An old college friend of mine, Sam, took up running earlier this year having not done much exercise for a good few years. After reaching 5K she chose Winchester half marathon as her big target race and gave herself six months to train for it. As the race got closer, she started getting a little nervous so I offered to run it with her for company, support and to help her with the pre and post race stuff.
I had ten minutes of worry on the M3 on the day as I got stuck in accident traffic and thought I might not make it, however it cleared quicker than I expected and I arrived in good time after all. Sam and I met on the steps of the Guild Hall and headed inside to get ready. I was a late entry so I had to queue to collect my number, then we queued for the loo’s straight away. I know from experience to do that in good time as the loo queues always get longer as the race gets closer! We got ready and dropped our bags at the bag drop, then headed outside to wait on the steps of the Guild Hall. The weather was cold, rainy and windy due to the dregs of Storm Ali and the kids fun run had unfortunately been cancelled, but us grown ups were deemed ok to carry on.
We had a warm up on the start line which involved lots of swinging of arms and legs – tricky to do safely in a crowd so we just jumped around a bit to keep warm instead. Then the race started and we were off! I realised at this point that I had worn orange socks with my pink shoes which amused me. (I don’t like pink shoes. Long story).
We started in the middle of Winchester City centre which is full of beautiful old buildings and has a tonne of history behind it. However we quickly turned away and as soon as we left the city we started going uphill. That was that for the next three miles! I had been warned that Winchester was hilly but I wasn’t quite prepared for three miles of steep (by my standards) hills right at the start of the race!
As we left the town we ran through some stunning Hampshire countryside, mainly along country lanes. As Sam runs a few minutes a mile slower than me I had time to look around and really enjoy the views across traditional English farmland and countryside. Sam is used to running with music but I managed to fill the void with some pretty incessant chatter for most of the run. I suspect there may have been points during the race that she regretted running with me but she very kindly didn’t say so.
There were plenty more hills along the route and Sam very quickly cottoned on to the fact that marshalls lie all the time when they say “it’s all downhill from here!”
We approached the end of the race through the stunning old cobbled streets that follow the cathedral walls and came around a corner into the town and the end was in sight. Due to the wind the inflatable finish gantry couldn’t be used and there was nothing to replace it, so the exact finish line was a little difficult to see until we crossed the timing mats. Despite the weather a lot of people had still gathered in the city in the rain to cheer runners over the finish line. Sam’s Mum had come too and presented her with a lovely bunch of flowers. Sam was thrilled to have run the whole thing without stopping once and I felt incredibly proud of her! (Although when she confessed that she had wanted to walk the hills but didn’t because I was with her, I didn’t tell her that I had wanted to walk too!) After collecting our kit, medal, t-shirt and goodie bag we headed up to the shop where Sam works for her to show off her medal, then we went for lunch where we got 10% off by wearing our medals!
All in all, this was a really lovely half marathon to run. It was well organised, probably had the happiest, loudest and the most in numbers of marshalls I’ve seen at a half marathon (even though they lied about the hills!) and I would absolutely recommend it. As long as you like hills.