Brooklands Half Marathon – The race I didn’t want to run

I entered this HM on a last minute whim as it coincided with needing to do a 13 mile taper run. Unfortunately I had overlooked a few major points. Firstly, it was an 8am start, secondly it was about an hour away from me. The third factor I had forgotten was that I was working on the Saturday night in London and wouldn’t get home until about 1am. The final nail in the coffin was that the clocks went forward that morning so I was going to get a maximum of 5 hours sleep: and I love my sleep.

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I decided to see how I felt driving back for work on Saturday night and judge whether I could be bothered to haul myself out of bed.

On the plus side an 8am start did mean that I could race and be back home before any of the family noticed and we could crack on with Mother’s Day without losing Brownie points. Another huge consideration was the ridiculous expensive cost of the race. £40 for a half marathon did seem, on the face of it, pretty pricey (more on that later) so, having spent it, I felt I should give it a go. .

Anyway race day came and I was up and away by 6.30. Got there in good time though just got through the roads before they were  closed. The whole race (other than start and finish) were run on roads completely closed to traffic – first clue to where the money was going)

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The race was held at the remarkable Mercedes Benz world at Brooklands (probably another reason for high cost). Many years ago I did some site photography when they were doing the ground works and I have taken both children there to learn to drive so I know the area well. (I even spent a few weeks as a volunteer at the wonderful Brooklands Motor Museum next door one winter).

Facilities were good though it never fail to amaze me that people are queuing 100 odd deep for the toilets 10 minutes before the start of a race. I don’t know if organisers constantly under-estimate the need or runners always get to races too late but I couldn’t see how the majority of them would get the the start of the race in a comfortable state. Testimony to this was the amount of people dashing into bushes 2 miles in to the race.

I was surprised how many people were as stupid as me to turn up and run. I don’t know the official figures but there must have been over 1000. Despite this once we got going (the first 2 miles were on the winding Merc test track) I didn’t feel there was too much bunching and you could set your own pace pretty easily.

Marshalling throughout the race was of a professional standard, i.e. they were obviously hired in to enforce the road closures rather than volunteers. As a result you didn’t get the cheering you would expect from marshals, after all they had a job to do, at a ridiculously early hour. Making up for this, however, were the residents of Weybridge. I honestly wasn’t expecting any spectators but they seemed out in force and were a great source of encouragement.

The course was varied. The first and last two miles were, as I said, on the Mercedes test track and then headed out into Weybridge. A couple of undulations to start (and to end as the course came back on itself) and then a pretty nice run through streets with VERY nice houses. The only stretch I wasn’t keen on was a dead straight track from I think 8-9 miles but that could have been me feeling a bit fatigued.

The first five miles were spent running at the same pace as a Scottish chap who, at every mile marker would ask the nearest runner what the time was, would curse that he was running too quickly and should slow down immediately, and continue running at the same pace to the next mile marker and so on. He eventually surged ahead of me and I didn’t see him again – until mile 11 when I passed him walking on the verge.

The final 2 miles are pretty tough though as, due to the switch-back nature of the Merc track you can see the finishing arch even though you are 2 miles out. However, its a good surface and flat so not a major stress.

I had decided, as it was basically taper run, not to take a watch or gps and just run it on feel. I was more than happy to get my timing  (print out immediately after the race) of 1.41:43 my second best HM time.

All in all a great race, fantastic weather, well organised and a nice tech t-shirt and medal. Still a bit steep but you can definitely see where the money goes. Will be back.

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