Last year I ran Farnborough Half in January because Greg talked me into it. The enduring memory I have of it was the minus six degree temperature, and then being far too hot because I’d over-dressed. This year I didn’t have Greg telling me it was a good idea, but it has a lot going for it: it’s close, it’s early season, it’s relatively cheap, it’s flat(ish) – the list goes on.
I’d entered primarily as a driver to keep up training over the winter: after the Vit in September the training volume took a lead-balloon like plunge as post-race blues took their hold. Despite having entered this, and carefully scheduled and planned the Bupa intermediate half marathon trainng plan, my training in December was minimal (apart from the #FetchFestive160point934) and only really got back to where it should be when the 16-week training block for Iron Man 70.3 Marbella started in the new year.
So this left me miles away from where I wanted to be as I crossed the start line (obviously where I really wanted to be was in bed). For a while I wasn’t even sure I’d bother to get to the start line at all. In the end the fact I can’t now do Thorpe half due to external commitments swayed me to committing to it.
There were a couple of down sides: last year’s free parking was no more – replaced with council parking further from the race village (15 minutes of walking), and the weather was going to be icky – at one point the Norwegians at yr.no estimated there’d be 8mm of rain over the course of 4 hours (8-12), although this had been revised down by the night before.
The alarm went off at six, and I was at Farnborough Leisure centre parking by 0730, paying the £6 parking. As I parked the freezing drizzle started. Met up with some friendly fellow runners who walked with me towards the airship hanger – and chatted with them about the Fairoaks airport loop as it turns out they were local to Woking.
I’d left everything except what I was running in in the car, which meant that although I was unencumbered I was quite cold. Learning from last year I was only wearing a base layer, technical top, shorts, calf protectors and shoes / socks. Registered (which was painless as I knew my race number and they got me to confirm my name), affixed race number (must remember race belt for non-triathlons), then went and huddled like a penguin for 20 minutes in order to try and stay warm. Usual pre-race banter with some cold and nervous looking fellow runners.
A few minutes after the advertised 0840, a pair of enthusiastic cross fit trainers got up to warm up the runners. Being cold it seemed like a good thing to join in: met fellow fetchie Dibble in the warm up and noted that I was pretty far up the entrance chute: this year the 1:45 and 2:00 markers had got themselves into a much better position so there wouldn’t be any issue having to storm off to catch them up.
Without much further ado, there was a count-down from 10 and we were off.
The course has changed quite a lot from last year: although there are bits which I recognised and when I overlaid the two courses it was surprising how much they had re-used: Happily, they cut out a lot of the little loops by the race village which means that although there are still some cobbled sections, there aren’t nearly as many as there were, and although there was a certain sense of déjà vu as you ran past mile marker 13 for the third time, it didn’t feel like you were pointlessly lapping the business park in quite the same way.
We also lost the proper off-road section that I was distressed about last year (where it suddenly, and with no warning went to single track dirt from wide road).
Right up until I was so far up the chute I thought I’d just hang onto the 2:00 runner and see how I got on – but as I was quite a long way ahead at the start I thought I’d just run at a comfy pace and see how long it took mister 1:45 to go past me. It turns out I was a bit enthusiastic for the first 10k, making it in about 50 minutes. At kilometre 12 or so the 1:45 man went past and there was no way I was hanging onto him.
The weather was Not Kind. When it wasn’t throwing freezing sleet into my face, it was snowing, hard. The snow did make everything look prettier, and running along trying to catch snow on my tongue was quite fun for a while.
One of the bits we did twice, involved running on the airport grounds, then climbing a steep incline before descending more gently the other side. It was at the second of these that I met a friend who I’d over-taken the first time around as he walked up, who’d gone by me, and I caught him again on the hill about 4k before the finish. Waved to Fetchie Gobi as we finally ran back towards the finish.
Over the line with no 2 hour marker in sight.
Chip time 1:45:57
Overall 491 of 1611
Male 426 of 979
V40 male 95 of 194
Last year I did 1:44:30, but it’s a different course, so I’m not sure that counts.
The changes to the course are considered a good thing. I will almost certainly do it again as it keeps me honest during the winter break.
They gave me a free hat. This is to be applauded.