Leeds Half Marathon

Phew what a scorcher!

Everyone was checking the weather forecast for days before this one. The white walkers have retreated beyond the wall and it was amazingly warm and sunny for the first time this year! Obviously this is not good news for us runners as we need to start thinking about hydration and sun cream and eyewear and sun hats and hayfever tablets and insect spray etc. etc.

The traditional meeting place of the Town Hall steps was packed like the Devon with STACies before 9am. Some people were torn between the queue for the loos or the team photo. I chose team photo, which unfortunately impacted on my race time but less of that! It’s a difficult decision to make.

My last outing in this race was 2001, 15 years ago! Here’s me thinking that was ancient when Neil Tessyman pulls out his medal from 1991… so a quarter of a century later, I hope you can run it next time Neil.

The different coloured start pens were quite spread out and then you were packed tightly in them, which meant it was not easy to see all my running buddies and wish them well. However, I got talking to honorary STACies Robin Moran and Jane Pearson and it was soon time to start.

Jamie Peacock formerly of Leeds Rhinoceroses set us off. He didn’t say much, leaving the chat to a local Councillor, perhaps worried about the 13.1 miles ahead of him… Congrats to Jamie completing his first half marathon in 1h53mins (Am I the only one thinks that was a bit slow for a recently retired professional sportsman and also that how is he only 38?)

I did my usual daft trick of setting off fast and apart from my toilet stop all went well. Stonegate road was tough, but rewarding when you got to the top with plenty of support. The cheering and noise was terrific. There are some great photos at this point from Julie Heselgrave. The ring road was ok but actually I think one lane is a bit too narrow for that many runners and I didn’t like the cars coming past so close. The Coops and Newsome posse were a welcome sight near the donkey sanctuary but the hill up to Lawnswood roundabout seemed to go on forever. I seemed to surprise Joanne and Shaun Loftus who didn’t have any jelly babies ready for me so a high five had to do.

The Asda water stations were numerous and well-staffed by the scout volunteers. Bottles were handier on this occasion as you could carry them with you and drink on the go. Could have done with gels or isotonic drinks at halfway maybe?

Since 2001 the route has changed to go through West Park/Lawnswood area via Spen Lane and down Butcher’s Hill. Down Butcher’s Hill thankfully. This didn’t stop Andrew Gardner from walking the easiest bit on the course! Must’ve been the heat. I enjoyed the twisty roads through residential areas, where the locals really got into the spirit and were providing support, sounds, sweets and soaking spray to help the runners.
Round onto Hawksworth Road and the crowds were immense! I must say it seemed to spur Jason Albrecht on at this point as he sped off and I never saw him and his shiny PB again until the pub.

This is when I thought it would be a breeze. Coasting down Kirkstall Road after the hard work of the hills had been done. How wrong could I be. I think the heat had taken its toll and I was left questioning my very existence by the time I got to Mike’s Watering Hole. It’s a brilliant memorial to the great man expertly staffed by lovely STAC members I got a great cheer and a surreal soaking from Tony before picking up a drink and plodding on.

So, Kirkstall Road didn’t prove to be the downhill coast I’d hoped for, every hot step hurting my feet and tired legs and dry mouth… urgh! Despite great support again at the fire station I could have stopped easily at any point after 10 miles. Just as I was losing the will to live, I felt a cheeky pinch on my arse! I was just about to slap the perpetrator when I turned round to see it was Robin Moran who I had last seen at Lawnswood. This Iron Man Triathlete had obviously paced himself a bit better than me and gave me some great encouragement as we finished the last mile or so together. We were planning our sprint finish all the way up the Headrow and there are some great photo mementos to prove it The noise coming up to the finish line was deafening!

After the finish there was time to chat, cool down and cheer on some runners as they continued to stream down the Headrow. The contents of my goody bag were quickly devoured!

It has been inspirational seeing all the photos online and proud status updates. I don’t think there has been a single negative vibe at all! This was helped by the fantastic organisation of the event and the great team spirit we all have. Let’s see this carry on into the next few months.

It was a great achievement by all the finishers today. From the first man, Danny Hare who finished in the top 10, first lady, Sophie Cullen, to the terrific Clary Elliot who made sure Kris and Julia got themselves round on a gruelling day for all. Well done to all STAC finishers in-between, we all have our own personal race report to write from today and you should be proud.

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