The Silverstone Half Marathon is many things – it is a warm-up race for the London Marathon, it is a chance to dress up for charity, it is a potential personal best, it is an ideal first race. Today several thousand people descended on the circuit with a whole range of goals and outfits.
For me the race is a chance to run around a historic venue – one that I have been to many times as a motorsport spectator and photographer – and also to check out how my early season training has been going before the city-based half marathons I take part in later in the year.
This is the fourth time I have entered the race and it is always an extremely well-organised event. The instructions are clear, there are sign-posts everywhere, there is trackside commentary with full instructions, and there plenty of medical staff and drinks stations.
I picked my place just in front of the 1h 30min pacer and the race started promptly at 12noon (and quite suddenly – there wasn’t a grand countdown or anything this year as the commentator was still trying to encourage people to get to the assembly area as quickly as possible).
The exist of Copse was lined with spectators who were cheering on their runners before we disappeared off into the distance. The elite runners were first, followed by us not-quite-so-elite runners, and then all sorts of fancy costumes and outfits filtered past.
I take part in a lot of races but the sound of several thousand runners all pounding the track through Beckets corner in one big bunch on the first lap is a totally unique experience. The only sound is of running shoe against tarmac – no background noise, no spectators, nothing else.
The first lap went really well and I was just about maintaining the 7.5 minutes per mile pace that I was intending to keep. The run along Hanger Straight, the new pit straight, the Wellington Straight, Luffield, etc, all went fine and I was able to push hard and even overtake a few people.
The second lap is around the infield of the circuit and I started to struggle a bit here as my pace tailed off to up to 8 minutes per mile. I could push occasionally but couldn’t consistently keep up my pace from before. This infield lap is quite flat though so I tried to not lose too much time.
The third lap of the circuit is around the perimeter of the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction. This is motivating, as it is beyond the halfway point, but also tough as at my pace the leaders ran past along the Hanger Straight on their final lap whereas I still had a lap to go.
The spectators this year were amazing. The second lap at the entrance to the infield, by the bridge over the Wellington Straight, the third lap behind the old pit straight, and the first and fourth laps at Luffield, were all several rows deep and full of people waving and high-fiving.
The choice of music this year was interesting. The DJ often allowed runners to choose tracks by raising one arm for option A or two arms for option B, but sometimes the choice was along the lines of Ready To Rhumble by Ant and Dec or Dancing Queen by ABBA!
The final lap, along the old circuit through Bridge before rejoining at the new pit straight, was tough as the hills seemed a lot steeper than before. There were also grey clouds and a brief touch of rain as we passed though Vale but fortunately the bad weather was very local.
I pushed hard over the final mile and finished in a time of around 1 hour 47 minutes. I had really wanted to finish in under 1 hour 40 minutes but I had pushed as hard as I could, I wasn’t in any pain, and occasionally hit my target pace, so I was happy with this performance.
We waited behind for a few minutes to watch other people in their costumes – the Indians in their canoe, Andy’s Toy Story box, a Minion, a fireman, Thor, a Spiderman, a giant Wellchild, and a walking dinosaur, all stood out not just for their outfits but also their efforts.