19 November 2017
This morning’s race was the Gosport Half Marathon, one Commando has run many times before. It’s a relatively flat course, if a touch boring, taking in the coastal road between Stokes Bay and Lee-on-Solent. Usually this would be good news for anyone hoping for a PB, but the weather, in particular the wind, can be both friend and foe here. In all the years Commando has run it there have been some huge weather contrasts, from bright days with high temperatures, through gale force winds and heavy rain.
This morning there looked to be perfect conditions. It was cold but dry and, most importantly, there was hardly a breath of wind. For those who were thinking about PB’s this could make all the difference between winning and losing. Commando, who had no hope of winning anything this year, had offered to pace anyone who wanted a two hour finish.
Although the race didn’t start until ten, road closures meant we had to get to the school on Gomer Lane before half past eight. This meant there was a lot of hanging around. Luckily the school building was nice and warm but we couldn’t stay in there forever. At around nine thirty we all piled out into the icy cold. Even wrapped up so much I could barely move my arms I was cold. The runners, in their shorts and race shirts, must have been frozen half to death.
Shivering, we all walked down the road towards the start line. At least moving helped to warm us up a little but there was a long wait once we got there. Due to some kind of technical glitch the race started fifteen minutes late. The runners huddled together in the start pens and I walked up and down wishing there’d just get on with it.
Finally the race did start and the relieved runners could get moving. This is usually the point where I go off for a wander on my own. There is a trail near the start line that follows the River Alver through the Alver Valley Wildlife Park. It’s a fairly pleasant walk, if a touch muddy in places, with a few interesting things to look at along the way. Today though, I had a little group of cheerers with me and the only thing anyone had on their mind was a nice warm cup of coffee. Of course I knew exactly where the nearest Costa was, so we gave the wildlife park a miss and headed there instead.
By the time we’d walked the mile and a half to the Costa on Grange Road, ordered, drunk our coffees and walked back, speedy runners were powering up the road towards the finish line.
Our vantage point on the corner of Browndown and Privit Road was on the half way loop, so some of the runners going past still had six miles or so to go, while others were on the finish straight. It always seems like a cruel twist to a race tantalising the slower runners with a glimpse of the finish line near the half way point and it makes it hard for spectators to tell if they’re cheering finishers or not. Today there was a tail bike. Once we saw him go past we knew everyone we saw from then on would be finishing the race.
When Commando appeared around the corner, I glanced at my watch. He was were right on track for a two hour finish, give or take the odd second. For those following him this was good news. He might not be running at his best right now but he really does know how to pace a race.
Once every last runner had crossed the line all there was left to do was go back to the car park, find the car and head for home. This turned out to be easier said than done. The car park was so crowded just finding the car was a difficult task. Getting out onto the road again was a long, torturous process. Maybe next year we will leave home later and park somewhere away from the race?
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