Oh crikey, things have got a little out of hand. I have a list of blog posts to write but work has gone berserk and as such that’s as far as I’ve got with them. I’ll get on with it all but things will be somewhat out of order. Otherwise I’ll get nothing done!
Preamble to running the Leeds Half Marathon
By way of background I was supposed to be on holiday this week. I’d even booked the weather. Let’s just say that things ‘fell through’ a little and I’ve now got a job which is running through the entirety of my holiday. And whilst it’s something that’ll not be allowed to happen again, I’m less than impressed.
So given I wasn’t going off to, well, ANYWHERE, I decided I might as well see if there were any races to hand. I’ve got a full weekend of fell running next weekend but noticed that it was the Leeds Half Marathon today. The folks on Twitter raved about it last year and so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
Preparation could be better……
Leeds Half Marathon is a road race. I’ve not actually been training for this type of event in 2018 so it’s safe to say that preparation ‘could be better’. That said, I’ve run enough half-marathons over the past 5 years to know that, barring a leg dropping off, I should be able to get around. The time might not be great and it probably wouldn’t be pretty. But if you see the state of me at most road events, you’d not expect much different!
Having booked my place with only a couple of weeks to go, I didn’t get my name printed on my number which isn’t a big deal for me. The number was posted out with a few days to go, and all final instructions were provided by email. This is definitely my preferred approach as I don’t like lots of printed paper being sent out given that most of it will be in the recycle bin shortly afterwards (and knowing many runners, without having been read!) In addition they took this one stage further by doing a ‘virtual goody bag’; rather than filling plastic bags on race day with bits of paper these were instead emailed. Again, big kudos on that approach; anything that reduces waste has to be a good thing.
Leeds City Council – EV friendly!
I emailed Leeds City Council to inquire about availability of electric vehicle charging and they were swift to respond. Whilst they couldn’t ‘reserve’ a charging bay, they could cone one off so it ought to be available. It’s great to see that at least some councils are working to encourage the usage of EVs and that made the journey a whole lot more relaxed. In fact most of the charging bays were occupied by Leeds Council vans, so it was definitely a good thing to email ahead of time, as that could potentially derail the positivity! It meant that I started the day with a full battery (my Leaf will do about 80-90 miles on a charge) and with a 120 mile round trip the charging spot whilst I ran meant that the return journey was equally relaxed.
Leeds Half Marathon – my race
I was a touch apprehensive today. I’m not very comfortable with large events; basically I don’t like crowded places at all. But actually, by splitting the start into 4 waves which started at two different times, it wasn’t too bad. Yes a little congested at the beginning as we wound out of the city streets towards Headingley, but nothing that gave me a problem.
I was planning on roughly 7 min/mile pace today as I’m not in road-fit PB-chasing condition and started a little further back than I might do normally (nothing to do with getting to the pen late…..). That said despite running the first couple of miles within 1h30s pace, that pace group were completely out of sight by mile 4 and I do wonder what their pace-strategy was as it seemed to be a lot faster from the start than a uniform pace.
Leeds Half Marathon course
The course is moderately hilly, with a steady incline from about 2.5 – 4.5 miles and a shorter one between 6 – 7 miles. The second half of the course was a mixture of downhill and level-ish with a bit of undulation. My watch estimated about 700ft of ascent over the 13.1 miles which is about 30% less than Anglesey HM, a course on which I’ve got my 3 fastest HM times. What made things a little tougher today was that it was a warm day; nothing like the temperatures last weekend at Milton Keynes or at London prior to that, but with most of the return-leg from Kirkstall Abbey back into Leeds centre having limited shade, the heat was definitely having an effect.
Strategy-wise, I went out slightly faster than my 7 min/mile approach (even more concerning about the pacer) despite the hills being in the first half. In fact, my last 3 miles were slower even though they were downhill. That was definitely the heat that was getting to me and during the last 1.5 miles I had taken to repeatedly counting to 60 in order to focus on something as I ground-out the final section.
Leeds Half Marathon finish
My official time was 1h31m26s which represented a decent best-effort for today. It’s a lot slower than my best, but with zero speed training and a warm day, I was happy to have achieved the overall 7 min/mile pace I’d planned.
On crossing the finish-line an army of volunteers were providing the goody bags, medals and a complimentary pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei beer. Being a non-drinker, this was a very nice drink to finish with; it tastes like proper beer, but doesn’t have more than a smidgen of alcohol in it which means it’s safe for me to drink.
Here’s what was in the goody bag:
And here’s a close-up of the medal which is actually quite funky and personal to Leeds:
With the UKA discount included today’s race cost me £36-ish by the time you allow for the various charges that are levied. It’s a little more than I would generally pay for a half-marathon but it’s not too horrific. That said, the event was organised extremely well and included the city centre being closed to traffic completely and other major road closures, and therefore the figure doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Today was a nice event which was well-organised and whilst I found the race conditions tough today I did enjoy it (I’m not criticising it being warm and sunny, even if it did make it harder!) There was a lot of local support and plenty of ‘cheer-stations’ making a lot of noise. There were a couple of bands out on the course who did a splendid job too. Scenery-wise it was fine; you’re not expecting echoes of Constable paintings when you’re starting in the middle of a major city but it was pleasant enough. The long straight from Kirkstall Abbey all the way back into Leeds centre is hard work as it seems never-ending. Although on the plus side it was predominantly downhill!
As for whether it’s particularly hilly or not, well that’s a personal view. I’m running Buxton HM in a couple of weeks and that’s twice the elevation increase as Leeds according to my watch data……!
So overall, I would recommend this event. It’s not the easiest half marathon, but it’s far from the hardest.