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Leeds Half Marathon Review

Yesterday was my first attempt at a half marathon that wasn’t the Great North Run, which I’ve done twice now. I do find that if I don’t have an event on the horizon my running motivation can slide a little, so wanted to enter a spring half this year as well as the GNR. Close to home, Leeds seemed like a convenient option and is now organised by the For All Events team, so it benefits a great charity too, The Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

 My preparations in the period leading up to race day weren’t ideal. Three weeks beforehand I’d had a nasty stomach bug which meant I had to miss one of the two twelve mile runs on my schedule. The following weekend I launched straight into the second twelve miler after a week off, and paid the price by tweaking a muscle in my hip, which has been niggling ever since. But I was still up for it, especially as it was the first ever race for my brother Mike, who I’d nagged into starting running just after Christmas and who soon turned out to be far better than me!

 Sunday dawned sunny with quite a chilly wind – but at least it wasn’t raining! The drive from York to Leeds was pleasantly quiet and stress-free, with plenty of free parking available in the city centre. Organisation of the event was really good, with only short queues for the essential pre-race loo visit. It was cold hanging around at the start, but once the gun had gone off we were over the line in about five minutes. Obviously that was the last I saw of Mike!

 I’d been pre-warned about the hilly first few miles, so had included some in training. The first mile was fine, but there was a lot of climbing up out of town until we reached the ring road at about 4½ miles. Many people found it very tiring and a few seemed to be dropping out even at that point. I have to admit that I found these uphill miles pretty tough, but just reduced my target pace a bit with the hope of gaining some time later on. On the ring road we turned into the wind, but at least we were going downhill for quite a while! From that point on the route undulated quite a bit. Someone had told me beforehand that from mile 7 it was all downhill – er, I don’t think so! However, it did flatten out as we followed the route of the River Aire along Kirkstall Road for the last few miles. Facilities en route were pretty good, with five toilet areas and five drinking points with water and energy drink supplied by sponsor Asda.

 So how did we do? I realised fairly early on that this wasn’t going to be a PB day for me, but still wanted to come in at under two hours and just squeezed in at 1:59:03. In the last mile there was a short climb over a flyover which seemed to scupper quite a few tired legs, and it was a bit sad to see folk having to start walking so close to home. I managed to keep going, but certainly didn’t have a sprint finish left in me as I approached the line! Mike did fantastically well for what was not just his first half marathon, but first ever running event, bringing it in at 1:42. He only started running to keep him fit over the winter for mountain biking in the summer, but I think he just might have got the bug now…

 My only slight grumble is that on some of the roads where we were coned off into one lane the route was very narrow and it was hard to pass people. Having chugged up the hills I wanted to make up as much time as possible on the downhill sections, but where you had groups of friends running three abreast it was virtually impossible. That’s my only gripe about the day though, and I don’t suppose there’s much that can be done about it. All in all very enjoyable, although I was really glad to see the finish line! Great goody bag too, with a top quality technical tee and a Toffee Crisp – get in! Would I do it again? Very probably!

 For the next month I’m going to do some gentle running and cross-training on my bike, which I’ve seen far too little of recently. My very supportive cycling hubby Steve will be pleased to hear that! Coming up later in the summer I’ll be doing the Race For All York 10K and then in September I’ll be ding the Great North Run for Martin House Children’s Hospice. Bring ‘em on!

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