Last week I returned back to deepest darkest Somerset to visit my parents and take part in the town’s Half Marathon. Although the race has been running for the past 5-6 years and despite the fact I have actually entered it on 3 separate occasions, I had never actually reached the start line. Normally the race clashes with Eastleigh 10km, whilst last year I was just coming back from injury and was not quite up to racing a Half at the time.
This year however I was in a much better position to give it a good go. Some decent training and a good result over 10M the week before at Salisbury had given me some confidence at a good performance. Even though the Yeovil course had been modified from previous years there were still a few tough short hills to tackle in the second half of the route so I was aiming for around for something around the 1:15-1:16 area.
It was a bright and early start to Sunday morning with a 9am race start. A tightness in my right calf from the previous days run and training course in Bath had dissipated and I was fit and ready to go. Once I collected my number and dropped off my stuff with my support team for the day (my Dad and his partner) I warmed up around the roads I was quite familiar with as a teenager.
The start line was situated right at the crest of a small hill so the first few hundred metres would be all downhill. Chatting to a few people on the start line I realised that there would be one or two people running around the same pace but other than that it was likely to get quite spaced out (one guys was aiming around 71 mins and there were a bunch just hoping to dip under 80mins).
— Bradley Horton (@Brad_Horton) March 20, 2016
Once the gun went off, the route looped around the town centre streets I settled into a comfortable top 5 position with a small group of 3. A reasonably quick pace ensued for the first 2 miles before the course levelled out and travelled along the disused railway path. At this point I was able to get into a comfortable rhythm within the group as we passed the woods of Ninesprings on the right.
5km was reached in just over 17mins and there was quite a crowd (including Dad) lining the path near the swimming pool. The initial few miles were quite helpful for spectators to be able to watch friends and family from 2-3 locations without travelling too far. We continued along the path and I spoke to the other guys in the group giving them some hints about the inclines over the next few miles. Soon after, I spotted my Mum in front of us and gave her a wave and a thanks coming out and supporting me. It was great to family members on course and the perfect substitution for the usual Lordshill support I get during any race in Hampshire.
After a gradual incline up to the 10km mark(covered in a touch over 35mins), we began to lose one of the trio out the back and it was down to myself and a runner from Plymouth to keep the pace going. A quick word with him suggested he was looking for a sub 78 which was easily going to be reached as we hit halfway in something closer to 75 min pace. I felt really smooth and strong at this point as the course wound its way towards the village of Montacute, knowing I had enough in the tank to work harder over the hills before Mile 10.
Unfortunately this was when disaster struck. Whilst taking a corner through the village I instantly felt my right calf briefly tense up. Straight away I knew that this was the start of something that was going to affect my running in the second half of the race as trying to engage any force through the leg on the hills was going to cause more cramps. Next the race passed the grand Montacute House and travelled up its long gravel driveway. Even the small uneven incline was affecting my calf and I knew this was going to be a problem. I was able to nurse the calf through the next few miles as the course began a series of ups and downs but the pace was already starting to slip (it’s very clear to see on the Strava file when I began to slow down)
The next incline (Ball’s Hill) was a short initial sharp uphill following by a much longer and gradual incline. I found it difficult pushing on the first part of the climb and was not able to put in a good pace on the more steady climb that I’m normally strong on. Eventually the runner from Plymouth began to stretch away from me and I was into a race on my own while the course passed near to the town’s football stadium. This was quite a tough few miles as my calf felt really tight and my pace was dropping away from the intended target.
I got over the last real uphill in the race and took advantage of the steady descent to post a decently paced 12th mile. At this point I had plenty of distance between myself and 5th so I was able to relax and start risking my calf a little bit knowing the end of the race was nearing. A winding underpass was taken before the course appeared back in the town centre.
The final few hundred metres went directly through the Quedam, the town’s pedestrianised shopping precinct) and there were plenty of people to cheer my on as I reached the finish line in 1:16:23. A slight disappointment with the time but considering the second half of the race I could still be proud of my 4th place. I missed out on any trophies or prizes (Top 3 only) but picked up my goody bag and rather large and distinct medal; much bigger and in my opinion better than the one my Girlfriend received on the same day at Eastleigh 10km.
Dad and his partner were there on the finish line with my things and I posed for a few photos with my Dad. I checked my phone and was surprised to see that Mum had already checked the timing website and had texted me to say well done! After a few minutes chatting to my Dad and the other finishers, I set off on a very gentle jog to loosen up the calf (as well as my left quad) and meet my Dad up at a local cafe for some necessary fuelling! After plenty of food and a quick inspection of the goody bag (green tea bags good, prepacked cheesy Spaghetti and sauce bad) we popped back to finish line to have a wander around as well as pick up a free local half of beer.
It was a really nice way to spend Sunday morning and a pleasant change to take part in a race for the first time in my home town with my family cheering me on. It’s clear I’ll need to keep an eye on the calf and work on strengthening it in the coming weeks so its in good shape for the races and training to come.