Well I certainly hadn’t planned on such a long gap between blog posts. In fact a couple of posts were drafted but never completed. So today’s aim is to manage to get to the end of the post and publish it.
Stockport Trail Half Marathon
This is my first race of 2017; it’s been almost 3 months since I pulled on my race vest to run ‘competitively’. By which I mean that when I get to the end there’s a medal or a T-Shirt. The only likelihood of me winning an event is if everybody else forgot to turn up.
That aside, as per usual it’s race review time for me. I do this because I enjoy writing about running and letting others know about some of the courses I’ve run. Then, if you fancy it next time around, you’re not going into it blind!
I thought I’d start with this although some of the comments may only make sense fully once you’ve read the rest of the post.
With having a number of races in quick succession coming up, today was more about getting around than setting the world on fire. It’s my second outing on the route – I last did it in 2015 when I ran a 1h38m39s time which, given it turns out I was quite ill at the time, was pretty good.
It’s far from my favourite race though, I find it quite uninteresting as a route. However it’s local and it’s in our race series so it would be rude not to be here!
Having learned my mistake last time, I started much further forward this year. Simply the problem of a lot of runners trying to squeeze along a narrow first mile or so means that one can get stuck behind other runners which if you’re going for a specific time, can be a problem.
My outward section of the race went mostly to plan. I’d decided that I’d aim for the around 90 minutes completion time. Aside from a couple of kamikaze dogs nearly laying me flat out, my mile splits were roughly right for this. (Ironically one dog was with another competitor and the other belonged to a marshal.) My return along the canal was not as good. I’m not sure if it was just the fact it was really muddy or that I just didn’t have it in me. The result was was about 20s/mile slower than the pace I needed for about 5 miles.
When I rejoined the Middlewood Way, short of a couple of 5min/miles, a 90 minute HM wasn’t on the cards. Still, my finishing chip time of 1h31m35s was a good 30sec/mile faster than in 2015. In addition, at this point in 2016, this would have been a PB for me, so I have no complaints overall.
So, let’s look at some of the specifics about this event.
There are hard trails and simpler trails when it comes to event running. The Stockport Trail Half Marathon (STHM) is definitely in the latter category. Looking at my Strava data, there’s only about 260ft increasing in elevation over the 13.1 mile route. Which is no surprise given the route is split between an old railway track and a canal towpath. So in terms of beginner-friendly, this aspect of the route really is about as good as it gets.
Of course, being on trails, there’s no motor vehicles to watch out for. There are however cyclists, pedestrians, horses and dogs all making use of the route. I was nearly tripped over by a couple of dogs in the early stages which is annoying. It’s one of those things, as normally on their walks, 400+ runners aren’t coming past them, although a bit more owner responsibility wouldn’t go amiss.
On the negative side, whilst the route is rural, it’s not the most engaging of routes. There simply isn’t a lot to see unless you like a wall of trees and a canal for 13 miles. That said, it’s prettier than running around a housing estate (which I’ve done in several races!).
I got this wrong again this year as did other people I spoke to. Whilst The Middlewood Way is a trail path, it’s mostly pretty firm. Similarly with the canal towpath which, in one section is underpinned with a plastic mesh. Last time I ran the course I was in trail shoes and the whole thing was pretty uncomfortable, especially the mesh. Today I went in road shoes. Now, following Storm Doris the canal towpath in particular was very very muddy and suited trail shoes far better. So it’s really a case of looking at the weather over the week before and making a judgment – if it’s been dry, road shoes are preferable. If very wet, trail shoes are probably a better bet.
The event was run by Crazy Legs Events who are local to the area and do a range of running, cycling and triathlon events. Everything was well organised from the pre-race information (which involved a change of registration venue) to getting a lot of runners on their way (and back again).
From a race point of view the beginning is very congested; the Middlewood Way is very narrow at the Marple end which of course is where all the runners are starting together. Hence, you can get stuck behind people in the initial couple of miles. Not a big issue unless you’re chasing down a PB but something to be aware of.
The event was chip timed and whilst there were only a few marshals on the course, that’s all that is required in this event and it was sufficient. There were no mile markers but I’d consider that a plus rather than a minus. If you’re worried about your pace you’re probably doing it off your watch anyway!
In short there wasn’t one. However, there was pre and post-race massages if you wanted (which were paid for via donations), there was a medal, drinks, bananas and sweets. So aside from a plastic bag with some race literature in it, everything you’d expect (plus the massages) was there. Think of it as a de-constructed goodie bag!
The event was £16 to enter (+£2 if not an affiliated athlete) which is pretty fair when you consider that it’s chip-timed and includes a medal. Yes, one can run up and down the route at any time (in fact our running group regularly train on the Middlewood Way) but the same argument can be had for most race routes.
Photographs were taken by several different people, namely:
JPK Photography – £1.25 per hi-res digital image
Carl Ryder (snogardnet) – free to access
John Bailey – free to access
As in previous local races, you can’t beat this sort of pricing for photos (I’ve seen big companies try to charge £18 per pic!) and would recommend supporting them all.
The results are here.
If you are in the North West area and are looking for a relatively straightforward half-marathon, the Stockport Trail Half Marathon is a pretty good option. You’ll need to think about what footwear to go with and to anticipate that the start of the race can be a bit crowded. After that, it’s a pleasant (if not particularly interesting) run with little to complicate matters. And it’s a pretty good price too.