The Newark Half Marathon fell perfectly within my marathon training plan; this particular training week had Sunday’s run as a fast 13 miles, and when my friend suggested this race was an option, I was keen to give it go. If I went out on the streets of my hometown Lincoln and attempted to push myself to run a race-like 13 miler, it simply would not happen. Despite Newark being very close to Lincoln and having visited it a number of times for work purposes, I literally knew nothing about the race, and after entering had not really thought much about it either. The night before race day I gave the course map a quick scan, which only served to show me I had no real idea where the route was taking us, so just decided to (literally) run with it on the day!
Race day proved to be a warm one; after a number of weeks of disappointing British summer weather we were met with clear blue skies which the rising sun soon began to capitalise on. The race started at Sconce Park, which itself seemed a hidden gem in Newark that I did not really know existed, and as my friend and I stood amongst the ever-growing crowd of runners we could begin to feel the sun’s heat making its presence known on our shoulders. After an enthusiastic mass warm up, (which I less than enthusiastically participated in!) we were led to the start line. The atmosphere here was quite subdued, there was no music thumping or tannoy announcer going crazy, and without much fanfare the race was started.
I was treating today as a training run, it offered the ability to push myself more than on a long slow run, but crucially would not knacker myself in the process. I aimed to run between 7.50 and 8 min/mile pace and I tried to keep this in mind as we began, avoiding my usual tendency to go off a bit too quickly. The first couple of miles were quite scenic, quickly leaving Newark and heading out to the village of Hawton. It was quiet and even chat amongst runners was minimal – I said something to my friend and it felt like the entire race field was listening in! The silence was soon broken though as we headed over the A46 and a few cars enthusiastically beeped their horns at the colourful procession passing over their roofs. The next 2.5 miles followed the same long straight road, which again was very quiet with the occasional pocket of cheery supporters popping up. This road seemed to go on forever, and included a few very gentle rises and falls, and if I am honest and I was grateful when we turned a corner!
This next stretch was another 2 mile long road, and facing this direction the sun was straight in front of us which felt a little like we were sitting targets to its heat. A water station was much welcomed here, although I have to say plastic cups are an absolute waste of time! My friend didn’t manage to get one so I gave her mine, you would only get a couple of sips from it anyway if you were lucky! After battling the sun we turned down a couple of small rural lanes for a few miles. With the sun now out of our eyes, there was instead a persistent breeze which whilst cooler was just making strides feel that little more of an effort. I felt like I was out exploring the countryside rather than running Newark Half Marathon at this point, not a complaint, but perhaps not what I was expecting!
We were now at around the eight mile point and I was starting to feel a bit like I was slowing. Up until now my friend and I had been quite naturally running together at roughly just under 8 min/mile pace, but the heat was starting to take its toll a little. Mile 9 to 10 turned into a simple a quest to make it to a water station, and the wet sponge station which appeared first was a small saviour as I doused myself in some cool water. When the water station did arrive I grabbed two of the hopeless plastic cups and managed maybe a couple of quality sips from between the two of them before pouring any dregs over my head. All race organiser please note – plastic cups are a waste of time!
The final stages saw the route join back to the starting sections and once again go through the village of Hawton. After a bit of a wobble between miles 8-10, the thought of three miles to go now suddenly seemed doable and my friend and I picked back up our pace. I felt the determination grow between us as we caught up with a number of runners who I had spotted someway in the distance before, and as mile 12 ticked over on our watches we really started running strong. We were now back in Newark and seemed to be powering through the final stages – this was until we met the grass finish.
I think we both thought that upon seeing the edge of Sconce Park reappear we were nearly at the finish, however the final half a mile or so sees you circumnavigate the edge of the park and run on the slightly uneven grass. This instantly sucked rhythm from our legs, and whilst I felt like we were powering along before, I now felt like we were fighting to the finish. It was a tough final section, but we still were managing to make ground on a number of runners. As we made the final turn into the finishing straight we ran side by side, not racing each other, but somehow we seemed to just be running as one moving being. We crossed the line at the exact same point in 1:44:45.
A sweaty embrace showed our happiness; we had not intentionally decided to run together, but it had just happened. We paced the run well, coped with the warm conditions and achieved the sub 1:45 goal – which incidentally is also my second quickest half marathon to date. The day felt like it had been a really successful run in our quest for the Berlin Marathon.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...