3 TRCers ran in this year’s Plymouth Half Marathon, with great results. Jo Bales, Hana Clitherow and Julie Johns lined up with the crowds for this city centre race. Hana was running her 3rd half in 4 weeks and here she tells us just what that’s like!
A year has gone by since I first ran this race and having been the only Half Marathon that I have managed to run in under 1hr 50, I decided that I would run it again. I liaised with Julie and she agreed to run it again with me. Maybe make a weekend of it, so hotel booked, the race was on.
Saturday 2nd June arrived and off Julie and I went to Plymouth, to partake in some pre race retail therapy warm up. The hotel we selected was a very short walk from the race start line and it provided us with a huge twin room with two double beds tea and coffee facilities which we would have to get replenished from the reception staff on copious occasions and best of all, not too far from the shops. Bliss!
So the first of many cups of tea was consumed, and then the two of us went to start the warm up session on the streets of Plymouth city centre. Now in hindsight, this may not have been a good thing to do before attempting to run 13.1 miles as the pavements were extremely hard and we did have a huge area of clothes rails to walk around in a set time. It could be classed as a sport similar to orienteering time trial and you really do have to have your wits about you. There is a lot of twisting, turning, ascending and dodging of other competitors for the sale rail items and then a sprint when you want to pay and go, but I achieved my goal and came away with a couple of items in my town orienteering “Goodie bag”.
So pre race carb loading for myself, consisted of small bottle of red and a packet of crisps in the hotel room and Julie being very virtuous, settled for some more tea. Then it was a short ride in the lift to the top floor of the hotel and a 3 course meal with glass of wine for the both of us. This almost became another sport in itself, as the restaurant was full of Germans and we know what they are like with sun beds by hotel pools! So now just change sun beds for buffet style food service. Good job Julie and I are nimble and fast thinkers.
The morning of the race arrives, with my alarm sounding at 06:50 to give me time to eat and hopefully digest some “Oats so simple” instant porridge. I had never tried instant porridge before, so it was going to be a risk to the digestive system, but once I had read and followed the instructions and added some fresh raspberries for good measure, the two tubs I ate actually didn’t taste too bad.
Before we knew it, it was time to roll out of the hotel and head the 200yds to the race village and start line on the Hoe. I had peered out of our window to see people with umbrellas up, so the weather was looking a little damp. Maybe my sexy little over the shoulder yellow “Toxic waste” bin liner number, would have to come out again?
We found the Baggage drop area easily, passing a group of men dressed as BANANA’s. Oh no, did this mean I would relive being overtaken by not just one banana like the Leeds Half, or would I be overtaken by a bunch of the blessed neoprene versions of what most people think is fruit but is actually part of the HERB family. Wasn’t that a children’s TV program many years ago?
Time to test the race HQ Loo’s. Loads of Porta Loo’s available, but a queue that looked far too long for us to be able to reach the toilet before the race started. Back to the hotel we walk, and locate the reception area toilets, where there is also a queue of woman runners and a shortage of loo roll. Grrrrr.
We find the race start area for runners of the 2hr ability and slip into the throng of variously dressed athletes. I scan the area for “Man in lycra” (last year’s eye candy so to speak) but he is nowhere to be seen. Instead I get “Small stocky greying male with hydration back pack and 4 gels attached”. This just wasn’t going to motivate me to quicken my race pace. He smiles, engages in some polite conversation and before too long the race starts. I say start, It was a bit like an egg timer experience, with a wide area at the beginning then it narrowed down to grid lock, before widening out again and the pre race “clothes rail weaving” technique started to come into its own.
Man with hydration pack and Gel’s is ahead.
We start the race going downhill along Cliff road where the only option is to take to the pavement. There are many people running in pairs and it becomes more and more difficult to squeeze pass them. We continue down onto Hoe road and a slight incline but the first mile is all downhill to the Barbican area. As I reach mile 1.5 I hear “Hi Hana” and there in the throng of runners, I see a Newquay running club vest being worn by Dave, a reader of my racing blogs. Now I have to state that last year I beat him in this event, so the challenge although not spoken is obviously on!
I pass by and he says “see you at the park”, I take this to mean Saltram, where the first real hill of this race is to be found and this confirms he has me in his sights. Sh-t!
I’m now plodding along at a nice pace with belated birthday Garmin showing my pace to be about 7:35. This is too fast for me to maintain but I do what I can do, whilst I can do it, if you understand what I mean, and as I have no race tactic or plan, I just plod on. Male with hydration pack is overtaken, I think he said something, but not sure what it was?
At mile three I come across our first water station, and this year the organisers of this event have decide to be more cost aware and environmentally friendly, by providing water in cups and not bottles. I hate to see runners take a sip or two from a bottle and then throw it into the hedge, such needless waste. There are cups everywhere and two males behind me start moaning, saying that the set up is a shambles and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the race. I had to bite my tongue, as the cadets manning this area were working their socks off, but the demand was greater than the cadets could possibly meet. To be honest, do you really need a drink at mile 3? If I can run 13.1 without a drink then the two moaning Myrtle’s behind me, could have lasted to mile 7, where the volume of runners passing through the next water station at the same time would have thinned out.
The route now takes us out along the embankment, with the estuary to our right, and I see a male runner in a “Borat Mankini” (thankfully worn over compression shorts, or else the chaffing would have been quite unpleasant).We make a sharp U turn around a “keep left” Bollard and double back on ourselves before crossing Laira Bridge. Then we turn left onto “The Ride”, a cycle and walking route just before Saltram Estate where as last year, men scatter to the left and right to study the Flora and Fauna of the hedgerows. I pass “Shaun the Sheep” who looks a tad warm and in need of having his fleece shorn. Then the whiff of “Chelson meadow” enters my nostril’s and I remember my visits there, many many years ago, (in an official capacity) and where the rats were the size of small cats. It’s the landfill site for Plymouth and the girl behinds me, says it is making her feel sick…..it really wasn’t that bad, honest!
The Hill arrives. The hill, that takes you out of Saltram and back onto the roads again. It’s a grind, but nothing like the ones we encountered on the Imerys half and supporters are on each side of the route offering sweets and moral support. Firstly Dave from Newquay passes with a friendly “Hello”, (dam and blast it) then man with Hydration pack and 4 gels does the same. Bu—ar! I slog on upwards passing and refusing drinks at the water station, where everything is working in an orderly fashion and moaning Myrtles are not to be heard.
The route levels off thank god, and we are now at 7.5 and going downhill. I pass Dave…..yippee, and man with Hydration pack…. a bigger yippee! Sadly this doesn’t last long, as a smaller but steeper hill arrives and as usual I plod up it, to be overtaken by the two boys, thankfully the bunch of Banana’s I saw at the start, are nowhere to be seen. I don’t see Dave again and I’m starting to feel the fatigue of 3 Half marathons in 4 weeks.
I hear the sound of horse’s hooves on tarmac. I look around and can’t see any horses anywhere. It’s either the sound of runners throwing their water cups onto the road at this the last water station I am passing through or I’m starting to hallucinate. Definitely the cups! One male runner passes me. He has full running kit apart from his shoes. He is wearing suede light weight about town walking shoes. They were definitely not running shoes, so I can sense a pre race packing malfunction for that poor chap.
Back towards Laira Bridge we run and I again pass “Hydration pack man”. We have being playing cat and mouse for far too long and I’m starting to get irritated. I just need to maintain my position and plod on. Belated birthday Garmin shows pace at about 8:25, so I’m happy, but not sure if I can equal last year’s finishing time, but it is a different route and a much slower start once we had crossed the timing mat. Only time will tell. Oooo man is strapless mini dress and blue and white tights passes to the cheers and whistles of the crowd.
I’m now entering Sutton road, just before the Barbican. It is flat ground here, but the tarmac is making my feet and ankles ache. To my left is one poor male runner is placed in the recovery position on the pavement by a very proficient looking fellow runner with an ambulance on the way. This race has taken the poor runner with less than two miles to go.
Although the weather has been overcast throughout the race, I have been sweating like a pig, or is that a horse? I was definitely not glowing like a woman should! The poor sole who had collapsed on the pavement, is about the only person who can possibly look worse than me. I know I have salty sweat dribble stains down my chops and I must have a pained expression on my now very haggard face, so being talent spotted by a modelling agency is totally out of the question, unless it’s an advert for a full face lift and I’m the before photo!
1 mile to go, over cobbles we run and in front of me is the male runner whose legs have a different agenda to the owners body. He wobbles left then right on legs made of Jelly, and I am tempted to stop running and take his arm and walk him to the finish line. I mean, 1 mile and he would have his medal. But no, out of the supporting crowd rushes a member of the public and steers him carefully to an awaiting chair, just in time, or else he would have ended up on the floor in an undignified fashion.
So now it’s the last slog, and it’s uphill to the finishing line. I can hear someone shouting dig in, final push, not far to go, and all I want to do is lie down and give up. No girl, I can’t have “Hydration pack man” beat me, or the Banana’s.
I enter the final 100 yds to the finishing line and try to sprint in. No smiles for the camera today I’m afraid, but I cross the line and remain upright with a chip time of 1hr 51:12.
That is about 1 min 14 seconds slower than last year. I’m disappointed, but does it really matter? No it doesn’t. I’m still standing, I’m not injured and I will be able to run another day. Plus I’ve had a great weekend with my wonderful friend Julie….I just have to muster enough energy to drive home but Tea and shower needed first.
Is my vision impaired; am I about to pass out? I’m seeing double….. There is two Elvis Presley’s standing in front of me at the baggage drop area. How much wine did I drink last night??????? Is my dehydration that bad?
So all in all.
- Parking. Plentiful but all council pay and display or at the hotel we stayed at £3 for two days in their underground car park.
- Race HQ. Well managed and as you received your race numbers and chip in advance, no need for Alison to be there.
- Toilets. Quite a few, but queue’s very long so used the hotels.
- Showers. Good for us two girls as we had managed to negotiate a late check out from our hotel, so we had unlimited hot water and also managed to restock the in rooms tea and milk supply so we could collapse, rehydrate and then drive home.
- Marshals. Never really noticed them, but no one took a wrong turn, the race ran smoothly, so they must have done a good job.
- Water stations. Plentiful and well run, but maybe on reflection the first one at mile 3 should have had a few more cadets handing out the drinks. It still didn’t qualify for the moaning that I heard.
- Goodie bag. Disappointing…..No T Shirt. We had a bottle of water and a banana handed to us along with our medal (weighty beast that is). Then in the goodie bag we had: a Mars Bar, A flapjack, trial pack size of Zero Tabs, small pack of Jelly beans and a T Bag (was I suppose to suck that for rehydration after the race) Then an item I’ve never had in a goodie bag before………………. Radox bath soak. This one may go in my box of Goodie’s I really don’t want, along with the beanie hat.
Would I run this race again? Part of me says that as I’ve run it twice maybe not, but who knows, it’s a good course, the support from the crowd is brilliant and it raises money for charity. We’ll have to wait until about Christmas when the entries come on line to see if I do.
- 01:06:34, Peter Emese, unaffiliated
- 01:06:45, Teddy Shiferaw, unaffiliated
- Tadele Gereman, 01:08:39, unaffiliated
- 01:22:01,Vicky Pincombe, unafilliated
- 01:23:13, Helen Dyke, Poole Runners
- 01:25:35, Ami Yetton, Plymouth Harriers
Plymouth Half Marathon 2012 – Results .xls file
- 01:53:15, Hana Clitherow
- 01:56:23, Jo Bales
- 02:02:57, Julie Johns