After a few fairly disappointing road half marathons in the last couple of years I was very pleased by my return to form in today’s Forest of Dean Spring Half Marathon. Croft Ambrey runners are in for a real treat when they take part in the FoD Autumn Half Marathon over much the same course later this year. It is a rare joy to be able to complete a good, pacey half marathon on well-surfaced forest trails and tracks, among such lovely scenery. Aside from a fresh breeze, running conditions were pretty much ideal. The weather was mild at 12-13C, with just a little quite welcome drizzle in the air towards the finish. Organisation was excellent and I was surprised by the scale of the event. It had the feel of one of the bigger pre-London half marathons such as Fleet and Reading that I used to complete in the old days. It’s a good idea to arrive nice and early to avoid any stress in the car park queue. Thankfully I gave myself more time than usual today!
The race begins with 3-4 miles mainly downhill (a 300 feet descent in mile two). Despite running as fast as my little old legs would carry me, I was overtaken by hordes of mostly younger and obviously faster runners at this stage of the race. Perversely, I was praying for the arrival of the first proper uphill. Thankfully, this came around the 5.5 mile mark and it was a relief to find the field coming back to me as I took advantage of my ‘plodding’ skills to overtake a goodly number of enthusiastic youngsters, who in my opinion needed putting in their place. Given that my triathlon training is spread across three disciplines I needed to know whether I had the stamina to maintain a good pace over a longer run. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ and this has been a great condidence booster as I enter the last 12 weeks of training for the Exmoor Ironman 70.3. For Croft Ambrey runners licking their lips with anticipation of doing this as a Club Championship race in the autumn, there’s a pleasant little surprise around the 12 mile mark that I won’t spoil for you …
Only two other Croft Ambrey runners entered today. I bumped into Gemma Mallet at the finish, 2nd senior female in 1:34:39, looking as fresh-faced as if she had just finished an easy training run around Leominster. For my money the pick of our three performances was Carol Powell’s 1:54:30 (chip time), being 24th FV45. I finished in 1:43:02, 356 overall of 2253 finishers and 46th MV50. If the race had taken place in just over two weeks time I would have been 11th MV60. I can’t get older quickly enough!
PS Here is a picture that my sister found just yesterday of me and my brothers Michael (still better than me) and Doug (knees packed up) back in the ‘good old days’ after the Alton 10 in 1990, when I could still run a half marathon around 1:30.