The Bournemouth Half is a great event, especially if you are a Sandhurst Jogger – because there are so many people from the Club down there. In fact, it is badged up as part of the a “festival”of weekend running with all sorts of events taking place over the whole weekend. I knew that some from the club (Graham, Mark, Dave) were actually running Saturday’s 10k and would be out supporting (with Jenny & Nikki) us less gifted mortals the day after.
Anyway, for lazy sods like me, the bad news about the Half Marathon event is the start time – 8:00am !!! In 35 years of running I have never done another race starting at this ridiculous time on a Sunday morning – perhaps the Race Director is an insomniac! This year I was travelling down with Ian Bromley who had kindly offered to drive with Fern Stonestreet and Ray Hale. This being my third go at this event, I knew that Ian would want to leave at 5:30am and plan to be pulling in the start area next to Bournemouth Football ground at 6:45am.
So it was that on Saturday night that I found myself setting the bedside alarm and pressing unfamiliar buttons on my clock – all necessary to make sure I was conscious at 4:45am ! In reality, I hardly slept a wink and nor did anyone else as far as I could make out!
So, as planned, we rolled out of Ian’s at 5:30am in pitch darkness and made the journey down to Bournemouth on empty roads and at a good rate of knots. However, there is something quite unsettling about pulling up outside a deserted Premier League football stadium (or anywhere else) at first light. Quite frankly, you wonder what on earth you are doing there, and it is no surprise that no one wants to get out of Ian’s warm car, apart from those desperate for the loo. I think Fern had fallen asleep again as well.
As hundreds of other cars soon start piling in, you quickly realise that something big is happening and everyone needs to sort themselves out. All runners have their own pre race rituals and most of us are probably very similar. Mine includes finalising race clothes, putting on an old t shirt to keep warm and discard at the start, sorting gels, pre race water, checking shoelaces, warming up, stretching and the toilet. For me that final hour flies by, and as I make my way to the start area, I never fail to be amazed by the number of people still wandering in off the street in their coats with 10 minutes to go.
I have to say that the Bournemouth start area is one of the best I have experienced for a big race event. It’s easy to gain access to your pen and importantly there is no pushing and shoving. Plus the big speakers bashing out load pop music is also quite motivating as well.
Very soon the tannoy countdown begins and then we are away, as virtually everyone punches their personal watches. Almost immediately, we are into free running and I know from experience that the early part of this course is predominantly downhill and fast as we head to the sea. I also know that I need to hold back a little bit and stay comfortable, because it will get harder. I had been expecting to see the ever improving Jim Laidlaw in my start pen and had been wondering what had happened to him. At around a mile I found him – or rather he found me, as he tapped me on the back and cruised by and into the distance.
At around three miles, the SJs support crew (Graham, Jenny, Mark, Nikki & Dave) were out in force which was very uplifting for myself and I’m sure everyone else in the club. It’s also great to see club mates shouting encouragement to one another as the course doubles back on itself in a couple of places. In my case I shouted some abuse at Ray and I think he shouted something similar back – couldn’t quite hear it, but I think his words started with an “f” !!! I saw all my car crew mates on route plus Dave Bartlett, Chris Szabo, Nigel Evans, Royston Cranley and one or two others that I can’t remember now.
At around four miles runners have reached the beach path. From here it’s mostly a case of trying to maintain a steady tempo for the next 8 miles of mostly flat running, as the course goes up and down the seafront taking in one tough climb at around eight miles. Unusually, the course also takes in a couple of piers, the second one of which is by far the most popular – mainly because its only 100 yards from the finish. I also find that the piers wooden floor boards feel good underfoot as they flex and give a bit of bounce to your stride. Well that was the case for me last year -this time I feel absolutely knackered and feel no benefit whatsoever !
Anyway, after a 13 mile slog I turn into the last corner. Immediately I can see that the finish line clock has ticked on to 1 hour 33 something and I decide there is no point in attempting a sprint finish, which I haven’t got anyway. As I cross the line I meet up with Jim again. He’s had a really good run and looks like he has been there for hours – in fact it’s three minutes, but nevertheless one of Jim’s best and a significant improvement from last year. Well done Jim !
As all the SJs start to roll in and gather to discuss their runs, I am encouraged to hear that several are pleased with today’s performances. The other thing we are all pleased about is that the sun has finally broken through. For most now it’s a matter of collecting their bags and then off to find somewhere for breakfast… after all it’s still only 10:00am !
For my gang our chosen venue is the Beachside Westbeach Restaurant which Fern had pre booked weeks ago. Sitting outside in the sun and waiting for my full English fry up, it turns out to be an absolutely perfect venue. Not only to enjoy breakfast, but also to watch and sympathise with the poor souls out doing the marathon. Because of their 10:00am start, they probably enjoyed another couple of hours in bed, but they are paying for it big time. It’s very hot and the sun is now blazing down and the guys we are watching are only at 18miles. Anyway, not to worry – my eggs, bacon, beans, sausage, fried bread and toast have just turned up – so time to finish this report and tuck in ! Anyone got the brown sauce ?
Will definitely be back next year and hope the sun is still shining !