I signed up to the Hatfield Half Marathon because my lovely Marathon Talk friend, Kate, was organising it and mentioned it to me. Hatfield is quite a distance from me (about 2.5 hours away) but as it was towards Ipswich way it made sense (to me anyway) to combine the two in one weekend to limit potential future driving.
The half marathon sounded really nice as well. Running two laps through Hatfield Forest National Trust, fairly flat but off-road. I wouldn’t be aiming for a time, just a nice scenic plod round. My friends Michelle and John were joining to run as well so it would be a nice housemates reunion (we all stayed together in a lodge in February in the Sandy Balls Run Camp).
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d helped Kate and her husband Chris do some of the course set-up the day before and had enjoyed a very tasty Domino’s Pizza for dinner. As their house was about 15 minutes from the forest, it meant I could actually have a nice lie-in on a race day. Chris and Kate, with their kids, left a lot earlier and being so lovely let me sleep in and come later. It was very strange getting up in someone else’s house without them being there…and trying to work out how to use the shower (I don’t usually shower before a race but I felt I needed to freshen up after the day before) and their coffee machine. Not easy feats I tell you!
The race started at 10am and at about 9am I left to head to the race. I’d like to add that I left WITH MY TRAINERS.I feel this is an important point to make due to past experiences with my previous half marathon.
On arrival (parking was great and £3, so super cheap) I walked a short distance to the race HQ area and met up with Michelle to grab our bibs.
It was nice to see Michelle. She’s coming back from injury but is still super speedy. John arrived shortly after. John, likewise, was coming back from some time off so wasn’t aiming for a speedy time. It sounded like we were aiming for around the same time so we decided to run together, which was nice.
I overheard someone say that you really wouldn’t know you were near an airport (Stansted) if you were just teleported into the forest. This was so true, except for the occasional plane flying overheard it was like you were in some deep forest far away from civilisation. It was so scenic and pretty. A really love place for a race but also a lovely place to bring friends and family and spend the day.Kate was zooming around the place doing last minute event organiser business but she did the welcome announcement and start.It was cool to see someone you know starting a race for over 300 people. And so we were off!I feel like I mentally nodded at and was grateful for every sign that I saw. It makes me realise how much effort it really is to set a course up for a race (or in fact, the organisation in general that goes in to it all!) after being a tiny part of that the day before.John and I ran nice and easily, chatting away and catching up. I couldn’t really have gone much faster to be honest. Not at the start. It was hot and sunny and despite being in a forest a lot of the route was actually out of the shade. The ground underfoot was tricky as it was basically dry grass (due to the hot weather). In fact, it did look a bit like the African savanna at times.I was really glad to be running with John because running didn’t feel particularly smooth or easy today. It felt a bit of a grind. The scenery and company certainly helped!There were a few water stops on route (cups) and young little helpers armed and ready with water pistols to squirt anyone who shouted for it. It was a lovely welcome relief! John and me walked through the water stations to grab a drink and drink properly. We were in no hurry. This was just a “bimble”.There was a lovely section that went through the woods which was really nice because it, obviously, meant being out of the sun. It was a bit easier underfoot as well. This then led to a stretch out in the open and over grass with a bit of undulation before we reached the first lap. So this would mean a tough finish. Though our pace was still fairly easy at around 8 min/miles.Now we knew what was to come. We continued chattering away about life, the universe and everything and gradually our pace became a bit stronger and faster. It was very hot though. The marshals were fantastic, cheering us along and being super positive. One of the water stations even had a Mexican theme with sombreros and fake mustaches which was amusing.
As we got back round to the lovely wooded area a guy running near us asked what time we were aiming for. As we weren’t actually aiming for any time (or really had an awareness of what time we were going to be finishing) John replied, “not really aiming for anything, just bimbling round” (this is my new favourite word by the way). Then realised how that might sound and clarified that we were just running for fun rather than pushing for a certain time. It turns out it was the man’s first half marathon and he was aiming for a sub 1:50. We worked out we’d probably be finishing under that time so told him he was welcome to stick with us.
As we got to the last two or three miles we had gradually begun to speed up without really knowing. John helpfully told the guy running with us that we’d unintentionally sped up. And with that increased speed we gradually left him behind. As we got about a mile and a half away I felt myself building a bit more speed up. John told me to go on. I felt bad leaving him but equally I wanted to finish strong. Plus I would have been more than happy for him to have done the same to me had it been reversed.The final mile was tough going in the heat of the sun and slightly undulating (well, a bit bumpy but not hilly per se).I managed to overtake a few people which helped keep me motivated I saw the finish, heard them shout my name over the speaker (they got it right for once!) and sprinted to the end. I saw Kate at the finish which was lovely. And then John finished soon after. Sadly the guy who ran with us just got over 1:50, but he seemed happy enough with this time for his first half.My time was 1:48:24 and 3rd in my category position (but I believe 4th female). I will happily take that! Michelle was 2nd female, the speedster (just under 1:42).After finishing the three of us chilled out a bit on the grass enjoying the sunshine. I took my trainers and socks off ready for a free post-race massage. How good is that! Though they did accept donations (as I had no money on me Michelle kindly donated for me).I was then keen to head off home. It was about a 2 hour 15 minute drive and I just wanted to get on the road and get back. I wanted to be home at a decent time so I could chill before work the next day.This was a fantastic race that I really recommend. Not necessarily a PB course but beautiful, friendly and good fun. Thanks Kate!
Do you ever do races just for fun?
What’s your favourite surface to run on?
Do you like a post race massage straight after?