The Carnival of Running takes place in my local town, Market Harborough, each year in conjunction with the town carnival. As a relativity small race in comparison to others, I enjoy how locals get together to support the race and the atmosphere is great. Our running club always gets a great turnout and as someone said to me once, we moan that we have to travel to races so we should always support our local ones – if we don’t they won’t take place. So as this one is right on my doorstep it’s one I look forward to.
The past two year’s I’ve taken part in the 10k and this year I decided to push myself to try out the half marathon thinking I’d be well-trained from May’s Miles for Mind and it would be a great way to start my training for Berlin. Over the past few weeks (and if you follow me on Instagram you will have seen) I have really been struggling with my long runs. I can’t seem to get my breathing right in the humidity and overall I’ve just been a bit grumpy because I’ve driven up those hills that I’d be running!
There were a few changes to this year’s race – the start time had been moved to 10.30am (previously it started at 12noon) and there would also be a 5k route. After telling too many people I’d be doing the half marathon, there was no backing out. On Saturday morning I woke up in good time, had my bagel, stopped off at Halfords for some energy gels (you might say a little unprepared and parked up all in good time to make it to the start area for around 9.30am. Even though this was relaxing, I don’t think I’ve felt this nervous for a race in a long time. Having had two crappy half’s (Cambridge and Hampton Court) earlier in the year my confidence has plummeted … though it hasn’t stopped me for signing up to three during the summer.
Our club had some photos, I had a toilet stop, said hi to a few people I know through Instagram and parkrun, dropped my bag off and then found a spot ready for the warm-up. The race briefing took place – fairly straightforward – and we went off to find our starting pens.
We went off – I started close to the back of the back and for me in a 13 mile race, I felt like I bombed my way down the hill and through into the town. Everybody was out waiting for the carnival so there were plenty of claps and cheers for the runners. Heading out of town and around the park there was plenty of people out and about. Next, the run heads back into town before the loop out to the country. To make up the distance here there’s a loop around an industrial area which for some reason I dread every year – even though it’s less than half a mile.
The first water stop at mile 3, I took a bottle to keep with me. Around the corner we go and the first hill. Now during the 10k I have been known to walk this but now as a regular part of my route I know I can make it up here. So I do. Hill 1 complete. A nice downhill into Great Bowden and the locals are again out to support. At mile 4 the half marathon splits off from the 10k and someone wishes me good luck as I take the turn. No going back now.
I take a mini-walk for about 30-seconds, realising I’ve set off way too fast but at the same time it’s too early for me to take a significant walk break. We continue on down a lane where I know there are a few hills but I’m feeling good. The hills I take easy and walk where I feel I want to but for the most part I’m still running. From mile six onwards my pace drops over the 10-minute mile mark – I don’t mind though as I know I’m ahead of myself, the nerves have gone and I feel confident. My mind is elsewhere – my head tells me I need a wee so I’m looking around to try and find the best bush to stop in. I never get to this point as I’m fully aware it’s all in the head but it passes time trying to find a ‘good’ spot.
Out of the lane and into the village, Welham I grab a new bottle of water and slow down to sip my first gel. It went down pretty quickly and I was soon running again. Big hill number 2, I choose a cone to run to and then walk the rest. As we head into Thorpe Langton at around mile 8 another water station crops up. A sip of a electrolyte-mix I take a moment here. The marshals are ahead and I know there’s another hill around the corner. I go with my – spot a cone and run to it strategy – before walking the rest of the way. Miles 8 to 9 feel like a slog and actually end up being my slowest mile (12.13). We wind back towards Great Bowden – drivers going past cheering us through their windows. Another hill, another cone strategy.
Back into known territory the railway bridge is in sight – cone strategy applies. I know the ‘big one’ Burmill Road is on it’s way. I’ve tried and tried to get up this in training SO many times and make it to the salt bin before the burn gets too much. After 11 and a half miles I know I won’t be running it today. I walk and find it ok actually. Not enjoyable but ok. From here I know it’s downhill so I pick up my pace – my watch time showing I’m on for a PB.
0.2 miles to go, through the showground and I’m done. “Wow you’re still running said the marshals” I thanked them and hit the corner. Next thing I know, I’m on the floor. Yes. I’ve tripped. AGAIN. I mutter a word beginning with F and ending in K to myself, the lady in front of me turns round to check I’m ok, a marshal runs over. I get straight back up. I must not stop, the end is close. I think a muster a thank you and a ‘Not running anymore’ *eye roll aimed at myself* to the marshals and I push on.
I take it steady down the steep ramp, I’ve lost all faith in my feet to keep me upright and make the grassed area. This is probably the weirdest part of the race. As it does every year runners do a loop of the showground, however with the stalls and what not going on you can’t actually see the finish line until you have 0.04 of a mile to go. So there goes I’m on the never-ending grass, I hear some cheers from my club (who have all finished by the way and kindly waited for me) and I’m able to stop. Phew, it’s done. I wait for the lady who came in behind me – I wanted to congratulate her on her run and also thank her for checking that I was ok.
My medal is placed around my neck and I take a bottle of water. I meet up with my club who could visibly see from my gritty hands and leggings that something has happened. Check my knee – yay a cut. Not a new cut though – a cut on top of where I’d fell at Hampton Court in March. Only me. I laugh it off – though I was told I didn’t look too happy when they cheered me through – and we went off to collect our race t-shirts.
Ignoring the fall at the end, I surprised myself about how much I enjoyed the half marathon and felt great after. My official time was 02.19.26 – 141 seconds off a PB on a really hilly course, my quickest half-marathon of the year. I am super happy!
The good, the bad and the ugly.
- Black t-shirt, which I prefer to last year’s green (and most of this year’s races have been blue)!
- It was quite cramped for the warm up so in the future it would be great to see this on the grassed area maybe where there is more space.
- There was plenty of water stops throughout – we didn’t go thirsty.
- It would be great to see some further local support next year in village’s such as Thorpe Langton – unfortunately there wasn’t much going on compared to Great Bowden – I felt for the marshals here.
- Bins, bins, bins – great idea to have bins approx. 200 and 400 meters after the water stations.
As I said, I really enjoyed the half-marathon much more so than the previous two year’s 10ks. Maybe it was the change in time, maybe it was the weather I don’t know but it’s certainly a half I’d consider for next year.
My performance I put down to the near-perfect prep (for me). I’d had a very restful week with one 3.3 mile interval session and a circuits class in the early part of the week, the day before I ate foods that I knew wouldn’t upset my stomach, drank electrolyte sports drinks and water and had a good night’s sleep.
No post-race burger this time I opted for a scone with jam and a soy hot chocolate!
Thanks Race Harborough for another great year!