EVENT: BHF HAREWOOD HOUSE HALF-MARATHON
Sunday 8th February 2015 (Start 10:00)
RECOMMENDED? Definitely (if you’re ok with trails!)
WHERE IS IT? Just a few miles due-north of Leeds on the A61, heading towards Harrogate.
Harewood House is a stately home standing in its own grounds, and the race takes place entirely within the private estate without needing to take to the surrounding lanes.
This is a fantastic trail course. Just one single mile is on tarmac, and that is part of the private estate. The rest is undulating tracks and grass. If you are purely a road-runner this isn’t for you; in fact if you occasionally go onto flat grass and paths in a managed public park it still may not be for you. It’s not a fell race, but nor is it a gentle jog in the woods. And there are hills, some of them quite harsh. The winning man came in at 1:23:26, the first lady 1:37:07, and the tail-enders around 3:30. This is a challenge, not a PB course.
Our day was a glittering winter morning, warmth in the sun in spots, but much of the ground still frozen hard and a bitter breeze. You may need a base-layer and gloves.
HOW BIG IS IT?
A medium-sized event with around 820 finishers. But this was the first year it has been run: if BHF are able to repeat it I suspect it will become much bigger, very quickly.
The course meanders in and out of itself to stay within the estate. It is simply perfect if you are a habitual trail runner; and beautiful too. Some of it is on Harewood’s public footpaths and bridleways (including some stretches of yours truly’s longer runs) but much of it on stretches which are not normally open to the public. Look to your left at 5 miles and you will see the Emmerdale set; look above and you will see the Red kites. You will weave in and out of the woods, skirt the Fish pond, see glorious – and sometimes new – views of the house, and run alongside pools and falls you haven’t had access to before. Much of the course is on grass and gravel track, some on wooded trails, some on open fields – just the sheep and you as you trust those in front of you know where the line is actually supposed to be.
And you will go up, and down, back up again, and down again – once in particular, approaching 7 miles I think, on a steep arm-wheeling bank with the house in the distance ahead of you. My Garmin measured 1,118 of ascent, slightly more than the pennine Hardrian’s Wall Half. Some of these climbs are long and steady, and a few are brutal; especially the short-sharp-shock to turn behind the house at 13 miles just when you don’t need it. Download Harewood Half map here.
ORGANISATION & FACILITIES
Excellent. The team at BHF do a great job and send out a high-quality race pack including letter and itinerary for the day, fundraising pack, and a booklet on their work. There are also reminders by email in the weeks before.
On the day, there is catering and plenty of BHF staff around the information and baggage tents. There are temporary toilets as well as the established car-park ones: long queues at one point, but there are plenty of trees and bushes beyond the carpark so no need to miss the start. On tip: Harewood only has the one access road, so be prepared to allow a few extra minutes to get into the carpark, and to leave at the end.
The only improvement I would suggest would be to partition off an end of the baggage tent for changing (especially at this time of year when its cold and breezy).
BLING: Excellent quality tech t-shirt; the medal is more in keeping with a family fun-run than a serious Half.
MORE INFO & ENTRIES: https://www.bhf.org.uk/get-involved/events/runs/harewood-house-half-marathon
Loved it. Just loved it. My 42nd Half-Marathon, this was a home fixture for me as I can reach some of the trails from home on LSR day: it was a joy to be able to explore some of the hidden corners, and big congrats to the organisers for keeping the whole course on the estate. After Hadrian’s Wall for my 40th and a great York Marathon last autumn, this was another one for the “special memories” category.
My chip time was 1:55:98, Garmin (at 13.34 miles) showed 1:55:27. Comfortably inside 9-min/mile overall, both are significantly faster than my LSR pace on the same terrain and I
confess I was blowing a bit on a couple of the hills. Very satisfying, especially given the hills; and comfortably stronger than Hadrian’s Wall last year.
Best bits: being so local for me; glorious course and a joy to meander through the estate.
Worst bits: erm….. nothing really, even the b***ard hill at 13-miles was satisfying once it was over.
Could be improved by… Shelter for changing. Maybe signs to guide spectators to good viewing points: we thought 3.5 & 8 gave a double chance but the family got lost… Not BHF’s fault, obviously!
One final thought: a couple of years ago I had a heart attack. Only a small one and I’m fine and under supervision and running well. I was conflicted about whether to go for a fundraising push on this one – and BHF certainly deserve that for an excellent event – but somehow…. well, my heart just wasn’t in it. Maybe that’s an indication that I haven’t really come to terms that it happened. I did make a donation when I entered, though. And another after the run, with a message of appreciation for the heart team at Leeds General Infirmary, and for the pharmacists who keep me safe; as I run, and every day.