Although I’ve not been able to make it on Monday evening’s recently, I’ve still been busy running, including Parkrun & 10k PB’s, The Birmingham Half and to complete my personal challenge of two half marathon’s consecutive weekends, I raced in Leicester on Sunday 26th October.
This was my third time in Leicester, having lived there when I took up running in 2011. Having completed the Half in 2012, I went on to race my first (and so far only) Full marathon in 2013 on the Leicester and surrounding village roads.
This year saw me return to the Half marathon route with a crowd of around 2500 other runners. After last year’s chip debacle (many fell off during the first few miles!) there was a lot for the organisers to prove and for the first time, race packs had been sent out in advance, making it easier for those of us no longer dwelling in the city. However, this years bag drop system, requiring labels to be written and attached at the tent, meant long queues here as well as the usual toilet queue! Thank god us blokes can easily use urinals… or trees!
The starting “pens” consisted of ‘under 1hr 30min’ and ‘over 1hr 30min’ so there were a lot of abilities bunched up together. Not an issue for me as I was looking forward to enjoying the race rather than aiming for anything special but I could see this frustrating some people. The full marathon runners also start within the masses.
The off was punctual and uneventful and the first downhill into the City centre was without incident. There are never hoardes lining the street for this race and until the city centre, there was little support for runners. Maybe it’s still too early on a Sunday for Leicester folk?
The first hill, formerly a flyover has been demolished so the course had a long flat run out of the City along Leicester’s “Golden Mile”. More support and plenty of Diwali decorations at this time of year but only half the road is closed so traffic is ever present at the side of runners.
I made good time out of the City to Thurmaston where the route takes runners away from the main road. Again, increasing support from villagers added a boost and there was friendly banter amongst club runners enjoying the increasing temperature and clement conditions (too hot for me alas!)
After leaving Thurmaston, the route followed a rather busy dual carriage way with large goods vehicles ploughing along next to the running field! You can see why headphones are completely banned! Thankfully, after a mile the route switches to country park… or village lanes for those breaking off the main group for the gruelling 13.1 extra miles of the Full distance – I was quite emotional watching others head round the longer route as I had last year but I curved left and headed back towards the City at this 6 mile point.
Water stations are regular but water served in cups means I tend to spill more than drink. I did send feedback about this last year as I had to slow significantly during my marathon to managed to take on enough fluid at these water stations! They also serve an oversweet energy drink in cups which I accidentally grabbed and couldn’t stomach! I grabbed my gel instead and carried on.
Winding through Watermead Country Park is a pleasure and the Crowds of Birstall after the nature park add a decent cheer as you face the first major hill. My friend Emma was Marshalling and her encouragement here also helped brace me for the climb out of the village. Once at the top, it’s not long before you’re running scenically by the canal and past the Space Centre towards Abbey Park.
Another emotional moment as I passed the spot I hit my ‘wall’ during the marathon but no time to stop and reflect as my running partner shepherded me on towards the final water station, out of the park, through the underpass and into the City once again.
The crowds have built by the time you travel back through the City (though they do tend to disperse before many of the full distance runners pass through!) and a rowdy band played as we ran into the heart of Leicester. Past the Clocktower, Market and the final mile was upon us! Cruelly, this is mostly uphill but again, the crowds are there and shout at you should you try to stop! I had trained this incline repeatedly last year so felt a real boost as I passed many other runners on the way up!
And then, the final straight… the final push and across the line!
Great commemorative medal and a decent and very bright technical tshirt awaited the finishers and I enjoyed cheering other friends through the to their finish afterwards.
1:42:04 (Chip) was not my best time (my PB was set in Leicester on my very first Half marathon!) but I was in this for the enjoyment. It sometimes feels a little lonely and amateur in Leicester’s race but there is great support between runners and I suspect I’ll be back again for a fourth year in 2015.