Eyam Half Marathon 2023 report by Emily Green

Emily Green runs towards the finish of the Eyam Half Marrathon, her arms raised in celebration. Another runner is in the foreground.

Race date: 14 May 2023

Race distance: Half marathon

Race report by Emily Green

The fourth instalment of the Road League (slightly delayed due to the postponement of Dronfield which will now be the 5th) took us to picturesque Eyam for a ‘hilly’ half marathon. I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for but had been informed it was worse than Sheffield Half and prepare for hitting mile 9 but the last mile and a bit you could get a silly split! I’d signed up during racing euphoria post Dewsbury 10k, the complete opposite with very little incline, and was a little nervous when driving over with my car share and hitting the famous ‘mile 9’ sign and just continuing to go up and up and up until we started going down before mile 12! Kate (my car share driver, later award winner for the race and honouree strider) discussed how it’s normal to have to walk some of it but make sure you save something for the last bit of climb when you think you’re done then take a left and continue some more!

The pre-race admin passed by with no issues due to the exceptionally well organised team of volunteers. When collecting my number, I was reassured that it was 55% downhill and only 45% uphill so nothing to worry about! I’d already done my homework on my league and noted that there were only 7 of us signed up so some big points to be had however, I was also aware that I have been focusing on the shorter distances recently and in particular the Rother Valley Relays only the Thursday before and wasn’t sure how my legs were going to take another race within a matter of days and a hilly one at that. To top it off, the 10.30am start on a May Sunday morning meant it was heating up (both figuratively as all the contenders lined up near the start and physically) and as a Yorkshire Lass born and bred, I know I don’t do heat!

I set myself the target of 1:45 as an aim, having achieved 1:35 at the Sheffield Half and previous people’s experiences having been around 10 minutes slower at Eyam compared to Sheffield. I did however know how dead I was at the end of Sheffield and how on earth was I going to replicate this on the hills of Eyam so anywhere between that and 1:50 and I’d be happy.

The gun went and off we went, a little loop around Eyam (starting at a stupid pace as ever!) and then off you go up, up, up. I’d used the Garmin Pacing app to look up what to do to get around 1:45 and noticed that I was going up the hills slower than planned however, I was also aware that I had 3 big hill sections so not to worry and just go with it to ensure I had some legs at the end. Up ahead, I had Nick, Paddy and Adam all in League 2 with me who had overtaken me on the hill and I ensured that I kept them in my sights and so began the cat and mouse (or should I say rat seen as it was Eyam) race.

Following the first uphill section, you get a steep downhill where the first water station is and this is where I made my first major decision, don’t drink the water just throw it over you! I really do feel for the volunteers at this station as they must have gotten drenched from runners trying to grab water and drink it all whilst heading steeply down hill on wobbly legs! I managed to choke on mine and coughed and spluttered my way down the hill. I had decided to set off with my own water in my shorts pocket and decided this would be safer going forward and use the race water stations as ways of keeping cool in the ever-increasing heat.

During the 2nd climb, I reached Nick and expressed what a great race it was turning out to be with all 4 of us in a row. He has since told me post-race that wasn’t how he was feeling having just had Adam and Paddy pass as well! I pushed on and had Adam next in my sights and managed to overtake him on a next bit of downhill only for him to repass me on a little uphill and repassing him again! Then, I tracked Paddy during the long downhill section. I’d put 2 gels in my pocket as well and planned to take them around 10k and then 15kish just before the final climb and stuck to this (think this was more of a psychological placebo effect then actually aiding performance!) The long downhill before the final climb was delightful but I was always worried about the final climb and up Sir William Hill so tried hard to not over do it and get carried away, just keep Paddy within distance!

On rounding the sharp corner and received some more water, I was faced with the great climb I’d been dreading the whole way down. It really is as steep as you think! I set off carefully up the hill, mindful of its gradient but also how long it went on for but managed to overtake Paddy in the process and a couple of other runners and then I just gritted my teeth and dug into a slow rhythm zig zagging up the side of the hill and set myself the challenge of not stopping. On taking a right up Sir William Hill, I knew I wasn’t far off the top but had Kate’s famous words of don’t be fooled by the false summit and prepare for the left turn. This part was the hardest mentally as it is quite open and exposed and due to the sunshine meant it was even more energy zapping than it should have been!

Side view of Emily Green running in the Eyam Half Marrathon, near the end of the race.

On finally reaching the top of the last climb, I let the brakes off and set off down the hill towards the 12 mile marker and beyond. I do remember thinking after just passing the 12 mile mark that if I tried to stop, I wasn’t sure what would happen as I definitely couldn’t feel my legs at this point. The steep down hill is thrilling but the flat and with a short slightly up hill part, last section before the final downhill straight is energy zapping and you need to dig deep. Luckily, the amazing Striders cheer squad were at the end of this section and on hearing Helen scream her shock at seeing me, I realised I must be on for a quicker than planned time! Another runner then overtook me at this point and I set off after him, sprinting the final bit with whatever energy I had left and crossed the line in 1:42:13 seconds on the big timer (1:42:09 chip time) but more importantly ahead of the guy that had just overtaken me! I was done but incredibly happy considering the course and conditions on the day and in a strange way, had really enjoyed the event and Helen’s hug when I got back to the cheer squad with my flapjack and banana in hand was everything. I’d even warned her that I was incredibly sweaty but she didn’t care! I’d smashed my pre-race planned time! That’s what I love about this club, every single member is celebrated, and your own individual achievements feel like theirs as well.

Well done to all the Striders who completed it. If you’ve never done it, I’d recommend it due to the organisation and atmosphere alone but the views are pretty spectacular (if you take a moment to block out the pain) and you get a pretty great t-shirt. Also, those top scoring runners get a trophy in the shape of a rat so what isn’t to love!

The race was won by Adam Lomas of Hyde Park Harriers in 1:19:17! Notable mentions to Liam Brennan 5th and Seth Kirby 6th.

The first female was Katie Sloane (unattached) in 1:29:33 and our very own Caroline Brock came 3rd in 1:30:04. As noted by Yasmine, there were 4 female striders in the top 10, Caroline 3rd, Frances 4th, Gillian 8th, Yasmine 10th, and being the 5th, I was 12th not far off 11th who I was gaining on towards the end but was unable to catch, an amazing showing for the club showing the strength and depth the women’s team are building taking nearly 50% of the top 12! If only there was a giant rat trophy as a team prize!

Rat awards:

3rd Female – Caroline Brock

1st M70 – Chris Reece

Striders results: https://www.steelcitystriders.co.uk/2023/eyam-half-marathon-2023-result/

Full results: https://www.avtiming.com/_files/ugd/611f08_48c86aa603ac413587c41559936f77be.pdf

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