5th March 2017 I took on MK Festival half for Xempo. I was not originally down to run this race, but owing to a few people dropping out I was happy to offer my services. Unfortunately the name wasn’t changed, so if you can’t find me “tonight Mathew, I’m going to be Paddy Green”. This was the 14th time I have paced for Xempo, and 24th time I have paced an event.
As usual, I have no idea about the pre event logistics, as this all gets done for me by the Xempo team. All I have to do is turn up and get my number and flag, and I’m good to go. I’m really pleased about this as the weather was absolutely terrible. The rain was so heavy on the way to the event that I really didn’t want to get out of the car. Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time I got there, but it was still cold and very windy.
I was a little disappointed with the race village. I’d go as far as say there was no race village. If there was I missed it. Next to the Xempo meet point there was a registration tent which looked miserable because of the weather. What surprised me is the Xscape centre was right there, but we were in the car park. I feel like the organisers missed a trick here as most participants went into Xscape and they could have set up a really good village inside. I went inside for a coffee with fellow pacer Ian Cox, as we had arrived early, but with nothing to do we weren’t going to just stand in the cold. Usually I would hang around so people can meet the pacers, but the organisation did not lend itself to this.
We lined up before the start and surprisingly the weather was beginning to get pretty good. I would go as far as saying perfect running conditions. With one mass start there was nothing marked to indicate where to stand. The pacers spread themselves out, but there was such a long start I was sceptical about people placings. The first mile reinforced my suspicions as we spent a lot of time overtaking people. So many people were stood in the wrong place to start. It’s never too bad when chip timed, but it could have been positioned and organised better.
Overall it was a lovely route. Mostly flat, and it stayed away from roads, taking us through lots of beautiful areas, on paths. Underfoot it was mostly flat, with a few slight hazards, but nothing to worry about. To avoid the roads it meant we went under loads of underpasses, and I mean over 20. This is fine for runners, but was a little awkward for me with the flag. I started by taking it out, but after the tenth time I just pulled it aside and ran at an angle. One of the first underpasses was flooded, and I mean up to the knees flooded, with no way around. So after only 1.7 miles we got very wet feet. Luckily this was the only flooded section.
The rest of the course really did bring a uniqueness to it, avoiding roads and running through some lovely scenery. It was an easy course to pace, being mostly flat. The swim under the first underpass slowed us down to a stop, and there were lots of bollards to avoid, but the course kept flowing throughout most of it.
I always aim to keep my pace even throughout, and that’s exactly what I did, starting with a first mile in 7:59 (I was pacing 8 minute miles). The key to good pacing is keeping to the mile markers, it is no good finishing a race according to your watch, if you haven’t crossed the finish line. Like many races, the mile markers weren’t perfect, and they were recording slightly to far. I spent a few miles gently speeding up so I was now about 30 seconds ahead according to my watch, but perfect on the mile markers. This continued for the entire course, and I kept everyone up to date. They knew at best we would come in bang on pace (if mile markers were right), and at worst we would be about a minute ahead if they adjusted (as I expected).
We ended up somewhere in the middle. I completed the last mile slightly quicker because we hit a massive hill, the only hill in the course. I knew it was coming, and thought the best way to hit it was hard, I would rather run it too fast and people be ahead, than struggle and just slip behind. I am very happy with my splits, which include a swim.
I have checked the official results and my chip time (Paddy Green) is 1:44:38, job well done.
At the end of the race it felt a little low key. The medals are ok, although a little basic, and all you received as you crossed the line was a banana and bottle of water. They were handing out foil blankets if you wanted one which was a good touch, especially if the weather remained as unpleasant as it started. The thing is, without a race village this didn’t have a “Festival” feel, it was just a finish and go home type of event. I grabbed something to eat with family and a nice snack of Wild West jerky hit the spot.
Target time 1:45, actual time 1:44:38. I like running with Xempo for the motivation to get my next colour top, check out what colour you are eligible for at:
For more reviews on MK Festival Half Marathon check out Racecheck:
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