Emily Holden reports: “This course is virtually flat and has on occasion been very windy.” So says the course description for the Shakespeare Raceway Half Marathon on the organiser’s website.
I should have taken this as a warning, but after Marianne’s triumphant sub-1.30 PB in November last year (and when I realised in early February that Droitwich Half Marathon was already full) I decided to give it a shot. When I heard the weather forecast on Friday night (a narrow band of rain clearing mid-morning to leave sunny skies and BLUSTERY WINDS) I wondered whether I had made a good choice.
This was the first time I’d been to a race unaccompanied by friends, family or fellow-runners, so it was a lovely surprise when Barrie and Katie Roberts pulled up beside me in the car park at Long Marston Airfield near Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire. Barrie had made a last minute decision to enter the 10K race, and told me that Terry Doherty and BvH newbie Mark Cooper were also entered for the half marathon.
Sure enough, the rain had cleared and the sun was out by the time we set off at 11am, with Pink Panther and a Telly Tubby (possibly La-La?) amongst the modest crowd of participants. I was aware of some wind initially but as the course led us out alongside the raceway with two branching detours off to the right, I didn’t feel the force of it until I turned fully into the headwind on the oh-so-long straight along the raceway back towards the start-line. At the next mile-marker I realised I’d slowed significantly on that section and that I would need to push hard on the calmer sections to compensate on the remaining laps of the four lap course. It’s a strange thing about wind, that when it’s against you, you feel it, but when it’s behind you, it doesn’t seem to exist. As we set off on the second lap, I tried to imagine the wind pushing me along, and raised my pace a little. But the wind on that returning straight just seemed to get stronger every time!
Once Barrie had completed his two-lap 10K, he joined Katie in shouting their much-needed and appreciated encouragement. On the final lap, I had to resist the feeling that I was moving backwards through the race as my tired mind tried to make sense of the mile markers set out for all four laps: 11 miles, 8 miles, 5 miles, 2 miles… One more loop off to the right, and finally I was heading back towards the finish line, but feeling as though I would never get there as I pushed into the wind, like one of those dreams where you are trying to run but don’t seem to be moving. Having run most of the final lap on my own, I managed to chase down a man in front in the last 500m only to lose him again at the end, but gaining some vital seconds in the chase to make it my second best half marathon time, 1:46:39. The three minutes lost on my previous best could be partly down to recovering from a cold, but I think I’ve decided: I’d take a hill over a headwind in future!
In spite of the wind, Terry stormed home in 1:37:56, Mark in 1:48:44, and Barrie smashed his target for the 10K race in 49:18. Another day to be proud to be a Bournville Harrier!