I felt incredibly under prepared for this half marathon – since the London Marathon the farthest I’d run was 11 miles, twice, but both times at a far slower pace than what I’d been running around London at. I knew a personal best was out of the question for this race so my goal was to just get around it. After all, it’d be nice to increase the distance again and would hopefully help with the marathon training.
The outlook for the day was rain, but at least it’d mean that it was cooler – I’d been trying to convince myself that the severe loss of speed was down to the weather having heated up considerably. It’s a little disheartening to try your best and to be slower than you were, and it makes it difficult to find motivation to continue running. However if I went into this race deciding I’d just run it and see, with no pressures, then maybe it’d bring a bit of fun back to running.
We got to Rugby in plenty of time and parked up at the car park the organisers had suggested. It was then about 10 minutes from there to the Leisure Centre they were using for the registration. This was nice and easy and was just a case of putting our name into an tablet and telling them the number it reported back. What’s a little crazy though is that they handed over the “finishers tee” at this point which meant we’d have to do something with it before the race. A lot of people were wearing them, though neither of us particularly wanted to so we headed back to my car and dropped off the tees there and got ready to race.
At this point I suddenly realised I hadn’t paid for the car parking, so paid the £1 – but then minutes later found out that because it had been opened especially for this event the car park was actually free today. The registration we had walked to earlier had been where the finish was located, and from where we were parked it was another 10 minutes to get to the start in Caldecott Park. As we waited it rained briefly, but not particularly heavy so at this point I hoped that was all the rain we’d be getting.
The start pens seemed a bit close together – there were small spaces for 1:30 to 2:00 and 2:00 to 2:30, but then I remembered that there were probably only a couple of thousand runners so it may be that they weren’t entirely sure how many they’d be getting in each area. The race started on time, though it seemed a little bit of a false start as we reached the bottle neck of the park entrance – a lot of us were having to stop to wait, or slow to a walk for an opportunity to get through.
The course then continued through the city of Rugby and before the first mile was over the city started to give way to countryside. Before I even reached 10K into the race I’d already walked twice – the hills were a little more tiring than I was expecting and the “closeness” of the air wasn’t helping matters. I did manage to keep the walking fairly brief at that point. There was one hill that just seemed to go on for ever and that was the first time I had to walk, even though it turned out I was pretty much at the top of the hill by this point.
There was little support (by which I mean pretty much none whatsoever) whilst in the countryside, but it did pick up again as we went through the villages of Barsby and Kilsby. At points where I found myself walking (there were considerably more after the 10K mark) as I passed people there was the occasional person calling out my name (which is on the race number) telling me to keep running. It was a mental battle though, and I was struggling. Time seemed to pass so slowly, yet at the same time it felt like I’d been running forever.
At around 8 miles I briefly found myself running comfortably and thought I’d finally overcome the struggle. It wasn’t long after we left Kilsby though, and approaching 10 miles that I started to struggle again. I started to wonder why I was running, and if I actually like running. I was even thinking that I should abandon future races and make this my last, it just felt it wasn’t going right. Before the mile was over I stopped caring about it though, and was feeling a little more “comfortable” (as much as I can be) with walking some stretches. The route then looped through the Rugby Town FC grounds and as I walked out I was told that the last of the hills were almost over. Such a relief! Knowing this I started running again, as far as the top of the hill and then walked a bit.
Over the next few miles I lost count of how many times I walked but I was insistent I wanted to run from mile 12 until the end. I tried as much as I could – when we entered their sports stadium and onto the running track I found my pace speeding up. It was far from a sprint, but I did realise I was going faster than I should be so started to slow before leaving the race track. This did however cause me to walk briefly, but I knew I was so close to the finish now and that kept me from walking more than just a few steps before running on.
As I got to the 13 mile marker I didn’t do what I’d normally do – instead of sprinting from there to the end I held back until I rounded the last corner and then put as much as I could into a sprint for the last 0.05 miles to the finish.
I finished 75th out of 802 finishers (top 9.4%, 51st in category and 69th male), with a time of 1:37:27 – around 5 minutes slower than my best, but I’d never intended on setting a new PB, and I accepted that with the amount of walking I did I wouldn’t stand a chance of beating it. What I can say though is despite the mental and physical effort this took, I completed the inaugural Rugby Half Marathon. I’m not going to be disappointed as I never had a goal for this race anyway. At the finish they don’t hand out goodie bags like a lot of other races, instead they have an array of chocolate digestives (and other biscuits), white and milk chocolate, slices of banana, and small sweets to pick and choose from and then cups of water to drink from. As you leave the finishers area they then put the medal over your neck before you leave.
After I finished I walked a complete lap of the park before finally finding a way out that would take me back to where the race was still going on. For the next hour or so I stood watching people approach mile 13 and the finish, though the downside to this was I was getting cold from the lack of movement, and the heavy downpours didn’t help much either (though standing near a tree shielded me from the worst of it for a while). Though if people were still out there running in this weather then it shouldn’t be a problem for me to stand out in it either, it was more important I was there to support my friend finish too. I cheered her as she passed the best I could, but with how much I was shaking from the cold I doubt I did much to help. I was glad to have seen her finish though, even if my thoughts were now moving on to getting somewhere warm and dry.
I think the organisation was pretty good – I’ve certainly seen a lot worse, and I think despite the hills the route was quite nice – scenic at least. The spectator support in the city/villages was fairly reasonable, though I heard this had died off quite a bit as the race went on. The route seemed to have the mile markers around 0.2 to 0.3 miles ahead of where my watch seemed to think they would be, though as my watch said 13.11 at the end I presume the course was actually measured correctly and it was just a case of them using the nearest posts for the markers as an approximation. I think the only thing I’d have changed about this race (no not those dreaded hills) is that it’d have been nicer to have gotten a bottle of eater at the end instead of a cup. Even though (unusually for me) I’d had water at every station I was still quite dehydrated at the end and could have done with more than a cup.
After this race my marathon training plan continues with no more races until the Lutterworth 5 in August.