Piece of Cake Half Marathon final descent

A Tale of Two err… Five Halfs

Half marathons, that is. This year has unintentionally turned into the “year of the half marathon”, with one done (or planned) for almost every month so far. I didn’t start the year intending to run so many races, but I did want to get my running mojo back on track. Here’s a quick rundown (geddit) of the halfs so far:

Ironbridge Half Marathon, March 2018

I had a score to settle with Ironbridge half. I’d entered this race a couple of years ago as it’s right on my doorstep, but poor mental health around the time of the race (and the reputation of the course being quite difficult) meant I ended up skipping it. This year, despite my lack of long run training (surprise surprise), I told myself I had to complete it whatever happened.

The route takes you out of Telford Centre, down the Silkin Way towards and through the historic town of Ironbridge and surrounding areas and then back up to Telford. It’s a multi-terrain course with roughly equal amounts of trail path and road. There are some inclines throughout including a tough hill around mile 8.

I thoroughly enjoyed the run, in part due to running with a local friend for most of the race with free-flowing conversation making the time pass all the quicker. The weather was just right on the day. I ran/walked the hill at mile 8 (heavy focus on the walking) as I had no intentions of pushing for any sort of personal best. Around mile 10 my running partner told me to go on without her as she wanted to walk the rest and so I plodded on.

Around 1km from the finish I happened upon a runner from my local club (but whom I’d not actually met previously) who was in a bad way, and ended up supporting her a short distance with her partner, before detouring to the side of the course while we waited for paramedics. When the paramedics arrived and I wasn’t needed, I finished the race with a speedy-looking sprint up the final bit of hill to cheers from supporters.

Despite intending just to finish, and the 15-20 minutes spent helping another runner, I completed in 2:33:26 which was just shy of my previous half marathon time (and personal best) of 2:34.

Ironbridge Half Marathon mile 12
Photography (c) Chris Richards

May the Fourth, May 2018

The ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ half marathon is a personal favourite of mine, and having completed it twice previously it was a no-brainer that I’d enter again.

The course is 13.1 (ish) miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire with a peak elevation of 1,693 ft. It’s a tough challenge, but what else can you expect from a race organiser called “How Hard Can It Be Events”? This year was no exception, where an overly fast start saw me dead on my feet by mile 8. I literally thought I might die in the hills, with nobody there to find me.

Nonetheless, finish I did, and in 3:13:04 which saw me thrash my 2017 time of 3:37:45.

May the Fourth Be With You Half Marathon
Not a happy bunny

Edinburgh Marathon Festival, May 2018

When I found out that several of my friends were taking part in the Edinburgh half marathon, I saw it as an excellent excuse for a dirty weekend away (teehee), taking advantage of the bank holiday the Monday after the run. This plan was nearly scuppered when our house sale completed the day before our intended date of arrival in Scotland.

As if that little ‘setback’ wasn’t enough, I’d managed to do something incredibly painful to my knee during the actual house move and was worried that I’d not be able to run even if we made it to Scotland. To top it all off, I also acquired the shits in the days before and every meal was quickly evacuated from my bowels: not conducive to pre-race nutrition/carb loading.

Personal ‘issues’ aside, with a bit of jiggery pokery and an accommodating airbnb host meant we were able to adjust to the move and arrive later than planned and crack on with project sexy times/running.

The weather in Edinburgh was stunning – I couldn’t have asked for better. Sunny while we were wandering about doing the “touristy” stuff, and then cool with cloud cover on the morning of the run. The route was mostly flat, which was surprising for a capital city renowned for its hills. I ran with a friend to support her round; my knee held throughout (but was fucked afterwards) and Immodium kept the contents of my guts out of my pants (ahhh running, the classy sport) and we finished in 2:46:26.

Shrewsbury Half Marathon, June 2018

Shrewsbury half was a weird one for me. I entered on the spur of the moment rather than signing up with friends, and decided on the day to push myself rather than plodding along for the sake of it. I hadn’t checked the course prior to entry (or running) and was left a little bit shell-shocked by exactly how hilly it was, with some particularly sharp inclines including the famous Wyle Cop. I don’t know why, Shrewsbury isn’t exactly a flat town!

I pushed hard, forcing myself to run up all the hills, letting my strong strong quads do as much of the work as I could (& tbh, this is where living where I do comes into its own, as you can’t train without at least one hill). I managed to maintain a good steady pace and didn’t slow down until the second half of the race when I caught sight of chap running for a male suicide charity at mile 8-9. With the anniversary of my brother’s death round the corner, it was all I needed to break down and I spent the final 3-4 miles run/walk/running whilst crying my eyes out.

By the final mile I was spent, physically and emotionally, and thought I would have to walk the last stretch. Two lovely women (who’s names I failed to note) kept me going in that final mile with a strong sprint to finish in 2:19:51. A lovely new PB!

Piece of Cake, July 2018

Another ‘How Hard Can It Be’ event, the Piece of Cake Half Marathon is another trail run in the lovely Carding Mill Valley in Church Stretton. The ascents never seem to feel quite as vicious as the May Fourth half, but it’s a similar style of route with the bonus of a fantastic 2(ish) mile downhill stretch to the finish, which makes for an adrenaline-rush if you are brave enough to pelt down the gravel paths at speed.

Like Shrewsbury half, I ran the Piece of Cake on my own (for someone who claims to be a social runner I’ve suddenly been entering a lot of races on my lonesome), although there wasn’t a single part of the course where I felt anything but part of a massive community. I cannot emphasise enough how brilliant these events are for camaraderie, support and general low-pressure “have a great time” running.

I ran PoC in brand new Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG (mens, because the women’s are never wide enough) which apparently makes me a nutter because normal people break in running shoes before taking them out on a 13 mile run?

I finished in an awesome (for me) 3:02:07, although I was so stiff afterwards I didn’t move for the rest of the day.

Piece of Cake Half Marathon final descent
Photography (c) Gareth Griffiths — look, I’m actually flying!

Next half? Lake Vyrnwy in September. Well, unless I can squeeze a cheeky half into August, of course.

Jem Turner hello@strongmum.com +44(0)7521056376

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