Anyone ever run a shotgun half marathon? Entered Thursday night at 10:30, one of the last entries by the looks of it. Announcing they’d closed entries Friday morning because it was full! It’s not a target, but I’ve run this one a few times before, it’s hilly and the first few miles remind me of Snowdonia, just not quite as hilly! It’s set in the Derbyshire countryside. Finishes in Pavilion Gardens in the centre of Buxton. It’s a cracking run, requires effort and is definitely hilly.
I’ve neglected hills in training lately, I know its tough to avoid them in Barnsley, but I’ve tried my best to keep them to a minimum. Mainly due to achilles pain and tightness, so in an effort to avoid that and make it better, I’ve avoided hills, long drags anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how many body can cope on a long uphill drag at ‘race pace.’
The last time I turned out here was 2017, it was a choice in 2018; between Edinburgh and Buxton Half, choosing Edinburgh. Buxton Half Marathon, I have run twice before. Never managing to break to 80 minute barrier for the half marathon. It is a true challenge! I clocked 1:20:49 in 2017, in a year where I ran 12 Half Marathons, it was my second slowest time of the year. Then I ran, 1:26:08 in 2016, again in a year where I ran 16 Half Marathons, it was my second slowest of the year! So it’s a fast course then, yea? Promising itself with 1550ft of climb, obviously with that comes 1550ft of descent. The first 3 mile is all up hill, climbing straight from the gun. Then until mile 7, you are flowing down and sometimes up, over cattle grids, navigating on the country lanes. Eventually making the worst bit of the climb around mile 7 for a 1.5 mile, to fly back down again into Buxton. In the area of Buxton, there is plenty of hilly half marathons to choose from, this time of year. I’ve tried over the last few years to have a crack at them all. Ashbourne, Leek, Eyam and Buxton. Buxton does measure up at the slowest out of the 4. Ashbourne or Leek can be the fastest on their own days. Seen as Bryan loves a good hill climb, I’ve invited him to try them all as well; making it, a bit of a thing.
Anyway, with Buxton being around an hour or so away. The race starts at 10, I planned to set off around 7.30. Giving me plenty of time for a steady drive through. The weather, is crap, windy and rainy. Nothing like the last few days, it’s measuring up as really humid and sticky as well, not the best running air! I woke, stumbled and fell around the house, managing to leave a little later than anticipated. 7.45, not too bad! For me, anyway. Straight up towards Penistone, over Woodhead and down through Glossop. A nice drive in the car as well for a Sunday morning! Just a shame half of the roads were full of standing water. Got there, parked in the Town Hall Car Park, empty and dead, no one awake yet. I’m getting good at this timing lark! Rainy walk to collect my number. Interesting FitBit type product as the pre race tracker, this is a first! Strapped myself up, stuck my number on my vest and went for a warm up, using the first 1 mile of the race, as my warm up, out and back. A smaller taste of what is to come. Bumping into Bryan and Nasher towards the end of my warm up. It’ll be interesting to see how them two get on today as well.
Then jogged back to the start area, to get somewhere onto the line. Spotting Phil Skelton inside the Pavillion, class runner, another one who loves a good hill. In 2017, I finished 3rd at all the Hilly Derbyshire Half Marathons, Phil pipped me and grabbed 2nd or even 1st at them. Clocking fairly consistent times on them all. I myself was anticipating running 76/77 minutes today, given recent performances and comparing them to 2017. Anywhere around that, would be a good challenge for me. Dependant on conditions when we get out of Buxton and we are at the peak of the climb, it is very exposed to the elements and a massive contributing factor will be the headwinds.
The organiser came on the microphone, giving us the usual pre race briefing. Then he announced, GO! Straight into the climb, up and up. I kicked from the off, glancing to see if Phil was going to come with me. The plan was always to get to the top of the climb, with enough energy, see where I am and use that to let the wheels off and go. Hills weren’t going to be my strength, not today. Head was down, taking to climb steadily. As usual, I set off quick, so the first mile is an anomaly today. 5:56 for the first mile, not bad. I began to settle into the climb as we leave Buxton, glancing ahead, not being able to see far.
Misty, foggy, rain clouds, seeing it drifting out in front of me. Then a ‘Muddy Mucky Munkeys AC’ vest came past me, a runner called Alex Tate, later found out he is from the flat country, Cambridge. He flew up the climb, reaching the top a good 20 seconds in front of me, a glance backwards at the top, no one behind. Not good, lonely. 17:06 up the climb, for the first 5k. 6 seconds slower than in previous years here. Plenty of work to do now. The majority of climbing distance was over, my plan of having remaining energy, seemed to work. We hit the downhill and I started to close the distance on the runner in front. As we ran over Cattlegrid after Cattlegrid. Mats over them, to stop us dropping down them, of course. Still made it a slippery crossing. I managed to catch Alex, passing him and he said cracking down hill running. I glanced at him, and said even better climbing! He’d smashed the first climb. I’d let the wheels do the work and just let my body take me. Must be the new found fell runner in me? As if!
The next major climb was coming around 7.5-9, it was a case of: Run, Run and Run, until then. Looking around me, taking in everything. The surrounding countryside, the herds of cows and sheep we were trespassing on their land. Looking ahead, seeing whatever I could see. With there actually being more to see now we was a little bit lower down. Mile 6-7 came my quickest mile of the race, 4:52. 8 seconds quicker than I clocked on the track, and I’m running a half marathon here. I knew it takes me 5/6 mile to warm up. Definitely not the fact that it is down hill….. the next climb began, just as the road turned from countryside lane, to rough gravel. Comparative to the ‘resurfacing’ done at the Worsbrough 5. Loose, awful running terrain. Taking the climb, one step at a time. Looking to get to the top of this one, in the same shape. Plenty of energy left and something left in the tank. The constant headwind battering me, blowing my vest, which was stuck to my body from the rain. A 7 minute mile got me up the climb. Then again the wheels took over and guided me back to destination, Buxton. Recognising small landmarks and points from memory, from the previous two attempts here. The changing landmarks, ever developing. Knowing that mile 11 couldn’t come quick enough, I was wet and the humidity wasn’t making the run pleasant. Mile 11, would mean we were in Buxton. Twisting and turning around the streets, making our way back to Pavilion Gardens. All downhill, ish, from here. Some small climbs, just to remind you on the way. One look at the watch and some quick calculations reinforced the fact that I was on for 1:17. Exactly where I wanted to be, the conditions played their part, sliding me someway back down the hill from the 1:16. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time a 1:17 Half Marathon would be a massive personal best. I ran 1:17:08 on the ever so flat North Lincolnshire Half in 2017, I ran 1:17:37 as I struggled around Retford with illness in 2018. Before I knew it we was reentering Buxton, back on some poorly resurfaced road and winding our way through the streets, through the built up residential areas. Navigating and negotiating with cars and traffic. Pulled out on and nearly hit by a learner car, with only the instructor in it. Back on the Broadwalk, at the side of the gardens. Spotting Jane with the camera, arriving to a massive shout out from her.
Reaching the end of the Broadwalk and anticipating the usual finish, only to be met with a sharp left turn. Missing it and having to double back on myself, slipping slightly as I entered the park. Jane had may her way to the finish, snapping me again.
Twisting, turning and slipping. Soaked to the bone and making my way to the finish, I managed to cross the line in:
I wasn’t cold, I was wet, that hit me straight away. I spoke to people around me, chatted with Alex as he crossed the line. Then made my way back to the car, getting some dry clothes on and going for a cool down. Before getting more dry clothes on and having a hot chocolate whilst I waited for the prize presentation with Bryan, Lee, Jane and Laura.
A course PB by over 3 minutes, two years and 12,000 miles (roughly) and it gets you 3 minutes. Do the maths yourself, but I think it is worth it. Not a bad day at the office, the race makes you think that you need to work on your climbing. It is probably right, I probably do. It won’t be right for everyone though, the climbs are brutal. I lost a lot of unnecessary pace on the climbs today though, thankfully I made up for it on the downhills. It may not help that I have raced way too much this month, May has turned out to be pretty MEGA! When really it wasn’t supposed to be, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But like I said in my Worsbrough 5 write up, it sometimes is all about racing heavy. Racing hard, clocking some race pace miles even though you don’t think you can. Having the energy left and motivation to run even when your absolutely knackered.
Lee Nash managed 9th place and clocked himself a 1:25:46; Bryan Harrod also managed a course PB in 41st place, clocking himself 1:36:07. Ask them how the race was, if you get chance!
Just Keep Running…
A proud moment as well for me today, Shaun Charnley. A Barnsley Parkrun regular completed his first marathon today. He has clocked 3:59:08. His training for the marathon has included few long runs, but some of his runs has involved him getting out of his works lorry and literally jogging on the spot at the side of the road. He started off life as one of the Fit Reds at work, Barnsley FC. He came to us in a completely different shape and attitude to what he has now, astonishing and proud of him! He was nervous as hell when I spoke to him last week, but he’s only gone and smashed it anyway.