was well supported and directly in front of Prestwold Hall itself. A nice touch, although it was a gravel pathway underfoot. Ever tried a sprint finish on gravel? We must have looked like characters in a Road Runner cartoon, desperately scrabbling for grip and going nowhere fast!
Niggles aside, this was a good race with about 1,500 running, a decent medal and t-shirt, nice selection of snacks and drinks at the finish and a reasonable entry fee. Car parking was free, but a long walk from the start and finish line. The worst part, however, was how the route for walkers going back to their vehicles cut across part of mile 13 for about 800 yards or so.
I imagine it was quite demoralising for those towards the back of the pack having to dodge through large numbers of pedestrians, all wrapped up warm and clutching their medals, when you still have a challenging final mile to go.
Anyway, I’m glad I sneaked a late entry in. And the best part of the day? Joining my big brother on his first half marathon since his teens. He got back into running about eight months ago and has gone from Parkruns to 10k’s, 10 milers and now a half in that time. He was aiming for 2hr 15-ish and got it – 2hr 16 to be precise – and it was great to cheer him across the line.
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