Race Date: Sunday 21st January 2024
Race Report by Caroline Brash
Described as “fast and flat”, the Brass Monkey Half Marathon organised by the York Knavesmire Harriers is always a sellout, and for its 41st incarnation the decision was taken to trial a ballot entry process. Fresh from my “success” (and I recognise this term is relative) of obtaining a PB at the Yorkshire 10 mile for that distance in October (I’d also run my first marathon in the same venue in 2022), and having got my best half marathon time since 2018 at April 2023’s Sheffield Half Marathon, I decided to target the Brass Monkey to try and beat my HM PB (2:03:15), and to add a stretch target of aiming to complete the race in under two hours. 2024 brings a milestone birthday for me, and I realised if I don’t do it now I probably never will.
I therefore chucked my hat merrily in the ballot ring on 7th October, and on 17th October received the inevitable email advising me that my application was unsuccessful. However, in a swift reversal of fortune I got another email on 20th October saying that I’d got in on the second ballot, which was incredibly exciting. However, my self-appointed running guru and coach (who had recently found himself with too much time on his hands during the working day), John Liddle, had been unsuccessful at both attempts, and as it was John who’d dragged me round Sheffield in April kicking and screaming to my course PB there, it was clear to me that any efforts to improve my speed would be in vain if I had to do it on my own.
However, I trained harder and more seriously than I’ve ever done before for any race (I never want to see a Neepsend Triangle again), and despite being somewhat older and fatter than is ideal, I was as prepared as I could be. Fortuitously, and in his inimitably jammy style, John had also managed to somehow acquire a place on the start line, so after enjoying my traditional pre-race high carb meal at the wonderful Il Paradiso Del Cibo in York (my husband Pete and I will always use a race as an excuse for a nice weekend away), and a reasonable night’s sleep, we wandered to the Race HQ in the Ebor Stand at York Racecourse to meet John and fellow Striders. The race is exceptionally well organised, and has the added benefit of an indoor area with toilets and baggage storage, which was very welcome on a chilly January morning, and soon the over 1700 participants (the race limit was 1750) were lining up at the start line.
John and I positioned ourselves just behind the 2 hour pacer, but had chosen to try and pace ourselves as we weren’t sure what her strategy would be (I had a vision of perfectly event splits; spoiler – it wasn’t to be!). The route was pleasant with a couple more bridges and muddy lanes to negotiate than I expected, with the occasional blast from Storm Isha which was battering the nation, but conditions were pretty good and the course exactly as described and well marshalled as it passed through pretty villages and country roads.
Unfortunately, after 5 miles it became clear to me that knocking over three minutes off a PB of 6 years standing was going to be a challenge too far, and I started to panic, convincing myself with every step that I was going to fail. John continued to encourage me, first with patience, then with jelly babies and Tailwind, then with motivational phrases (“one foot in front of the other; you’ve got this; you’re doing great”), then with swearing (“just move your f-ing legs”) and finally logic (“if you’ve got the energy to cry then you’ve got the energy to run!”). His ongoing mental calculations had established that whilst my sub 2-hour dream was gone, I could still surpass my PB, and despite my 3 W’s (whinging, weeping, and walking) he was proved right (as always!) and I came in at 2:02:54.
I staggered to pick up my lovely long-sleeved t-shirt and sweatband (but uncharacteristically for me completely missed the table awash with Freddo Frogs!), picked up my baggage and munched on the traditional post-race Greggs Belgian Bun before embracing the nectar which is a pint of post-race bitter shandy.
It was so lovely to share my disappointment/ celebrations with clubmates, Hannah Murton (who finished just outside her HM PB); Brian Jenkins who bagged himself a HM PB before going on to run another Half Marathon at Chris Smith’s charity event at Hillsborough Park; John Egginton, Andy Hinchliffe, Ben Stittle, Coach John of course, and Pete who was on bun duty and walked into York and back at a speed not far off my running pace to ensure he could watch me finish (which was NOT a pretty sight as his photos would attest).
Having perused the results I can see that there were lots of other Striders there who I didn’t see, including Sian Evans who was 15th woman and 3rd in her age category securing a hugely well-earned prize.
The race was won by Tommy Power of Hallamshire Harriers in 01:06:58, and first female was Sarah Potter from Leeds City AC in 01:12:32.
14 Striders took part, from a field of 1699 finishers:
Full results are available on the TimingUpNorthResults website.