It is always nice to go back to Weston Super Mare and run the Grand Pier half marathon. I grew up in WSM and spent the first 20 years of my life living here. It is ironic that I love running now, and would love to live somewhere as beautiful as this to run along the promenade. This would make a beautiful training run, and I could easily run for miles along the seafront. Unfortunately, when I actually lived in WSM I wasn’t really into running, so did not make the most of this wonderful route.
The Grand Pier Half Marathon is in its 5th year, and I have found myself running it 3 times. I ran the Inaugural event in 2012 in a time of 1:27:01. This was when I was at my best fitness, but was carrying a knee injury at this time. I then ran again in 2014, after much less training as my life changed with the birth of Benjamin. I managed 1:32:36, which I was very happy with at the time.
This year I have had a very busy Autumn schedule, and this was a last minute add on event, I’ve not planned for this, and certainly was not aiming for a great time. I called upon some mates to see if they wanted to run, and when Rich said he was keen for 1:30-1:35 my intention was to stick with him and achieve his goal with him. I’ve not been speed training and nowhere near my best, but felt I could comfortably run a 1:30, and happy with anything under 1:40 to be honest.
I travelled with Rich and we arrived at the event 75 minutes before the start. I forgot how small the event was, as we picked up the race number from a little tent, which took a couple of minutes (I guess this would get busy if you come later). I was then left with over an hour before the event started, and a realisation that I could have turned up an hour later and it would not have made a difference.
We made our way down the Pier and up to the conference room where the bag drop was. It was not secured by anyone, and we just randomly put our bags under a table. I must be a little OCD as I hated putting my number 6 bag between 36 and 54. We then spent the next 40 minutes popping back and forth from toilet (queues were not bad at all), and just chatting. If I was here on my own this would have been a boring wait.
About 15 minutes before the start we braved going outside as it was a very cold and windy morning. You start inside the entrance of the Pier self seeded, which is a nice idea but this will limit the numbers who can take part (unless you funnel down one side of the boardwalk). There was the usual active warm up that I always ignore, not being a bore but I don’t warm up like that before I run so why would I before a race? Although everyone seemed to be having fun around me. And then we were off.
The course is two laps, you take a left from the Pier and run down the promenade to Knightsbridge. You then reach the worse part of the course which is a long couple of miles down the hilly toll road. We were on good pace, running around a 1:32 pace, but I was increasingly getting the impression Richard was not ready for this. By 2.5 miles I was running at a 1:40 pace and he had mentioned numerous times about me going on ahead. I told him I was happy to drop to whatever pace he wanted, but I think he didn’t want the pressure as he didn’t feel ready and wanted me to go on, so at mile 3 I sped up a little to close the gap to get me on pace for 1:30.
My increased pace was easier once I returned back to the promenade as I was one flat ground. The lap continued past the Pier to the far end of the seafront, before turning back to the Pier. As soon as I turned there was a heavy headwind which I had not noticed until this turn, so it made this next leg difficult. I reached the Pier in 44:56, perfect pace for a 1:30 finish.
I started the second lap feeling good and running sub 7 minute miles. Although I had a rough time in mind I really wasn’t fussed about watching my splits. As I hit the hills I slowed as I had the first lap. I wasn’t to bothered about my slower pace, but in hindsight I would have improved the pace a little as I dropped slower than I intended. I had overtaken a fair few people up to this point, but was caught by a few coming up the hills.
I hit the seafront for the final time and immediately my pace increased and I started over taking people again. Someone asked if I thought we could do 1:30, and I admitted we were a bit behind schedule. She said “you are fast on the flat and I will try to stick with you”. She had just overtaken me on the hills and true to form I started to pull away, giving her the push she needed. I dropped down again to 6:40 pace, it was going to be hard to get below sub 1:30 so I just wanted to be below 1:31. I knew what was coming, and that was a strong headwind for the final section.
I overtook a few more people on the final section and came in within 1:31 in 1:30:56 and 36th position. I am happy with that.
I waited with my family and friends at the end for Rich, and he came in about 10 minutes later.
I like that the Pier give a 6 pound ride voucher to all finishers and a meal voucher. I’ve never used the meal voucher before and did not realise you get a full 6 pound meal with it. Also the ride voucher is really good (especially if you pick up a couple) and it makes this low cost event great value for money. The Tshirt is low value, but it’s dri-fit and included. It’s a decent medal, and the end is perfect for a family day out. The voucher would be better for slightly older kids though, as mine were too young for most things.
The event boasts that it is growing and improving each and every year, but to be honest I don’t see it. It is a small local event with under 1,000 participants. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great event, but it’s certainly not growing, and it could host so many more and be much larger. I did not notice much change in the event from the first year, in fact arguably the barrier and crowd control was worse this year. There were some good marshals, but long sections with no control and random people walking in front of you, which I found annoying.
Overall an enjoyable low key event with lots of potential. This is good value, with lots for the entry fee. I will do this again (not only because it’s my home town).
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