Just time for a quick(ish) race report, rather than the usual 17000 word epic with Vikings and car chases and jam and spaceships and elephants and some more Vikings, and then even more Vikings, but this time chasing each other round on elephants while covered in jam. There probably won’t even be an interval.
Although my longer training runs are regularly 13+ miles, I hadn’t actually entered an official half marathon since Silverstone 2011, so I decided to redress this by signing up for this year’s Bedford Half. My PB at this distance was 2.13:18 (twice!) and I was hoping that I’d come on a bit since then, although probably not quite at the elusive sub-2 stage yet (particularly as the Bedford course is bumpier than a sack full of gorillas). The race is organised by the Bedford Harriers, and they always put on a good no frills event with plenty of great marshalling and a “by runners for runners” feel.
I collected my timing chip and made my way to the starting area where I spotted my old chum Gruff, rising out of the crowd like the worlds friendliest lighthouse*. Before long the race started, and the two of us ran together at a relaxed, conversational pace. Gruff and I had both run the Bedford Half in 2011, so weren’t in any hurry to overcook the pace and risk getting beaten up by the impending hills. As ever, the Bedford Harriers had rounded up the cheeriest marshals this side of the Care Bear kingdom, and their support kept spirits high throughout the event.
At around the five mile mark I was feeling fresh, and decided to push things up a bit. We hadn’t even begun to hit the worst of the hills yet and I wasn’t 100% sure that speeding up was a good idea given my lack of any real preparation, so my parting words to Gruff were “the next time you see me, I’ll probably be crying”. I put my foot down**and bumped up the pace, still feeling steady and strong, but with a nagging feeling that it wouldn’t last.
From a running point of view, the next 8 miles were pure joy***. Somehow, I even managed to maintain a progressive pace on the dreaded uphill stretches, reeling other runners in and nipping past them like I was being chased by feral knife-wielding teletubbies. Whenever I glanced at my Garmin I was amazed to see my pace hovering around 8 min/mile, although I’d somehow managed to set the displays so they weren’t showing average pace or total time elapsed. Because of this I had no idea how close I was going to be to my previous PB, so I just pushed on regardless.
The last few miles seemed to pass in a heartbeat, right up until the final few hundred metres through Wootton which (just like in 2011) seemed to go on forever. Eventually, the finish line came into view and when I spotted the race clock I was amazed to see that the gun time was on 1.59:00.
I was finally going to crack 2 hours!
Now, I’m sure you’ve all read race reports before. This is the bit where there’s a sudden twist in the tale and the rug is pulled from under my feet by a crippling last-minute injury, an unexpected bear attack or some sort of mishap involving an actual rug being pulled from under my feet.
But none of that happened, which is why a few seconds later I threw myself over the finish line while grinning like the cat who had not only got the cream, but also a bucket of mice, a huge ball of yarn and the whole bloody dairy.
The Bedford Harriers tend to provide their finishers with interesting/useful mementos, rather than the usual race medals, and I was handed a lovely (and decent quality) kit bag by Iva Barr, who I’m reliably informed is a bit of a legend and the oldest female ever to run the London Marathon.
My chip time for this race was 1:58:03, which I’m absolutely over the moon about. I now don’t have any races in my diary until the (thankfully less hilly) Reading Half Marathon in March, and my goal for that was to crack 2 hours. Now I’ve managed that on a course with a total ascent of nearly 300 metres, I think I need a new goal. I’ll be there as a member of Team Write This Run so if you see us please give us a wave. And some cake.
In summary, the Bedford Harriers HM has earned a place in my heart as my favourite half marathon and I’d highly recommend it.
Slick organisation with friendly marshalling
Faultless bus service between car park and race HQ
Good quality race memento
NOT SO POSITIVE
No goodie bag or medal
Only water at the finish line – usually at least squash and/or a banana
PS: If anyone has read part one of my 2011 race report and is keen to read part two, then firstly: you’re weird. Secondly: it’s here.
PPS: Stat-fans are welcome to have a peek at my Garmin thingy for the race: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/415227054
* For those of you who don’t know him, I should point out that I’m referring to the fact that Gruff is very tall. Just in case you were imagining him as an average-height bloke with a massive spotlight on top of his head, covered head to toe in seagull poo. **Actually, I put both feet down, one after the other. That’s sort of how running works. I’ve read a book. *** I have to say that although I enjoyed pushing myself harder than usual, the flipside of this was that I didn’t spend as much time enjoying the panoramic views or having a bit of banter with my fellow runners. Also, I didn’t spot any llamas/alpacas this year. No wonder elite runners usually look so serious and glum.
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