Donington Park Half Marathon

This is a race I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to enter or not. It was one month since I did a marathon, and only a week since I last did a 10K race so I wasn’t that sure if it was a good idea or not. Since the marathon I’ve barely run, and my longest distance since then was only 10K – so I felt a little underprepared to do my second Half Marathon.

When I did the Robin Hood Half Marathon it had been warmer, and I’d been building up to it. This time I felt I didn’t have much hope of beating this, but I thought it’d be nice to make sure I can still run further than 10K and would be a nice way to finish this year’s races (assuming I wouldn’t be tempted into any more after this). I knew the weather wasn’t going to be great, but on the day of the race it wasn’t just raining, but it was heavy rain. It was important I forced myself to do this, I’ve been failing as a runner and had been losing the motivation to run over the past month. Every run has been a mental challenge, one I haven’t felt I could win. I decided that making myself do races would be a way to keep pushing myself to run.

The car parking was just behind the paddocks and was supposed to only be 50p for the day, but as they don’t give change it meant it cost a little more. Surprisingly though, even though I had aimed to arrive fairly late due to the rain I was still one of the first ones to turn up so got to park only a few spaces away from the entrance to the paddock being used for the race registration.

The Paddocks

The registration was nice and quick, but didn’t require ID which the website had said was required. You have to find out your number from one person, and then ask another person for the race bid based on the number. When I said “504” the second lady didn’t believe me as she couldn’t see it in her box, so had to get another person to help her after having rechecked the list herself to make sure I wasn’t lying. Once I’d collected the race number I then attached the chip to my trainers and waited for the start. As it was very wet I wasn’t just wearing a base layer and technical t-shirt like the previous week’s race, but was also wearing my waterproof coat.

Donington Park Race Circuit

Donington Park Race Circuit

Once it was time for the race they led us on a 10 minute walk from the paddocks to the start line near Coppice corner. This was so that we’d cover 13.1 miles as 5 laps of the circuit would not quite be enough. Now this is a track I’ve raced on in video games such as Forza so I felt it wasn’t going to be that bad, and should be fairly flat. What I hadn’t realised, or hadn’t remembered from racing games, is that from the Old Hairpin corner up to Coppice corner it is a slow incline, though Craner Curves is quite a steep descent so in some ways that makes up for it. For the first lap my intention was to take it easy to see where I would be slowed, and where I’d be able to make up for it. In the end I spent more time trying to see through my rain drenched glasses than keeping an eye on my pace so it was a little quicker than I intended.

Donington Park Starting Grid

The problem with running a Half Marathon on 2.5 mile long track is that it can become very hard work to keep your head in the race. I found on the second lap I spent a lot of the lap reminding myself this was the second lap, and was thinking about what was coming up ahead and may have altered my pace where I didn’t need to just because of having already run a lap. On the third lap it started to feel very hard going up the hilly part of the track, but I didn’t want to walk. I was gutted that I’d had to walk some of the marathon a month before and I didn’t want to do that for a half marathon – I’ve never walked when running this distance. This kept me going a little longer and I dropped my pace a little until the Melbourne Hairpin. This led into what I felt was a stronger 4th lap, though I was trying to not let getting lapped by the course leaders put me off – I had lapped others so I was trying to convince myself that this kinda balanced out. Hopefully those I did this to weren’t offended by it!

It felt like such a relief to finally start the fifth lap, though I knew the winners had already finished – I could see them relaxing at the side of the track. I started to think how good it would be to be finished and I think this was the start of my race going down hill (besides the fact that just after the corner the track does go down hill).

As I reached the top of McClean’s corner and the completion of 12 miles I resorted to walking briefly. I didn’t want to, but I was starting to struggle to maintain the pace – I’d messed up. My feet were drenched and what I could feel were blisters were beginning to get very sore. I was also overheating – I shouldn’t have used my waterproofs I should have just got wet, and perhaps then I wouldn’t have looked such an idiot running in my coat either.

I then walked to Coppice corner and started running again along Starkey’s Straight, but walked again briefly around The Esses. Before reaching the Melbourne Hairpin I really wanted to walk again, but decided I couldn’t let myself do that – I’d already walked about half a mile of this last lap, so I started to pick up my pace a little instead.

Finished!

Just after rounding Goddard’s corner I then started to work up to sprint speed to try and get a strong finish, and finally I was done. I’m surprised that I finished, I think even as far back as the second lap I wanted to quit, and before the race even started I was struggling to convince myself to start (I almost stayed in bed this morning). I’m pleased I did it though, I set a new PB for a Half Marathon with a time of 1:39:20 (though my watch says I ran 13.21 rather than 13.1).

Finisher’s medal

It was a tough race – the rain, too many layers (to try and stay dry), and that relentless hill. I think it had been worthwhile though, but whether I do this race again in future is yet to be determined.

The official results was a gun time of 1:39:32, and a chip time of 1:39:17 – this put me in position 66 out of a field of 361 finishers (18%). So I finished 5 laps of Donington Park in almost the same time it took Hamilton to do 55 laps of Abu Dhabi in the Formula 1 today.

Coventry 10K Charity Fun Run 2014

Following the Leicester Marathon I had barely run for three weeks. With the exception of setting a new PB of 20:29 for running 5K most of my runs had seemed like hard work, from both the point of view of motivating myself, and the effort required. I think my loss of motivation was a combination of having just done the marathon, the sudden change in temperature outside, and the changing of the clocks meaning long runs would be entirely in the dark.

For the Coventry 10K the race packs weren’t posted out prior to the race like most of my other runs had (the exception being the Atherstone 10K), so this was one where I’d need to collect it on the day. Due to this I thought I’d make sure I got there reasonably early as there were no indications as to how big the race would be and didn’t want to queue out in the cold too long. As it happens I got there earlier than intended even with taking a few wrong turns, despite using satnav (I always manage to do that in Coventry somehow). Once I got to the park it took a few minutes to figure out where to go as there were no signs up for visitors or sign of a start or registration desk. Someone else in the Park & Ride car park asked me if I knew where there start was as they had no idea either. I decided I’d go for a walk and soon found the registration desk not far from the building in the middle of the park.

The registration was very quick, there was only one person waiting in front of me and after telling them my name I was handed my race number. At this point they said the start would be where the registration was and that the visitor centre could be used as a changing room and toilets – this was the same as what it said on the MCC Productions website, though the receptionist in the visitor centre was not happy about this and was asking people to leave instead of hanging around inside as it turned out it in fact couldn’t be used by the runners.

War Memorial Park, Coventry

To try and stay warm, despite wearing a base-layer and a technical tee, I decided I should keep moving and started walking a few laps of the park. Whilst walking I also commented on Twitter that it was odd not to have a chip to track our time, but apparently that is normal for this race as they write down times against bib number as you cross the line – lots of room for error there! I guess the key point here is “fun run” not “race”.

At 09:55 everyone was ready to start but no one really knew quite where the start was or what was going on. At 10:00 we were then led about 1Km around the park, passed the War Memorial, to the opposite corner of the park where we were told that the race would be starting in a few minutes. The marshall then went through three points to be aware of, and then without any countdown, started the race. This left a few people surprised and unprepared!

The course then goes around the perimeter of the park until it reaches Kenilworth Road, and then halfway along that edge cuts through the middle, past the visitor centre and around the edge of the carpark and continued around the perimeter. One lap of this was 3K so the way this was arranged was you’d do 3 laps and then an extra 1K at the start. I tried to keep my pace consistent, and my legs were happy for me to, though I think mentally it was a bit of a battle at times to keep going. Not long into the second lap my head kept telling me I should stop. I tried to convince myself that having done a marathon, the goal I’d originally set out to do, it was okay to stop now – I could go back to my car and go home without finishing.

Perhaps if I hadn’t have thought something so stupid I wouldn’t have convinced myself to finish the race. I thought it was bordering on narcissism and felt ashamed of that. I knew at that point I shouldn’t listen to my head, and should listen to my legs instead. Having achieved one goal doesn’t mean it’s the end, there’s other goals to set. I want to enjoy running and would love to be better at it, and this started to turn things around. This then meant the third lap was a lot happier – the pace I was going at was quite comfortable, and at this point I started wondering if it would be a good idea to try the Donington Park Half Marathon the following weekend.

Halfway around the last lap I started to pick up pace, but then had to slow down briefly after almost tripping over a dog! Thankfully I missed the dog! As I started to approach the 6 mile point I sped up more and then changed this to a sprint once I reached the visitor centre. The finish line was then a bit of a mess – there were a lot of pedestrians with young children blocking the “funnel” which meant I had to start weaving all over the place so that I wouldn’t have to stop. I then finished in time to see the trophy be presented to the first female finisher.

Finisher’s tee and medal

At the finish line you join a queue to get your finisher’s tee and medal, though the person handing them out sadly dropped mine on the floor – so this white tee was muddy before I’d even worn it. At this point I felt I could have sustained the higher pace for longer as my legs were feeling okay, though amazingly I found after looking at my watch that I’d set a new PB of 44:15, though it was saying the distance was 6.19 miles, so couldn’t technically count as a personal best for 10K.

Finisher’s medal

I heard a number of people complaining to their friends about the mess up at the start and the lack of organisation, but the main thing here is that this run was in support of the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. Sure, organisation could be better, but raising money for a worthy cause was the purpose for this day.

After 72 hours the results were published, though I don’t quite understand how my time is a minute slower in the results when I started my watch with the horn and stopped it a few seconds after crossing the finish line. The official time was 45:06, 9:54 behind the race winner.This time puts me in position 36 out of 163 male finishers (top 22%).

For some reason they split the list between males and females, so the 161 female finishers are in another list. If you combine the lists so it’s comparable to other races, it would have been position 45 out of 324 finishers (14%).