Sun, Sand and Sleaford

Posted: February 20, 2012 in Running

Come in Number 377...your time is up.....

Not so much sand, but a howling gale on the nose for the first six miles. Yup, it’s hard to believe I could give up the pleasures of Whaley Bridge on a Sunday, but I just thought I’d try and get into the groove of organised events and have some kind of idea where I’m up to with my training. Thus it was, I headed to RAF Cranwell for the Sleaford half marathon.

There are a number of tips that one learns in long distance running, none of which appear in any of the books. Top of the list is not to forget the debit card and then try and buy petrol in Chesterfield on the way to a race….; not believing what GoogleMaps says about the A617 is another…; then , of course, is the usual more corporeal stuff about having a pooh before one leaves home and making sure one has plasters robust enough to stay over one’s nipples for the entire 13.1 miles.

The Sleaford half is one of a great many races in the north/midlands put on by local athletics clubs – this one by Sleaford Striders . Everyone is pretty friendly and it’s about a million light-years away from the yuppy kit-fest that is the London Marathon. (I will admit that I do don the persona of Alf Tupper whenever I run much south of Leicester….oh, look him up.) The nature of the race is probably summed up by this picture of the rather relaxed scene at the starting line:

Sleaford Start

Of course, one of the other defining measures of a good race, other than friendliness, is the nature of the “memento” and goody bag. Often there’s a medal, although once I received a rather jolly hand-thrown mug – thrown by a potter, that is, rather than a mocking spectator. Equally, there might be a t-shirt, as there was here, but these are normally white and quickly sent to charity; I like to think that somewhere on the high plateau of Kenya, the next world star of long-distance running is training wearing a Sheffield 2005 Half Marathon shirt. The goody bag, however, is what can make or break the reputation of a half marathon on the internet forums – seriously, look them up! The one from Sleaford was splendidly eccentric, as this picture shows:

The Sleaford Goody Bag

I shall particularly enjoy the Lincs FM keyring.

The race itself was fine. A strong head-wind for the first part of the course, and a route that seemed to take in every hill in Lincolnshire. I finished in 1:55:45 which is rather better than I was expecting. This predicts a marathon time somewhere between 4:00 and 4:15 – so there’s still work to be done. 39.9 miles last week, with a lot of hills to do in the week to come. Just 61 days to go then………

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