Essar Four Villages Half Marathon – 21.1.18

Race Report by Michael Hammond

One of the best (and most frequently used) pieces of advice given about achieving goals in running, is to keep things the same. Don’t: buy new trainers just before a run, or dramatically change your diet on race day.

So, it was with some trepidation that I put plans together to attend the National Running Show at the NEC Arena on Saturday 20thJanuary, travelling to Cheshire by train the same evening from Birmingham International to run my second half marathon; The Essar four villages the next day.

I managed to get a training run of seven miles in a week before the race (with the help of Linsey from Massey’s leading a session around Allesley taking in some of the route of the Coventry Half). The training programme recommended 10 miles, so I knew I was undertraining a little. With all the ice about over Christmas it was difficult to get the miles in.

I bought my train tickets, booked a B&B, printed off a free ticket for the running show, asked my sister to come and stay with my mum for the weekend and treated it as a bit of a break from my caring responsibilities.

My experience of Trade shows at the NEC is that they are predominantly full of exhibitors trying to entice you to sell their wares. Nothing different there then. However, many of the stands were housed by great companies that runners would be genuinely interested in; from dietary supplements to clothing. From race organisers to race buggy manufacturers’. Without a doubt the most impressive thing about the show was the speakers on the main stage. Being included in a selfie done by Dame Kelly Holmes gives you a sense of community and belonging. Her story of achievement in later life (relatively in running terms) was truly inspirational. Jenny Meadows, Steve Edwards, Luke Trybulski, and Suzie Chan all delivered in their enthusiasm and ability to achieve remarkable things in; Olympic running, multiple Marathons and ultra-running whilst coming across as down to earth and real.

Their advice didn’t fall on deaf ears… and British Rail adding to the drama with train delays, missed connections, and the classic of getting on the wrong train and having to go back on yourself meant the importance of; being level headed, taking life as it comes, and remembering you are in control, would also be important in the mind set of running the race.

Traveling in a taxi to the start the freezing rain was attempting to turn to snow. Nice start. I decided to keep my London Marathon top on and put my Masseys vest over it. I joined in with the warm up in the car park and went to the back of the race field for the start. The front runners set off at a ridiculously fast pace. I knew I would have to take it easy, it was a lovely route through country lanes with a few inclines but nothing drastic. It rained throughout and was cold. The most challenging part was with about two miles to go; a steep decline that challenged the aching legs.

Stewards were all enthusiastically supportive along the whole route.

I spent most of the race on my own, pacing myself against a solitary runner ahead. With two miles left I managed to overtake and catch up with a few in front. At the finish line the compare gave me a full name check which was nice. I did think of leaping in the air for some spectacular shots from the camera men, but knew my legs weren’t up to it. I managed a smile and a wave. I finished in 2:42:26.

The medal came in a nice plastic presentation case instead of a ribbon which was a nice touch. I bought a T shirt before the start, and I even got a mars bar in the goodie bag!