Well, not much hell actually.
I waved goodbye to Saul and Rachel this morning at 8.45, which of course felt like 7.45 because of the clock change. I’d done nothing more strenuous than travel the length of the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway and eat fish & chips with them, which was lovely.
It was a little hectic getting to the Hastings Half Marathon parking and rushing about to find the registration desk to pick up my number, but, as is usually the case, I had some time to spare before the start to chat to other runners. I once turned up 25 minutes late to a small trail race, the Seaview 17, to find the race organisers had already gone and I was running on my own to catch the back markers, which I eventually did over 12 miles into the race, having drunk from streams to stay hydrated on a hot day! I wouldn’t recommend that.
It was sunny, but there was also a keen, cool breeze blowing, so I opted to wear my ‘tribal art sleeves’ top under my Chippenham Harriers vest. Strictly speaking any runner entered in a race as a club runner should wear their club’s ‘colours’, so even though the vest was only really holding my number, on it went.
The start was a bit slow and crowded, as they often are in races of any size, but that’s what I expected, so I was happy to warm up at a stop-start pace until the field thinned. Like many bigger races, this one had signs in the start area to indicate where runners should place themselves based on their expected finish time, but for some reason, many runners ignore these, so you have a lot of overtaking to do in the first mile or so.
The Hastings Half rolls a bit in the first 3 miles, with a couple of short, sharp climbs, then has a long steady climb for about the next 2. After that, it rolls a bit more, with a couple more short, sharp climbs and some quite big descents. The last 2.5 miles go along the Hastings sea front, back to St Leonards where the start/finish is.
I stuck with an official 90 minute ‘pacer’, who, like the last one I ran with at the Swindon HM, seemed to overcook it a bit in the first half, especially considering the big climb. After the big climb, his entourage pulled away from me by 100m or so, but he still seemed to be running over the pace, so I didn’t worry.
I kept up my pace pretty evenly and enjoyed the sunshine. On the last section, along the sea front, I faded a little, but I caught and passed the pacer, who didn’t want to drag his group along too quickly and probably lose some! I reckon I lost a minute in those last 2 miles, but I didn’t care because it was obvious to me I was going to beat my previous HM PB (1:29:46 from the Forest of Dean in 2010), and, as I was only using the event to judge my pace and and test my shoes, I felt I could relax a bit near the end!
My ‘chip’ time was 1:28:47 and I placed 129th! Last October, when I ran Swindon, I couldn’t stick with the over-fast pacer and eventually finished in 1:33:22. If I can gain four and a half minutes, on a tougher course, 5 months later, my training is definitely paying off and I’m chuffed!