I was originally supposed to run the full Marathon, however, it was decided I would run the local inaugural Hoad Hill 1/2 Marathon instead. This was due to the decission to take my running more seriously (back in June). It was decided that I would not run anymore Marathons this year so I could focus my attention on recovering fully from the busy first half of the year so as to develop my speed to take into the Marathon build-up for next year.
The Hoad Hill Marathon/Half Marathon is a new local event in Ulverston, Cumbria. It involves a mixture of road, trail and beach, and also includes a very steep climb up to the Sir John Barrow Monument which is at the top of Hoad Hill. I’m not one to shy away from hills, however, this event was going to be something completey new for me, since I am by no means used to running on trails and through overgrown fields! I decided to use this “race” as more of a training run, since there wasn’t going to be a high caliber of “Elite” runners in the field and I’d raced the previous weekend for over 10 miles in Lancaster – and the route would not allow for fast times. This meant that I had 0 taper before the race (apart from a short 6 mile shakeout the day before) and had covered just under 78 miles on the legs in the previous 7 days, plus a week of walking in The Lakes with Amy – not the most ideal “race” prep.
On the Sunday morning (Race Day), a quick glance out the window showed that it was not ideal weather. It had clearly rained all night and was still raining now – without showing any signs of stopping. This meant I opted, last minute, to wear the inov-8 trail shoes. If it was dry, I was told I would probably get away with road shoes – which would have made me feel a little more at home. A quick breakfast and I was off to the start. It was good to be at a race where I knew a lot of the participants – a bit like at the Keswick to Barrow. A lot of local runners had similarly decided to support the new event, however the race had also attracted others and some from as far as Austrailia! There were 300 people registered in the Half Marathon and 170 in the Marathon – so not a bad turn-out for a new low key event!
After a warm up (which inspected the start of the route through Ulverston town), I watched the Marathon set off and then got myself ready for the race. TORQ kit on, race number pinned, and race tracker (courtesy of the race director Gaynor Prior and Open Tracking) secured to waste gel belt and I was ready to go. 10:00 am soon came and we were off! Nobody came with me from the start, which meant I could use it as a training run afterall and wouldn’t feel tempted to push the pace too much. I went out at a comfortable tempo effort and held it at that level all the way. I knew (given the terrain and profile), I couldn’t go off pace to judge my effort and therefore just went off my percieved exhertion. This became immediately obvious, since my first half mile was roughly at a 5:25 pace, yet by the end of the first mile (with the climbing and a short off-road section along the Cumbrian Way), slowed to a 6:09 first mile (Strava Grade Adjusted Pace estimates this as 5:24 pace if flat).
The first 3 miles were all country lanes and a little undulation – but what Im used to I suppose. The 3 mile marker though brought the first sections of farmers’ fields, which with the rain, had become quite difficult to run on. It was hard, as expected, to keep the pace going, however as planned, I kept the same percieved exhertion with a couple of slower miles, to include the climb up onto Birkrigg Common.
I passed many of the Marathoners at this point and had to warn some of my presence, although it didn’t greatly slow me down, as the trail was wide enough to pass pretty easily. As I descended from Birkrigg towards the coast, I fell for the first time. The mixture of a tight turn and wet grass, saw me hit the deck and I slid along the grass, onto the gravel path. Apart from a few slight grazes and a banged knee though, I was fine and jumped straight back to my feet, exited the field through the gate and descended Birkrigg, dodging other Marathoners on the narrow trail, whilst still securing a 5:23 min mile.
After Birkrigg, we came to a stretch of coastal path. This entailed a mixture of gravel, trail and beach for approxiamately 2 miles, and was 1of the narrowest sections of the course. I thereby occasionally got stuck behind some Marathon runners which slowed me down again slightly. The section along the beach and pebbles was especially tough, because no matter what effort you put in, your legs didn’t seem to take you anywhere! The mile times here increased to 6:09 and 5:58.
After the coastal path came a mile section of road, before we joined the canal path. This then went on to country lanes and a little trail, which would potentially allowed me to open up the legs a little again. Tha Plan had been to get back to a decent but comfortable tempo of between 5:20 and 5:30 pace here, however, for the same percieved effort, my legs would only allow 5:46, 5:43 and 5:38 splits.
I was now 12 miles in, which meant 1 thing. I had the accent of Hoad Hill to battle before a descent back down into Ford Park – for the finish. As I knew I had a strong lead, I didn’t push too hard for this. I knew that parts of the climb would get to a gradient of 27% (according to Strava data), so it was obvious I was going to slow down.a lot! But I also didn’t want to wreck the legs by racing up and back down it – The descent being the bit which could cause the most damaged and DOMS to the legs. I plodded up, over taking a few more Marathoners, with a mile time of 7:40 – As the 13 mile point clocked over on the watch, I knew I had the final incline before the Sir John Barrow Monument.
The descent from the Hoad was steep to say the least and very wet and slippy under foot! I fell to the ground on 2 occasions and went off track once or twice, as I was unable to get traction and effectively turn on the technical parts. It became a game of a balancing act, as can be seen from the picture above, but I managed to make it to the bottom in one piece! At the bottom, I was through the gate and opened up the legs slightly for the final 2-300m to the finish line – where I was greeted by an abundance of family members and friends! I crossed the finish line in 1 hour 22 mins, 12 minutes ahead of 2nd place, which I was pleased with, considering everyones Garmin clocked 13.8 mile instead of 13.1. My Garmin clocked me through the Half Marathon distance in 1hour 19mins, so on that terrain, at a comfortable tempo pace, I’ve got to be pleased with that.