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Race Report: Birmingham Half Marathon and Helvellyn Trail Race

The tentacles have continued pounding the pavement/trail for quite some time so I thought i’d put up a couple of reviews of two very different races I’ve entered recently, the Morrisons Birmingham Half Marathon and the Lakeland trails Helveyllyn 15km race.

First up, Victoria and myself eagerly got the train from Manchester to Brum and had a relaxed night with the folks, a hearty pre-race dinner, a couple of Erdinger Alcohol-Freis and then off to the city first thing in the morning.  The Square Peg Wetherspoons didn’t know what had hit it as the race masses decended for somewhere to stay warm and to get a bit of caffeine.  Even the resident chavs getting an early Carling looked somewhat surprised that their early morning waterhole was chock full of people “wiv numberz stuk on em”.

It was soon time to be shepherded to the start zones.  I’d somehow persuaded my sister to do this one so we both went off to our separate zones to limber up for the run ahead.  Whilst i’m reasonably familiar with BHam I was mainly focused on keeping my pace up so kind of lost track of where I was. A really great atmosphere and I definitely enjoyed the jazz bands, the thumping raves, the people who’d set up their speakers out side their house and the great cheering support all the way round the route.  I even managed to muster up a sprint for the last 200m along Broad Street to try and make it look easy (it wasn’t) but came across the line in 1:36:26 which was just over 5 minutes faster than my last half marathon so I was very pleased.  Followed by Guiness, Sunday Lunch, Lager and Pizza (in that order) and it made for a great day.

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Post Race Bling

Whilst the big city races are fun, I can’t help preferring smaller events with fantastic views, fresh air, and chunky trainers with grips on them.  A wet Saturday in Glenridding and I’m limbering up (hanging around) for the 15km Helveylln trail race.  I’d put in quite a bit of training for the Birmingham half marathon, so my plan was to take this one easier with a gentle jog round the Lakes and a handful of golden ales snuck in afterwards.  Based on the continuous rain throughout the morning and squelching up to the start line, I began to realise this was going to be tough.  The first 3-4km seemed to be a continuous “up”, which exactly matched my heart rate, and for the first time ever I walked in a race.  It was a particularly steep section, and most people round me were walking too (excuse alert) but I don’t think I’d have been any faster had I carried on running.

The rest of the race was pretty much a mudbath, ankle deep running through overflowing streams across the paths, muddy bogs, slippy rocks and patches of heavy rain.  People were dropping like flies with any slight slip potentially leading to a tumble to the ground.  I did manage to stay upright but probably looked like a drunken giraffe on ice several occasions.  Any thoughts of taking in the misty views were forgotten as I discovered a major part of trail running is the continuous concentration on foot placement whilst maintaining some kind of pace.  It almost gave me brain ache.  I came in with some kind of squelching sprint finish over the line in 1:15:42 (82nd out of 256).  I learnt a lot about my own ability here and how punishing ascents can be, along with the mental concentration needed to keep things moving.

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In an astonishing twist, Victoria actually got me in a photo (previous attempts include my foot only)

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The trail map

Should be back to some nasty synth noises or camera mangling soon! 🙂

Adidas Thunder Run

All it took was a quick email to “Men’s Running” magazine saying how I needed a night off the beer, and somehow I was in their team for the Adidas Thunder Run and had won a load of free running gear from Adidas! Needless to say I am now a walking advert for them – you’d see less stripes on a tiger!  For the uninitiated, the Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail running event where you compete either solo(!), pairs, or other combinations to run continuous 10km laps around Catton Park in Derbyshire.  Our team consisted four men and four women, three of each competition winners and two experienced ultra runners (Gary and Anne-Marie) to make it seem like it was a run round the park.  Which in effect, it was.

I rolled up early on Saturday morning to a bustling campsite and managed to find our team with a well established campsite, a kettle on the go and a selection of muffins and flapjacks baked by some of the ladies.  Gender stereotype alert, but as you would probably expect, the men’s baking contribution was ….. er…. nothing.  Although I did bring some teabags.

Here’s the team:

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Laura, Dan (me), Paul, Anne-Marie, Gary, Jade, Steve, Alexy.

Noon soon rolls along and Paul had jumped forward to do the first lap which he completed in a mud-busting 38:50 which was a fantastic time for the course.  The lap was followed by some frantic shouting for Jade who had a remarkable skill of not being found during changeover 🙂  I was next up and set off in the warm sunshine.  Gently jogging along the first field, it was all looking very comfortable but a sudden sharp right straight up a steep woodland path left any thoughts of this being an easy run right there at the bottom.  I’m a relatively new runner so this was actually one of the tougher routes I’ve done with lots of twists and turns, mud, narrow woodland paths and short sharp hills.  Defying the laws of physics I am convinced there was far more “up” than there was “down”.  I came in under 50 mins which I was pleased with considering the terrain.  I passed on to Laura, followed by Gary, Anne-Marrie, Steve then Alexy.  And so it went on.

Purely for reasons of me having a camera, I soon became the official team photographer.  We soon got into a routine with Paul being chief ‘spotter’ which meant standing a bit further up from the finish line then frantically waving when one of our team came in. This was a cue for me to stop thinking about bacon sandwiches and sleeping and to quickly get my camera ready to get a picture of the incoming runner.

My second lap kicked off around 9:30pm, so it was time for the head torches as by the time I finished the woods were pretty black.  This was my favourite lap and best time too (49:03), it just all came together and I got a nice comfortable rhythm going.  Shower, food and time for a quick sleep as I was up again at 4am in preparation for my final lap which started around 5:30am, but I still somehow managed a smile:

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The weather was kind to us apart from the final couple of laps for Alexy and Paul when it was completely tipping it down.  We finished up doing 25 laps (3 each and 4 for Paul), and it seemed everyone had a great time, each of us with our own level of experience and personal goals for running, from the ultra runners to …..er …… me.

Here’s us with our medals!

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Thanks to Men’s Running mag and Adidas for the opportunity to do this along with the free gear, it’s all great stuff. Thanks of course to all my team mates (and Stephen, our support crew) who were all a pleasure to do this with and made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round!

Check out my running page HERE on this blog for my running history.

The girls were busy posing for a photo, but it was front camera on all the time, sorry ladies:

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The plan:

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The Results:

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