On 13th May 2018 I took part in the inaugural #RunGatwick Half Marathon. Although this was the inaugural event I had big expectations. I have ran #RunReigate a few times (read about Run Reigate HERE) and with the same organisers, and with the partnership with British Airways, surely it would be an event not to miss. Not only would I be running in the inaugural event (I ran the inaugural #runreigate too), but I would be pacing 1:40. This was a particularly special event for me as it was the 50th official event I have paced. So, how did the 50th tour on the #funbus go?
As always I prepared my kit ahead of race day to make sure I had everything I needed. I always like to be prepared, as if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail. I’ve been breaking in my #brookslevitates and tried my #CEP 2in1 shorts. First time I’ve not used Vaseline and not had chafing so that is a bonus.
All the pacers were picked by Xempo today, and it was the 21st time that I have paced for them. Dan misunderstood the race day brief and instead of being in the race village he met British Airways in Spain, so wouldn’t be able to make the event. I was drafted in as Pacer captain to make sure that we were all there and ready to go. To be honest I didn’t need to do much as most were experienced pacers. There were a few no shows and last minute changes, but we were all kitted up with new flags and tees and ready to fly.
We made our way to the race start where we were held in pens outside the main stage ready to make our way to the start line. This was by a big inflatable finish line which was actually the kids finish line, not the main finish line. We then all walked briefly to the race start line in time order, which was made clear by the pacers.
I started off with Jamie as my co pilot for the day. We had a good size group around us with maybe a dozen aiming for 1:40 for the first time, and many more trying to nip under 1:40. I also had a number of runners aiming to start behind me to catch me for a sub 1:38. It was great chatting with everyone before the start and getting to know those we would spend the next 1:40 with. There was a great line up on stage with Susie Chan, Colin Jackson, Sally Gunnell and Iwan Thomas. Then before long we were off.
We started out a little fast with a gradual decent, but I tried to keep the brakes on a little. The closed roads were quiet, with plenty of support on the course. We got to mile 1 a little early, but the marker was a little long so perfect according to the marker even though my watch came up fast. I kept the pace up to ensure we kept pace with the markers, but by mile 2 the markers were on point, and they stayed on point for the rest of the course. I kept the pace even on around 7:35 for the rest of the course, but Jamie kept the pace up gradually pulling away. We naturally created a good pacing zone between us meaning everyone in between would be on track for 1:40, and those closer to him would find it easier to dip into 1:38.
The course was basically flat on the most part, and water was provided 4 times in bottles. It was perfect running conditions which was both a pleasure and a surprise after the last few events in sweltering temperatures. I had joked to those around me about BA organising a flyover for us, but the course route meant they actually did. Between mile 5 and 7 we ran first alongside the terminal, and then the flight path. At mile 5 my group got a great view as a plane took off as we were pacing. Again we saw more but by mile 7 we were further away so the planes were higher in the air. This was great, just wish I had my phone out to capture it.
There was a mixed route of main and rural roads, but all closed. I particularly enjoyed the quieter sections with beautiful scenery. It was a perfect route, but as the event grows there will need to be consideration into the waved starts to ensure narrower sections don’t get too congested. It was lovely after around 7 miles to be caught up by Paul from Bosh who had been chasing me. Leading up to mile 9 was the only real hill of the course which was a little tough, but it was short lived and the rest of the course was downhill (pretty much) from here.
As we made our way towards the finish I still had a good group around me and I was picking people up on the way. As always, as we got to mile 12 I gave the shout for people to get ahead of me. Even though I had built a 30 second cushion it was now that I want to see the remaining runners get ahead of me if they want 1:40. The gap between Jamie and I closed so that he was not too far ahead at the finish. Where I usually slow gradually at the end I actually had a little panic and sped up. The pace was perfect, but all of a sudden I thought of the black inflatable finish line and thought the course must be long, I knew it would be very close, and I don’t like leaving it so tight. So as I turned the corner I completely missed Kirsty and the kids as I was a little worried, but the start line was also the finish line, so I got there about 15 seconds quicker than I had considered.
I am still very happy with the finish time of 1:39:38, and my 50th successful pacing experience. I absolutely love pacing and look forward to the next 50 and the thousands of runners I will get to run with and support to PB’s.
The finish was great with a nice medal (that’s like a ticket), a decent drifit top and then a decent race village. As I finished I was approached by someone with a mike asking me how the day went. As this picture is now on social media by BBC Surrey I assume it was them.
I had a look around the race village and I was amazed by the prizes being offered by BA (although it would have been better if I won haha). I entered a raffle for £1 for Comic Relief. The prize was a holiday for 4 to Orlando, a holiday for 2 to Athens and air miles. I then went to join a huge queue to see what the fuss was about. We all had a turn on basically a giant slot machine and 3 matches won the prize. I didn’t win, but numerous flights were given out… yes flights, how cool is that. Just ahead of me someone won 2 flights to anywhere worldwide on business class, and the person behind me won 2 flights to anywhere in Europe. Now I would have liked to have won (obviously) but it’s great to see around a dozen people win flights. This is very generous and I’ve never seen such great prizes.
I had an absolutely fantastic day, and there is no doubt that this will be back in my diary next year. A nice run that has potential to get bigger and better, with good PB potential. A good village for fun for the whole family, a half marathon and a kids race (next year I will do the kids race too, with the kids obviously). And BA gave out some fantastic prizes.
Next up Liverpool Marathon next week, who is with me?