With the past week being seeing the worst of the snow I’ve ever seen, I’d been stuck constantly to Facebook to see if we were on or off. Honestly, I was convinced it would be off and even if the race was on was sure that the roads would be too dangerous to risk the drive. 3pm Saturday after a text to the running club ladies we were on.
5.45am – on a Sunday – I was up and preparing (sort of) for the day. We were on our way by 6.30 passing by the snow drifts along the country roads. We made it to Milton Park and Ride by 7.45ish and queued for the toilets thinking that it might be a nicer experience than the portaloos. Oh how we were wrong! Very easy picking up the Park and Ride which dropped us off just across the road from the race within about 15 minutes. After a quick chat with other members of running club we headed to join the queue for a another toilet stop then bag drop, another really easy process. Find your number pen hand your bag in – done. I really appreciated the tables in the bag drop area. The race village was on a soggy field so somewhere to keep your bag off the group was great. We joined in the warm up/what we could hear/see of it and make sure the run wasn’t such a shock to the system. Said our ‘good lucks’ and to the start pens we went. I was in the orange zone which I believe was for 2.15+ runners.
Being in the final pen took it’s toll at this point – the warm up meant my body cooled down and by the time we were through the start line – 14/15 minutes after the first wave went off) I wasn’t feeling ready. Off we went just in front of the 2.15 pacer. The first few miles were lovely, taking in the beautiful sights of Cambridge architecture. The bizarre scene of a man with a dinosaur puppet trying out some ventriloquism…. I felt good until about the four mile point, I had a very slight stitch, needed the bathroom and just generally felt uncomfortable. Plodding on, mile 5 came and with no queue for the toilets I dashed off, taking some water and a gel on the way out and ungrateful (my own fault) seeing the 2.15 pacers sail past.
Continuing on I deiced I needed a plan so took to my marathon manta, 10 minute slots – 9 minutes run, 1 minute walk – and from mile six onward stuck to this as much as possible. I enjoyed this part, being out in the countryside. Taking each mile as it came I slowed down a fair amount but told myself I had to keep going. The route was good in that you didn’t go back on yourself until you were back in the city. With all of the support here you didn’t feel like you were in the same place. Heading back towards the start and struggling along I was pleased to see that there was one corner left.
Finishing felt like a dream and though I sprint finished the last 0.2 miles I was just happy to stop. 2.23.29, not great. The walk to medals etc wasn’t too far but further away from the start line than I anticipated. Where the ground had been walked on by so many runners before me it was essentially a mud-slide – I even took to holding on to the barrier for support! Bag pick up was nice and easy, and before I knew it I’d met with the others and we were on the bus back to the Park and Ride – a longer journey with the road closures but simple enough.
Pros – water AND foil blankets at the beginning. For weather like it has been and though I didn’t use one this was well needed for runners. My favourite gels were on offer at EVERY feed station – water and Hi-Five gels! The goody bag was amazing – quavers, water, chocolate milkshake, protein balls, foil blanket, cereal bars, alcohol-free beer (say what?). I’m a fan of the medal to – I enjoy it when a medal identifies with a city! The support was fantastic – for a cold, wintery day the marshals were amazing at keeping you going and the crowds, in and out of the city were the best. There was also some music en route, drummers, bands, bagpipes, which really synced into the atmosphere. Having our names automatically on our bibs was another great addition.
The communication via Facebook was absolutely fine in the lead up to the event but I think an email to reassure participants would have been useful bearing in mind that not everybody is on Facebook.
It was an expensive race. For initial entry and postage of our race numbers (yes this was an additional cost) the grand total of £38 excluding the park and ride, which by the time I’d booked it was an additional £5. There was no real choice apart from paying for postage of the race number if you weren’t a local resident or staying over in Cambridge, given the expo was held on the Friday and Saturday. As well as that for the race fee a t-shirt would have been nice, given that I’ve taken part in much cheaper (and ones of the same price) races that offer medals and t-shirts. From a personal perspective, I’m not keen on running alongside traffic and for much of the course this was the case. Even with road closures some cars seemed to be going way to fast alongside the race – I’m not sure if a speed restriction was in place but for the future it should be much lower. Finally, I found the charity support or lack of really disappointing, the official charity partner didn’t have any on route cheer squad/support which I thought was such a shame for those raising money for them. In fact another charity had two cheer squad points along the course (which we saw four times in total).
Performance wise, I really wish I’d stuck with a pacer from the outset instead of my logic of ‘I’ll go ahead and when I slow down I will stay with them’. All in all today wasn’t my day, disappointing after such a great 10K last week. I wouldn’t say no to doing it again but it just shows the importance of pre-race-prep for me.
Next up: Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon (March 18th) …