BEDFORD HALF MARATHON 2017
Bedford Half Marathon takes place on Saturday 2nd September. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny morning. It was also great to have a race on a saturday, most half marathons take place on Sunday’s and you spent all weekend prepping for it.
The race is set at the stunning Bedford Priory Country Park and allows you to see the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside.
I wasn’t originally going to do this race, a friend of mine dropped out and asked if I wanted to take her place. Pricing wise, the website no longer displays but an affiliated runner paid £23.80. I’m so glad I said yes to running this race, if I could describe the course it would be: PB!
The race offers:
Water stations (bottles)
Flat, traffic free, quiet route
Post race picnic party
The course was very flat, the only ‘hill’ that is in this route is the bridge over the main road to get to the Grange Estate. It was a very scenic route, you really felt like you were in the countryside.
Miles 1-2 were very nice and pretty going into the marshland area before you head into the estate. This is where the bridge is which you have to go over twice as you run out to the 3-7 mile section and then come back to finish the rest of the race.
There were TWO LAPS of the Grange Estate. For us ‘slower’ runners, it was a bit more confusing when we joined onto the lap. We were coming from the right and the faster runners were coming in from the left. At this moment there was a sign saying to stay right, and so we all did; the result of this also left a lot of the fast runner confused as there were now signs saying stay left so they can overtake on the right. The problem is, this was cutting across a lot of the fast runners. We also had a few people shouting at us to keep left or keep right but it meant we kept cutting across people. At one stage a man shouted “if you want to run this slow, get out of the way and do parkrun” – I couldn’t believe it. He was met with a few choice words from other runners as well as the fact that the signs were telling us to do different things.
This confusion was gone by the second loop as we were now all running at the same pace. This loop was in the wooded area. This was good because at parts there were normal walkers/spectators dotted about cheering you on. This part also followed the surrounding canals and hit with the sun of the day, it was a really pretty part of the route.
There are water stations at approximately miles 2.5, 5.5, 9, 11.5 and the finish. The water was in bottles and were given to you without lids, which was great so you didn’t have to worry about faffing about with everything, as well as being a good amount.
I know before we started, I heard someone comment on whether there were toilets dotted around the course. Often I don’t even notice if there are any during races but because I heard the comment I made sure to look out. Toilets were frequently positioned close to a drinks stations throughout the course and at the start and finish area.
Mile 11 to 12 almost fools you a little bit, you feel like you are coming in to finish but you’ve got a loop of the lake to go before you can complete it.
Mile 12-13 is the bit I didn’t enjoy about the race, it suddenly comes onto grass after running on track/path for the whole 12 miles previous. This cross terrain is okay for a short time but when it is right towards the end, it was harder to get a grip on the softer ground for the finishing mile.
The last 400m was great, it felt like there were hundreds of spectators cheering you on. Although it was on grass, it was a straight line into the finish overlooking the lake behind.
The route is flat, fast and scenic. I would definitely recommend this as a first half marathon for anyone as well as a PB course for those trying to achieve it.
The race started at 9am (always a good time to star) and started in waves, there were 5 waves (apparently!) and when we came to the start we weren’t too sure where we were supposed to go to get into the waves as there was no signs. We went with the majority of the crowd and eventually people started disappearing around the corner until our wave was pulled forward. There was a good atmosphere at the start with the music and tannoy playing over the chatters of the crowd before we were set off on the start of the race.
The only problem I would say in terms of traffic for both people and cars was around the 10mile/11mile part. You had to come across a road to get onto the next path as you continue on to the 10 mile mark. The marshals were doing their best to stop people getting in the way and letting the cars go in places. I came across the road (with permission of the marshal) and a car put his foot down and almost hit me, it took the marshal shouting and tapping on the bonnet of the car to stop him from actually driving into runners.
The marshal’s were very lovely and encouraging. They also cheered you and even if they had been there for ages. The young volunteers from miles 10 onwards were lovely, the young teenagers seemed genuinely interested in cheering you on.
When I was coming back around mile 11, it was a funnel between the two sides of runners. The ones heading to the 10 mile point and the ones coming back through the 11 mile part. This was also the path to get back to the car park and people were in their hoards to get back to the cars. I saw so many people who were still running having to move/run around walkers who had finished their race in order to continue on the course. At one stage I shouted at a group of 5 people who were over my path as well as the other path “there’s still runners!”.
This race had a great atmosphere from the start point to the end, there were plenty of places for spectators to go and cheer you on. This is a great race for beginners and experienced runners. It was a hot and very sunny day, runners were lucky because you weren’t exposed to the sun for much of the race. This should be in the course section but in combination with how beautiful the day was really added to the great race day; most of the race was under the shade of the trees so there wasn’t much chance to get overheated.
The finish was great, there was a really happy ‘party’ atmosphere. You were given a water bottle, banana and shortbread when you finished. The picnic area and bands were a great way to relax/stretch and listen for when you have finished the race. You could stay here for a few hours afterwards celebrating with friends and family, eat from the street food vendors, and you were recommended to bring your own alcohol!
Race results were released later that day, not on the website but on their facebook page (it took me 2 days to find it as I kept looking at the main website).
The medal was great, I think the Bedford half/local runners club have a really good design and put on a really good race. This is open to all abilities and I would certainly run it again.
This year, after my marathon, I decided to focus my attention back onto half marathons for the end of the year until I found out about London. As I said earlier, this race was offered to me by a friend who could no longer run it, it was on the off chance I decided to take it up. My goal for the next year was to get my half marathon time down to at least under 2:35. I set this to be achieved by at least March 2018 as I didn’t think I would be able to get it close to it in the following months since my last half in March 2017 (time 2:39).
The race for me felt like one of the best I have experienced in a very long time. From the start, I felt like I was running fast and powerful. I kept a consistent speed throughout, apart from around mile 7-8, where I hit the bridge and slowed down quite a bit.
I really enjoyed this race, with the atmosphere, the pace I was running and the route really tied in to what felt like a great run. When I looked at my watch for 10 miles, I usually have it set that if it’s 2 hours I can aim for my normal time (within 2:36-40). I managed to come in at 1:54.
When I came over that finish line, I stopped my watch at couldn’t believe what it said 2:30!!! I came in and knocked 5 minutes off of my PB, and managed to get 2:30 (I would have loved just below) but something I didn’t think was achievable until at least next year!
What I did differently
This was only recently in the later part of my plan but I started with a PT (cleancoachkatie) once a week for the past 4 weeks. Knowing that I wanted to improve my time, I have been doing a lot of strength work for running in these sessions. A lot of squats and lunges lets just say!! This strength training hurt, with DOMS following up after 2 days, but I always made sure to do it during the week in order to have fresh legs for the races.
The weekly strength training really helped with the race, I felt stronger and more powerful when running. I will be continuing to have these sessions for future races, hopefully this will decrease my time and injury rate!
Mixed up my training
When I was previously training for my half/full marathons, I was still at university and didn’t have full means to doing much else but just straight running. It was during my dissertation and final year and so I never put all my focus on how well I followed my plan. I kept to it, but there was no variety in what I was doing. I ran, and that was it, I went out for long runs, shorter runs, just runs.
A big part I decided to change this year was to add variety into my training. I’ve been doing interval training and threshold runs once a week. I used this to give me a confidence boost when it came to my speed. Knowing I could push myself a little bit faster in every session meant that I knew I could incorporate this into my race plan as well. I used this during my race as I used moments to integrate speed bursts throughout the run when I felt like my body could.
I also cross trained for this training. I’ve incorporated swimming once a week, this gave me variety in my plan, as well as building on a different type of fitness that I didn’t work on last time I trained. By incorporating swimming into my routine, where I aimed to swim a mile every session, it allowed me to build fitness, strength, and flexibility in areas I wouldn’t have previously.
Hydration is a huge part of why I didn’t enjoy my first ever half back in December 2016. I finished with a time of 2:49. At this point, I had no idea how to hydrate for a run, I didn’t use any gels and had a few sips of water for the whole 13.1 miles.
This time, I was more educated about the importance of hydrating and fuel for runs. I have a big bottle of water the night before a race with a hydration tablet in, half a glass with half a tablet in before the race and take out bottles with tablets in for during the race. I also make sure I use a gel every 30 minutes; the rate in which people use gels is different for other people but for me, 30 minutes works.
One of two main causes of fatigue during prolonged exercise is a loss of fluid. It’s important to practice and experiment when you take on fluids during your training program to enjoy your run and achieve your best. I practised with all these different techniques during my training over the past year and this is what I found what was best for me.
Over the next few months I have other races lined up and I’m hoping that this new training will help improve my times and I can continue to enjoy running like I did during this race!
2:49 to 2:35 to 2:30! Hopefully one day we will see a sub 2!!