Recap & Review: Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon

Hey everyone!

Sunday was the Cambridge Half Marathon. It’s only the second time they’ve held this race and it was a fantastic day out so I’m really excited to share this recap and review with you. Here is everything you need to know about the race itself.

Review

What? Cambridge Half Marathon
Distance 13.1 miles. Two lap course
Where? Midsummer Common, Cambridge UK
Cost? Around £30
Size 3,500 raced, apparently 4,500 entries
USP Racing through a beautiful, historic city
Terrain Roads and paths – flat flat flat. Just mind the cobbles and speed bumps!

The Highlights
– Beautiful location
– Not too big
– Good crowd support through the centre of town
– Flat
– Varied landscape: park, river, colleges, roads. A little bit of everything.
– Regular fuel stations and easy to spot mile markers
– Good pacers
– Nice medals

Could Do Better
– Bottle neck during the first mile
– Haven’t made up my mind about the water…I’ll explain below
– Goodie bag. It was ok, but a little random and different bags had different contents. Mine included a banana, water, some coffee flavoured sweets, a prune, a cereal bar and some crisps. Actually I guess this is pretty standard so I won’t complain about it! 🙂

 

In summary I thought it was a great race and I’ll definitely be back next year. If you would like to enters sign up to the mailing list now so that you’re the first to hear about it. It sold out within a few days…it’s a very popular race!

Recap

My brother and his wife live on the course route, less than a five minute walk from the start line, so the hubs and I stayed there the night before the race and enjoyed a relaxing evening with them. I had a large helping of sausage pasta with garlic bread and salad perfect carbo loading! We were in bed well before midnight and I managed to sleep pretty well considering I was getting slightly nervous about the race.

I got up before the others and caught up on some blog reading over my breakfast of cinnamon raisin bagel with banana and a brew. I had these bagels before my last race and didn’t want to change anything this time!

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I checked the weather forecast about 6 times and kept changing my mind about what to wear. It was snowing outside and whilst it hadn’t settled, it didn’t look as though it was going to stop. I opted for my Nike capris, sweaty Betty vest, gap hoodie, gloves, turtle fur and my Nike cap to keep the snow off my face. I spent some time rolling and stretching my legs and going to the loo every three minutes catching up with my cousin and aunty in law who popped round on their way to the start line:

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I fashioned a waterproof coverup out of a few bin liners and we all made our way to the start line. It was extremely cold so I was pleased that we only had around 25 minutes to wait before the gun went off.

The pens were not ‘policed’ at all, so you could start wherever you wanted. I headed to the 2:00 area. This is where I need to confess that whilst I am in the middle of marathon training, I had been letting my mind wander to PB related thoughts. Wisdom dictates that one should use the race as a marathon practice session, but I know what I’m like and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I had been involved in some kind of covert taper operation the week before the race (I only managed another 1.5 miles after the last training session I bogged about) so I felt rested and ready to run.

The first hundred metres were fantastic. But then I had to stop. I didn’t WANT to stop, I just physically HAD to stop because there was a bottleneck at the first bend..and then again at the traffic lights. It was extremely frustrating and I could hear a wave of groaning as runners realised what was happening and started worrying that their PB hopes had been dashed. A few minutes later, I perked up as I ran past my hubs and family members cheering me on. I have never looked so excited whilst running…!

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Mile 1 – 9:20

Mile 2 – 9:08

Miles 1 and 2 were slower than I’d hoped for, purely because of the crowds. My legs felt great and I was up for pressing on, so as soon as the crown started the thin out I tried to pick up the pace. I knew that whilst I probably shouldn’t try for a HM PB so close to the marathon, if I could keep the pace at an average of 9 minute miles, I could sneak in under my previous time of 2:03:06.

Approaching mile 3 I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at the runners who stopped to *walk* over the bride. By bridge, I meant tiny footbridge over the River Cam. I even heard people say ‘Oh no, a hill!’. That, my friends, is not a hill. This barely even counts as any kind of incline – it is so so insignificant. That said, I grew up in Cambridge and until I moved to London I no idea how it felt to run on hills. I’m so grateful that I am now forced to run on hills whenever I leave the house. It has definitely made me stronger and makes this kind of race feel much less painful.

Mile 3 – 8:59

I took a Cliff shot blok between miles 3 and 4 and washed it down with some water from an inpromptu water station set up outside a pub. I managed to spill most of the water from the plastic cup over my hands, resulting in very wet gloves which I knew would get cold quickly. I had to take off the gloves in order to keep my hands warm and I kept them off for the rest of the race. The thumb holes in my Gap hoodie did their job perfectly and I stayed warm.

These are pretty yummy! They are chewy though so I spent a few minutes gurning whilst trying to get it down. I'm going to cut them into smaller chunks for the marathon. My mouth is too small...
These are pretty yummy! They are chewy though so I spent a few minutes gurning whilst trying to get it down. I’m going to cut them into smaller chunks for the marathon. My mouth is too small…

I used these during Run 2 the Beat and got on well with them.

Mile 4 – 8:55

I was happy with my splits for miles 3 and 4 and kept telling myself to try and hold the pace until miles 6 and 7 when I would be half way and could see DP and the family again.

Mile 5 – 8:55

It started to look like I was running an even pace. This is practically unheard of for me! At mile 5 I had to tread carefully to avoid some speedbumps and then turn onto the riverside and into the park.

Mile 6 – 9:01

I hit the half way mark around 58/59 minutes and got very excited. I was getting into a good rhythm and I felt strong. My ITB was behaving itself and I became very aware of the fact that I could PB and sneak in under 2 hours (a long time goal!) if I could maintain the pace. I had another chew and washed it down with some water.

Mile 7 – 8:50

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I was thrilled to see the family at mile 7 but I was working hard and knew I couldn’t string a proper sentence together. I wanted to conserve my energy but managed to spit out ‘DAN – 58 minute first half!’. I hoped that he would understand that it was going really well and I had a chance to PB.

Mile 8 – 8:41
This mile was too fast. I think I got a little over excited – a combination of seeing the family and realising that I was on track for good things.

Mile 9 – 8:52

The crowd support here was great! Thanks to everyone that came to watch and cheered us all on. The race numbers had our names printed on them as standard, so it was fun to hear people cheering me on by name.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a chocking incident caused by the water bottles. I can’t remember the brand of water, but the bottles were very thin flexible plastic, more like a pouch than a bottle. You had to squeeze the bottle to get things flowing. I stupidly squeezed it into my mouth and it left the bottle at such force I chocked on it and was worried I would need to stop as I kept coughing. All was ok though, and I managed to finish another shot blok.

Mile 10 – 8:59

Getting to mile 10 at a pace I was both happy and comfortable with was a great milestone. I kept telling myself to press on and complete the last 5 k as quickly as I could. I knew that I had 30 minutes to go to get a sub 2 hour finish, and around 33 minutes to go to get a PB. I KNEW I could do it!

Mile 11 – 8:55

Nearly there. I tried to stick to the pacer I saw back at mile 10 who was aiming for a 1:58:30 finish. This guy was incredible, he looked old(ish) – well into his 60s, or older!

Mile 12 – 8:54

On the home stretch. It’s a windy end to the course – up along the river, across Jesus Green and along the river at Midsummer Common.

Mile 13 – 8:54

The course turns away from the river for the last 100 meters, allowing runners to sprint along to the finish line at the centre of Midsummer Common. And sprint I did! I assumed that Dan would be somewhere along the final stretch and he would expect love to see me finish strong. I crossed the line at EXACTLY 2:00:00 gun time, which left me with a chip time of:

01:58:08

That is a new PB – 5 minutes off my old PB, and I’m finally a member of the sub-2-hour club. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!! I did a little victory dance to myself and looked around for DP and the family. I couldn’t spot them anywhere but I did find a couple of super speedy Cambridge friends who crossed the finished line some time in the 1:40s….incredible!

After waiting for Dan for around 15/20 minutes I decided to phone him on a friend’s phone. It turns out he made it to the finish line at around 2:00:30. He missed me by a couple of seconds! He and the family couldn’t understand why I hadn’t finished yet and assumed that something had gone wrong and perhaps I was injured.

Here is the medal, which I really didn’t want to take off! It’s in the shape of Kings College, arguably Cambridge’s most famous landmark; I thought it was a nice touch.

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Dan’s aunty and cousin did a fantastic job, finishing in 2:20. Dan’s cousin paced her Mum as she is a bit of a pro at this now and it was her Mum’s first ever half. I am so inspired by Mums who take up running in their 40s/50s and then go on to run in events like this!

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It was a fantastic race and I was on a high for the rest of the day. I did lots of stretching, rolling, eating and bathing…and then probably bored everyone with mile-by-mile recaps like I did above. Oops!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by and reading through this. Congrats if you made it to the end! I’ll be back soon, perhaps with some chatter about the implications of this race for my marathon plan.

Jx

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8 thoughts on “Recap & Review: Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon

  1. CONGRATULATIONS! That is very exciting, and probably a huge confidence booster as you finish out your marathon training! You look so happy in all of your pictures, too!

  2. Kal

    Like I said already well done on your PB!!! Really enjoyed reading your mile by mile breakdown and yes I did notice the ‘covert tapering’ the week before even though you insisted this was just going to be a ‘training run’!!

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