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English Half Marathon 2017 – Fiona Bradley

English Half Marathon Race Report
Fiona Bradley

Running the English Half last year was a real highlight of my running calendar – after completing my first marathon in July and training for the next in December, I was feeling pretty fit. Emma Phillips told me about the fast course and it really didn’t disappoint. I started (ambitiously) with the 1’45 pacers but at Mile 9 felt strong enough to push on and I finished with a massive PB in a time of 1’40’58. Signing up for the 2017 race was a cert!

Feeling the benefits of JC’s Speed Sessions, Amy’s Hill Work and plenty of advice from numerous bats, I approached this year’s race feeling hopeful that I might beat my PB and when Mr Speedy, Ryan, offered to pace me, I eventually agreed (I still suffer with the worry of letting people down so had a few wobbles before the race itself)!

During the build-up to the race, I made sure I ate healthily and avoided alcohol (yes, even Prosecco) and stuck to my training plan. It had been really hard to resist running the Stoke 10k the day after Ipstones 5 but after seeing Ben’s face when I mentioned it during my sports massage and a stern word from Ryan, I decided to take advice and save myself for the EHM. For me, the biggest challenge I face with running isn’t physical it’s mental – the number of times I have decided I am never running again, during a race, is plentiful!

On the day of the race, Ryan insisted we left at 3am…okay, I exaggerate, 6.45am, as he was concerned we might miss the 9am start… I was instructed to provide porridge as part of the pacing contract and was then told off when it wasn’t ready – at 6.30am!! Needless to say, we arrived in good time to pick up Ryan’s number from the Race Information point.

The start and finish point of the EHM is a fantastic place where there are myriad stalls for everything from Sportswear to Ultra races to Bacon baps (cue the arrival of new bat, Jonny Bibb stuffing his face with one)! The location has a really good vibe where everyone congregates before and after the races – there is a 10k which starts at the same time and a mile run which takes place at around 12.45pm. Those liking their race bling will not be disappointed as the more races you sign up for (including a 5k on the Friday night), the more medals you receive. The Half Marathon medal is amazing – complete with magnetic opening gates representing the golden gates at the location!

After a chat with Jonny, quite a few Stoke Fitties and a photo with Emma P, it was time for the race to begin. Realising I had left my energy gels in the car, I had a slight panic but Ryan kindly ran back to the car to collect all five…(I had failed to inform him that I only wanted one)! The queue for the toilets failed to move for around twenty minutes so I reluctantly headed to the start without going!

The start was delayed until 9.15am but we eventually got underway in the mission to get me a sub 1’40 PB! I was told not to look at my watch so I gladly didn’t – bizarrely the first four miles absolutely flew by. The start was slightly more uphill than I remembered but nothing too Meerbrookish. One highlight was when Ryan was busy telling me off for not having a drink at Mile 3 and almost trod on a squirrel – that would have ended my race there and then with hysterics! We found ourselves behind the official 1’40 pacer who had initially gone off slightly quicker than he should have and it was slightly unnerving to see the fair-sized group pulling away from us as we ran the first 7 or so miles. Ryan remained calm so I didn’t worry – he’d passed his trial(!) where he paced me on two training runs to the absolute second every mile, so I had every confidence in him – I just hoped I could keep up!

After starting on roads through the town, the race heads off onto a few closed country lanes; there is a switch back section which is actually quite nice to see other runners and it was here that we spotted Jonny hot on our heels! The water stations were very good, providing Lucozade, energy gels etc and there were many friendly spectators handing out jelly babies and high 5s! We constantly heard ‘Come on Batman’ and weren’t quite sure why until we saw that we were being followed by Batman himself! Unfortunately for him, we real bats flew off and he was left looking pretty exhausted for his last few miles…

Just before Mile 10 we came back over the bridge towards the town centre and it felt great overtaking the 1’40 pacer and his diminished group. A man turned and asked how far we’d ran and wasn’t overly impressed at Ryan’s response of: ‘9.92….or is it?’! The fact he wasn’t remotely out of breath or sweating was probably annoying for everyone!

I felt pretty good until around the 11.5 mile mark. Ryan had told me we’d be kicking in at this point and I think I’d psyched myself up to thinking I couldn’t do it! Apparently, my breathing went to pot and I was told firmly to ‘Breathe through (my) nose!’ I was beyond following any instruction and continued to pant like a dog, so I’m told! And for the first time, I wanted to look at my watch to see that there wasn’t far to go.

Returning to town must be quite misleading for those not wearing a watch or observing mile markers as you are so close to the finish but the course winds around so that you run through the stadium. I loved that part as there were drummers, spectators on the terraces and the end was near! Ryan was pulling away a bit and I had to dig deep to find the energy to keep up – I know that had I been on my own, this would have been the point where I may have eased off a bit but this was not an option with Bossy leading me!

With my eye now firmly on the mileage (not on the clock), I enjoyed my usual trick of counting down how long it would be before I could stop but still felt the urge to say I needed to stop(!) Fortunately, I didn’t have the breath, so we plodded on! Andy Pemberton from Stoke Fit enjoyed coming alongside us and saying, ‘Come on Bradders’ as he loves beating me!! With one final ‘sprint’ (possibly more of a canter) we crossed the line and, as an agreed part of the deal, Ryan did his first ever bat arms pose as I had finally achieved my PB! As I literally dragged myself through the finish area, Jonny joined us – the bats had finished within seconds of each other! My official time was 1’38’29 – a massive two and a half minutes off my previous PB – and, most importantly for me, a PB where the minutes started with a thirty and not a forty!! 

Being part of the Bats means the world to me and this race summed it up perfectly – camaraderie, selflessness and plenty of banter thrown in – Ryan could have done this race at his usual ridiculously fast pace and easily finished in the top ten but he chose to prove to me that I am a bit more capable than I think and pace me to a PB that I was beginning to think was out of reach. Bill Mac started me off on my confidence course to improve and since, I have had the support, encouragement, inspiration and advice from so many of you that a little bit of me actually thinks I can do this. Keep up the great work, you are all amazing! And as for next year, this is a dead cert for Bats on Tour – PBs and Prosecco galore!

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Uttoxeter Half Marathon (NSRRA) – 30th April, 2017

Uttoxeter Half Marathon Race Report – Kathryn Ambrose

I had really looked forward to Uttoxeter Half, as I had heard of its reputation as a tough course with plenty of undulations. My preference is for hills, as although it’s tough going up, it’s a lot of fun on the descents! I’m not great at half marathons as I never seem to know how to pace them, but with two 10K PBs in consecutive weeks at Newcastle and South Cheshire, I was fairly confident in my racing form. Unfortunately, the two weeks prior to the race saw me struck down with a chest infection and I wasn’t certain I would be able to run. After a doctor’s visit on the Thursday and a prescription for Doxycycline, I felt decidedly better and resolved to make it a steady one to bank the points. The fact that I couldn’t drink alcohol also probably helped with my race preparation! One thing I didn’t bank on, however, was a warm day after a week of much colder weather. Another contraindication of Doxycycline is sunlight, as it can make your skin very sensitive and prone to burning. So on the morning of the race, I was covering myself in Factor 50 and doing a rain-dance in the front garden. I also abandoned my usual race kit of vest and shorts in favour of T-shirt and capris, thereby running the risk of the dreaded comedy tan. The things we do for running!

We arrived at the start nice and early, which gave us plenty of time to socialise with running friends, both fellow Bats and our old teammates at Trentham. Roger was wondering why he had decided to do a half marathon a week after London, but I knew he would be fine. In the event, he had what he described as a fairly solid race, and finished in 1:26 (19th place). Lots of banter with him and Mick Downes, who was in the ascendancy today – but apparently he won’t get him on Flying Fox 🙂 Also some amusing moments when David realised that Indira had been promoted to D, not E – his dreams of 50 points in every race having been previously shattered, his whoops of joy could almost be heard out on the country lanes we would soon be hurtling along!

Lining up at the start, I positioned myself somewhere in the middle as I wanted to get away cleanly, but not get pulled along too quickly. The aim was to run steadily, so my breathing never became laboured. Coming out of the town and up the first little climb, I was hovering at around 9 min pace, which was probably a bit too quick for what I wanted to do, but I felt fine and I was in amongst people I often run with in races, Bonnie, and Bobbie Hickman from Trentham. Bobbie and I always have a good chat on races (when I can breathe!) and it makes the miles go by quickly. Through the first water station and I felt good holding my pace, and was enjoying the undulations. JC had told me about the big climb at 6.5 miles, so I was grateful for the big downhill that came before it! By this time, my quads were starting to feel a bit heavy and my breathing more difficult, so I opted to tackle the hill like I would on the fells  – hands behind the back, head down and power walk. This technique pleasingly saw me pass people who were running and I reached the top in fairly good shape. The next little climb, however, felt just as hard and my pace began to slow. Thank goodness for the steep downhill at 8 miles, I thought, as I let myself fall down it and recover slightly. I was able to use the momentum of the hill to keep a nice even pace through Mile 9, but from 10 to 12 I really struggled and lost touch with both Bobbie and Bonnie, as well as a few other girls from Group W. As I reached the top of the lovely big descent back to the racecourse, I felt relieved as I knew that it was downhill all the way and I could stop running in about 10 minutes! Heading back in towards the finish, I was delighted to see some fellow Bats, including Bonnie, and Fiona Bradley, who’d had a great race to finish first L35 in a time of 1:46:05. She ran in towards the finish with me, as did Roger, bless him, but he couldn’t even keep up with me as his hamstrings had seized up! Crossing the line in 2:10, I was pleased with a time only four minutes outside my PB on a flat course. Hopefully more to come from me this season.

Some superb performances across the categories today on a tough course. Some of the highlights for SMM were Fiona, as mentioned, with her L35 victory and Staffs Champs Gold. Also winning their categories for the ladies were Victoria Hughes (L40), with an outstanding 1:34:25 (PB). Ros Bould took the honours in the L50 category with a great run, coming in at 1:46:42. Many of us were delighted to see Paul Swan returning to his best following a spell out with injury – he took the V50 prize in a time of 1:23:09. Kevin Uzzell won the V65 category in a time of 1:43:59. Stone Ladies also took second place in the team prizes.

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8th 9bar Sunrise to Sunset Challenge

The 8th 9bar Sunrise to Sunset Challenge

Fantastic running by our ladies Kathryn, Jackie and Anne-Marie at the 8th 9bar Sunrise to Sunset Challenge yesterday.
 
Anne-Marie recorded a superb half Marathon, Jackie cracking her first Ultra at 27 miles and Kathryn completed 58.75 laps which totalled 35.6 miles and saw her finish first in her category and seventh lady overall.
 
Brilliant running by all three – well done!
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Congleton Half Marathon – 2nd October 2016

This was the first time I had ran the Congleton Half Marathon as it falls on my youngest’s birthday weekend but he agreed to have his birthday party on Tuesday, his actual birthday thus allowing me to run 13.1 miles on a Sunday morning  – Thanks Ben !!

For some reason I had gotten myself wound up more than usual and didn’t sleep very well for a couple of nights preceding this race. I suppose my competitive side had well and truly kicked in and knowing 50 points would all but see me promoted from Group D and also the possibility of a PB made my head do funny things in the lead up.

Anyway, set off to Congleton nice and early and halfway there realised I was going to get there ridiculously early so had a quick comfort stop in Sandbach services to make sure the sun had risen before I arrived !! (I wasn’t the first to arrive but not far off).

First job was to collect my race number and chip and then back to the car to get sorted and keep warm as it was a bit fresh and then the long wait before other Bats started appearing.

The race start was 9:30 so by about 9:00 there were a few bats hovering round and we managed to get a couple of pictures, then comfort stop before a planned  warm up. However, about 10 past there was a call to go to the start so the warm up didn’t happen other than a gentle trot of 200 yards to the start area.

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It was quite a crowded start area but I lined up with Jo, Kirsty and Mick hoping they would drag me round for a bit before disappearing into the distance. The first mile or so is relatively flat before dropping down (the future ‘Sting in the Tail’)  and then a steady climb back off before levelling off. It was quite steady start and when we passed Bryan Dale at about 3 or 4 miles we were all still together and managed a great Bats in Flight photo, however very shortly after that the others started pulling away and I did all I could to keep them in sight for the following few miles.14519931_10207549313870641_1467317158645578447_n

Unlike other races this year there was no-one near me that I knew, mainly because a lot of Group D runners weren’t present but also going off a bit quicker the ones I did know were left behind so it was a bit of a lonely slog on slightly undulating but not hilly lanes avoiding tractors and one particularly rude driver who decided it was okay for her to weave between us and the marshals !

After about 10 miles I had well and truly had enough, the marathon a couple of weeks previous was taking its toll and I gave up any thoughts of a PB and just settled for the fact I was in front of all other group D’s and should get my 50 points. At about 11.5 miles there is a big downhill which caused a bit of a pull in the thigh so I had a brief stop to stretch off before turning the corner and starting up the Sting in the Tail. Now anyone who runs round Stone in the summer knows we climb much bigger hills so this Sting was nothing more than an irritating itch but after 12 miles it feels much worse.

The last mile was a bit of drag as the sun was quite warm by now but I crossed the line in 1:35:03 (chip) which was over a minute better than my PB at Uttoxeter earlier this year and my goal of 50 points and a PB was achieved, the only annoyance was why did I stop for a stretch…it could have been sub 1:35…..next time !

I made my way over to Jo Bentley who was first in for the club and also 1st F40, Mick Downes and Kirsty ‘Pocket Rocket’ Stephenson who all looked fresh. We then watched as the other Bats came in, I have put all the results on the website so sorry for no mentions here but work keeps getting in the way….how rude !

Once we were all in we managed a couple of photos and then made our way back to the school to pick up goody bags and T Shirt and then all went our separate ways.14470436_10211011265896756_153102930136414119_n

It was a great race and although I left feeling a bit annoyed at myself on reflection my Garmin said it was my quickest 10 miles, 15K and 3rd fastest 10K and of course PB for a half so perhaps it wasn’t all bad.

Later that evening when the #thumbsupforemma photos started appearing it made the hard work worthwhile and that running with the Bats is absolutely fantastic and the camaraderie we have is one of the main reasons I run.

Go Bats !14600983_10211012610290365_2762022607217806749_n

 

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Tissington Half Marathon – 9th October 2016

This is one race that I’ve had booked for nearly 12 months following the high recommendations from Richard Shaw.  After another season of NSRRA races the appeal of a ‘downhill’ race was too tempting to pass up and being held in the best county of Derbyshire (I was born in Chesterfield) meant that it was one that I had to do.

It was decided that this was going to be one of those races that the family, including doggy,  would tag along to and we’d talked about the arrangements for it weeks before however when talking about having to leave at no later than 7.45am to get there on time the appeal of having to get up at 7am on a Sunday morning was not great.  As you may know I, like Paul Phillips, like to be at a race nice and early and for me a 7.45am departure left me worried about being late.  According to calculations I needed to be at Ashbourne Leisure Centre to board the bus by no later than 9.15am and I would need to ‘use the facilities’ before then so that means arrive by no later than 8.25am.  Justin assured me that even though ‘aarouteplanner’ predicted 40 minutes that he’d get us there way before that, oh yeah but you didn’t predict roadworks and cow herds did you dear!!  We eventually get there in silence, surprisingly park up with no problems, had to plead with the woman at Reception to change a tenner for parking then a couple of loo stops, quick drink, kiss the dog and board the bus.  Fortunately Richard and Victoria had saved me a seat at the front – thank you.

It was a lovely clear but cold morning and as the bus arrived at the start we all shivered our way up to Parsley Hay.  We met up with the other Bats running and the general feel was that it was a really good race to do, a lucky thing given that the bus had gone.  The race started a little late and we were set off in waves.  Victoria, Richard and myself got off in wave 2 and I was determined to try and practice my race pace ready for Dublin marathon in 3 weeks.  My long runs have been rubbish in training so I was really worried about whether I would even get round today.  There was no congestion like at some races and the trail just let you get into a good stride early on.   I hadn’t taken a drink or fuel as the promise of goodies at the drinks station was enough for me.  Jelly babies, Jaffa Cakes, Coke – yum and no bananas yay!  The stations were well spaced out so before I knew it we were passing through the last one at 9.5m.  You would think that one relatively straight trail would be boring but there were so many changes of scenery that I never got to the stage of “oh god there’s another sheep”.

I never tend to look at my watch during a race, rightly or wrongly but at just after 12m I thought I’d have a little peak and was a bit confused as to why it said 1.41, maybe it had stopped but the mileage was bang on.  Maybe I was on for a whopping PB and finally get the sub 1.50 that had evaded me for so long.  The last stretch was the only uphill part of the course and was well supported so I pushed on and felt strong going over the finish line.  I was so pleased not only to bag a PB but to actually feel like I’d had a good run which leading up to the marathon is worth a lot.  14519912_1884313131796995_6030840218449421942_n

Victoria, Richard and me regrouped at the finish line and I became a serial hugger, much to the kids’ disgust, from the elation.  There were more goodies to be had at the end but I’d been promised a pub lunch.  There were many other PB’s on the day – well done to everyone!

In summary, the race was well organised, on an excellent fast course and definitely one that I’d do again.

Anne-Marie

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Coniston Half Marathon – 5th June 2016

Tim Clegg – Coniston Half Marathon 5th June 2016 or Five Have Plenty of fun in Coniston

“It will be great – we can stay at the Drunken Duck and have a wonderful weekend – and you three can run your race and we’ll picnic by the lake – go on sign up now”. It was October 2015, my birthday, and we were staying in Otterburn with our oldest friends. Sat in front of the log fire with my second glass of MacAllan, my wife Judith’s suggestion seemed perfect. Andrew and Marcella had run the race that June with Marcella’s sister Mel and her husband Guy and were enthusiastic that we should join them for 2016. It was only after I had signed up for the race that Judith realised, to her dismay, that she was already committed to working that weekend and couldn’t come.

So it was five that gathered on the eve of the race at the Drunken Duck in fabulous sunshine. I carefully considered carb-loading, abstaining from alcohol and going to bed early, however, this was a race that I entered to enjoy the company of good friends. Having got my excuses lined up, I quaffed a couple of pints of Catnap – “well balanced bitterness leads to a long dry finish, with a fruity zesty character” (sounds like me). Gin cured salmon & wasabi followed by lamb and a glass or two of Talisker completed the pre-race preparations.

The Lakeland Trails Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K is a big event with two marathons and two half marathon races, a 10K and a children’s race all on the same day. The first of the marathon races set off at 07.00 which meant that enthusiastic runners were stomping about the hotel demanding fruit juice & porridge long before I wanted to get up. I suspect that they were the diners abstaining from alcohol & going to bed just at the time when we were contemplating pudding.

Andrew halfway to a tough marathonAndrew was the only one of us running in a marathon and his race started at 09.00, so we all got to the start in time to cheer him on his way, before registering and queueing for the portable toilets.

At the start of our half marathon at 10.00 the sun was already high in the sky. The course took us through the fields up Lake Road towards Coniston village, across Church Beck and past the Ruskin Museum. We were soon out of the village and left the road for the Cumbrian Way footpath and into the woods. The tree cover provided welcome shade, but the narrow path funnelled the large group of panting runners into a tunnel of trees, rocks and ditches. The field had not had time to spread out and as the uneven, rocky path climbed up the valley side faster competitors had frustratingly little opportunity to pass the many slowing runners.

Mel & MarcellaLow Yewdale brought the first drinks stop and it came at the foot of the steepest most rugged climb yet. The need to take on water stopped us dead in our tracks. This was not bottles of mineral water handed out by local Scouts, but big camping holiday canisters from which you filled your own water bottle or grabbed a plastic cup and a welcome square of flapjack.

Running up the hill that followed proved too much and everyone stopped after a few strides and walked. I tried to run (I’ve never walked in a race before), but the combination of the steep incline, loose surface, tired legs and trying to get past other people defeated me.

The path took us through Tarn Hows Wood and then out into the sunshine again with fantastic views of Tarn Hows below us. This brought the challenge of the official photographer and I did my best to smile and wave. The circuit above Tarn Hows brought lots of welcome support from walkers and families.

The descent to the lake side was steep and rugged and it was a relief to stretch your legs and run fast. When we got to the lake it felt that we must be nearly there. We weren’t. The run in was long and hot. It took us on a path along the shore, past the pier for the Steam Yacht Gondola and back into the fields of Coniston Hall and within touching distance of the finish line. Then frustratingly we veered away from our destination and into the next door campsite, round the lake shore and finally back in a big loop to the finish.

This was the second of three hilly half marathons on consecutive Sunday’s for me. I thought Buxton was challenging, but a trail half is quite different to running on the road and with temperatures in the mid 20s it was tough as our finishing times showed. Ice creams and a bottle of Jennings Bitter helped the post race recovery. The Potters Arf this weekend should be easier (?) but will it be as scenic?

We had fun, but will we do it again next year? I think Judith has cleared her diary already!

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Buxton Half Marathon – 29th May 2016

Race report: Anne-Marie Mountford

I’d entered this race sometime last year as it was one that I had not done or heard of before. After Paris I’d made a real effort to get some hill training in on long runs knowing that it wouldn’t be long before it was race day. They certainly paid off as I was able to go into the race feeling, not confident as that’s not me but not scared!

IMG_0375-AMMBuxton’s reputation certainly goes a long way and everyone that I spoke to remarked me about the killer first 3 miles up hill. Now there lay a quandary “to warm up or not to warm up”. We got there in plenty of time to allow for number and t-shirt collection, the usual 40 toilet trips and then a possible little jog to loosen the legs for the ascent. It was so lovely in the gardens that I really didn’t want to leave it. Thankfully I bumped into Bryan Dale and Ann who told me that the first mile wasn’t too bad and although it was a gentle pull it allowed you to get into a stride before the first hill.

We all stood on the corner of the Opera House waiting for the start. The weather was fantastic and I was hoping that it wasn’t going to get too hot (flashbacks of Paris in the heat). I bumped into Tim Clegg the only other bat out at Buxton, wished him a good race and then we were off (sorry no time for a very small team photo). I made it my resolve that I would NOT walk a step and didn’t care about my pace particularly so no matter what I was getting up those hills. The first 3m takes the route out of Buxton towards Leek and in the distance all the way up you could see runners. The only way to deal with this is to not look at where you are heading for but to keep you head down and try to think of other things. At the top I looked at my watch thinking this can’t be the end to it unless my mileage is off and sure enough there’s a bit more waiting for you around the corner to climb. It really wasn’t as bad as I’d expected and then there were the downhills to enjoy. We snaked down, round and sometimes up through lanes and over cattle grids (covered with mats) and it was so lovely and picturesque.

IMG_0643_TCIt felt as though we were back on the Coast to Coast run again. At 4m I got chatting to another runner and our thoughts turned to the next ascent at 7m which was another 1.5m of climb. He’d heard that it was awful but I was working on the basis that the first part, which I’d survived, was the worst. At the foot of the hill we stopped talking and the climb began. It must have been the massive block of chocolate that I had yesterday that kept me going because I got up there without any problems. The views from here were well worth the effort and you’re then treated to a lovely downhill past the cement factory. Everyone that I’d passed on the uphill seemed to glide effortlessly past me on the downhill – can some please help me with this as I just don’t have the technique! The mile from 9 to 10 was probably the most difficult as was quite boring and I noticed that lots of people were now walking but not me, Lynne Shepley would have been well proud of me. Just the last climb to do and whilst I was wondering where it was I realised that I’d probably just done it, so the hill work had paid off. At the top of this hill we then weaved down through back streets until wow you were entering the back of the Pavillion Gardens. It was really nice running down here with the sound of people having fun in the park and yay I spotted the 400m to go sign then double yay I spotted my son, then joy of joys I saw the rest of the family and I was so quick that there was no time for a photo. I finished feeling fresh, satisfied and happy, today was all about getting round and that’s what I did in a time of 2:04:30. I would absolutely do it again and would recommend it to anyone but you’ve got to do the hills in training. Tim finished with 2:23:10 which was impressive as he’d not run for a fortnight due to illness – well done Tim!

It was then time to get stuck into the picnic that I’d prepared and we even called in to Tittesworth for an ice cream on the way home – happy days.

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Snowdonia Half Marathon – 22nd May 2016

Richard Shaw – Rhedeg Cymru/ Run Wales Snowdonia Half Marathon Llanwrst – Sunday 22nd May 2016

Snowdonia Half Marathon NumberI decided to enter this half marathon as a few of my fellow runners who I run with locally were looking to enter a race in Wales to celebrate Jason’s 47th birthday which was on race day and Snowdonia fitted in perfectly as it was only a stones throw away from Llandudno where Jason’s family lived.

The race is advertised as the toughest Half Marathon in the UK!! and “oh boy” it was. In fact it was my 57th Half Marathon and the toughest course I have ever run.

This year the organisers changed the route some 5 days prior to race date and I received an e-mail advising that they had made some improvements to the course. So rather than running along the road (first 3 and last 3 miles) to Trefriw and back, have added a loop around another lake (Llyn Crafnant). It made the route a tiny bit tougher but they said the views certainly made up for it, so now we run around two lakes and have 2000 feet of climbing.

We managed to find B&B accommodation in Trefriw some 3 miles from the start and left for Wales on Saturday taking the scenic route stopping in Llangollen visiting the steam railway and had lunch at Carrog watching the steam trains running to Corwen from Llangollen- a great sight taking me back to my childhood days! We arrived at Trefriw mid afternoon only to discover it was celebrating a 3 day walking festival and the town and pubs were heaving with both walkers and runners alike. Fortunately, we had booked a table at the local restaurant, The Old Ship, prior to arriving and it was a good decision as every table was taken.

After meeting the B&B owner, we were advised that there was a traffic free metallic road running from the village to race HQ and after walking the route on the Saturday it took us about 20 mins. It turned out to be an ideal route for warming up on race day.

Ready to go!Race day arrived and weather forecast was cloudy with rain early afternoon- how wrong they were. We decided to walk/jog to the start from B&B and as we arrived at Race HQ the heavens opened and it rained all morning from the moment the gun went to crossing the finish line some two hours later and then we were blessed with hailstones jogging back to our accommodation getting even more soaked from head to foot!

On arrival at Race HQ, I was surprised to see a few runners from NSRRA- one in Group A, two in Group E and two in Group F in addition to my local running buddies.

The route was interesting to say the least. From the race HQ at Llanwrst Football Club we turned left and the first (and last) quarter of a mile was the flattest section of the course. Just after a quarter of a mile we turned right and headed up the hill for 0.4 mile- sharp climb of over 200 feet where I was already walking!, then we turned right and had a slight downhill section and the views across/down the Conwy Valley were breathtaking then another sharp climb towards the Hamlet of Llanrhychwyn. The climb (approx 400 feet) up to/through Llanrhychwyn went on for 1.5 miles although it is in 3 distinct stages albeit with hardly any respite between each. At 2.25 miles we finally descended towards Llyn Geirionnydd – one of the most popular lakes in the area. At this point we had a relatively flat section to the far end of the lake about 4 miles into the race. We then turned right onto the forestry track to Mynydd Deulyn and on this track we climbed about 400 feet in the next mile,once at the top (which a smiling face was painted on the track) we had a fast decent of approx 1.25 miles to Llyn Crafnant – one of the most beautiful lakes in Wales. We ran 2.5 miles around the lake before heading towards Trefriw ( as I started my run around the lake, the two leading runners were leaving the lake, so already 2.5 miles a head of me and they were at mile 9 and I was still not quite at the half way stage). Just after the 10.5 mile point we faced the last notable hill as the road climbs approx 450 feet in half a mile (if you ran from bottom to the top without walking a special medal was awarded to you at the end- all done on trust! I walked 75% of the climb as did virtually every runner ahead and below me- it was hard enough just to walk up the hill!! At the top the road levels off and we are back in Llanrhychwyn where we turn left and ran down the steep hill which we ran/walked up 10 miles previously and my quads were killing me on the descent to the valley floor and then along the flattest section of a quarter of a mile to the finish. Richard crossing the finishing line

All finishers received a medal, tee shirt, water, carob bars and very tired legs!!
The climbs totalled 577 metres (2000 feet). Flat Equivalent Distance was 14.70 miles

I ran course in 2:0541( Chip) and 188/380 so finished in the first half and 1st MV65 (7 in my age group). My times every mile varied considerably from 11 mins per mile for miles 1, 2 and 5 to 7.45 mins at mile 6 and 10 and over 13 min mile between mile 11 and 12.

I am entering again next year as the scenery was stunning throughout the race and will try and run final hill to receive the elusive medal. Let’s have a few Bats running the race in 2017 as it will be a race to remember. In fact it is harder than the Snowdonia Marathon which I have previously run.

Richard Shaw

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Uttoxeter Half Marathon – 1st May 2016

I have never ran the Uttoxeter Half before as it always falls on my son’s birthday, however this year my darling wife and eldest agreed to have the birthday party on Bank Holiday Monday allowing me to run a slightly undulating course around East Staffordshire.IMG_0256

Got there quite early with Anne-Marie and met up with fellow bats to discuss tactics for the day, my plan was to take it easy and aim for 1:45 (8min/miles) to see where I was up to in preparation for the Potts ‘Arf in a few weeks where I wanted to better last year’s 1:39 ish.

Paul Swan lightened the mood by suggesting he felt this was a harder race then Potts so I decided to just go with it and see what happened. There were 11 of us in total a great turnout for a cold, breezy Bank Holiday.

After a very light warm up we gathered at the start and before we knew it we were off….it was quite a busy start with a lot of weaving in and out needed to get going and it is a gradual climb up from the racecourse towards the first turning.

For the first two miles you climb out of Uttoxeter and I found a steady pace of 7:40 ish, slightly quicker than planned but felt good. In the distance I could see several Group D and Group E runners including Kevin Uzzell and just in front of them the ‘Pocket Rocket’ Kirsty Stephenson and ‘Insert Nickname’ Amy Gamble. I was running alongside Grahame (Amy’s brother) who fresh from London was feeling encouraged that we could see Amy and in our stupidity thought we had a chance! IMG_0213

The next 3 miles were undulating and breezy with what felt like more climbs than descents and I passed Kevin and reeled in the D & E runners – Mile 6 is a nice little downhill and a group of 6 or 7 of us had a chat about London and points from today before myself and Grahame pushed on to try and catch the ladies.

Next came the hill (about mile 7), the course profile looked like it was going to be a beast but it was no worse than the hills we tackle on a Wednesday or Sunday run, the only difference we don’t have a breather as we cross stiles or have a sneaky rest as we muster back but I plodded up it keeping Amy and Kirsty in site.

At this point I hadn’t really looked at my watch so a quick glance told me I was on course for inside the 1:45 but by how much wasn’t that sure so after the climb we had a nice quick downhill where I opened up a gap between the D runners but didn’t seem to be catching anyone in front. Paul Swan hinted that after about mile 9 it climbed continuously in readiness for the last downhill at 12 and he wasn’t wrong. There was occasional level and downhills but the majority was incline and it was at this point I caught a glance of two Rugeley Runners with Group D on their backs and also noticed Amy had opened a gap in front of Kirsty.

Mile 11 – still going up I passed one of the Rugeley guys and Kirsty, both of us cursing the lack of downhills and feeling like my legs were going to fall off, this time I checked my watch and realised I was going to be close to my PB which was a surprise.

Mile 12 came and the much needed downhill with the racecourse in the distance, unfortunately the downhill is the same for everyone and although I picked up the pace so did Amy and the other Rugeley runner and even though I kept pushing I couldn’t close the gap and finished about 30 seconds behind Amy and 3 behind Rugeley missing out on 50 points.

However 1:36:34 was a PB by over 2 ½ minutes and more than happy with 49 Group D points – so much for taking it easy.

Paul Swan was first in for the club in 1:21 and Amy first lady in 1:36.IMG_0082

There were also PB’s for Tim Clegg and Bonnie Seabridge which for this course is a fantastic effort.

We waited around for the awards and it was a very successful scoop for the Bats with Paul Swan 2nd M50, Amy 1st F40, Kirsty 2nd F35, Kevin 1st M65 and the results showed Margaret 1st F60.

The ladies also finished a very creditable 3rd in the team event.

So yet again this season we have a great turnout by the Bats, some fantastic performances, lots of NSRRA points – the Bats are on the Up – oh did I mention I got a PB.

Full results
1:21:21 Paul Swan (2nd M50)
1:29:43 Tim Hulse
1:36:06 Amy Gamble (1st F40)
1:36:34 Paul Phillips (PB)
1:36:46 Kirsty Stephenson (2nd F35)
1:38:57 Kevin Uzzell (1st M65)
1:50:51 Richard Shaw
1:54:07 Anne-Marie Mountford
2:04:44 Bonnie Seabridge (PB)
2:08:59 Tim Clegg (PB)
2:17:11 Margaret Shaw (1st F60)

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Four Villages Half Marathon – 17th January 2016

Race Report: Jackie Allen

23818348603_01ec5ae209_oFour of us (Tim Hulse, Fabien Carbonell, Amy Gamble and myself) met at the club for the drive to Helsby, wondering if the race would be on or not due to the weather. Last year the start was delayed and then cancelled, and as there had been snow in Stone and Stafford we were unsure what lay ahead.

This was the third time I’d entered the Four Villages Half and has always been my favorite half marathon course. Things have improved since the last time I did it – plenty of drinks if you needed them and an improved bag storage system.

The route itself is described as undulating, but compared to some of the places we train I would say it was quite flat with a couple of nice downhill sections. It’s a rural setting and quite scenic.

There was quite a bit of support along the way which was good and unexpected seeing as the roads were all closed to traffic.

I found the first five miles the hardest as I couldn’t seem to find my pace, but once I’d got past that point I started to enjoy it.

23817197024_347793b34b_oAt about 10 miles I dared to think I might be on for a personal best. I felt reasonably good compared to how I felt at the start. I even managed a sprint finish which is unheard of for me!

All four of us were pleased with our times and enjoyed the event. I managed to knock over 2 minutes off my previous best which was a real bonus and good start to the year.

We were given a medal, drink and goody bag at the end. So it was all smiles for the journey home.

Tim – 1:28:23
Amy – 1:35:51 (PB PB)
Fabien – 1:39:08
Jackie – 1:44:11 (PB)

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