On 17th June 2018 I took part in the Shrewsbury Half Marathon for the first time. It was a difficult weekend for me to arrange as it was on Fathers Day, and Kirsty’s birthday weekend. This was an event that I had heard a lot about in 2017, so certainly one I wanted to make the effort to run in 2018. In order to make the most of it we spent the weekend in Shrewsbury as a family at Love2Stay Glamping. At Shrewsbury Half I paced the 1:40 #funbus for the first time, which was the 53rd event as an official Pacer.
We made the most of the weekend, and took part in the kids challenge to run 1.1 miles on the Saturday. Benjamin and Amelie both love to take part in events and had a fantastic time running at the Shrewsbury Half. It was the furthest they have ever run, and proud Dad moment as Benjamin ran the whole way.
It is always a good start to the weekend when the kids are able to take part. After their run I set up ready for the pacers in the morning, and race prep always makes me feel excited about an event.
And after a morning of running we then spent time bowling, and enjoying the rest of the Glamping facilities, including the hot tub.
As always I set up my race kit the night before. We were really lucky to be given some ON trainers and a top as pacers, and it was lovely to try these trainers for the first time. I couldn’t help but try and colour coordinate my kit with my CEP calf guards, which I think I did successfully. #matchymatchy
Usually my family come to the events with me, but they stayed to enjoy our Glamping facilities. Mike from the National Running Show was staying next door, so we made our way in together, it was great to catch up about all things running.
When we arrived the race village filled up quickly, and I helped organise the pacers, ensuring we were all there and ready to go. We had a great group of experienced pacers, and local runners in the team. Ben took some wonderful pictures of us all, and I used the opportunity, after he lined us up, to get a selfie.
All the pacers then made our way to the start pens whilst the warm up was underway. It wasn’t long until it filled up and I had a big group ready for the sub1:40 #funbus. It was great having a good mix of runners who had done the event before, run locally so knew the route, and many aiming for 1:40 for the first time. We talked at the start about race pace strategy. As always with a hilly course I explained that I would run up the hills at equal effort, meaning I would go slower up the hills. I find that on difficult courses it is much better to run slightly faster than race pace on the flat; take the big hills more steady; and go faster down hill. This is the best way to keep more people with you, and getting more people to hit their targets is my goal. If you try running this sort of course consistently throughout you would end up pushing people to hard up the hills and would lose everyone.
The course started off hard with an immediate hill that I took more gently. It was however followed by a steep decline which more than compensated for the incline, and the first mile was a bit quicker than expected. That was absolutely fine and I tried to keep it ahead of target before hitting the first real hill at mile 3.
We started off by running through the town, and it had a lovely community feel. The roads were all closed and the locals came out to support and cheer. I ran with a few locals which was fantastic, especially seeing all their loved ones out to cheer them on. Although I had looked at the course profile, I hadn’t run the course, so it was good to get the local knowledge and be able to relay this to those running around me.
Leaving the town we had the biggest hill of the course, around mile 6. This was a tough climb so I slowed down to help keep people with me. I lost a few going up, but I used the 20 seconds I had built as a cushion to slow it down and make the climb easier. Once I got to about mile 7 I was a few seconds off target because of the climb, but I kept it steady up the hills. I knew the second half was easier so would rather lose a bit of time at these points and keep people with me.
The second half was still undulating, but it got easier. By this time I only had about a dozen of runners immediately behind me, with another dozen ahead. I tried to keep peoples spirits up and pick people up as we passed. As we had dropped the pace for the big hills I had to pick up the pace a bit to keep us on target, so I increased gradually, but keeping it within target. I didn’t lose too many and as we approached 9-10 I was able to chat to a few runners who were on target for 1:40 as a PB. It gets hard pacing sometimes, and I actually had a stitch, but seeing those around me pushing their limits and achieving their target is a great motivator for me. No matter how hard I find a course I always look around and think to myself, “I have no excuses, if they can do it for the first time today, then I can do it”. Not only do I make sure I keep steady, I try to take peoples mind off the hard work, ensure they keep their motivation, and keep going.
I picked up the Pace again after mile 11 and kept us going up the last gradual hill at target pace to give us plenty of time at the finish. I encouraged everyone to pace me at this point. After a final gradual climb it was all down hill to the finish. This was a lovely peaceful section and it helped give people a lot of motivation. I had to put on the brakes to stop myself going too fast as gravity did its job. There were a fair few runners that couldn’t keep up on the last hill, and they all came flying past me on the last section.
We came down into the showground and more and more runners ran past me to the finish. It was great that we could hear the race village for the final half mile and knew we were almost home, this is always a good motivational boost. I called out for everyone to get ahead of me and I kept the pace going strong. I ran the last couple of miles a bit faster to keep people under target, I could have slowed down but didn’t want to leave too much to give at the end, and wanted to ensure everyone made it under 1:40.
There were lots of smiles at the end as we came in bang on target. It was lovely to get a shout out by Susie Chan as we crossed the finish line. With a target time of 1:40, I’m very happy with an official finish of 1:39:43 and lots of happy runners coming to shake my hand and give me a hug. Some huge PB’s today and some that left me in the second half came in at 1:37/1:38. A fantastic achievement by all involved.
The race finish was good with the pilot of recyclable cartons for water, some treats in a finish bag, medal and drift tee. It’s also really good getting instant finishers photos free of charge, always a great touch in an event.
It was great to see so many from the #ukrunchat community, and #Shrewsburyhalf was a lovely event. Thank you to Breatheunity and Ukrunchat for making it a really special weekend.