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Swanage Half Marathon Ė 14 July 2012

Steve Wyatt reports.

I watched last yearís race unfold in front of me as I drove along part of the course on the way to a job one rainy Saturday in July 2011. The miracle of the car is that it seemingly dissolves all those bumps and undulations under the power of the internal combustion engine. Move forward 12 months to this year and here I am approaching Swanage with the intention of running those same bumps and undulations, this time powered by my own steam.

Iíve always found the half marathon to be a somewhat tricky distance. The marathon may be longer (twice as long for the mathematicians amongst you) but it is run at a much more steady, manageable pace whereas the half marathon seems to me to be 13.1 miles run at 5k pace. In short, quite difficult to sustain without a little misery somewhere along the way (or most of the way if itís not going well). In final absolution, Iím not sure I would even bother with them at all if they werenít a means to an end in training for full marathons.

I note that itís clearly going to be a hilly course as I crest yet another hillock in the car on the way and the rain, whilst holding off, is certainly on the horizon. The first shock occurs at the car park where a large group stands staring at the ticket machine. ĎHow much?í, says someone at the back, to be met with a `Well they clearly donít want you to come back a second timeí from the man about to empty his pockets of change. The time you run a race rarely has any financial implications but I seriously pondered whether I could get by with a 2-hour ticket rather than the £6.40 for 3 hours it was requesting. On deciding I had to have three hours and glancing at my own meagre pile of change I re-started the car and went searching for a back street. All was well with this until the start. I was feeling somewhat chuffed with my cunning plan only to be told by a fellow runner that all the back streets are one hour only. Iíd like to think that this explains away my quick pace at the start Ö oh how I wish Iíd been going that quickly at the finishÖ

Anyway, we line up at the start and thereís the usual glad handing and nervous chat amongst the runners, Bournemouth AC dominate the front and away we go. Now I Ďm not saying the first hill out of Swanage was steep but a bloke in lederhosen and climbing equipment was belaying at the side of the road when I went past! Two miles in and weíve reached the Ďtopí and settle in for what must be a 5-mile undulating road notionally downhill to Corfe Castle. The reality is that every downhill part is matched by the uphill and thereís no real sense of progress other than those mile markers. It all seems the same to me and I spent as much time looking backwards as forwards trying to will those miles along.

A lack of running due to illness has had its effect but Iím determined to keep Richard Swindlehurst behind me until at least Corfe! We make the turn at about seven miles and are effectively heading back towards Swanage but unbelievably, we seem to be going back uphill again and this goes on for another 1.75 miles. Iíve hardly looked at the pace watch and I can feel things arenít going well for me. Richard passes me uphill in a swoosh of red vest and Iím left worrying how many places Iím going to drop in the last 5 miles.

Sure enough I struggle on the hill sections (of which there are many) and runner after runner passes me by. Morale drops, legs tighten and Iím forced to stop and do some stretching at 9.5 miles. Jerry then also passes me but on the plus side we do seem to be heading downhill! Suddenly I sense thatís itís nearly over, morale picks up, the heavens open, we get soaked but we are definitely going downhill ÖÖ..Thereís the obligatory diversion through a back road to make the distance correct and finally we arrive on the sea front, sodden. A quick sprint to the finish and it is finally over - 1hr 28 mins.

Inside the time I had predicted for me today but on a course when even the downhills were uphill. I was disappointed so Iíve decided to call this my HB Ė Hilly Best.

Running - itís as much in the mind as the legs - Did I mention the hills? 


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