St Neots half marathon 2012

There are a few races that feature prominently in the calendar at my running club, the Mornington Chasers. There is the Finchley 20, the Cabbage Patch 10, the London marathon, the club’s 6 race 10km series in Regents Park… and the St Neots half marathon.

Until recently I didn’t really understand completely while these races were picked by so many club mates, but I am starting to appreciate their significance:

  • the Finchley 20 – a bit old skool, but a good race to check pace for a spring marathon, being four identical 5 mile loops. Local and friendly
  • the Cabbage Patch 10 – can be a bit busy, but there aren’t many 10 milers left in the London area and a good race for the club championship, not clashing with any big marathons and before the cross-country season really kicks in
  • the London marathon – a London club couldn’t really favour any other marathon, could it. And we have ‘our’ spot around 21 miles to support the club’s runners
  • the Regents Park 10km series – well, it’s local, friendly, fun and our race. Nuff said!
  • the St Neots half marathon…

Race day morning

The weather today was perfect. I was up before 7am to eat breakfast and get up to the club mate’s house who had offered me a lift (thanks Tim and Kayleigh!) Even in the pale morning light, I could see it was going to be a great day to race. Admittedly by the time we arrived in St Neots, it felt decidedly cooler than it had in London, but it was above freezing, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and there was no wind to worry about. I was suddenly really looking forward to this!

The race

The only slight question I am left with after the race today is why the organisers insist on handing out numbers on the morning of the race. Having had a little bit of trouble parking, queuing for my number wasn’t the end of the world, but it was 5 minutes that didn’t seem necessary. But that really is a very minor issue and the team handing out numbers were super-friendly and fast.

From the race HQ, having changed, I jogged to the start, in a small residential street (they must have patience, the residents!) and almost exactly on time, we were off.

The first 200m is uphill: just a gentle, short hill but that didn’t stop quite a few enthusiastic types taking off like it was a 10km race. Either the quality of the field had improved this year, or some runners were over-estimating what they were going to do.

I ran with a couple of fellow Chasers for a mile or so until things settled down. Within a short time we were out into the Cambridgeshire countryside and it was glorious! I just felt so alive and full of running!

There were a few groups that formed early on and I was keen to try to get onto them to avoid getting isolated too early. There really was no wind to speak of, but I always think that if you can get into a little group it helps to maintain the pace and even if the wind is only 5mph, it’s better to shelter from it as much as possible than not.

The course is really lovely. It is on open roads, but they are quiet and the drivers I did encounter seemed to be friendly and courteous (even when it was paparazzi taking photos of me, eh Alex!) There were dozens and dozens of marshalls and they were unfailingly friendly and encouraging. I even didn’t mind when close to the end, as I was closing in on a local runner one of the marshalls gave the game away – as soon as my quarry realised I was trying to chase him down, he put in a little more effort and kept me 10m behind him all the way to the finish! And the course is described – fairly I think – as undulating, with one big, important caveat: the last three miles is noticeably downhill. That made for a very nice, quick end to the race and meant I was closer to 76 minutes when I finished than the 78 mins I thought I might get as I took my gel at 9 miles.

After the race the marshalls and helpers were great, handing out water and the well-received technical t-shirts. I couldn’t help laughing when one of the Cambridge and Colleridge runners crossed the line and dropped to all-fours, which elicited an immediate lunge towards him from the St John’s Ambulance volunteers on hand… and the runner pumped out three press-ups before leaping to his feet and bellowing like a stag! The closest St John’s Ambulance volunteer looked shocked to say the least!

Overall impression

I have run this race a few times now, but today I really understood the appeal – the course is undulating enough to be interesting, without being too tough; the Cambridge countryside on a cold sunny day was utterly beautiful; the marshalls were fantastic; the support (which is a bit sparse) was great when we encountered it; and the organisation before, during and after the race was flawless. No wonder this race sells out so fast. It is definitely a recommended race from me and I really understand why it is a stalwart of the Mornington Chasers race calendar. I’ll certainly be back!

1 Comment

  1. Great post Simon and a really useful review of the St Neots half. I’ve run a few Great North Runs but looking for something a little more local as it’s a hell of a way up the A1 to Newcastle. This one seems ideal given I live 20 minutes from St Neots!

    Before this post I hadn’t even heard of it, but then I’m hardly a die hard runner.

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