Sunday 22 September 2013

Holiday! Race report: Malmesbury half marathon

Wait, what? "Holiday" and "Race report"? Well it's like this...

A long-ish slow-ish run was on the cards for today, but we don't know the area. So last night I looked around on t'Internet for some trail run routes. I stumbled across the Frome Running Club site (they've been running since 1981, apparently - I'm assuming not continuously). On their site I'm pretty sure there was a link to the Malmesbury Half Marathon page - though oddly I can't find it now. Local half, £20 quid on the day, a bit hilly and pretty countryside. Perfect. It was decided. So we drank two bottles of wine, I bought an iPhone (drunken purchase and a half), and turned in for the night.

I think we arrived first - for a local race the facilities were surprisingly good

Up at 6.30am (on a Sunday? We are on holiday, right? Yes? OK just checking) and off to Malmesbury. Uneventful drive apart from the bit where I drove down a road too narrow for the car and had to reverse back up a steep hill with pointy walls on each side, trying to keep it together while Mrs did a saintly job of directing me. Learned that my car far prefers going forwards, and also that burning clutch is quite an unpleasant smell.

Pretty sure I could have got through this, actually (maybe...)

This is significantly steeper, narrower, and harder to get up in reverse than it looks here

I was going to try the run fasted (like yesterday) but the bacon smell from the refreshments booth was far too hard to resist. One bacon roll each, and a pretty good cup of filter coffee.

The start was up in the town, so after a brief race briefing we were led up en masse. The Mayor of somewhere started the fun, and with a "Go!" we were off.

Mrs and I had vaguely discussed a race plan. Firstly: It's not a pedal-to-the-metal race, it's a training run. We're not out to kill ourselves, so take it easy. Secondly: A negative split would be nice (covering the second half of the race in less time than the first half). Finally: Try and keep at around 6min/km, maybe a little below.

As we set off the tide of other runners all ran away from us. This is normal, everyone starts too fast - it's hard not to get carried away. We were a little too conservative on the second km and picked it up a little bit. We passed the 10km timer at 59:29 - under an hour is fine. Good pace. It's unfortunate the "mid-point" timing mat was on the 10km line, the 10.55km point would have been better (a half marathon being 13.1 miles, or 21.1km).

I definitely ramped it up in the second half

We'd already regained some places - the middle of the race is when most people of similar ability are at an equal pace, though the ones who really went out hard are starting to slow already. At about 8 miles she got a move on and started pulling away - can't let that happen! From there on we just got faster and faster. As everyone was slowing down, we were getting faster. I pulled her back and ran with her again - we felt good! Strong! This is fun!

Mrs pulled away again with a couple of km left, I worked hard to hang on - she was flying! I finally caught her again as we got back into Malmesbury. I had a good rhythm so pushed on past, opening up a small lead to the finish.

I finished in in 02:02:44 for 174th place (of 248 starters and 243 finishers), 126th man (of 153) and 48th in my age group (an unusually wide group, M 20-39). The results put me in 202nd place at the 10km mark, so I ran up 28 places in the final 11.1km - no the results don't set the world on fire, and it's a long way from my 1:40:30 PB - but for a spontaneous post-injury training run, I'm happy with that!

Pace over each 5km stretch was:

  • Start to 5km - 29:25
  • 5km to 10km - 30:10
  • 10km to 15km - 29:50
  • 15km to 20km - 28:28
  • 20km to Finish - 24:19 (scaled to give 5km pace)

This gives a great negative split of 3:36 (using my Garmin data to making some estimates about where the middle is):

  • First half: 63:10
  • Second half: 59:34

A handshake from the Mayor, an unexpected finishers' medal, some sneaky cake and a glorious cup of tea, and we were done. Very happy indeed with that spontaneous little outing.

Unexpected bling!

Malmesbury was lovely. Friendly people, pretty village, and a beautiful half marathon route. It's the second year the race has been held (was 6C and a thunderstorm last year apparently!) and I'm sure it'll become a regular fixture on the local athletics calendar.


  1. Impromptu half marathons on holiday. You know you're an athlete when...

    1. You know you're an athlete when... you look back on your holiday via your training diary and are pleased at the bonus hours of training you got done.