Monday, 13 April 2015

Yorkshire (Sheffield) Half Marathon great event even with the windy ascent!!

It was now time to start my Half Marathon challenges to raise money for Dexter's school (Shepley First School) and first up was the Yorkshire Half Marathon. There were three of us from the school taking on this half marathon and I don't think any of us were quite ready for the challenge that unfolded, but each one us completed it with satisfying times and/or performances.

The day started bright and early with a stop over at Skelmanthorpe to pick up my friend Steve before picking up a couple of other parents from the School. Emma and Andy were also raising money for the School by running the Yorkshire Half Marathon with me. They had chosen the Yorkshire half over the Huddersfield and Leeds halves for different reasons but all 3 of us were still a little apprehensive about what was only an hour away. As we arrived at the edge of the city we all suddenly felt the nerves kick in and the excitement start to build. So when we finally parked up we were just itching to get up to our assembly points and soak up the atmosphere. We arranged a meet up point for afterwards, wished each other good luck and joined our different starting points, things were now getting serious. Steve joined the blue group, Emma and Andy in the green group with myself in the red group, or at least I was suppose to. Whilst I was walking down the road to find the start of the red group I noticed a pacer with a 1hr45 banner amongst the blue group so I just jumped in there. Even then I thought I was still to far back, so when I saw another friend and fellow stadium runner Steve Taylor we moved further up the group together. I was now just behind the 1hr35 pacer and it felt about right, there was still a lot of people in front of me which just showed how popular the event was. There was music blaring and as the mass warm up started it got louder and almost everyone started jumping up and down whether they wanted to or not, the atmosphere just got to them. After the warm up there was a couple of interviews at the start line, Kell Brook the world champion boxer followed by Harry Gration the legendary News reporter. There was a short delay whilst they closed off the roads and then they set us off and the Yorkshire Half Marathon was under way.

As always there was the runners false start (when runners start running too soon and the runners in front of them haven't so there is an abrupt stop followed by a woohhoo) which always makes me chuckle. We did manage to get going the second time and as the roads widened I could start to get up to pace and weave my way through all the slower runners that had wrongly positioned themselves at the start (always happens too). There was great support roadside from hundreds if not thousands of people who came to cheer and clap the runners along and it really helped and was a big difference from the rain hit Liverpool half a couple of weeks ago. There didn't seem to be a gap in the crowds for at least a couple of miles and even then it was because of road junctions etc. This was also the first year with the new course and after last years water fiasco I think a lot of people had just come to see that things went OK this year. 

After leaving the music of the start area behind you could hear the cheers from the crowd a lot more as you made your way towards what we all knew was coming. After the first mile the route then took an uphill direction, and for the next 4 miles as well, which was ok being from Yorkshire I'm use to it. However there was a strong wind on the day and it was only going to get stronger as we climbed the hill straight into it. This section was made a little easier by the fantastic people of Sheffield, everyone was waving their plastic batons, smashing them together or ringing cow bells. I was really taken aback by the music coming from shops, people's houses and the various groups on the street, there was at least two brass bands some bagpipers and a choir. They were all at different points on the climb so each of them had its own effect on me, helping me keep a positive attitude and keeping my pace up all the way to the top. At mile 4 there was a King of the Hill timed section over the next mile and it was also where the wind felt at its strongest. It was rather funny to watch all the runners strewn across the road start to tuck in behind each other to shelter from the wind hoping that they could draft off the person in front. If the race hadn't of been so large it could have quite easily been single file up that final climb. At the top was a water and jelly baby feed station and greatly appreciated too before the route took a left on to a much flatter part of the course. Mile 6 came quite quickly and so did the downhill it started steady at first past some photographers and then after a left turn the downhill got steeper and the wind was now behind me. I was able to try and gain back some of the time the uphill had stolen, I also saw a familiar face, I had managed to close up on my friend Steve and was gaining pretty quickly too. I think I should now tell you that prior to the race I had put out a post on Facebook asking for sponsors and I had a couple which was great, but then Steve said put him down for £10. I said thanks Steve that's great to which he replied and I'll double it if you beat me on the Yorkshire Half. Now he usually is faster than me by a couple of minutes so the chances of me beating him was slim, but Steve was struggling with an ankle injury so wasn't as fast as usual. So this was my only chance of actually finishing before him and as I came shoulder to shoulder with him I asked how he was doing, before sailing past him still increasing the speed. It was a good feeling even if he wasn't 100%, a less than 100% Steve is still a very fast Steve, so I kept my speed up and tried to focus to keep attention on the race and not Steve trying to keep up with me. At this point there was another timed section, this one was the final 10k section and just before it started there was another water station with more Jelly babies too great for that extra bit of energy. As I reached a little village on the way back down to the city centre the route levelled out for a bit and the crowds grew again helping me to keep pushing. I was also running with a guy who was trying to rev up the crowds by waving in a Mexican wave type of way, it worked and the crowds got louder as we came through, it was awesome, hair standing on end and things like that. It really made me feel a bit special until I turned a corner and was faced with a little uphill out of nowhere. It was only small but it took a lot out of me as I tried to keep my pace going at the same as I was on the downhill, silly I know but I'd just been pumped up by the crowds and felt full of adrenalin. Luckily it was only small and I was soon facing another downhill and flat section, before I rejoined the main road we had used to go up the first hill. The crowds were still there cheering every single person on, which was even neccessary at this point as the legs were starting to get heavy and I was finding it harder to keep my pace up. Even counting down the Km and Mile markers wasn't helping keep my mind focused, so the cheers and shouts of come on Matt meant so much. The downhill finished with about a mile and a half to go and it was now all down to grit and determination to finish strong, plus the crowds were thinning and there was even an empty part of the course as they were all gathering at the finish. I kept it together and pushed for the final mile with help from some excellent marshals cheering me on up a final hill before turning down towards to the finish and huge crowds 5/6 deep lining the final 100m sprint. I crossed the line in a time of 1hr34m10s and considering the hills and wind I was really pleased with the time, but I was more pleased with the fact that I finished just behind Kell Brook.
I hadn't realised he was running too and from behind I hadn't realised it was him at all until the media pulled him to one side to interview him. So I must have walked past him being interviewed looking rather gormless until it clicked who it was and then a look of realisation replaced the gormless look. That must have been great TV having my silly mug in the background, still I finished just behind a world class professional sportsman. More importantly I finished in front of Steve and an extra £10 for the School, I waited for Steve just after getting my goody bag, t-shirt and Medal and he was only a couple of mins behind me at the end.
His ankle was clearly hurting him as he hobbled towards me and we congratulated each other on our performances, 1hr36m with a dodgy ankle was brilliant so Steve was happy. We weren't quite sure when Emma and Andy would finish so we decided to go back to the car and get some stuff before returning to our meeting place. When we returned Emma and Andy were there waiting with Andy's wife Penny and their kids Ellie and Ethan. They looked happy as we approached, I was hoping they would be and not ready to lynch me for convincing them to take part in such a horrible race. They were very happy and pleased they had done it, Emma had completed it in a Superb 1hr48m which she was very happy with and Andy finished it in an Amazing 1hr43m which seemed to be a complete surprise to him. They did excellent especially as they were joking before the race about just finishing just under 2hrs, they did themselves proud and they've raised money the School in the process. Let's just hope they remember the good feelings when I come calling on them to run for the school next year too. We had a quick chat about how good the race and atmosphere was before we headed back to car and home to have a well deserved bath and some food.

Next up is the Huddersfield Half Marathon this weekend and another set of brave and awesome parents from the school. The Huddersfield half/full marathon is one of if not the hardest road marathon in the UK so anyone who completes this race is worthy of a massive pat on the back and great praise. So no pressure, Lisa Parry, Emma Jagger, Andy Munro, Mike Makinson, Philip Thwaite and myself, let's just hope the winds aren't as strong as they were at the Yorkshire Half.

Good luck to everyone running the Huddersfield Half or Full Marathon this weekend

Keep running everyone

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