Burn Valley Half Marathon

Never been here before. Been here; but not this race anyway. Nice place Masham. Mark Havenhand reminded me on Wednesday at Spencer’s Dash, home of Black Sheep Brewery. So guarantees a bottle of something for my Dad. 

One thing I love about racing; is that I can just find one and go somewhere new. Isn’t it ace, there is a challenge out there every weekend if you want it. 

I’ve had another steady week and ready now to start picking up the mileage again, ankle grief has subsided as the week as gone on but we’ll not count it as gone just yet. Still felt it at Spencer’s on Wednesday night and felt it particularly on the downhill coming under the motorway bridge. The up hills were fine! Ran my second quickest Spencer’s ever as well I believe. 

Anyway straight onto the Half Marathon. With the club taking part in an athletics meet this weekend, I was tempted to go along and take part in that instead. But knowing that I’ll be running relentlessly on a track at quality speed didn’t sound too right just yet. Opting for a longer run at a ‘slower’ pace with rolling hills sounds much more like my cup of tea. They haven’t run Burn Valley Half Marathon in 4 years. Starts and finishes in a beautiful little town square.

Parking in a field, doesn’t cost much too enter. Challenging, rolling hills, offering over a 1000ft of elevation. My type of race this.

A bit like Bryan’s plan last week, the idea here is to scout it out and see what the race actually has to offer; set a benchmark, come back and hopefully beat it next year. Racing. Maybe. But we’ll see. I managed to get some good nights sleep, by that I went to bed early enough to sleep but couldn’t drop off. I’m into Ford, Car, Le Mans and General Racing documentaries at the minute. But opted instead to watch How I Met Your Mother Last Night. So I’m blaming that for my lack of sleep; didn’t wind down properly. Having plenty of broken sleep, I woke up around 7.15. The race starts at 10 and is a good one hour drive to Masham. Boring motorway all the way. Better be worth it! Leeds 10k this weekend as well, so plenty of runners driving that way. Can always tell a runner driving because most wear some sort of fluorescent top; gifted from another race. Paired with a pair of racing sunglasses, and the obvious chunky watch on their wrist! I managed anyway to set off at 8. For a steady drive up norther, than we are already. Arriving around 9 ish. Racing shoes on. Off I headed to get my number, speaking to Simon Lambert on the way. The chap who managed to pip me at Ackworth Half Marathon earlier in the year and I pipped him then at Leeds Half Marathon. So quite a yo-yo battle going on. I knew straight away the game was going to played out that way. Got my number and timing chip, 280. Not many runners here today, the highest number I saw was 300. 

Went out and around for a bit of a warm up. Hoping to find some of the course. Kind of did, saw the 13 mile sign. That was about it. Back to the car, full gear on. Quick sherbet lemon and off to the start I go. Ian Fisher the course record holder is in attendance; make it sound fast. 1:11 he got for the record. Unbelievable on this course, put into perspective once I finish. I also bumped in Mark Riordan a fellow Penistone athlete. Quite a surprise because I never see anyone along at these events when I drive quite a way away! He had spent a few days nearby and entered the race. 

The start was down a small entrance about 5 runners wide for the start line and 60 deep. In something just about as big as a classroom. Tiny. A quick brief and a ring of a bell from the town crier and we were off and underway. Ian Fisher set off quick, I managed to sit in 2nd place and set off just as quick but not quick enough to lead. We left the market square; destination Swinton Castle grounds. From here this is where the climbing, mainly of ups followed by downs started until mile 6.5. My focus was just to get to 6.5 in good enough shape to push on in the second half. As soon as the climbing started my pace started to drop and drop, and the struggle begun. I just couldn’t hack it today. My leg strength zapped and just gone. I’m usually strong on the hills. That’s my game. What is happening, I had to switch focus and smash the little downhill we had in the first half. Just to keep me moving. I was left frustrated and angry with myself. In a road race, we managed to find a river to cross though; on a positive note that is. But we hadn’t hit any of the major hills until really mile 4. And I was feeling crap already. Now finding myself in 4th position very early on. Then the first major climb came. A short but spiked climb. A true lactic burner. Here I found myself battling for 5th with Simon Lambert, him dragging me up by saying ‘come on,’ I knew there was one more of these left. Drink station down and that was the last I saw of Simon, managing to pull away from him before we made it to the next climb. It came around quick and was long, with a few deceptive false peaks. Just on and on. Before I then saw the farm and long track leading down. Flew down there. Passed the farm house and the path got narrower and a small turn brought you onto a rocky loose trail! Blissful. Stride opened out and bounded down the rocks. Enjoying every single step. Bit of grass, few nettles and sheep in the field. Small right turn, onto some grass, over a footbridge and through a Barnsley Boundary’esque footpath. Covered in nettles! Back out onto the main road. 

Past half way. 

Now it’s all down, with some up. Time to fly, wind behind my back too. Still in 4th place and watch predicted a 1:35 finish due to all the climb in the first half. We’ll see about that. Took me a while to actually get going; for my body to recognise it’s downhill time now. Plodding for the first couple of mile of downhill before truly kicking into gear. Mile 7,8,9 down. 4 to go. Little bit of a road share between mile 9-10, seeing all the runners on the way out on their journey again. But this quiet and personal Half Marathon, offers minor roads and single track roads. Splitting again and mile 10 marker down, a chap stood there. 1:43 behind the leader. I’m thinking wow. That’s close. Before I know it, I see Ian Fisher walking and bent at the side of the road. Now finding myself in 3rd place. The sight of 2nd in front as well. Not long to go and about a minute to gain if I am to finish second place. My fastest mile of the race was to come a measley 5:34. Swinton castle wall and grounds in sight and the last mile was underway. Past Swinton Park Golf Club once again with a massive sign advertising it as the home of Andy Marshall, PGA tour competitor. Into Masham Village and now I could see my previously scouted out 13 mile marker. Nearly home. Into the market square for a comfortable 3rd place finish. Not quite enough to catch 2nd place but I did manage to gain 30 seconds on him, I believe. 

3rd Place


Mile Splits
Elevation Profile

I hung around afterwards and managed to scoop a prize for 3rd place. Would be a great event that for a team competition to try and get the team prize as well next year. Lovely place to hang around as well afterwards! 

Results Link: http://my6.raceresult.com/78336/results?lang=en#1_94D641

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1074916670/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1499602783

In hindsight on the way home from the event. Thinking back on my time and performance, I don’t wanna sound arrogant or bigheaded here, I hate that. But given the conditions on the day, I could try and make every excuse under the sun; say it was too warm, I couldn’t breathe etc. But I’ve come away from that feeling, that I’m better than that, from what I performed like today. I’ve a lot more to give in that performance. My hill climbing was shockingly awful; something that is my usual strength. I couldn’t get my body up and around them quick enough, and didn’t have the drive to pain myself to do better. Until it was too late. Realistically on that course I could’ve easily taken 3/4 minutes off of my time; given previous course and times that I’ve achieved. Yes; the hills were relentless but I’ve run harder than that. 

I’m going to take that forward hopefully and place it in my memory bank, so I know when the going gets tough. That I can be better than that. Hill repetitions have now got to be introduced back into my routine regularly. 

Ps. Sorry for the post blog rant. 

Just Keep Running!

One comment

  1. Nice one mate. Learning about yourself/ourselves all the time. Running is brilliant. Good write up. Masham and the surrounding areas – one of my favourite places.


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