Holy macaroni, Batman.
I’m not sure why I’ve come across all superhero over here (actually, feck it, I am a superhero, grrrrr), but the above sentence sums up the Chislehurst Half Marathon pretty well. Brilliantly organised by the non-profit organisation Chislehurst Half Marathon (with many of Petts Wood Runners!), this was a challenge in hills, roads, steps, woods, mud and sunshine. Basically, everything needed to make one tough event.
It was epic. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a half marathon as much as this one, despite “running” a personal worst.
I was contacted a couple of months back by Richard and asked if I wanted to take part. Naturally, I said yes and immediately panicked about the hills. Not that I did any training on them. Standard behaviour for me really. You’d think after a hilly Truro Half Marathon and North London Half Marathon that I’d learn.
If I’m honest, I hadn’t run much over the last few weeks. I had attempted the Fowlmead 50 in April and called it a day at 20 miles. Although I feel my pacing strategy was good and I didn’t feel tired, my hips were really hurting and I decided if they hurt at 20, they’d be worse at 30 and I wouldn’t make it, so I made the decision to ring out. I’ll do another blog post about this another day. Anyway, my hips were feeling niggly after this and between the Fowlmead 50 and the Chislehurst Half Marathon, I only ran a handful of times, all short distances.
So when I lined up at the start of the event, I’d already decided to take it easy and enjoy it. I’d also done my standard “bring blazing hot sunshine to a race” trick and was regretting not bringing my visor with me. The race headquarters and start were at the Old Elthamians RFC. This was perfect as runners were provided with a sheltered race registration, toilets, changing rooms, showers and bag drop. There was also an all-important bar. Many runners were mingling around and I was told that the event was at capacity – over 400 runners were registered to run which I think is pretty awesome for an inaugural event. There was just time for a quick chat with Brian, editor of So Let’s Go Running and then it was time to start, nice and promptly – just what I like! There’s nothing worse than hanging about for ages at the back being unable to hear anything and waiting.
The first mile and a bit took us out of the grounds and along the road before turning into a quiet residential area, which led us down a country path. This was a great start to the race as it was either flat or slightly downhill and provided the runners with shade. I settled into an easy 10:15 m/m pace and felt good. I knew that for me at the moment, this was too quick for a half marathon, but I felt comfortable and we had been going downhill. Before long, we emerged alongside the dual carriageway.
I have to be honest here and say this was the part of the race I hated, loathed and detested. There was no shade. It was hot. There were loads of cars whizzing by. It was boring. Then it started to gradually drag uphill. I hate feeling too hot and with the exhaust fumes, this was relentless. It certainly didn’t go on for more than a mile, but it was definitely horrible. Feeling grumpy, I decided to walk to try to cool down a little until we got back into the shade.
After the 3 mile mark, the race started to get really interesting and became the sort of event I had pictured. We stepped over a ditch into a field and began the real off-road part of the event. We followed a route round a field, looping round to join a path where there were some horses hanging out in a field. Serious runners would have carried on running, I am not a serious runner, so I took a picture.
I love Chislehurst. I wish I could live there. Alas, I will never be able to afford it, but I enjoyed running past the gorgeous big houses and mentally choosing which one to buy and whether I could fit it out with a bowling lane. A few people were outside their houses clapping us on with Haribo which is always appreciated. I was alongside a lovely lady at this point and I walked with her for a while and we chatted.
It was at about the 7 mile route that the event started to get a little bit congested. The slower runners (me) found ourselves being lapped by the front-runners, whilst other runners were doubling back towards us on a fairly narrow path. Everyone was polite and careful, but there were a couple of near collisions and I would say that this was a part of the route that didn’t quite work. However, it was great to wave and cheer at other runners, which helped to make up for it! This part of the route was flat so I stretched my legs out a bit to try to make up some time. Soon a welcome downward segment greeted my legs and I pushed on some speed and actually racked up a 9 minute mile. A quick glance at my watch at 8 miles made me think that if I got my act together, I may manage close to a 2:30 half.
Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the nice downhill stretch meant an uphill stretch back. And I was hot. And then my legs decided they really didn’t want to work any longer and went on strike. I told them off. They said tough. I wobbled back up the hill and then it was time to go off-road again. On the plus side, it was pretty and there was some shelter from the sun in the woods.
On the not so good side, who puts STEPS AT THE TOP OF A HILL AT THE 11.5 MILE MARK IN A HALF MARATHON?!
And breathe. Or try to, considering you’ve just limped up steps.
I limped home, roasting, broken and tired in am all time personal worst of 2:50ish. But I got a really cute medal, a hug from Jo and a beer after, so it wasn’t all bad. For the speedy runners, the organisers introduced a really lovely touch where the first five finishers got gold medals, the next twenty got silver and the rest of us got bronze. Cool, right?
Chislehurst, you broke me, but I loved you. Perhaps a few tweaks to be made to the route to improve it, but I’ll be back next year.
For a challenging half marathon with beautiful scenery (apart from the dual carriageway bit) and fabulous volunteers, Chislehurst is well priced at £20. Give it a go next year – I have never enjoyed a half-marathon as much as this, despite the pain. It was epic.
If you want to experience it, Bobby Tannock put together a brilliant video of the event, watch out for my cameo!
I was provided with a free place in this event, however views are, as ever, my own.