Race date: Sunday13th October 2019
Report by Richard Pearson
The Kielder half marathon is part of a weekend of fun in the wilds of Kielder – here’s Richard’s story:
Following an hour and a half drive from Newcastle through what can be best be described as the middle of nowhere we arrived at the site of “Britain’s most beautiful” half marathon. As we stared out the window of the car to marvel at the wonder of the country’s largest reservoir, we saw nothing but the somewhat ghostly outline of the dam on which the race starts. It might be “Britain’s most beautiful” half, but this report shall provide scant verification as to whether this is an appropriate selling point because it was foggy. Really bloody foggy.
As it happens, this was actually my first half marathon. I’m a relatively new Strider of about 6 months, who has previously never strayed beyond the comfort of the 10K. And Kielder wasn’t the easiest of courses – a mix of paths and trails, with a heady dose of undulation, I’d been warned not to expect a fast race. The 2019 offering also seemed to be somewhat more popular than the organisers had expected. Whilst me and Izzy made it to the start in good time for nervous wees and layer removal, the start was delayed by 10 minutes in order to allow for the undersupplied shuttle service to pick up a fair few slackers who would have otherwise have been abandoned in the wilds of Northumberland – a seemingly terrifying fate if the warnings in the pre-race info about straying too far from the course paths, and the near-total darkness that engulfs Kielder every night – were taken too seriously.
Anyway, race time. I lined up on the start, freezing my nipples off and regretting my failure to apply the relevant anti-chafe ointments on a day forecast to rain. Off we went, plunging into the fog still covering the misleadingly flat start across the dam before hitting the first hill. Only a Hillsborough park-sized teaser as it turned out, followed by a flatter bit in woods, then an undulating bit, before turning to head back towards the dam and start line again. 6K done as we crossed back over the dam, gave the crowds a quick thumbs up, and headed out into the main stretch of the race. Another hill – “you’ll be used to these”, I hear a fellow young’un mutter as he recognised my Striders vest – followed by a nice stretch of downhill and relatively even stuff. 10K done – this is going well, I’m ahead of schedule but trouble looms into view.
There’s a monster hill at around 8.5 miles – so steep it needs one of those zig-zag paths just to give folk a chance of reaching its summit. I made it to the top, tough bit done, and passing the 10-mile mark I seemed to be within a steady parkrun of the improbable sub-90 min half before some more stealth undulations put me in my place. At least the fog had lifted somewhat, allowing for a good eye-full of pretty fine-looking water and the autumnal forest before the course veered into the trees again for the last mile. Some more undulations and that was that, first half done and if anyone lines up alongside me at the Sheffield Half next year and warns me about the hills, I’ll tell them where to go.
Congrats as well to Izzy for a second solid half marathon performance!
939 runners took part with Craig Gunn (unattached) arriving home first in a very respectable 01:16:20. Gemma Hillier-Moses was first woman home, in 01:25:03.
The full (.pdf) results are here. The Striders were very ably represented at the race: