We’ve been meaning to give the Letchworth Greenway a try for a while as it’s a ready-made half marathon loop, but hadn’t quite got round to it as firstly from the map/iPhone app it looks a tad confusing and also I haven’t been running that far in training which would have meant running a section as an out and back to get back to the car.
Although I was only scheduled for a 16-17km run this weekend I went ahead and signed us up for the Letchworth Greenway Challenge Half Marathon put on by the North Herts Runners. I’m supposed to do a 21-22km next Sunday so decided it wouldn’t hurt to pull that forward a week and take the opportunity to do the loop with other runners.
Thankfully I wasn’t feeling too tired after Saturday’s 10km PB, but this was definitely going to be a training run rather than a race for me and I was hoping to do it in a 6:31/km pace if I could. I had no idea what the elevation profile of the course was but figured this was a good starting point (post race I would probably describe it as undulating, definitely not flat).
We arrived about 45 minutes before the race start and first impressions weren’t that great with grumpy car park & number marshals obviously feeling it was too early on a Sunday morning to respond to our cheering greetings. Things got worse as we walked to the start as the guys behind me decided that making snide comments were the way to prepare for their race. “Look at that one, she thinks she’s crossing the Sahara”….a shame they didn’t say it in a jokey manner but to be honest I wasn’t surprised as they were clad in their Tough Mudder t-shirts and were obviously convinced they were the best runners there. Â Yes I was wearing my pack, but given I have a trail marathon coming up in July I had decided this would be a good opportunity for a kit test and after some annoying neck rubbing in the Sussex Coastal Trail half I wanted to see if my new Adidas Climachill polo shirt made a difference (it did, I was chafe and irritation free throughout the race). Anyway turns out they weren’t that great after all as they finished mid-field.
The Boyf and I started in the back of the pack as we were both supposed to be taking it easy. Of course this plan went out the window for The Boyf who despite taking it steady initially had an amazing run and finished in 14th place in 1:34:17!
I knew before the race that I would probably be near the back of the field based on last year’s results. I didn’t mind that as this really was about me doing a steady 21km with minimal stops just to prove to myself that it was possible to run a half marathon having walked a significant amount of the hilly Sussex Coastal Trail half.
I set off at my planned pace and soon I was running on my own but with a clear view of other runners strung out in front of me. It was a pleasant day with light breeze and despite the undulations I felt strong and my breathing was even. There were a few sticky sections where I wasn’t sure which way to go having lost sight of the next runner and in the last section I had to make use of the iPhone app to navigate through the housing estate.
My fuelling went well again and I had 2 gels and a couple of S-Caps and I felt strong all the way through the race without having any stomach issues at all. As luck would have it my planned fuelling points matched with a couple of hills so I took the opportunity to walk these to eat & drink without choking.
Coming through the last kilometre I over took a couple of guys who’d slowed to a walk and then pipped another one about 50m from the finish as I unleashed my sprint. The Boyf and I book-ended the race rather nicely with him being 14th from the front and me finished 14th from the back. My Garmin overall time was 2:24:15, slightly under the official gun-time as I started so far back and took about 30 seconds to get to the start. Moving time was 2:20:58, so I lost about 3 minutes to road crossings and water stops but I’m really pleased that I kept my pacing pretty constant throughout the race. My second PB of the weekend and a fun way to spend the morning as thankfully the on-course support from marshals and passers by was much better than I had expected following the pre-start grumps we had come across!