The day before the race I had to go and collect our race numbers at Riverside. When I arrived I was told there was an issue with some of the numbers. Mine was one of the numbers that had been printed incorrectly. I would be known as Paul Dickenson. Apparently BMW had mixed up names with numbers. I had to just cross out the name on the bib and use it, as the correct time would be allocated against my name.
The morning of the Rochdale Half was a strange one. I’m not going to lie, having to get my kids’ ready for a race, before me, was quite stressful. I like having nothing more, than to think about the list of things I need for the race: essential kit, running number, safety pins, gels, throw away jacket, strapping for knee, and kit for post-race …… Now, having kids, means you have to think about them first, feeding them, what they are wearing, their running numbers, clambering around for extra safety pins, more bottles of water, and their post-race kit. After feeling like my head would explode we hit the road and found a cheeky parking spot just across the road from the esplanade. The announcer made it aware that toilets were available inside the town hall and small children hearing this obviously immediately need toilets. Joining the humungous ladies queue I thought there was no way we would make the start line. Luckily a steward came to the queue and let those in fun run to the front of the queue just in time and we rushed to the start. I burst with pride as I watched my two start and then finish less than ten minutes later, the mile fun run. This was their first proper race (I don’t really consider the race for life a race) and I was very disappointed all they got for their efforts was a chocolate freddo. Very disappointing organisers.
I left the girls in their grandparent’s hands and headed to the start line for the start of the Rochdale Half. I was just going for a run and not for a PB. Having only managed to get up to 11 miles in training I was sure I was going to finish but knew it would never be in any sort of record. I’d taken a look at the course before hand and there looked like there was a hilly section too.
The first mile was fairly flat until the race started heading up a large hill which sapped all my energy. It was an incredibly hot and sunny day too. There were lots of people out on the course shouting and cheering all the way along the streets which lifted me. When I got to the corner of Rochdale Road I saw a work friend and her family and she shouted for me and this made me smile and run harder. Then there was another hill….. more shouts and cheers helped me on my way and I headed down the other side of the huge hill where another familiar face shouted my name and spurred me on. Up another hill and round to the quarter way check point and the water point. Back up and over the small hill, more shouts of encouragement to tackle the huge hill. My legs were starting to tire now and I could feel myself slowing down. Down the huge hill felt great but even so I was tiring in the heat and knew this was only the first loop and I had to do it all over again. I think this was the most demoralising thing. As I was approaching the town hall at the half way point I saw a soldier carrying a huge back pack, I was exhausted. I said to him that he was amazing carrying that in this heat. He said he was used to it. What an amazing guy. As we approached the town hall together his commanding officer asked if he wanted to lose the backpack and he said no. What an incredible feat in that heat. I was struggling in a skimpy pair of short and he was in full uniform carrying his bergen. I saw my kids waving at me, they really lifted me to keep going.
One more lap to go, I was dreading that huge hill but just had to keep going no matter how slow. The people on the streets of Rochdale shouting and cheering really helped every step. Unfortunately on the next water section they had run out of water, luckily I carry my own but very unfortunate on a hot day for those runners who desperately needed some. I managed to make it through the next lap getting slower and slower, saying hi to familiar faces and chatting to the odd runner here and there.
I was very relieved to see the familiar face of Scott Boardman towards the finish who ran the last ½ mile with me. It was slow and it hurt my legs but I did it and I think the smile and relief on my face shows. I finished in 2 hours 7 mins and 45 seconds.
I found the course very difficult, it was really hilly and the weather was incredibly hot but I wasn’t disappointed with the time given the course and the fact I had only managed 11 miles in training.
It’s a great course for those wanting an undulating course and well supported but there aren’t any great scenic areas to look at. I think Rochdale has some really beautiful areas and it’s a shame that these weren’t utilised on this run. The water situation was also a real shame for those runners who missed out on a very hot day. I am also really disappointed my girls missed out on a medal or even something small like a certificate for completing their first ever race.
I realise this was their first race and I hope the organisers learn from this.
Side note - headphones
It was stipulated that during this race nobody should be using headphones due to health and safety. Anyone found using headphones would be disqualified. I adhered to this not wanting to be disqualified yet saw many people wearing headphones. Even though I had asked if Aftershokz would be ok to wear (given you can still hear with them and they are approved with many race organisers) and was told they would NOT be. Not one person I saw was approached and I am not aware of anyone being disqualified.