Wrexham Half Marathon - Sunday 17th March 2019
So not having completed many half marathons for 18 months and wanting to prove that I could re-capture past glory of the days when 1hr:36min was achievable, we (Kathy and I) have entered Bath half marathon in March 2019, mainly as an excuse to see Holly at University… hope she appreciates the efforts we go to, there are easier ways of spending a Sunday in Bath! As preparation I completed the Oulton Park half marathon on 2nd December, which was hilly for a race track and was 5 laps… meaning the same hills had to be done 5 times.. which was challenging however I was surprised that I managed 1:38:53 (7.27).
Next challenge was Wrexham half marathon, although by now I was suffering with a hamstring injury and with only a few long runs under my belt since Christmas (the longest being 10 miles), this half marathon had to be properly paced. Now my usual attitude to pacing is to look back at what I have done, look at what I can do now, decide on a pace, go off too quick for the first mile.. although the start photos do look impressive….. and struggle for the last 2 miles. So Wrexham would have to be slower than Oulton Park and faster than 1hr:45 (8.00). The race is 2 laps with an element of overlap and you actually pass the finish line twice with the race going off into the country side, but is fairly flat.
Race day loomed and the usual bowl of porridge and a cup of tea before travelling at 8:30 to Wrexham. The weather was ok, not too cold. We found a car park, bumped into The Leonards and Sarah Greene and walked to the start about half a mile away to find the toilets.
So us men do like to leave the portaloos to the runners who really need them and we love a portaloo urinals … however there were not enough toilets, which proved even more difficult nearer race time. Anyway the sun started to shine, but as I warmed up (and stretched) to keep the hamstring happy, the wind picked up and the cloud hovered above with the sun disappearing, but no rain.
The starting pen was quite busy, but that would be expected when there were 2373 runners. It was good to see pacers were running with flags strapped to their back, it’s always appreciated and helps with judging where to start. I stood a few rows behind the 1h:40 pacer, this seemed sensible.
The race started and it was surprisingly slow to get to the start mat for the chip time to begin, but once past the mat the road opened up and race pace was achieved, but not at 7:45… of course not…. I completed the first mile in 7:08, turning the first corner where the Wrekin Road Runner supporters were (which is always appreciated) passing the finish line within the first I/4 mile, and I managed to get next to the 1:40:00 pacer (and passed Steve Lowe on the way). Next mile was 7:17 and the pacer was just behind me. As the hamstring was being quiet, I decide to keep to this pace and slowly drifted away from the pacer, who had the same idea of attempting a quick 1:40:00 ... I actually think he was doing a tactical 1:37:00 pace. By now the wind was picking up and I could hear the flag of the pacer rattle to almost take off speed … Perhaps he should slow down a bit.
Mile 2 took us out of Wrexham and along country roads and lanes, some were closed, others not (a 4x4 did overtake me at one point), with nice little des res peppered along the route. We continued along a good stretch of road until we entered back into Wrexham and headed up to the finish line for mile 5. At this point I checked my pace, still around 7:16, could not see the pacer nearby, hamstring was twitching slightly and was starting to consider reducing the pace back to my plan as there was no way this race would be quicker than Oulton Park. As I headed towards the 5 mile mark back at the finish line I again passed the Wrekin Road Runners Supporters who were shouting encouragement… so this was not the time to reduce pace...I heard a suggestion that I should be running quicker (not sure who ruddy well said that!).. so I checked my pace (7:24), checked the ham string (ok), checked the plan (not to plan) … 2 out of 3 on track was ok.. so off I went again to see how long this pace could last.
The second lap saw some familiar roads, but we quickly turned off along country lanes. These were edging towards being tracks with a few pot holes, but as the weather was dry they were fairly easy going. As we wound through the lanes past farms, there was a lone marshal shouting support, along with ‘mind the mud’ and ‘half way there’. I could not quite work out if she was there to give the good news of being half way round, or the fact there was mud on the road, not sure it was actually mud if I was running past dairy farms, perhaps in hind sight wearing orange trainers was not the best plan, but the weather was dry. Onward I went still pacing at 7:14.
Wrexham is advertised as a fast, flat course … but nothing is ever really flat, and so far there were no hills that caused concern, although there was suggestion that there was one hill that you would notice, nothing noticed yet, I was beginning to wonder where it was.
My pacing was going well and not many runners passed me, so for a change I had managed to start at the right pace and in the right place, this was not normal. Also there were plenty of other runners close by, quiet often in small races I can end up running by myself, so I was starting to enjoy the race and there seemed a good supply of water and marshals; there was no danger in going the wrong way.
As I headed towards the 10 mile mark, you could feel the wind rush over the top of hedges as I raced around the country roads. The legs were now starting to feel heavy and the hamstring started to make itself known. I ploughed on but knew the pace was going to drop off and as I turned the corner at 10 miles I could see the hill ahead of me, albeit a small gradient, but it did seem to last a mile or so.
We started to head back into Wrexham at mile 11 to 12, and I started to see my pace drop off. That’s ok, the first 10 miles was a job well done, potentially a 1hr:36 finish had I kept to pace.. so much for the plan of 1:40, but true to form.
As I neared 11.5 miles a familiar awareness was felt, was it the hamstring wanting to let me know that it wanted some attention, no it was the waving flag of the 1:40 pacer, who had caught me up. By now he was on for a 1hr:38, but he was not part of my race anymore. Well I thought not until he yelled that there was one mile to go and 10 minutes left… perhaps a sub 1:40 was still possible. Alas the legs were not going to respond, and I saw him head off into the distance.
As I approached the final bend the level of support grew, passing Wrekin Road Runners supporters on the left and then on the right.. There was a tunneling of supporters and the 1hr:40 pacer was slowing down to the point where I passed him and I gave it one last sprint to cross the line in a gun time of 1:39, who would have thought chip time would be 1hr:38:23 … 30 seconds faster than Oulton Park.
I collected the marvelous medal and went to walk the course to look for Kathy. I was starting to get cold and the rain was falling. This is where a bag drop would have been good as the car was just under a mile away and some warm clothes would have been appreciated. At least I had finished before the rain.
There was great support from Marshals and onlookers, as well as Wrekin Road Runners supporters, for that I thank you. There was some great running especially from The Leonard, The Millington, Young Thorpe and The Gill. Chairman Spriggs showed good form with a 1:36:24, but surprisingly finished behind me, however I am claiming victory here… for the record Paul, you need to be in front of someone to beat them in a race, I thought I proved that to you at Attingham cross country a couple of years ago.
Wrexham was a good race and a good club event too. Was it worth it, yes due to the support, the course and an improving time, but more toilets are needed along with a bag drop. Would I do it again… yes, we have entered for next year already.
Submitted by Neil Jefferson