Chris Chase reports from the splendour of the Northumberland countryside.
Haltwhistle Half-Marathon: Sunday, 28th September 2014
Why run the Haltwhistle half marathon? A good question to answer for a race report I reckon and also what I was asking myself when I woke up bright and early Sunday morning. I didn’t get a GNR place so chose a low key event which promised spectacular views and the all-important free souvenir. I did receive sage advice from Joanne Wood regarding free gifts on the drive over. I think it’s a well learnt technique practiced by many to protect themselves from rubbish Christmas gifts but forgotten by me. Don’t think about them as ‘it only leads to disappointment’.
This is the inaugural running of this event and I think most of the runners were hoping the field wasn’t going to be small and result in a lonely race, pleasingly the start area filled up with enough runners to make it feel cosy. One of the main topics of conversation was the race pack revelation that we would have to walk a section of the route through someone’s garden. A little unconventional in a race to say the least and something that caused us to muse about our speed walking techniques.
The route is an out and back, following the South Tyne Trail that include sections of disused railway line, advertised thus ‘after an initial climb of about 60m over the first mile of the trail, the gradient is almost flat all the way to the half-way point. Once you turn round and head back it’s all downhill’. Sounds enticing when reading the website but how does it run.
The start time came and 200 or so runners set off, the first mile is a little bit of path then a short sharp hill on grass verge before settling into a long gentle incline on tarmac for a couple of miles. We then hit a bit of the loose stuff which doesn’t last for too long thankfully maybe a mile or so before it turns back to tarmac. I was running with Alasdair Blain who was knocking along well within himself to protect a niggle and help pace me to my goal of 1hr 35 mins. We were making good time when around mile 5 we get treated to the spectacular views from Lambely Viaduct, ‘You won’t see this in Redcar’ I commented. In fact you won’t get a view that good on too many races anywhere. What you also won’t get at too many races anywhere, is to walk by command. Just as we cross the viaduct our group of about 8 runners all in a fantastically British fashion obeyed the rules and walked for about 70 meters of pleasant garden, passing smiling marshals at either end. We picked up the pace again and made for halfway.
At the turn Alasdair informed me we were on for a 1hr36, pretty good I thought and even if I slow a little, the last couple of miles will be pretty fast on that slight downhill so time can be made up. Pretty soon we were back at the garden and our second walk this time accompanied by hand outs of jelly babies to fuel us onwards. Our second Viaduct experience followed sharply, as good as the first I thought, a standout feature of the event.
Between mile 8 and 9 my race started to come apart when I started to get pain in my hip joint followed by a tightening of my upper thigh a mile later. Endurance racing I’m learning is all about managing pain as your body starts to tire, I tell myself to relax and just let the legs do the work. My problem was that only one leg was playing ball, I had to slow. The last mile was attritional, a sharp downhill near the end really putting the mockers on any dreams of a speedy (if painful) finish. Alasdair urged me on, telling me a short sprint will get me under 1.38 and a 2 minute PB. I sprinted, it was short and I did dip under 1.38. Nice one Alasdair
This race isn’t a PB hunting ground, particularly with the quirky though pleasant walk through the garden. It is though a very pretty, well run and friendly event. I recommend it and I’ll probably run it next year. The all-important souvenir was a pleasant surprise I’m pleased to report, a nice mug with a Picture of Lambley Viaduct on it, filled with boiled sweets, nice.
Race information and results can be found here.