I love the Brass Monkey for two reasons. Firstly, it’s soon after Christmas, so it helps to keep me from consuming my own weight in trifle over the holidays – well some of the time, anyway! And secondly it’s a brilliant half marathon to take part in – fast, (nearly all) flat and friendly. It took me a couple of years after I started running longer distances to pluck up the courage to enter the Monkey. It’s a really popular race that attracts serious club runners from all over the country, and I didn’t think I was worthy of it – I didn’t want to come last! It was only when I was pretty sure I could finish in under two hours that I took the plunge for 2013 – and then it was cancelled for the first time in its 30 year history due to bad weather. So I ran it for the first time last year. Not a great performance on my part – five minutes outside my PB at 1:58 on a gloomy, wet day. I was determined to do better this year! We couldn’t have asked for better running weather on Sunday. The day was cold but sunny with barely a trace of wind – great PB conditions. I met my Council colleague Jason at the start and we both felt pretty positive.
I set off pretty fast (for me), running at around eight minute mile pace and felt really good. The course goes out south from York through the village of Bishopthorpe, along quiet rural roads towards Appleton Roebuck, reached just after halfway. Unfortunately after about three miles we found ourselves skittering about like Bambi on patches of ice in shady parts that the sun hadn’t yet reached. For about the next three miles there were intermittent stretches of road that was OK and road that was like an ice rink! The race marshals were wonderful, warning us of upcoming icy bits and aiming us at the less slippery parts. But unfortunately at times we were reduced to a very slow jog or even a walk that obviously slowed us all down quite a bit. I for one wasn’t prepared to take the risk of running over ice, possibly breaking my leg and not running for months, and most others seemed to feel the same! All the stopping and starting did break up our rhythm a bit, so it was good to see the back of the ice at around halfway.
Luckily there were no further incidents, icy or otherwise, in the second half. The course isn’t the most exciting in terms of features, but it was fabulous just to be out running in the lovely countryside with everyone else on such a glorious day. I didn’t manage to get back up to eight minute mile pace, but was still pleased to get a PB of 1:52:37 – almost a minute off my previous best. It was a little frustrating to think I could have done better without the ice, as I would love to break 1:50, but that will have to wait for another day. Jason also got a PB of 2:02 in what was only his second half marathon, so the positive vibes were justified! Funniest moment of the day: walking alongside two other women on an icy patch when we hear a gun going off three times. “What was that?” says one. “Oh”, says the other, “they shoot the ones at the back that don’t make the cut-off time”!
I also found time for a bit of celebrity stalking at the end, bumping into Nicola Rees, who Yorkshire readers will recognise from our local BBC News programme, Look North. Taking part in her first ever half marathon she’d done really well, coming in at well under two hours, and was lovely when I asked her for a photo. She also managed to look annoyingly glamorous after having run 13.1 miles – must be something they teach you how to do in Telly Land. Tell us your secret, Nicola!
I would really recommend the Brass Monkey as an event, whatever level of runner you are. The cut-off time is 2:45 so don’t be afraid to enter (or that you’ll get shot!) if you aren’t Speedy Gonzales, as I was. It’s very well organised by York Knavesmire Harriers, the marshals are really helpful and supportive and you get a nice long-sleeved technical top at the end. You need to be quick off the mark to enter though, as places are gone within a few hours of going on sale in the autumn!
I’m just in the process of finalising my running event plans for this year and will blog about that next week; but spring-wise it’s all about the run-up to my sub 4 attempt at the Manchester Marathon. Watch this space!