Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017 – race review

Wrexham Marathon Festival - Medal & T-ShirtWrexham Marathon Festival - Medal & T-Shirt

Today was the Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017. And having got home and eaten a lot, I’m ready to put together a write up!

Wrexham Marathon Festival - Before!

Wrexham Marathon Festival – Before!

Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017

This year the WMF consists of three main events; A full Marathon, a half-marathon and a 20 mile race. In addition there was a half-mile children’s fun run. The start and finish were in the middle of the town itself with the main courses all exploring the countryside and more around Wrexham. I took part in the full-marathon and so much of this commentary will be about this course. That said the organisers allowed a lot of route overlap which has two main benefits. Firstly keeping the organisation simpler. Secondly enabling runners on each of the courses to support each other.

Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017 organisation

This particular event is one of a series organised by RunWales who are based in North Wales. What I have found in the past is they seem to achieve great support from local residents, and this event was no exception.

The marathon and 20 miler were scheduled to start together at 9am, although there was a 10 minute delay whilst the traffic management was put into operation. The fun run took place at 9.30 and the half-marathon at 10.30am. The logic being that as the full marathon route joins early on in the half route, there will be a big overlap of finishers.

The first couple of miles on the marathon/20 miler appeared to be partially closed roads. As we returned into Wrexham there was comprehensive traffic management which worked well. Again, a lot of support from local residents and on the whole well behaved drivers. Perhaps it’s just the bad-tempered ignoramuses in Stockport and the rest of the UK are nice..!

The half- and full-marathons both had pace runners. The 20 mile race used the full marathon pacers until the routes split at 8 miles. Then they were on their own. That said, most 20 mile racers were doing the event as a precursor to a spring marathon. Therefore it’s likely they have a pace strategy for the distance which is unique.

Registration / number collection was all done at the Water World centre not far from the start. Parking was £2 for the day. Plenty of parking (at least if you were there for the early race starts) and all was well organised.

One minor negative point – the pre-race write-up stated there would be Lucozade sport as well as water at some of the stops on the marathon route, but I didn’t see any being made available.

Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017 routes

As mentioned above, the marathon and 20 mile race started together. After 8 miles the marathon broke away to do a loop around an industrial estate before continuing along the 20 mile route. This happened again (another industrial estate!) such that the marathon had gained roughly 6 miles. I’d assumed we’d be on a common route to the end, but in fact the routes split through (yet) another industrial estate. Both routes then joined the half-marathon course which runs much closer around Wrexham town. All routes then continued to the same finishing line.

The above makes the route sound pretty dire, especially as the first couple of miles worked through a housing estate! In fact, in between these industrial parts, the route was very much in the countryside. In parts running along major roads, but also often on minor country lanes as well. The longer runs, as they get further away from Wrexham are actually quite pleasant. I ran the half-marathon in 2015 and that seemed far more built up. I guess because the route couldn’t get far enough out to escape it.

The course profile is quite deceiving. It looks flatter on paper than it actually is to run. The course heads downhill for the first couple of miles. Which has the downside that runners will be heading back up said incline at the end of their race! I remember the HM course to be quick; only because I had to walk the last 2 miles through injury in 2015 and was still sub 1:40!

Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017 prices

The (affiliated) HM price was £30, 20 mile £33 and full marathon £38. On top of this was a booking charge of £1.80. I’ve commented in the past that prices are increasing, especially at the HM distance. £30 seems to be in line with a lot of the larger organised events. There was a significant amount of active traffic management – men with stop/go signs. So I can see that this will be a big organisation cost. (Compared to a lot of races that seem to have TM people sat in their vans texting throughout the race!).

It was actually a consideration when I was entering; I felt I was getting better value for money doing a full marathon. I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate way to select an event!!!

The half-mile fun run was £3 to enter which included a medal.

Wrexham Marathon Festival 2017 goodie bag

No goodie bag today. T-Shirt and medal plus the usual bits of paper.

Wrexham Marathon Festival - Medal & T-Shirt

Wrexham Marathon Festival – Medal & T-Shirt

Race photos

Mick Hall Photos generally looks after the RunWales organised events and his team were in force today. At the point of writing the photos haven’t been uploaded but he’s charging £4 per digital download. For a big event this is a decent price.

If you’ve not read my recent post about the costs of race photography, you can find it here.

My Race

My last visit to Wrexham in 2015 was memorable for all the wrong reasons. It rained a lot. And I got injured at mile 11 of the HM course.

Today immediately started better as, despite the dubious weather forecast, it was dry and bright. The sun made an appearance and hung about for much of my race.

As commented above, I decided to run a full marathon today. An ‘interesting’ decision off the back of two half marathon races and a 10k time trial during the week. It’s actually only my 4th road marathon and the first since October 2015. Since then I’ve started training with other people. And whilst I wasn’t planning on prep for a spring marathon, I did want to see how my training was going.

We’ve had a lot of discussions about what pace I am ‘capable’ of. You see when you compare my marathon times to my shorter distances, they’re out of kilter. Depending on which model you use, they’re out either astronomically, or just ‘rather a lot’.

My previous PB was 3:26:04 and all indicators were apparently suggesting I should be a lot closer to a 3 hour marathon. I decided to stick with the 3:15 pace runner as long as I could. This didn’t feel like I was trying to do the impossible. Although achieving 3:15 would reduce my PB by over 11 minutes which is still pretty silly.

Everyone together

We set off, once the traffic management people were in place and there was a large group of us around the 3:15 pacer. Some were veteran marathoners but it appeared a lot were running the 20 mile route and decided this was a good pace to go. 9am on a Sunday morning meant the first housing estate we went through was pretty quiet and the roads were equally low on traffic. I was a little confused as to whether the first section was closed roads or not. The signs suggested it was, but there was traffic on it! The group was quite a size, including a man dressed as the Gingerbread Man. How he didn’t melt I’m not sure.

And off they go

Upon reaching the 8 mile marker, the 20 milers carried on the main route whilst the marathoners undertook their first industrial estate loop. Which was exactly as stated. We did a 2 mile loop and then continued off in pursuit of the 20 milers we left behind! About 3/4 of a mile later, we did it again, diving into another industrial estate. This time it was a couple of out-and-back sections which added a further 4 miles onto out route. So by the time we recommenced our pursuit of the 20 milers, we’d already covered an extra 6 miles.

Back together, off again, and a bit reunion!

We continued along the edges of industrial estate world. The 3:15 group by now had been reduced to the pacer and me. I was consuming Shot Bloks every 4.5 miles but wasn’t sure whether this was the right thing to do or not. By this point, the 20 milers had taken a different route through the industrial estate to us. Meanwhile we started finding half-marathoners whose route had merged onto ours. We popped out onto a country lane and suddenly we were swamped in half-marathoners; clearly the deluge had started. I noticed signs for the 20 mile route as well; no idea when they joined us, but they were very welcome all the same.

Through the 3rd 10k

I did know my legs were tiring at about 16 miles and the pacer suggested that I’d just run through that. My Shot Blok intake moved to every couple of miles as I really didn’t want to bonk during the race. I was aware that I’d been running at a pace well above my comfort zone though for the distance and was beginning to pay for it. Mile 19 took us up a long incline to a bridge and that really began to hurt. We caught up with another runner I’d been chatting to at the start who had set off faster than 3:15 pace but had slowed back to it. So our group increased by 50%! Albeit briefly as my legs were definitely in agreement that 20 miles would have been more than enough, thank you very much!

Final 10k – legs win the argument

I think I’d been on borrowed time for a while. I’ve kept up at the 3:15 pace – in fact I think we were way ahead of pace – for 22 miles. But as we were we and truly into the housing estates of Wrexham it became too much to maintain. As we ran through the park I had to slow to a walk just to try and get things back into some order. And for much of the next 4 miles it was a mixture of jogging and walking as the legs were very much on empty.

I kept an eye on my watch as I really didn’t want to lose any more time than I could avoid. But it was a matter of counting down the remaining miles and just hanging in there. With 2 miles to go, I recognised all the scenery as I’d limped back to the finish line in 2015 from that point following a muscle pull. At least I wasn’t injured this time.

Through the final housing estate and the town centre was ahead. Lots of people cheering and that implied feeling that at least you need to look like you’re running and that everything doesn’t hurt.

I crossed the line in 3:17:26. That’s almost 9 minutes knocked off my 2015 PB. Not quite enough for a Good For Age entry, but that was always going to be icing on the cake rather than the goal today. I was 24th overall with the other runner and the 3:15 pacer occupying positions 22 & 23. Absolutely no complaints with the result. Just lots of complaints from most of my body asking the head what the hell it had been thinking of when it decided this was a ‘good idea’!

Conclusion

Today’s event offers a good mixture of running for anyone wanting to tackle a longer distance. 20 miles is the natural half-way point between half and full marathon distance. So if you’re training for a marathon, or wanting a step between the two, here’s an event that’s worth considering. Being at the start of March, it does work as a long run ahead of the April marathons (Manchester & London for instance).

The inclusion of the children’s fun run is quite a standard these days and I think really important. Especially if the focus is on the ‘fun’ aspect. I don’t believe getting youngsters into competitive events is the way forward here. Let them enjoy it for what it is and hopefully it will result in a link between ‘fun’ and ‘being active’. If they want to do something more competitive beyond that then great, but at least hopefully it doesn’t put the non-competitive group off running.

The longer events are definitely more picturesque than the half. That said, you are exposed to rather a lot of industrial estates. It was nice in the residential sections with such great support and enthusiasm from the residents. Some were out with bowls of jelly beans and there was lots of (positive) vocal support. (Stockport take note.)

Despite the organisers proclaiming it as a PB course, that’s one to take with caution. It’s an undulating course but one that seems to have undulation in places you’d rather it didn’t.

That said, I got a massive PB at Wrexham!

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