Formal half marathons are not really my thing, I prefer longer distances and plenty of hills. Consequently its been a fair few years since I took part in one. But I’m intent on pushing myself in 2015 and trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit more by adding in a few twists and turns to the racing calendar. So a trail half marathon in a place I’ve never run before? In a freezing February and on the back of very little speed training? Ticks all the boxes. Let’s have a go.
Sunday morning was cold. Really cold. With heavy sleet. It took a hefty dose of willpower and a MTFU pep talk from Nic to get me out of bed, into the car (the van is poorly) and over to Stockport. And once there, I was a little surprised at the scale of the race I had entered, it was actually a fairly big set up with a large scale registration, food vans, lots of swag for the competitors and four hundred freezing runners about to toe the start line.
I had little expectation for my race, other than I wanted to run consistently. I know I can hit a 75 minute half marathon in good conditions and on tarmac, so I added five minutes on to that for my lack of recent speed training (the long lasting Sheffield snow was a killer), and another five minutes for the fact it was on trails, in freezing conditions, and very wet. 85 minutes seemed like a reasonable target.
The race start was a good three quarters of a mile from the registration centre. I shuffled to near the front of the pack and as we set off took up a decent position about twenty spots from the front. Within half a mile I’d worked my way up to seventh place and I was in touch with the leaders. The pace felt fast for the first mile but then settled into steady 6:10 – 6:15 minute miling. Conditions underfoot were very wet and muddy which made it all seem a bit laborious. I slipped a couple of times. 6:10 felt like 12:10. Still, the watch wasn’t lying, and we were actually moving fairly well.
The route out was basically a wide bridleway. There seemed to be a slight gradient for the whole first section, it wasn’t too obvious but I had the distinct impression all the way that we were actually running gently uphill. I felt OK, and the mileage was consistent, so all was good. We cruised through the first six miles in 37:00 flat, which given the conditions wasn’t too shabby. Half a mile later we were diverted up a flight of stairs to the right, over a bridge and on to a canal towpath.
I’d expected to fade in the second half, and that is exactly what happened. Although it wasn’t by quite as large a margin as I had feared before the race. Consecutive 6:10s became hard-earned 6:30s. My calves became very sore and it felt like I was barely moving at all. The towpath was pleasant but very slippy in places. I lost a few positions but eventually fell in to a good rhythm with a Glossopdale runner, and despite a painful glute spasm at about ten miles we dragged each other through the last section and finished strongly. I ended up in thirteenth place in 1:24:03, so I sneaked inside my target for the day, and nabbed a spot in the top fifteen which is always very positive. I think I’m pleased. Seems slow but felt like I ground it out, and there is quite a lot of satisfaction in persevering, enduring, when your body is telling you to back off but you go and do the opposite.
My calves feel quite sore today, but I’m glad I got over there and did something a little bit different. If nothing else, a good quick thirteen miles in the bank. Now let’s see how that translates to the hills…
Thanks to all organisers, marshalls and supporters at the Stockport Trail Half Marathon. A very well organised and friendly event. More info here .