A beautiful, sunny March day is not necessarily dream conditions for a half marathon but given the track record that the Cambridge Half Marathon has had it is a bit of a relief when I wake up and open the curtains to bright blue skies. Four years a go, the Cambridge Half Marathon restarted after a gap of 25 years and it's a fantastic course: two laps around the beautiful sights of this old city weaving through the famous colleges and past historic churches and over the beautiful river. It gives you a true sense of the city - plus it is flat - the half marathon dream.
Since the race restarted, my husband and I have featured in it - at least one of us every year. Three years a go it snowed (that was the one year I did't race: hoorah), last year it was blistering sunshine and several people fainted along the course. But that's one of the fab things about putting a half marathon in March in the UK: unpredictability.
The race itself is so well organised. In fact I think I can be as bold as to say I believe it is the best organised race that I have run. The course is well thought out and mostly well spaced with a few slightly too tight corners that are only problematic because of the 2,999 other runners. It is extremely well marked so you always know where you are distance wise and even though there is a headphone ban, the nature of the route means you are always running past the incredibly friendly local crowds cheering you on and offering jelly babies. There is a real sense of local pride about this: Cambridge seems happy to have regained its race and that makes it a joy to run. There are enough water stations for a fish with stations every 2 miles stocked with water and gels. All very impressive. In fact it's so well organised I wonder if the race organisers have it in their sights to turn it in to a full length marathon one year? I'm sure there would be the demand and the foundations have clearly been laid in terms of planning and route preparation.
The goody bags at the end are exemplary as is my free massage from the team at The Sports Injury Clinic who, full credit to them, have brought in staff from all over to be able to hugely cut the queue time down to 10 minutes. The medals are amazing: weighty and pretty. I'm not totally convinced by the alcohol free beer instead of a sports recovery drink at the end, but my spectator is thrilled when I give mine to him. After all: who doesn't want a nice cold beer in one of the beautiful parks of Cambridge on a gloriously sunny day?
|Image: Paul Beastall|
Downsides to the race are the same as most races: not enough toilets and some overly keen steward clearly thought my jumper, tied in about 20 knots to a railing, was a donation to a charity shop so it's a cold walk home. I'm also not sure why the race organisers felt they needed 3 pacers at 2hrs and no pacers slower than that. In a race that is open to all it would be nice to include pacers further down the field: maybe two at 2:15 and one at 2:30?
But at the end of the race I'm feeling exhilarated. In fact, so exhilarated and shocked at having beaten my PB and 2hr dream time that I cry. Oh dear. I mention it to a friend afterwards who suggests I blame it on the runners high. Definitely one of the best races I've done. Totally loved it and love my new PB (texted to me 3 minutes after I finish) of 1:55:57 - thanks Cambridge for a brilliant day.
|with the hubbie: 1:35:36 for him, 1:55:57 for me - PBs all round!|