Milton Keynes Half Marathon – Home Advantage

Participating at your home venue in many sports is an advantage and so it proved for me without the impact on performance due to traveling by bike. The weather turned out to be ideal with little wind except around the exposed Willen Lake where we anticipate running into the wind. Here I was entered for the Vegetarian Cycling & AC with the intention of helping to boost their team performance with several present. Apart from the late arriving Manuel Corriente, we all met up fairly soon with new member Gideon Stanley meeting members for the first time. Our line-up was arguably our strongest team for many years with Manuel, Gideon & Keith aiming for sub-1.30 followed closely by Andy Jordan and myself. Steve Parker also from Milton Keynes was entered for VRUK and Colin Braybrook was also present.

We were not aware of the arrangements for team prizes but we thought a high position was possible. We discovered after the event that owing to the fact it was being organised by the NSPCC, to qualify for a team entry we had to enter using a team form and specify the runners, the idea being to raise more funds this way. Usually by your individual entry and specifying your club, team entry is automatic without any extra overhead.

Despite the narrow start and cycleways, the early miles were likely to be fast with the help of the long and slightly downhill section on the railway walk and in an easterly direction towards Newport Pagnell. I appeared to be going steadily and slowly moving up the field but like most, struggled a little into the wind around Willen Lake. Given the forecast for increasing south-westerly wind, I also assumed we would have to tackle the wind up to mile 8 when in fact it was hardly noticable. Here we turned onto the Grand Union Canal towpath and parallel leisure route which is rather uneven with bumps near the canal bridges. I continued here to slowly move up the field and was somewhat relieved to leave the canal behind approaching mile 11. Here I was surprised to pass Andy but realised later that he had a high milage training period with his ultra race of 85 miles on the Ridgeway scheduled for 29 August.

I pushed on through Great Linford on the smoother cycling surface which led us back onto the railway walk, picking up our earlier route back into Stantonbury, passing the Milton Keynes Athletic Club track if anyone noticed. There was a bit of an incline back into the Bury Lawn school where we looped back to the finish on grass. I was pleased to see a sub- 1.35 on the clock, a further improvement for 2009. Quickly met up again with Keith Hammond achieving yet another PB and breaking 1.28 for the first time just by chip of 1.27.58 (61st), followed by Gideon Stanley 1.29.49 (81st), Manuel Corriente 1.31.24 (100th), myself 1.34.22 (147th), Andy Jordan 1.36.51 (184th), Nik Windle 1.52.27 (538th) and Sharon Hammond 2.22.22 (1089th). Many of the team stayed to see Nik & Sharon finish and for a further round of photos. Nik & Sharon had the benefit, depending how they view it, of further photos approaching the finish.

Steve Parker had an amazing personal performance, lowering his personal best time by 6 minutes to 1.35.20 and Colin Braybrook produced another performance of 1.22.49 in keeping with his high standards. Colin was helped by many runners ahead of him taking the wrong left turning (due to the absence of a marshal) onto the canal towpath at mile 8 whereas Colin was familiar with the course and saw the direction arrows on the ground. Colin ran many miles solo before a few of the faster runners who had taken the wrong route caught him up near the end and as a result finished 14th. There was a gap in the results of some 6 minutes due to the wrong turning and some of these runners took their chips off before crossing the line in discust.