Last time I had a race in Watford I had a problem with going too fast. Not that I was embarrassed about how much quicker I was than the other participants (see below) or even set off at a pace I couldn’t maintain, but on my way to the race the Hertfordshire Constabulary thought 40mph on a straight, empty, dry road in sunshine at nine o’clock on a bank holiday morning was dangerous enough to warrant a fine and three points.
The Watford half is a popular race, with the books closed early on 2400 runners, leaving our own Sharon Davidson, who’s local and has run the race regularly, disappointed as her application went in too late. But she did come along to support the three VRUK members running, Colin Braybrook, Verna Burgess and me, as did Peter Simpson, who gave me a shout and a wave at the start.
There are a couple of problems with running near the back of the pack. The first is the risk of slipping on a slick of spittle, which gets worse as the race goes on, and the second is going through the water stations and being hit by a flock of plastic cups sent airborne by a sudden gust, while wading through their water-filled counterparts on the ground. But these problems are of nothing compared with running uphill. At either end of the one-lap course there was a mile or so of suburban Watford, the rest was out into the fields, woods, golf courses and rural lanes, and of course the famous Watford Alps. The organisers modestly referred to it as an undulating course, but at the bottom of yet another vertiginous slope, as I got a crick in my neck taking in its full splendour, I did hear someone say “The last time I saw something that steep I had skis on.” The weather was what you might expect in the mountains, though dry, but with an unnecessarily fierce, icy wind blowing in straight off the Urals, which was also a cunning and devilish head-wind all the way round.
My fall-back target time was 2:15 but I was hoping for under 2:11, which would be single-figure miling. My chip time was 2:12:24 though my Garmin showed that I’d run 13.22 miles, which, of course I take as gospel when it suits. The extra couple of hundred yards I therefore attribute to running around all those cups and gob, and that exact distance would put me only12 secs over 10 minute-miles, so I’m happy with that.
The goody bag was not designed with vegans in mind – a cereal bar with honey and lip stuff with beeswax, otherwise it was a bottle of water and a tee-shirt. And a plastic bag. Despite the cold, both Sharon and Peter were kind enough to hang around for a further 41 minutes after Colin finished to greet me. And Colin was having a slow day. I really must get a bit faster when I run, if only for the sake of shivering VRUK supporters, and a bit slower when I drive, for the sake of my wallet.
Thanks for the race report Laurence – and I agree that anyone who’s faced the “Watford Alps” comes away resolving to do more hill training! – Ed.