Why the Great Bentley Half Marathon? My running club (the Ealing Eagles) decided to make it part of our Club Championships and hence a lot of members of our running club decided to travel down to deepest darkest Essex! It took us approximately two hours to get there from West London!
Was it worth it? I have been battling a nasty hip injury of recent weeks and was in two minds whether I wanted to run the race at all. It wasn’t a good sign when my hip starting hurting ALOT when I jogged the five minutes from my house to the meeting point. The thought crossed my mind that I should literally at that point turn back and jog/walk 5 minutes back to my house. Of course I didn’t and duly got on the coach.
The meeting point for the race was in the Great Bentley Village Hall and it was nice to have somewhere to huddle before the race as it was very chilly at this point. I thought that the organisers did a superb job of ensuring that the race wasn’t too full as it didn’t feel overcrowded in the hall and importantly there were enough toilets!
Now for the exciting bit, the race itself! We all gathered at the start (there were no pace bays for different finish times) and were warned that if we wore MP3 players we could be disqualified and then we were off!
The race is set in a very picturesque corner of England. I started off running with a group of runners from my club who were aiming to run sub 1:45 (my PB is 1:45) so I felt it was achievable if my hip co-operated with me. However, I made a serious schoolgirl error and because of some recent shin pain I had been experiencing had decided to wear two pairs of calf compression socks just to make sure I wouldn’t have to deal with shin pain…. big mistake! As soon as I started running my calves felt like they were being strangled and started cramping. After 1.5 miles I couldn’t take anymore and on the advice of a member of my running club stopped at the side of the road and took off one pair of the calf compression socks.
My calves felt sooooo much better after that but valuable minutes had passed by this point and I could no longer catch up with my original pace group. Consequently, I felt a bit discouraged for the next few miles and seriously considered dropping out. The scenery whilst beautiful was slightly monotonous to a city girl like me, I also usually run with my MP3 player if I am running on my own so it was a bit of a shock to my system. I can entirely understand why MP3 players were not allowed though as the roads were not closed and there were quite a few moments when cars were on the course.
After those few initial difficult miles I realised I was running at a decent pace, all things considered and started counting down the miles. We were running in glorious sunshine and in the sun it was actually quite warm – I loved it! It feels like such a long time since I have run in such lovely sunshine. I didn’t have any problems with my asthma at all which adds weight to my theory that my asthma is simply exacerbated by the cold/freezing weather. It was fantastic to have a race where I felt like any ordinary runner as distinct from an asthmatic. I recently read Mo Farah’s autobiography and he talks about Paul Tergat and one quote of Paul Tergat stuck out in my mind ” Ask yourself ‘Can i give more?’ The answer is usually Yes”. I said this to myself over and over again when I was tempted to slow my pace. Incidentally, my hip wasn’t particularly painful but I soon realised that the slower I ran, the more it hurt so I focused on picking my knees up and trying to ensure my speed didn’t dip below 8:30 m/m.
In terms of the course, it truly was FLAT! It was so flat that when I got to the two short hills I was delighted to see them to add a bit of variety (and I hate hills)! So the race has definite PB potential as evidenced by the multitude of PBs earned by my fellow Eagles! There were regular water stations and the water was in bottles – fantastic!! So much better than having drinks in cups. There was also a sweetie station – I think it was about mile 10 and it was just the right point to have a much needed sugar rush.
I really enjoyed the finish of the race on grass and the baggage drop/pick up was superbly efficient. I finished in 1:51:26 which I am happy with given the wasted time spent taking of my socks and the fact I was never intending to run a PB.
Please see below evidence of my sprint finish lol:
Now to the highlights of the race for me:
1. The marshalls – absolutely fantastic! They were so friendly enthusiastic and helpful and made each and every runner feel as if we counted and they wanted us to enjoy the race. For me personally, they made me smile which is a rarity in a race.
2. The layout of the course meant we saw our cheering supporters a multitude of times – this was amazing!
3. We all were given a free hot drink after the race and there was a multitude of cheap and delicious cakes available and bacon rolls for £1.40!!!
4. The medal was awesome and the race goody bag contained a mars bar, banana and a bottle of water – definitely did the trick!
Would I recommend the race? Definitely! It was a race for runners put on by runners. It really is a course with PB potential and it had such a lovely atmosphere. The race was also superb value for money £17 for members of affiliated running clubs! I would give the race 9/10 and I would run it every year if it were closer!
Fantastic work Great Bentley Running Club!