A pessimist is never disappointed.
I didn’t really want to do the Clowne Half Marathon, in fact I was desperate for an excuse. I’d double checked that my Brother was taking part, secretly planning to bail if he was giving it a miss. He was definitely up for it. I refreshed the Clowne Runners website until it was time to set off, but no sign of cancellation. It was raining sideways and the pot plants in the back yard were thrashing back and forth like there was a hurricane.
Re: Brother. He took up running a few years after me, and has beaten my time on every course we’ve shared. He’s yet to attempt anything longer than 13.1 miles, but so far so good. He’s a natural.
I reached the venue, and had to jog over to the start from the parking area – some half mile worth of narrow pathway. Bit odd, but easy enough. This at least meant I’d had a brief warm up, and since I was wrapped up from head to toe in layers and waterproofs, I was cosy for the time being.
There was no sign of my Brother, but Debs and Stuart were soon with me, taking charge of my bag and offering advice like “you’ll cook in that”. After removing a shirt, I took my position in the sub-90min section, in an attempt to reach the start line soon after the race began. These unchipped races cost you time if you hang back, since everyone filters across the line as soon as they can, even if it’s been a minute ’til you get moving – it ends up added to your finish time. I once missed out on third prize for deliberately hanging back (I thought it’d be nice to be over-taking people every step of the way. The trophy and cash looked way nicer as it turns out).
Anyway, my Brother strolls up as things are about to get moving, and I call him over. We dance about, trying to stay warm and waiting for the off. It’s nice to set off together, even if we’re bound to separate soon after.
The race begins.
The Clowne Half Marathon is a first for me in several ways. There’s the fact I’ve never done it before, but it’s a hilly course, which will be a change from the relatively level route they manage through Sheffield. There’s the time of year to consider, it’s finally cold during a road race – something I’ve always wished for, and now that it’s here, I’d rather have stayed at home for. Go figure. Lastly, and most importantly – it’s the first time in ages that I’ve been running well and free from injury ahead of such an event.
I’m in an Odlo baselayer, with an Inov-8 Wrag around my head and some thin running gloves to keep my pinkies warm. This is goign to be the longest outing for my new shoes too, the Mizuno Elixir – in a ladies 5.5 (due to my little feet). As soon as we head out I reach an ideal temperature, and I deliberately run faster than I’d like, but not out of breath. The cold air is a lot better than the heatwave conditions from May’s Sheffield Half Marathon, and I have no need to carry a drink this time around – in fact I don’t even make use of a single drink station.
At the 2 mile marker I’m getting used to the workload. After a year of Fell races and Off-road Ultras, the hilly course seems less intense than it might have been. I catch myself enjoying it! I’m steady away, my Brother still beside me. We take turns passing each other, but not breaking away. I notice others who keep passing me on the flats, only for me to pass them when we reach a hill. Back and forth we all exchange places for a couple of miles.
Into the mid section, passing 5 miles, a marshall yells out the time so far – something like 32mins. It hits me, this might be my fastest ever 10K, if I can cover another mile in less than 10 minutes. Something is happening. My brother is still behind me. Over the next few miles I pass the 6mile/10K mark without even remembering to check my time (oops), and my Brother makes a brief attempt to fly ahead, but settles – then slows again, and I pass him again toward what must be 7 miles or so.
I’m going crazy, I’m still feeling strong – alternating between steady running and the occasional burst where manageable. Downhills as fast as I can without slapping the floor like a clapping Sea-lion – careful to preserve my quads. Rotating my upper body as I maintain good form for as long as I can. Hills seem like a blessing rather than a curse, since I’ve gained strength this year, and always feel as if I’m gaining uphill despite the wind. My cadence is helping in the headwind, as I take short steps more frequently and don’t hang in mid air for the wind to push me back. I’m still searching my peripherals for my Brother’s orange shoes, but reassuringly they’re nowhere to be seen.
At this point say, around 10 miles-ish, there’s the obligatory marshall/onlooker yelling ‘last hill’. I’d just like to go on record: Funniest thing EVER! Glad you could make it.
I reach the 12mile marker, and I’m over doing it a little. I deliberately step aside for one fella who sounds close behind me, as I want a breather – don’t want any sudden wobblers like on the RRR, or the early uphill during BRW’s 12.12. I’m clawing to the top of what must be the final hill (if the gradient map is anything to go by), when I recognise Simon Gregory of Clowne Road Runners at the roadside, and he says hello. Hello back young sir!
I passed that 12mile sign quite a while ago. The gradient map had a 13 at the top of this hill. Does that mean 13 is just ahead? Is this the final push? Did the gradient map have a missing 12? Stop worrying, it looks like I’m heading for point one of a mile, all downhill. Woo hoo.
The course takes a left and I pass the 13mile sign. The steep downhill on the gradient map – as usual – once stretched out seems unnoticeable, but hey. There’s a suspiciously uphill looking bit ahead (the map’s all lies!!) How far IS point one of a mile anyway??
There’s an 800m sign, NICE.
Last bend, and I’m guided towards a bunch of cones for runners to stay left of as we do a final road section back to the start/finish. Debs and Stu greet me as I pass them, they’re taking pictures and cheering. I try and smile – pleased to hear their encouragement for a change after a year of Stu yelling things like “well run then!” on various Gritstone Fell runs. I’m almost home, no Brother in sight.
I cross the line as the announcer calls my name on the sound system. “Chris……er…Ho”. I feel like shouting – “it’s Hough” (pronounced how), but it’s the same now as it’s always been – people get my name wrong. My first year French teacher Mrs. Cope pronounced it “Whore” (I mean really), and Mrs. Williams (also a French teacher) saw that my book read C. Hough, and decided it was funny to call me “Chuff”. I dropped French soon after.
Finish line reached, I move directly to drinks and await my Brother. I have to remember not to gloat. Don’t gloat…….
FINALLY my Brother crosses the line, and I check my watch. He’s done around 1hr 31mins and I realise yet again that I didn’t even check my own time. Durrr. It feels as if I might have gained a new PB for a Half Marathon. I just have no way of finding out for the next few days.
I’ve checked since of course, and the news is I managed a satisfying 1hr 30min and 22 seconds. 2 seconds off my best ever, but that slow start kept me from crossing the start line for however long, and we were bucking headwinds for the entire thing. I like to think therefore, that I just had the run of my life, beating my Brother for the first time ever, and showing signs of improvement yet again after quite a year of road, fell and ultra running with a personal best at the High Peak 40 to feel good about. The work has paid off, as well as the transition between shoes/technique.
I’ll still be getting things wrong as often as I get em right – that’s just me (this morning I cycled to work in a microweight baselayer during minus 5 windchill, after oiling the chain with vegetable oil since the WD40 wouldn’t come out the can?)
For now I’m faced with nothing but training for the next few weeks/months. I ought to look at another event. Will it be longer than ever (60miler), or another chance to beat my 90min Half Marathon barrier? Dunno.