I ran the Ealing Half Marathon (which was sooooooo amazing) in September but as it was my first 13.1 mile run since March of this year, I decided to pace 2 hours 15 minutes rather than try and race it and further break my injury prone body. I loved pacing and it certainly showed me I could run 13.1 miles again. I hadn’t remotely trained for it, but given my body had proved to me it could still run the half marathon distance (and it was an Ealing Eagles club championship race) I decided to sign up for the Marlow Half Marathon.
Now I should confess that I read the Runners World reviews of the event before entering and they had people describe the race as harder than a marathon because of the hills…. As you should certainly be aware, I hate hills! I have spent most of my running life running on the flat perfect surface of an athletics track. Notwithstanding the aforementioned and knowing of my incredible laziness, I decided to sign up to the Marlow Half Marathon knowing it was hilly as hell and thinking somehow that it might be a good training race for the St Neot’s Half Marathon which I am doing in a weeks time. Plus, since it was sooo hilly and I hate hills it was going to force me into doing hill training…
Here is the course profile and why I was soooooo scared:
Unfortunately and unsurprising for me the hill training didn’t really happen! Though I did complete the hilly Ridgway run with a group of hill lovers from my running club, it felt like it almost killed me (9.75 miles) and it took about a week for my legs to recover.
Anyway, I rocked up on the start line of the Marlow Half Marathon having serious doubts whether I was going to be able to complete it. From the very beginning (well after about half a mile) the course felt like a slow hill upwards. My legs felt like they were struggling from the very beginning and annoyingly my shoe chose to come undone so I had to stop to retie it which was very annoying. By mile 5, I felt exhausted and had lost the will to continue. Then a fellow eagle overtook me and said she thought I would probably overtake her again. Weirdly, this gave me the will to keep going and magically we approached a downhill section…. I have hated hills for a very long time, as a consequence I have had to get pretty good at running downhill. In fact, I love running downhill, which was a very good thing in terms of the Marlow Half Marathon. I flew down those hills as fast as I could! It was pretty fun, there was only one downhill bit where I lost my nerve, started worrying and could feel myself breaking with every step and my foot hitting the ground super hard!
In terms of the scenery, it was beautiful but slightly disappointing as the race took place on a spectactularly foggy day so we could see a lot less than if it had been clear. I also felt that for a lot of the time our views were obstructed by large amounts of vegetation on the sides of the road so you couldn’t see what I imagined would have been fabulous views. I’m not sure if the roads were closed for this event. The route was totally free of cars for about 90% of the course but there was an occasional car to navigate with the assistance of the friendly marshalls. In terms of marshalls and crowd support it was shockingly good, we were running on remote country roads and yet there seemed to be constant supporters cheering us on and encouraging us and God knows I needed that encouragement!
I was a bit disappointed by the drinks stations – only 3 stations and none from miles 10-13. The drinks stations only served water in cups so I felt very dehydrated by the end. It also would have been nice to have the option of a sports drink at one of the drinks stations or at least some squash?! Some friendly marshalls handed out jelly babies these were VERY well received 🙂
There was a nightmare hill at Mile 7- I had to adopt a run/walk strategy. Usually I feel terrible if I walk at all in a race but when it came to this hill I literally had no other option.
From about mile 11 onwards, the course was downhill- I was a happy camper (see photographic evidence of the same:)
My splits were all over the place from 9:50 m/m pace to 7:30 m/m pace. Its clear for all to see that my weakness is hills. I finished in 1:53:50 over 10 minutes slower than my half marathon PB, but I finished. Sometimes that is all that counts. See the picture of me below with my hard earned medal!
In terms of the race goodies, I was a bit disappointed only because last year’s race souvenir was a hoody and everyone had mentioned it in the Runner’s World reviews. This year we got a cold muff, magazine, mini towel and a chocolate bar which were pretty useful gifts and a beautiful medal.
Would I do it again? Hmmmm, its as far away from my ideal half marathon course as a course could be, that said, I would love one day to be able to run the whole route strongly and run even splits or certainly more even splits. I’ll probably be back… one day!