Shrewsbury Half Marathon
June 19th 2016
It all started with a road trip from the Grim North to the rolling hills of Shrewbury on a Friday morning with the lovely Nicola and Howard of Twitter and UKRunchat fame. It was to be a whole weekend of UKRunchat loveliness culminating in the Shrewsbury half marathon on the Sunday.
I was collected and we journeyed down through motoroways and hills, more hills and more countryside. Oh haven't we seen that hill? Or that car before? Not sure if we were lost or the sat nav just sent us on the longest possible route imaginable. Finally we arrived at our destination which was a youth hostel but proved to be a beautiful old building with a gorgeous garden set in a tiny village which boasted one single pub.
On immediate allocation of rooms it was quickly decided in order to get some wifi in these parts a quick swift exit and a 1 minute walk to the pub would be in order. This seemed to be a permanent theme of the weekend, lets borrow the pubs wifi. A lovely drink and back to the hostel to welcome people arriving through the afternoon and into the evening. The evening included a 3 course meal of vegetable soup, sausage casserole and a cake dessert provided by the hostel. Very home cooked and hearty. A quick change and we all headed off to pub and it was extremely busy as we happened to coincide with the Sin Eater festival. The Sin - Eater Festival is held at The Bridges - just outside the centre of the village of Rattlinghope, Shropshire which is believed to be home of the England's last Sin - Eater. There was live music and a real vibe there. They wrote down their sins and burned them and generally had a good time. We just sat in a corner and had a quiet drink Friday night and headed off to bed as we were to be up early for our walk on Saturday.
Up bright and early Saturday, Jason and Jen were off to do a Parkrun and the rest of us were going to do a walk over the Long Mynd. The sun did not have his hat on and he was not shouting hip hip hooray. It was drizzly and cloudy and we were all a little underprepared for rain. We sucked it up and got out there and yomped up those beautiful hills and beautiful they were despite the rain. It's a shame it was so coudy just imagine what those views would've been like on a clear day. On our arrival back at camp we were delightfully given bacon butties. Yum!! If the walk wasn't nice enough.
After time to change we were all going to head to Shrewsbury Showground to hear talks from experts. So we organised ourselves into cars and headed off. What we hadn't anticpated was Shrewsbury carnival was also on the Saturday and as we arrived near the showground the road into town had been closed and we could go no further. Our convoy turned around and in the confusion myself Jen and Sofia lost the other cars and decided we were too blonde and didn't have enough time to follow them. We had another plan, find a parking space and go and watch the carnival. So we did, it only took 5 minutes to find a space and we walked over a lovely bridge right smack into the floats and carnival itself. We followed them into town and grabbed a coffee from an amazing coffee shop. Then got some lunch and bits from the shops and headed over to the carnival ground and watched some of the shows. We had such a fun afternoon. We'd never met before this weekend, it's amazing how running can bring you together and make such lovely friends.
We headed back to the camp (hostel) laughing about our afternoon and wondered how everyone had got on at the talks. They seemed to mostly enjoy the talks, check out fellow UKrunchat David blog or the other David blog for more info. Jason hadn't slept very well in their dorm on the Friday night (somebody was snoring) so I had bought him some earplugs which earned me the name of runmum.
It was already time for a slap up 3 course meal before another party night at the sin eaters festival. Of course I drank soft drinks and left at 9.30 as I was running a half marathon in the morning. Far too sensible I know.
Up with an alarm and showered, barely able to put in the porridge, I was ready by silly o' clock. There were lot's of people milling around the canteen area. I was ready to go so I asked Ali (who was volunteering at the race) if he would drive me to the ground. I'd heard the roads were closing and I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I hadn't really spoken much to Al during the weekend and it was nice getting to know him a little on the car journey in. When we got to the ground there was lots of activity, lots of UKrunchat peeps were running about, sorting out all the behind the race things. Even though Joe (Director of the race and chief of UKRunchat) was incredibly busy he found time to come and say hello. Always a pleasant chap. I made myself busy with frequent trips to the many toilets and catching up with various people as they arrived. There were other ukrunchat members who were just coming for the race too. We got a few pre race selfies and before you knew it it was time to get in line. Not before being cornered by a bolshy marsha. The conversation went something like this. Oi you can't wear those. What? Those. These headphones? Yes you won't hear instructions. Ummmm I can hear you now can't you. Then why do you want to wear them? Because I enjoy listening to music. Well you can't wear them, you'll be disqualified. I think you'll find I can wear them. No you can't it's UKA rules. So I trundled past her bolshiness and put them back on the second I passed the start line. I wasn't disqualified. There were plenty of people wearing headphones, including in your ear headphones. I didn't see her pick on anyone else so have no idea what her problem with me was.
I decided I wasn't going to go for a massive time. I had heard there were hills, I had seen the hills. We had walked up and down a few the day before at the carnival. Just give as good you can I thought and I did. I set off at a reasonable pace towards the back and enjoyed the scenery of Shrewbury and it was a really lovely and scenic place.
The race started off out of the Showground and through the town of Shrewsbury for the first mile. There were lot's of lovely old buildings (including the cathedral) and it wasn't long before I was encountering those hills. As the course snakes through the town centre at around the second mile, Jason comes cruising past me (this being his first half marathon race). 'Don't tire yourself out too soon' I say. He replied 'ohhh that hill was a corker wasn't it'. I laughed and replied 'that wasn't a hill, the hills are still to come'. A fellow runner shouted, 'that was just a speed bump'. That made me laugh and he wasn't wrong. Jason ran along side me for a little while but soon sprinted off.
There was very steep hill at mile 5 in the town where the wheelchair competitors struggled. They kept going sideways the hill was vertical. I struggle on the up due to my knees but I can fly down the other side. It was nice to see Jen on the up as I was coming down and she waved to me as we passed.
The town turns into the countryside and the hill at about 6.5 miles left everyone struggling. It was exhausting as seemed to go on and on and on. Near the top I bumped into Bill who was walking and egged him on to carry on running. So we ran together and chatted. It was great to get to know him better and have someone to run with. As we turned a corner there was Jason walking I try to encourage him to run on with us too. The main road turned into country lanes and some deceiving hills but actually the last few miles didn't seem nearly as tough with Bill to chat to. It's funny how having a companion or someone just to distract you makes the miles fly by. The descent towards the end was lovely. I can usually fly down hills but I had nothing in my tank at all, I told Bill to run on as he had something more to give in the last mile. I was running on empty. It was a tough half. I was very pleased to see that finish line and get my medal and peanut butter/goody bag.
The scenery was beautiful and getting to know members of the ukrunchat community better just made the whole weekend/race for me.