Severn Bridge Half Marathon 2016

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Just read last year’s review (see under) and note that, this year, the parking situation has been sorted. Having said that, I did arrive an hour early and sat reading a book for a bit – lesson for next year.

This half marathon is developing year on year and this year was packed with marshals at the start / finish and throughout the course.

Full marks on the number of toilets (still long queues though) and for the introduction of a men only urinal that makes it easier for the men and limits the length of the queue for the ladies. The 6 man urinal could be made larger though and the plastic booth that it’s in could be a tent – as they do in Cardiff where there is a canvas topped structure and a 30 foot urinal emptying into a foul drain.

Felt quite young at the start when the oldest man and woman runners were announced by name and given ages of 79 and 76.

A completely different course this year as in two separate loops compared with the one large loop of last year – this due, the organisers said, to the inability to obtain certain road closures. The start last year was at the summit of the Old Severn Bridge, this year it was on the Welsh side so the first mile was uphill before descending down into England. The first loop was almost an out and back bringing you back to psychological breaking point of passing the finish line knowing you were only half way through the race.

Second loop was half downhill, a long slow hill upward and a last mile of downhill. The forecast said rain the reality was sun and humidity or, as I text my wife, heat, hills and humidity. A feature of this race, both years that I have run it, is the humorous notices around the course – they do keep you smiling.

Next year, apparently, there is a full marathon alongside the half and the race will take in both Severn Bridges. This, the organisers say, will be a one-off, never to be repeated, not to be missed, full marathon. If you completed the 2016 half you are guaranteed entry into the full marathon if you want it. At the moment I am undecided. Are my full marathon days over? Do I want to stick to halves? Do I want the Sunday morning 20 mile training sessions? We shall decide later and have a year to get fit enough for it if the answer to the above is yes.

Summary; good medal (Severn Bridge in 4 colours a la mode de Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup), tech tee shirt, bananas, loads of water, Lucozade, nut bar, salt and vinegar crisps and a grass slope for everyone to sit out in the sun and rest – and then find they were so stiff it was difficult to walk back to the car.

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Could be an excellent half marathon – please sort the parking issue.

IMG_0469Car Parking – has to be the first thing said. In its second year this half has grown and, if it grows again next year then parking will be a serious problem. Luckily I was in the area and registered to pick up my number (US=Bib) the day before but many were running from their cars to join the registration queue. .Arriving at 10 to 8 for a 9 o’clock start, as I did, was too late. The queues for the car park were backed up onto the motorway (which was closed to through traffic) and moved slowly towards car parks A and B.

We were told in the pre-race pack to alternate cars between A and B parks but everyone was going for B as it looked closer but wasn’t (could have had a marshall there). By the time I got to A  it was full, the marshalls were running around looking for vacant factory units that didn’t open on a Sunday and parking people there. Then people started parking on the grass and eventually at the kerb side on double yellows.

Some fast runners passed me at about mile 2 and I am guessing they missed the start.

That said, the rest of the race was excellently planned, marshalled and finished. The organisers make a big thing about it being a fairly flat course, which it is, but with one big hill in the middle. Psychologically you are either prepared or scared of this hill as the two slopes before it are sign posted “This is not the hill” When you reach the base of the hill it is signed “This is the hill – honest” and it most certainly was.

For me (finishing in 2 hrs 20 min) my pace was a pretty even 10 minute miling plus change. The mile with the hill in it (7th) was clocked at 12:41 and the following mile, down again, at 9:33. Nobody likes walking in a half marathon but if you were in the group that I was with (see times above) then you soon realised that those around you who were walking the hill were going faster than you running. It is a quick flick of a switch in the brain that says “Ultra runners walk hills” and before you know it you are walking.

From the top of the hill to the finish was mainly down hill with a nasty slope just before the finish labelled “This feels like a hill”

Full marks to the organisers for their pre race info, complete with humour, their marshalling and the finish area. The goody bag was ravished by me with salty crisps and two Mars chocolate covered swiss rolls going down instantly followed by a strawberry drink that I wouldn’t normally touch that went down in one gulp. Bananas could be collected as you went through the goody bag area along with water. The shirt is a tech shirt and is pictured here with the excellent medal.

Will I run this next year – yes, probably, because it is a well run local half in August with nothing else around. There were many running clubs represented this year and I am guessing many more next year so please sort out the parking.

Warning to each and every grandchild of mine. Every time we drive over the new Severn Bridge I will be pointing to the old one and saying “See that bridge over there? Bampa has run across that in the middle of the road!”