EVENT: HADRIAN’S WALL HALF-MARATHON
Sunday 29th June 2014 (Start 10:00am)
WHERE IS IT? Enter NE49 9PP into your satnav or maps and it will take you to… the middle of nowhere. That’s right, bang in the middle of the glorious English (only just!)
Pennines at the southern end of the Northumberland National Park. Go halfway across the A69 between Newcastle and Carlisle, and up a thumb’s-width, and you’re there. The place is marked on the map as Edges Green, but on race-day the event itself is by far the most populous settlement for miles.
This is an awesome and beautiful setting. And as you approach you pass for some miles along the line of Hadrian’s Wall, adding a unique and rather sobering feature to the day.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Undulating/hilly in stunning countryside, mix of rural lane, grassy trail and sound gravel track. Good relaxed atmosphere and a mix of all shapes, ages and abilities. Do it for the character and location, not for a PB. (This year’s winning man and lady finished in 1:24:35 and 1:40:23, both around 3mins outside the course-record; and the tail-enders were around 3 hours.)
HOW BIG IS IT? The race entry is capped at 500; 434 finished on the day I did it. (Mountain Rescue were in support but I wasn’t aware of any emergency so I guess the 66 just didn’t get there on the day.)
THE COURSE: The route follows an anticlockwise course
- 3 miles of single-track road, downhill to start then steeply uphill
- 3.5 miles of grass trail, with sections of classic Pennine rough and heather (and maybe a hint of peat-bog) but always with a good track; this follows the route of the Pennine Way
- 5 miles of forestry track, solid gravel roadway
- 1.5 miles back on road to finish, undulating
On the road climb heading out, it’s particularly satisfying that looking over to your left you can see the whole route laid out in a wide anticlockwise sweep, just like a real image of the map in the course-notes.
Pay attention here: there are 329 meters of height-gain: that’s 1,079ft 3 ¾ inches in old money. If it was on the floor that would be about a fifth of a mile; but it’s not, it’s upwards. The course profile map shows most of the climbing up to around 7.5-mile point followed by what looks like flat/undulating afterwards, but the scale understates it…. At least, in my case I found the gradients from 7 miles much tougher than I’d expected (and from the grunting and blowing at that point I don’t think I was the only one).
ORGANISATION & FACILITIES This bit’s easy: his name is Ian. When you enter
online Ian sends you an email to confirm; then you get your race number and a factsheet in the post, and that tells you all you need to know. Ian also hands out prizes and the odd freebie at the end and I’m sure would be happy to chat: I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t pop over and say thanks for the day.
Considering the relatively-small scale (ie compared to a big-city event, I am under no illusion that this is anything less than a major project for Ian) the facilities are excellent, with
- lots of marshalls for the parking,
- a catering wagon,
- portaloos which were quite adequate for the demand
- marshalls on the course at the key turns
- water handed out mainly by smiley children (biodegradable paper cups, out of respect for the environment; fair enough)
- Mountain Rescue were present. You don’t get that at London.
FEE: £27/£25 and you can donate to Mountain Rescue (go on, it’s really worth it… and much less trouble all round than the approach of “Support Mountain Rescue: get lost!”
BLING: a good-quality tech T-shirt.
MORE INFO & ENTRIES:
This was my 40th half-marathon, and I had been looking for something special. This absolutely was it.
Best bits: the approach; the location and presence of the Wall; reaquaintance with the Pennine Way (my Wainwright says I last walked this section on 13 July 1979); layout and variation of the terrain; organisation. So, erm…. everything, really.
Worst bits: Just for the sake of something to say… we were lucky with the weather – bright/sunny skies, dry overhead and underfoot, and a wind which was cool-bordering-on-chilly. I suspect it’s not always like this, and more realistic pennine clag and gale and bog would fundamentally change the nature of the run.
At the end my Garmin showed 2:00:28 (bugger!) and the results sheet has me 199th overall which puts me in the top half… but it also showed 13.24 miles so the Court of Arbitration for Sport have ruled it a clear Sub-2 Half. Any discrepancy will undoubtedly have been down to my meanderings as I enjoyed the scenery, and not Ian’s piece of string. I didn’t even mind that I’d underestimated the terrain after 7 miles and couldn’t pick up the pace as I’d hoped: it may have been my 40th Half, but it was just making sure I kept my respect for the distance.
Could be improved by…. No, sorry, nothing apart from “I should have gone over and said thank-you to Ian”.