The preparation for my first race of the year could hardly have been any worse as I first suffered through a seasonal cold and then ended up in hospital for two nights in the days leading up to the event. My doctor had given me the thumbs up to run again but I still approached this race with trepidation as I wondered whether there would be any lingering problems.
I have run this race once before, in 2010, so I knew to expect a lot of traffic in the Silverstone area as everyone descends approaching the start time. My car satnav suddenly changed my route as I was getting near as it reported congestion due to traffic ahead so I trusted it as I took a route skirting around Milton Keynes and then onto some country roads. I have no idea whether this saved me time but as I approached Silverstone my new route ran parallel to the main motorway and I could see a very long queue of traffic leading up to the off ramp.
The event is well organised so it did not take long for the marshals to direct me into a parking area and I quickly changed into my running kit before using the nearby facilities. I joined the runners and spectators walking across the race track across to the start area and I had 10 minutes to browse the adidas store, where I bought a new orange running shirt, before I dropped my bag off in the pit lane area. My aim was to break the 2 hour mark during an official half marathon for the first time, something I have completed a number of times in training runs, so this time around I entered the ‘Under 2 Hours’ section and then proceeded to jog along the rear pit area and complete some strides as part of my warm-up routine. I had heard quite a few people talking about a delay to the start due to the amount of traffic still entering the site following an earlier car accident (thank you satnav!) so I stayed out of the main start crowd until I could confirm the start time. An initial announcement stated that the start would be delayed by 15 minutes but this was then changed to a 5 minute delay as the majority of runners had now made their way onto the main area.
I was using the race to test out my plans for the Brighton Marathon:
- Running kit (socks, shorts, top)
- Contact lenses
- Hot weather kit (hat, sunglasses, suncream)
- Cold / wet weather kit (long-sleeved top, running tights, and water-resistant top)
- Energy gels and hydration strategy
- Running bag with spare items
- iPod music, armband, and headphones
- After race food
It turned out to be a hot and sunny day with reasonably high temperatures so I went with my hot weather gear. Nearly everything else forms my usual training kit anyway so I was fairly confident that everything would go well. However, there were quite a few other runners who did not seem to adapt for the hot conditions and I saw a lot of people stopping to remove layers within the first mile as they were obviously too hot already. This seemed to be a problem for some the longer the race went on as I saw several people collapsed in exhaustion and being attended to be paramedics during the later stages of the race. The nearer the finish line, the more desperate some of the runners seemed to be; I ran past a dramatic scene within the last mile as a runner was being held on his side as he was shaking and vomiting in the middle of the rack.
My race started to plan as I latched onto the Runners World 9 minute mile pace group and I was enjoying a comfortable run until I made the rookie mistake of missing the first drinks station due to overcrowding just so I could stick with the pacing group. It was foolish of me and I soon began to regret my decision as the temperature continued to rise and I needed some sort of drink to remain hydrated. I decided to lower my goals and I slowed down until the next drinks station and this time I grabbed two bottles; one bottle to drink straight away and another to carry with my onto the next station so I could continue to sip some water as I ran.
My change in strategy and plan worked well and my slower pace plus plenty of access to liquid served me well for the rest of the race. I had planned on a sub 2 hour race but in the end settled for 8 minutes out. I grabbed my goodie bag and headed straight for the car park rather than going through my usual stretches and eating some food before leaving. When I ran this race before I ended up stuck in traffic for ages as everyone was trying to exit the car park areas at the same time so this time I had a much faster and smoother journey home.
Overall I enjoyed the race although for the majority of the route you have no support from spectators and the thrill or running such an iconic venue soon loses its edge. For such a large event everything is run well and my advice to anyone looking to run this race in future would be to get there early, avoiding a lot of traffic and getting a chance to walk around all the facilities, and then to leave as quickly as possible before being stuck as the majority of people try to get out the car park at the same time.
This year there seemed to be a lot more engagement between the race organisers and the spectators as social media was being used a lot more; before the race there were announcements via messages from Twitter using #silverstonehalf and there was audience participation in the finish area as people in the crowd could select the next tune by raising one arm or both arms to pick from 2 choices.
My final race stats were as follows:
- Category: 18-39
- Category Position: 1906 (About 898 runners behind. 68% of runners ahead)
- Place Overall: 3503 (About 2847 runners behind. 55% of runners ahead)
- Place Gender: 2703 (About 1426 runners behind. 65% of runners ahead)
- Chip Time: 02:08:40
- Of the 6350 who finished, 35% were Women and 65% were Men
- For the record, you were ahead of about 64% of women runners
- Approximate start delay: 3m 19s