Race Review: Tewkesbury Half Marathon

I last ran the Tewkesbury Half Marathon in 2008; it was unseasonably hot, so hot in fact that the organisers ran out of water, and I had possibly the worst run that I’ve ever experienced. To compound matters, it was my husband’s first Half Marathon and I was DETERMINED to beat him; I didn’t and I spent the evening in pain vowing never to run the Tewkesbury Half again. Fast forward eight years, I returned to Tewkesbury and this time, it was personal! This year, my sole aim was to banish those demons from yesteryear and send them back to the abyss where they belong.

Since 2008 lots of things have changed about the race including the organisers and the course. One thing that had not changed however was the weather! Throughout the week, I checked the BBC weather forecast with more frequency than a lovesick teenager checking their phone. It looked perfect; high’s of 12ºC, no wind, slightly cloudy at the start, perfection. It was not meant to be, and place of a slightly overcast, dry spring day we had glorious sunshine. My nemesis, the Sun, had returned!

Race information

  • Where: Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
  • When: 12th May 2016
  • Distance: 13.1 miles
  • Weather: Sunny and hot.

Swag

The swag was awesome, especially as it was a small race. After a determined sprint finish, I was presented with a chunky medal, a really nice technical t-shirt and a bottle of water. Apparently there was also someone handing out Twix bars, but in my slightly dehydrated state, I missed those.

Support/Marshalling

The whole race was well supported by both members of the public and marshalls which really helped (especially up the hill at mile 8). The new course takes in far more of the town than I remember which allows spectators to get around the course to cheer the runners on. For the final mile, the course cuts back into town and the residents of Tewkesbury were out in force, it was lovely to be cheered on by so many people in such a small race. In hindsight, I am very glad I put my name on my club vest!

This was not a closed road race, and the marshalls  had a tough job of keeping the traffic moving while also keeping the runners safe, and I think they did a fab job. If anyone from Tewkesbury Half Marathon is reading, thank you for a great race.

Scenery

Now, I have to admit, I don’t think that I could tell you where the course went as for the majority of the race I was fixated on my Garmin. However, one thing that I can remember was how pretty the course was. Tewkesbury itself is beautiful, and the little villages that surround it look like they have been plucked from the lid of a chocolate box. Breedon in particular.

 

Breedon

 

The course was relatively flat with the exception of a long drag up from miles 6.5 to 8, and if it had been slightly cooler, I think I would have been close to a PB. It certainly has the potential to be a very fast route.

Organisation

I am a seasoned pro when it comes to internet shopping, yet I still managed to screw up entering the race online. I am still not sure how I managed it! However, after a couple of emails to the race organisers, everything was ironed out.

This seamless organisation continued throughout the event.Mike and I arrived at the Tewkesbury Rugby Club around 8.45am (an hour and a bit before the start of the race) and picked our numbers up after a quick pit stop. Collecting our numbers was really easy as they had lots of people on the desk and were getting people in and out nice and quickly.

With around 40 mins to go to the start of the race, and after I had slathered every inch of visible skin with factor 50 suncream we stowed our bags in the luggage area and headed to the start. The race started promptly at 10am and as it was a small field, it took me only 14 seconds to cross the start line.

 

Course

As I mentioned earlier, the course was very scenic and there seemed to be a lot of support out on the course. Looking back, I don’t really remember any large sections where there were no supporters at all, unlike in Manchester where miles 20-24 were very sparse.

The route itself is relatively flat, with the exception of a long drag up between miles 6.5 and 8. It was one of those annoying inclines that don’t look like much but you can tell in your legs that you are going uphill. On the plus side, miles 8-10 are downhill all the way!

The course was not closed to traffic, which was fine for the majority of the run once the runners had spread out. However, as we crossed over the motorway by Morissons, some cars appeared to be ignoring the marshalls and the runners had to weave between the cars trying to overtake them.This brings me on to the first of only two criticisms of the race, and I know this will be controversial; but in an OPEN road race such as this, headphones really should be banned.

My only other minor criticism of the race would be the spacing between the water stops. It was a very warm day, and thankfully the water was provided in bottles, however, the water stops were front loaded with more stops in the first half than the second. Water was available at 2.5, 5 and 7, and then a three-mile gap until 11. I probably should have remembered this from the course map, but I forgot and took my second gel at mile 10. This meant that I was absolutely gasping for a drink by the time I got to the final water stop at mile 11. It would have been nicer to have the first water stop slightly later which would have then reduced the gap between the third and fourth water stops.

Neither of these things detracted from the day, and I will definitely be back to try for a faster time next year.

Getting there and getting back:

My husband is from Tewkesbury, so I did have a little inside knowledge when it came to where to park. This made getting to and from the race very easy indeed.

Verdict:

It wasn’t a particularly good race for me, but that was more due to my refusal to adapt my race plan on account of the heat (stubborn runs in the family). The race itself though is well organised, well supported and on a very nice course.

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