“Just water for me, thanks.” At least that was my stance at 6pm on Saturday night…By 8pm it became: “Just one glass” and by 11pm we were opening a second bottle of a very nice Rioja. We then decided that we should stay up to midnight so that we could sing Happy Birthday to my wife and I rolled into bed at about 1am. This possibly wasn’t the best pre-race prep that I’d ever done, especially when combined with the large plate of fish & chips that I’d had for tea. I can only hope that my sports dietitian doesn’t read this as I would be in no end of trouble. Read on to see how I got on the following morning at the inaugural Frome half marathon.
Fortunately it had a reasonably late start at 10:45, so I had a rather leisurely breakfast at 07:45 and the rest of my morning prep was pretty impeccable. I made sure that I was well hydrated with a couple of hours to go, as the thermometer was showing around 25 degrees and the sky was clear. It was going to be a hot one. There was a reasonable field for a first event with around 700 runners split between the 10k and the half marathon. We would all start together and the courses would split a few miles in. The roads were unfamiliar to me, however it looked like the course was going to be reasonable hilly.
Registration was straight forward at Frome Football Club and the amenities showed up
some larger events that I’ve done. There was a row of portaloos out the back of the club which handled the number of runners perfectly with only a small queue. There was a secure bag storage area, as well as a place to buy event merchandise and a table with some homemade cakes on it. Outside there was also a tent selling energy food and a few other bits and pieces.
I sat around with my host, Nigel from www.nigellewissystems.co.uk until he had to head off about 45 minutes before the start. The atmosphere was very relaxed and largely uneventful until it was time to form up on the start line. I passed the time stretching, in particular my tight right ITB, and visiting the portaloos a number of times. See my early mention of being hydrated! It worked out quite nicely though as I didn’t need to stop during the race at all and I didn’t dehydrate, despite the heat.
There were no time indicators at the start, which I don’t think mattered too much in this
instance, but may be useful next year if there are more entrants. However in my experience a lot of runners seem to ignore them anyway. After my performance at the Plymouth Half Marathon I decided to start near the front to ensure that I was near people that were of a similar speed to me. The fact that I did this really showed just how much my confidence in my running ability has grown. Before I’ve always hung about towards the middle/back of the field, so that I didn’t get in anyone else’s way. On Sunday I was determined to hang onto someone’s coat tails and see what I could do.
I lined up at the start next to Peppa Pig, no really, right at the front was a fairly small and apparently popular guy wearing a Peppa Pig outfit. He must have been roasting and we hadn’t even started yet. Up on a small platform next to the start line was the Race Director and a few other people that I almost recognised. One was the chairman of the local Rotary Club, another was the MP David Heath and the third was one of Britain’s finest ex Rugby players, Jeremy Guscott. Here is where we encountered the two “blips” of the day. Firstly the loudspeaker directed towards the runners kept cutting out, or to be more precise it kept cutting in as it spent far more time off than on. This meant that we heard practically none of the race director’s brief, although I think the gist was “take it easy and drink plenty!” She at least got a round of applause for attempting it, the atmosphere really was very friendly. The second “blip” was that there were a couple of problems with the road closure that meant the start was delayed by 15 minutes. This wasn’t too bad and nobody really grumbled as we were entertained by Jeremy. The start came around just in time though, as people were beginning to get a bit twitchy.
From the start it became apparent just how much local support this event had. There
were people out and cheering around the entire length of the course. I think there was one stretch on a back road where there weren’t any supporters for a mile or so, however for the rest of it you could nearly always see someone up ahead, sat in their driveway, ready to encourage you. There were six feed stations, all carrying small bottles of water. I slowed for each stop, had a couple of sips and poured the rest into the top of my race visor (like a baseball cap, but without the crown) where it trickled down my head, shirt, and shorts, cooling me nicely.
I started out a touch fast, but I was inspired on by the knowledge that there were around 300 runners behind, all desperate to overtake me. For the most part I was with the same six or seven runners, all swapping places as the route undulated and we all took turns at feeling good and bad. The route itself wound it’s way around From before going out into the countryside. It then returned through the middle of Frome, finishing at the start line after a particularly nasty little uphill. There were also a couple of nasty bigger hills on the course, but I didn’t have too much difficulty on them. The very nature of my training means that while I’m not the quickest on the hills they don’t seem to tire me out. With about four miles to go a couple of guys came past at quite a speed and I couldn’t touch them, however on the biggest hill at around 10 miles I noticed that I was coming back to them. I took the first one as we descended back into Frome and caught the other one running through the town centre. He sped up to match my pace and I thought that we were going to have a really good race through to the finish, but it wasn’t to be. After about one mile of duking it out and our pace rising into the mid six minute miles he started to fade, thankfully! I don’t think I could have kept it up much longer. In the process we overtook a couple of other people who were probably wondering where we found the energy. I wasn’t too sure myself, although the isogel that I consumed at the halfway point probably helped.
Eventually I crossed the line in almost exactly one hour and thirty six minutes. Not quite
a personal best, but not far off it and I was very happy considering the hills and the temperature. As I crossed I dived into the nearest patch of shade that I could find and stood there gasping for breath, making sure that I wasn’t going to throw up. A few seconds later I was composed and let the concerned guy in a fluorescent jacket walking towards me know that I was ok. I then walked on to greet my family and collect my goody bag.
I really enjoyed the Frome Half Marathon. For a first attempt by the Frome Rotary Club it was organised really well. The road closure was perfect, except for one farmer in a tractor who wasn’t going fast enough to cause any real risk, and the local support was astounding. Particularly considering the size of the roads that were closed and the disruption that it must have caused. All of the volunteers were happy and relaxed and every junction had someone on it so there was never any doubt about which way to go. When I first saw the route I anticipated problems as it looked quite complicated, particularly for a first attempt, however my fears were unfounded. The goody bag was reasonable well stocked, although I would have liked to see a bit more in it that can be eaten by those that are lactose intolerant. I had the banana and my kids ate the rest. Incidentally Peppa Pig managed to beat me by several minutes, that guy must have been incredibly fit!
Finally a quick shout out to the locals in Frome that were stood at the end of their driveways with hoses spraying the runners, it was fabulous and much appreciated. See you all next year.