Silloth Beach Half Marathon race report: Sunday, 17th August 2014
I’d remembered Dave Young and Sophie Marr running this race last year, and although the specifics were pretty hazy I do remember their efforts were rewarded with a bag of chips after the race. Well, need I say anymore? Where do I sign-up.
Picking up my race number and chip from race HQ, I pinned the number to my vest and tied the chip to my trainer with the supplied cable ties. I then returned to my car, opened the boot and was greeted by the sight of racing trainers lying there. Bugger! I’d only went and tied the race chip to my ‘good’ pair of trainers rather than my tatty racers.
Following a good deal of faffing about removing laces and so on, I made my way to the race start, hoping the actual race would go better than the build-up. Being on the other side of the country I wasn’t expecting to recognise too many club vests, let alone any athletes, but standing on the start line was fellow North-East runner, Ross Anderson from Jarrow & Hebburn, who would eventually go on to finish 2nd overall. Well done Ross
Soon after 11am we were away, and after a short section through an industrial estate we turned sharply onto Silloth Beach and whumphh!! were abruptly greeted by an almighty wind whipping across the landscape. With nothing in sight except miles and miles of exposed sands, together with the prospect of running into a headwind for a good six or seven miles, I began to think this wasn’t going to be one of the most enjoyable race experiences of my life.
After about a mile, the race settled down and I was lying in 6th place, just a few yards behind a guy in 5th. Pulling up alongside Pete*, we began to make the usual small talk during a race – *what’s your name, where you from, who do you run for – and after running side by side for several minutes, Pete asked whether I’d like to share the workload of running into the wind by taking turns at the front (just think of the reverse tempo session we’ve being doing lately). So for the next three miles we ran together, each taking the brunt of the wind for a minute or so, whilst the other got some much needed respite.
We didn’t exactly set a blistering pace running this way, but we certainly saved energy, and as we progressed across the sands, including running through a scattering of rock-pools and inlets, we eventually caught the 4rd place runner. Inviting Tony* to join our small group, the three of us continued on our way to the half-way point of the race, where upon we did a u-turn back to Silloth.
Due to the route layout, there was still a strong side-wind during the next section of the race, so Pete, Tony and I still continued to work together as a team. In fact, it wasn’t until we reached the 7 Mile marker, when the wind was now on our backs, that the three of us split to go our separate ways. Withstanding the final outcome of the race, running with those two guys was a highlight of the day, each selflessly running to help the other two and showing the true meaning of sportsmanship.
With a prevailing tailwind it was time to let rip. Or so I hoped. Unfortunately, it seemed every time I reached full flow I would come across one of the aforementioned pools or inlets dotted along the route. It wouldn’t have been too bad if I’d known how deep they’d be, but they varied in depth from a couple of inches to a couple of feet and were strewn with rocks and pebbles.
I glanced at my garmin as it beeped ’12 miles’ and although I can’t recall the exact time, I do remember thinking I could get under 90 minutes if I pushed on. The downside though was the final stretch of the race consisted of running on the softest, glaggiest sand known to man, your feet sinking several inches with every step. Ordinarily I would have slowed and walked this section but with 90 minutes a tantalising target and clawing back a runner just ahead, I ploughed on, figuring the guy in front would be suffering just the same as myself.
Managing to pass the runner before the end of the beach section, I stepped up the pace when we hit terra firma and re-ran our steps through the industrial estate. With less than 400m to go I kept running as fast I could. Rounding the final corner I heard a marshal shout ‘well done’ and caught sight of the finishing clock. 1:29:32. But I still had about 100m to go.
I don’t know whether it was the incentive of getting under 90 minutes or the thought of those chips, but I legged it to the line, finishing in 1:29:52 (chip time 1:29:50). And because I’d been so preoccupied avoiding the perils along the beach, it’d totally slipped my mind the guy I had passed moments earlier was in fact 3rd at the time, which was the position I now held.
Sub 90 minutes, a 3rd place finish and a bag of chips as a reward. Happy days
ps. you honestly don’t think I’d travel across the country just for a bag of chips. Finishers also received a medal, running vest, chocolate bar, sports drink, water bottle, bag of flour and a set of colouring pencils.
Finishing times of two guys I ran with;
Peter Winterbottom 1:33:48
Tony Mounsey 1:31:26