Report by Hana
The first Solihull Half Marathon was scheduled for the end of 2016 but had to be postponed at the last minute due to problems with the route, which for me was fortuitous as its original date didn’t fit in my busy social/running/drinking/work diary.
A weekend away in Birmingham is something “Husband who plays golf” is always happy to go along with, so with a little golf v running bartering completed it meant he played golf on the Saturday morning at Truro followed by a drive through apocalyptic rain in the afternoon to the sunny metropolis of the UKs second biggest city so I could run this new Half Marathon.
“Daughter who runs” and is now a doctor of spineless pond life (Glacial invertebrates) is providing the pre-race nutrition. Husband and I are treated to belated Birthday (His) and Mother’s Day (Mine) meal in a very buzzy restaurant called “Harborne Kitchen” on the High St in Harborne itself. The food was beautifully presented, tasted excellent and was washed down with a few glasses of a very nice Viognier. White not red wine for the old croc for a change.
Having walked the 3 miles to the restaurant and the 3 miles back along quiet roads and the Worcester and Birmingham canal tow path any residue of intoxicating liquor soon dissipated. Sleep quality on the other hand was poor, but I put that down to my age and my subconscious believing the alarm clock wouldn’t work.
6:30 am and my alarm clock does work. I go through my usual race prep, eat porridge, check running bag three or four times, visit the small room three or four times then my chauffer drives me to the race HQ at Blythe Valley Park on the outskirts of Solihull. A very smart, clean and tidy business park with cycle paths, nature reserve and a coffee shop. On top of this, plentiful good quality FREE parking.
The weather is overcast and chilly and the race HQ is purely a small tent where some late entrants are collecting race numbers. There is nowhere to shelter other than in your car, but “Husband who plays golf” has gone off with the keys for a walk in the surrounding countryside with instructions to be back 2 hrs after the race start time of 10:30. I decide that the best shelter appears to be very smart bus shelter so I adopt a recumbent position on the bench, and trawl face book in an effort to pass some time before checking out the exterior toileting cubicles which are in a nice shade of grey and are positioned on the pavement not too far away from where I am sat.
There aren’t very many portable vestibules (9 I think) for I believe 1000 runners, but I don’t have to queue on the two occasions I frequent them. They are clean inside but compared with Cornwall, they didn’t have much in the way of spare toilet roll, so I purloin a few sheets in case they are required later when supplies have run short. Maybe the residents of Warwickshire don’t go to the toilet as much as us West Country folk????
The bag drop is purely a large hessian sack where you place your bag in a free for all fashion. No label attached with your bib number on, just the verbal instruction that you would have to go through the sack at the end of the race to locate your own bag. This I found disappointing and actually the only real fault of the race. I would have to keep my fingers crossed that my bag and its contents would still be there at the end of the race.
I’ve chosen as my race attire a long sleeve top with TRC vest on top and shorts. I’ve tied my hair in my usual “Tellie Tubbies” style to keep the straggly bits out of my eyes once the sweat starts seeping out of my pores and even though it is overcast the sun keeps trying to force its way through, so cool dude shades come to the fore.
I’m as ready as I can be when a male, in the crowd forming at the starting area, asks “What time are you hoping for?”
To be honest I hadn’t really thought about this. “Anything under 1:50 would be good” I reply, and then my mind starts to concentrate too hard on that response.
“1:50, why 1:50 when you could try for a PB on this flat looking course?” “Come on girl, your daughter almost beat your PB a couple weeks ago!!!”
My not so nice other personality/alter ego starts to monopolise my thoughts. I am now locked onto this thought of giving this course my very best and seeing if I can get a PB, when my usual mantra is “Complete not compete”
We have chip timing so I’m not too bothered where I stand at the start of this race, but I am about a quarter of the way back. I have no idea what was said in the pre-race briefing but it wouldn’t be any different from the usual “Keep left” “do as the marshal’s say” etc. There were though an awful lot of runners with headphones on/in which I believe should be banned in all races.
Hooter sounds and off under the yellow inflatable archway we all run. Firstly through the Business Park where supporters line the roads cheering us all on, then it is out onto the Warwickshire slightly undulating country lanes for our mornings exercise.
Now I’m not very familiar with this part of the world and seeing as I was trying to keep my average pace above my normal one, taking in the scenery and sense of direction was possibly going to be hard.
I know we headed out to Chiswick Green passing a new development of houses and a farm where curly forelocked (the part of the mane of a horse or similar animal, which grows from the poll and hangs down over the forehead) cattle looked out from their barn in bemusement. We pass pretty cottages, very large houses, green fields and hedges you can look over, but, and it’s a big but, I had a serial “throat clearer” behind me and he was doing my head in!
I know I have problems with my lungs and it takes about 3 miles of coughing to get them to settle down, but the guttural, loud and stomach churning noises this male was constantly making made me urge. This continued for about 8 retching miles as he ran at the same pace as me. As I was on my upper limit there was no way I could go ahead and there was no way I was going to reduce my pace. I’ve never asked anyone to stop dragging the contents of their lungs up before, but I was so very close to doing so on this occasion. Tongue firmly bitten and thankfully the last 5 miles were quieter. Maybe I should have worn head phones!
We took roads that crossed the M42 twice. We passed places with names like Rumbush, Woodend and Cut Throat Lane where there was a Paintball venue which sounded as if warfare had definitely broken out. All the major crossroads/junction were manned by men with traffic lights and patient drivers were sat in their luxury cars (this area is really quite affluent and at Hockley Heath there is a Mclaren and Rolls Royce dealership) watching us mad creatures run past.
As for hills, there were none just undulations where your average speed dropped slightly but conversely there were no lovely downhills to coast down. Supporters were at most junctions with children offering sweets and several people noticing TRURO on my shirt and passing comments about this. And then the sun came out in full force which made a couple sections very warm when out of the sharp breeze.
For the last two or three miles I had a female for company who was either just ahead or just behind me and she was starting to feel the pain. The noises she was making were not of pleasure more of discomfort and suffering. On the other hand I was doing OK and I suppose she must have thought that was rather unfair as I did look much older and decrepit. It turns out though that we were in the same age cat (V45-54) but I’m teetering at the far end of this cat, about to tip over into an even older one and I expect she was at the lower end.
As we entered the last mile of this race I could hear the sound of cheering at the finish line and the other lady sounded so relieved. Her children started calling out, “Come on mum”. But what had the race organisers done? The b**tards had routed the course towards the finishing line then suddenly you were directed left on a bl—dy loop around the Business Park. I had already started a sprint finish thinking I was possibly going to get my PB, but oh no we had this bl—dy loop to do. The other lady was now really moaning so I shouted…….no not abuse but encouragement at her and somehow we both managed to sprint the last 500 m crossing the line with me just ahead of her. We gave each other a hug and she thanked me for helping her mentally to complete those last couple of miles.
We were handed a large medal and a standard goody bag for this part of the world which had leaflets in, two energy gels and a Frisbee. Never had a Frisbee before…….anyone with a dog in need of one of these?
All in all:
- The race was very well organised and marshalled. You could not get lost just annoyed at that bl—dy loop at the end.
- Toilets: Grey, plastic, clean but a few more would have been useful as there were a large numbers of people in sports gear dropping there trousers on the pristine lawn near the start line.
- Bag drop: In need of improvement, but conversely this race start area was on a business park where everyone would have had to drive to get there, so you could lock your belongings in your car.
- The route was good for a possible PB due to it being slightly undulating and not at all hilly. Sadly for me I couldn’t quite manage it.
- Would I run it again? I don’t think so because if I’m going to travel to an event then really I should do a different one. I would though mark them 9 out of 10. Well done Solihull.