Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Why I loved the Halstead Marathon

I doubt I'll be able to convey just how great a race the Halstead and Essex Marathon is and what a special experience running it, was for me.  But I'll try...

I entered it on a bit of a whim, just three weeks after a disappointing London Marathon, and I was really nervous about how I was going to get on - to be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it.  How wrong I was...it's the only time I've ever crossed a finish line and felt myself tearing up...even thinking about it now I feel a bit choked.  It was such a fantastic day.

Listed below are some particularly good things about this race, but the real reason I enjoyed it so much was that there was such a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone.  Other runners actually talked to me around the course! It's very, very rarely happened before.  It was a revelation.  People encouraged each other, stopped to make sure everything was ok when someone fell over, chatted to strangers, and really helped each other get round. The running community that I feel such a part of online, actually existed in real life at this race!  Not to sound too melodramatic, but I really felt accepted - this is really who I am, a marathon runner and this is where I belong.

Anyway, the marshals were superb too, the locals were lovely, and the other runners were just amazing - I even ran and chatted with someone else, on and off, for a good few miles which absolutely made my day - I've never run with anyone before and it made all the difference. I wish I knew who she was so I could thank her properly!

So - the specifics.  If you're thinking about running Halstead, this is why you should:
  •  Lots of dedicated parking literally just one minute from the HQ, which was also where the start & finish line was.  So easy!
  • Personalised drink drop-off so you can pick up your bottle at the water stations around the course, just like a professional - a very slick operation that means you don't even have to slow down to collect it!
  • A couple of water stations had sponges - a godsend on a hot day
  • The most staggeringly beautiful countryside with few, if any, cars around much of the route
  • The hills - they are hard, but they are do-able- it makes finishing all the more satisfying!
  • Truly wonderful support from the locals - one family even set up their own extra water station at the top of a particularly hefty hill!  Even the children seemed to be genuinely encouraging - lovely
  • Fantastic, enthusiastic marshals, who really did seem to be on form the whole way round, not one I could fault.  By turns they clapped me, cheered my number, and generally made me feel good about how I was doing.
  • Benches by the finish line that you could collapse onto if needed (which I did).
  • Perfect big medal, given out by the Mayor
  • A great goody bag at the end with a varied selection of food and drink - banana, apple, water, sports drink, jaffa cakes, chocolate bar, healthy crisps...it's like they'd put it together with me in mind - as well as a new water bottle and t-shirt.
  • Massages and showers available afterwards if you wanted them
  • Chip timing, always a bonus
  • I was even pleased with a couple of the race photos that were taken, which I duly bought :)
So, yes, there were hills, and yes, the water was in cups not bottles, but there was so much about this race that was so incredibly well done, the organisation was so slick, and the people so remarkable, that I will definitely be back next year.  This has become my favourite race, and although no medal will ever be quite as special as the first marathon medal I got, this medal is a very close second, because running Halstead was absolutely wonderful.

P.S - I got a PB too which am sure adds something to my enthusiasm.  4hrs 47mins.  Really pleased with that :D

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