On my yearly trip back home to the seaside paradise of Dymchurch in Kent over Easter I went to visit some good friends for a game of Pointless and drinks. My friend Becca is new to running but has signed up to the London to Brighton Ultra Marathon in May and is smashing her training. She has been signing up to a number of races to help keep her motivated and prepared. Discussions soon moved onto this and I was told of the 2nd Pod Plus Ashford and District Half Marathon that was taking place on the Sunday. She was doing the Full Marathon, as her first ever marathon. I was tempted, but also peer pressured, so I signed up.
As it turned out, I was glad I did because I managed to get a PB. After a last minute location change for the start of the race I felt they were really organised and had thought about parking for all as we found a space at the local doctors 2 minutes away. On arrival at the local primary school they were using, it was quick and easy to get my race number and there was a nice buzz in the hall. One issue was the amount of toilets as there was quite a queue – even though I thought I would be proactive and go early. That was my only gripe – and that is only a small one! There was a good briefing with plenty of information where those doing the marathon were told about the plans for their second lap. At this point I was relieved I was only doing half.
Shortly after, we made our way out the school and down to the start of the race. As we got together in the ‘start pen’ on a T-junction outside some peoples houses, the starter shouted ‘go’. No horn – but then it was a Sunday morning and some people love a lay in. I started off well and got into my own target pace which was 8:30 minute miles. It was an undulating course but some of the climbs were pushing what some might describe as hilly. That was how it was billed online so I can’t complain about it. It slowed me down on the way up but meant I was able to push on the way down.
Reaching one downhill section, I found myself going to fast and almost struggling to slow myself down. In hindsight, I feel this may have been where I agitated my left knee/IT Band. The course included a lovely trail section which they did warn us about. It lasted about a mile or so, but the previous days rain meant it was quite muddy and this made me realise why people need specific trail shoes. I had zero grip so had to work hard to find my foot placing. It was a nice change and added to the experience.
After about mile 6 I tagged along to a runner (cheers Trevor) who has obviously been doing more training than I have and he was going to be going round twice to do the marathon. His pace was just what I needed and having him there gave me a target. Even after I took a couple of walking steps, his few words of encouragement made me get going again and I worked to catch him up.
As we approached the end of my lap, we parted ways. He turned right to go round again, I turned left to complete a strong finish with a nice number of people there to cheer me home. It was a nice touch having a big screen with each runner’s names and times coming up. I also enjoyed the treats right at the finish line and being able to move away at my own leisure. At this point I may have rewarded myself with some chocolate treats. I was also able to grab a quick little massage as the hall was quiet, but I think their intentions were that people booked before the race so I was quite fortunate.
When leaving, the Sat Nav took us along some of the running route, which turned out to be quite awkward when we accidentally drove past Becca on her marathon route! A lovely organised event and I may go back next year.
Half Marathon PB – Ashford and District Half Marathon – 1h34:45