Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Run to the Beat Half Marathon 2013

I never stop finding cool events to take part in so even back when I was doing my Charity Challenge I was keeping an eye out for races to do later in the year. I’d seen the Run to the Beat half marathon around for a couple of years but it had always clashed with something else. This year it didn’t and as a thank you for all my fundraising efforts my lovely Aunt paid for me to enter… so I did! This was my second race of the weekend and very different to the Women's Running 10k.

As part of the race pack everyone was issued with an event t-shirt with their race number printed in a colour that corresponded to their estimated finishing time. I quite like this idea from a souvenir and "feeling like part of something" point of view but it does make it very difficult for spectators to spot you!
Where's Wally?
Getting to the event was easy by public transport, being a short, well sign posted, walk from a number of stations. The race village was large and although it supposedly featured 250 toilets there were still massive queues. I had to wait about 15 minutes to use one which would have caused me to miss the start had it not been delayed by at least 20 minutes. There were stalls from all the major charities who had people running in support of them, a huge stage where Jessie J headlined in the afternoon, plenty of food stalls, a VIP area and quite a lot of picnic tables with umbrellas, which encouraged people to spend the day there.
I just did it...
Despite the fact that one of the main selling points of the race is that music plays a big part, I couldn't hear much in the start pens and although there were around 18 stages on the course you only heard music for a few seconds at each one as you ran past. Some had DJs but many were just vans playing music. One lady had brought her stereo into the front garden which I thought was sweet.

There were loads of spectators on the course which was lovely, and I saw lots of people I knew. I remember one old lady in her front garden waving at us all and prompting huge cheers from just about everyone who ran past. Spirits were generally good, atmosphere friendly and everyone out to have some fun.
The first part of the course was pretty much identical to the start of the London Marathon so I was on familiar ground. It was a crowded start and in fact it didn't really get any better until the final couple of miles. It was hard to find space and in jostling for position after a rather severe bottleneck around miles 4/5 I tripped and fell in quite spectacular fashion. And I wasn't the only one. This particular bottleneck was caused by a small entrance to a switchback at some barracks where there was a water point. Somehow, in the confusion, I got swept past the entrance, thus missing out part of the course and the water/vitacoco station. In fact the course featured quite a number of switchbacks and each turning point was crowded and prone to cut corners. The most disheartening one was at the top of Maze Hill, as we approached the finish line, only to be turned a corner to run about another half mile out and back again. Generally the course was flat with a long hill approaching mile 4 and the steepest one at mile 12. Not fun.
The finish line itself wasn't too crowded but there was over crowding to collect water, vitacoco and medals. We had been advised to thread our timing chips onto our laces so there was a huge crowd at the point at which we were meant to hand them back. I'd attached mine with a twisty tie as I use elastic laces and wasn't prepared to unlace them. Usually you would be asked to attach them with a paper strip or twisty tie so I think that was somewhat bad planning.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the race, I was happy with my time and the music was fun but there are certainly things that could be improved. I thought that the entry fee (£49.50) could have included a goody bag, or at least a post-race snack. The course needs to be improved to reduce over crowding and in my opinion doesn't lend itself to PBs. And there could have been more stages or more speakers on the course. Do it for the experience but be prepared for the odd frustration.

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