How did I come to do 60 half marathons? Well, I started with one that was a bet. Someone bet me that I couldn’t run a half marathon. That was in 2007.
I decided I could, so I entered Bristol Half. I started training a few months before aware of the fact I’d never really run before and hated it in school. I think I’d covered about half a mile in my first training session and thought I was going to die, there was no way I’d make it through another 12.5 of these…
But I carried on and got to Bristol and finished it in around 1hr 32. I was aiming for 1.50.
After that I thought, all that training I may as well do another one, so I entered ‘The Tour of Torfaen’ (no longer in existence unfortunately), I did that and then a few weeks later entered Cardiff, this was when it was a small race, around 2500 people and not the huge corporate event it has become…
Then onto spring 2008 and I did a few more, Forest of Dean, (original course), Bristol etc.… and over a couple of years my times got quicker, until getting under the coveted 90 minutes.
After a few more years I had a count up of how many I’d done and it was around 45 at the time. So, I thought it would be good to get to 50 before I was 40. But this left nearly 2 and half years to do 5 races, far too easy! So my wife decided it should be 60. So a bit more planning through the various seasons and the 60 was in sight.
Over the years due to the way half marathon season falls this has meant some years I’ve completed anything between 4 and 13 half marathons a year. One season was 6 races back-to- back over 6 weekends, and all under 90 minutes.
Along the way there have also been 3 London marathons and too many 10k’s and other races to remember.
So, a quick round up of all the places I’ve been to and thoughts on them (my opinion and no one else’s!)
Bristol Half – Flat, reasonably fast, good crowds, corporate event, overpriced, but still love it as it was the first one I did
Tour of Torfaen – Mostly downhill, smash your calves to pieces, unfortunately no longer exists and has been replaced by the Mic Morris 10k
Cardiff – I’ve run lots of different routes in Cardiff over the years, but the current route is good and fast, however, it’s a big race, so therefore it has big entry fees, but it has sensible start time of 9AM! If you like overpriced races, but good crowds and poor goody bags then this one is for you! (I don’t do races for T shirts or goody bags…)
Blackpool – Flat and fast, all on the sea front, potential to be horrible if the weather is bad…
Wye Valley Half – No longer exists, but it was a great off road run, very challenging, lots of hills, there was also a Marathon which some other Lliswerry vests have been spotted at over the years
White brook Wind Up – Off road, very hilly, great atmosphere, hard 6.5 mile first lap, then just to make you feel batter, you do it all again, cheaper than a McDonalds and a lot more fun! No Medal, no T Shirt, - no whinging!!!
Hereford – Had a few appearances here, fast, fairly flat course, but has always been windy, quite a lonely race not much crowd out and about, and hard last .75 mile run on the race course, good value though, and PB potential.
Forest of Dean Spring – I’ve run a few variations of this course and the one currently in use is the best, it’s fast, it has hills, but nothing unrunable, and its not too crowded, usually around 2000, good value, no T shirt unless you finish in the top 50 (yes I do own one) Probably around 1.5 minutes slower than your best road time.
Forest of Dean Autumn – Not to be confused with above… a much harder course, no road crossings, almost always no supporters on the course, so it can be a bit lonely, but it starts and finishes in the same place so there is as much down as there is up, (apparently…) still reasonably fast though.
Newport – its local, and a 9am start. That’s where I’ll leave it. Not a highlight of the year for me, pricey for what it is, but it great that Newport has a half marathon. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s our local race so should be supported!
Chippenham – Flat, fast, if you want a PB this is the place to get it. You wont see a huge amount of supporters after you get out of the town until you get back to the finish, but it has great organisation from Chippenham Harriers, showers as well, pretty much guaranteed a good morning out.
Malmesbury – Not totally flat, but still a good run, unless its been resurrected its since disappeared
Castle Coombe Half – A great race starting and finishing with a lap of the race circuit, not flat in-between, but some very picturesque villages en route. I think this only lasted 1 or 2 years, but if it does come back, well worth a trip.
Dymock – This has changed a bit since I did it last so I can only go one what it was like when I did it. 11am start, way too late, delayed as well by another 30 minutes… route very uninspiring, hence why I never went back. It does start with a cannon being fired which is a bit different..
Devizes – Always a good run, great turnout, not flat, but a great half, fast sections and a few slower hills, would always return to this one.
Stroud – An interesting one, a nice run, although a lap of 1.5 miles towards the end of an industrial estate is a bit uninspiring… quick course, only a few small hills, parking and traffic can be an issue at this one, took over an hour to get out once…
Bath Hilly Half – not to be confused with Bath Half, Google it, possibly the most fun you can have locally, 2 brutally hard laps, starts and finishes on the race course, complete with a carrot for all finishers, this would certainly have the approval of the cart horses, a few have been spotted there.. Also Mr Paul Dursley chasing after a drink… I have gone down sections of this on my backside and overtaken runners attempting to run… The only race I’ve been to that starts with a rendition of the national anthem, and 2 minutes silence to ‘put things right with your maker before setting off’… absolutely no PB potential, just surviving it is an achievement.
Severn Bridge – it fairly fast, one small hill, nothing major though, great race organisation, although it did take around an hour to get parked and another hour to get out, and a fair old walk to the start from parking… it’s a new race and I’m sure will only get better.
Bridgewater – Flat, reasonably fast, all the roads are open though and local farm traffic seems to be unforgiving. I witnessed a few incidents in the space of a few miles on this. If you like closed roads this one isn’t for you!
Dorset Invader – Organised by White Star running, very little to say, except without doubt the best race I’ve done, organisation, marshals, location, everything about it was great, White star races are not flat, and usually a little longer than the ‘official’ distance. Best goody bag ever, (if that’s why you go..) cider, Dorset apple cake, home made farm Jam. As it’s a roman themed race, it has a nice cold-water roman bath at the end, great for the muscles, too many good things about this to list, its not always about the tarmac and time.
The Ox – Also by white Star, so it was always going to be good, this was also my 60th, and was also my slowest, brutally hard off road, hills that went on and on… mud and more mud, Anything by White star will take some beating.
Some of these races I’ve been to several time, some, only once, if I’ve gone back to them it’s because the race offered something that made me want to go back. 1 or 2 I’ve decided before crossing the start line that I wouldn’t go back…
Lots of people have asked questions about my races over the years, a selection of these below that hopefully can hopefully help a few others out in the future.
What were your fastest and slowest times?
People has often asked what is your best time etc… The best time I have is when I’m enjoying a race, one thing I’ve learnt over the years is it’s not always about speed, I run because I enjoy it.
In your experience, what factors most influenced your times? e.g. Terrain, weather, home crowd.
Crowds do make a big difference, this was probably more noticeable in Marathons, but without them it can be a long lonely journey. Crowds can make it a lot more enjoyable, its not always about speed.
Which were your nearest and furthest away from home?
Closest is Newport, and furthest was Blackpool, I would certainly drive there again for this as it’s a good race.
What was your most memorable experience?
Probably at Devizes half in 2015, I was also training for London Marathon at the time and was using a few races for longer runs, but had just found out a few days before that my wife was expecting a baby, somehow the 13.1 miles didn’t hurt quite as much that day. Bath Hilly Half in 2015 was also a good one as it was the first race my son came to at just 7 days old.
How do you rate Cardiff and Newport compared to other half marathons you've run?
Cardiff and Newport are great in as much as they are local, and both start at 9am, the Cardiff route is fast, as is Newport but Newport still needs a bit of work on it, which I’m sure over the years will come. In my opinion Cardiff has got to big, (and expensive) Newport is also a bit on the pricey side for what it is, although Newport is run by a charity… Both should be supported though as they are local races and without the support they disappear.
Which half marathons would you recommend to Lliswerry Runners?
a) Scenic – Anything by White Star Running
b) Flat and fast – Chippenham
c) Crowd support/atmosphere – Cardiff/Bristol
What's your next goal?
To carry on enjoying what I do, and be a great Dad. Maybe there will be 100 sometime….. and finding one that will let me run with a running buggy…