The Monsal Trail Half Marathon 2024 Race Report and Results

Race Date: Sunday 7th April 2024
Race Report by: Lisi Briggs

Premable: I’d ran Retford Half three weeks earlier and felt strong even though I’d been ill at the time, so plan was to test myself on a similarly flat-ish course, this time with full health. I’d ran a half marathon PB of 2:05, so would I manage to get to the elusive 2 hour mark / holy grail in this race?

Race day: ’Full health’ is easier said than done these days, and as bad luck had it, for this race it was my daughter who got ill, right on time during the night before the race. She kept waking me up with insanely annoying, albite comical, cough-sneezes, directly into my ear. I remained calm, considering my pre-race heart rate and all, and told myself sleep wasn’t that important anyway. The morning of the race I was stubbornly convinced that the lack of sleep had not affected me one bit. And looking out of the window at the swaying trees, I also told myself, that with luck, storm Kathleen will provide a boosting tailwind, both on the way out and back, so it will all be fine. Keep positive!

I felt calm and excited driving out of Sheffield on the empty half marathon roads, against the tide, and then felt pretty pleased with myself for parking for free on coombs road in Bakewell, and walking the pretty short cut path up the Monsal trail, avoiding paying parking charges like most other runners arriving for the event. Confident feelings continued when I avoided the insanely long toilet queue, and bumped into the other strider at the event, Joanne, who offered me some bin bags to protect my luggage from the weather (no marquee!) – luck was surely on my side! During the typical pre race excited chatter in the start line huddle, two lady runners from Sheffield chatted to me about The Half that was happening today; they looked like seasoned runners but both never ran The Half before, incredulously, saying they just didn’t fancy the hill. I gave them a passionate speech about how wonderful The Sheffield Half was, surely the best race in the world, due to the thrill of running down, and it was only few miles of up anyway. It was then that I realised that this flat half that was ahead of me wasn’t going to be as fun, and I had a slight pang to run with my club mates, through up down and with our beloved city.

Anyway, I was on a mission now. I turned on the pacing programme (first time I used that on my watch – neat!), and go! The course is a straight forward out and back through three tunnels, from Bakewell station to Miller’s Dale. Plan was to start slow and speed up ever so slightly every km, positive splits to account for the net downhill on the way back. So in the first 2km I forced myself to slow down as per pacing programme; I usually never do this and wonder now if I need those initial fast miles to bank for later on, especially in the half marathon distance. 3rd km felt exactly right. But then … km 4 – 10 (turnaround) I couldn’t keep to the target pace. I did enjoy running through the tunnels and the wonderful scenery, but just couldn’t get up to required speed without feeling I’d loose my puff for the rest of the race. I chatted to a runner with a Monsal Half t-shirt at one point asking him if he felt the incline as well (you don’t see it but definitely feel it), and he said yes definitely, but not to worry, as you will get it back after the turnaround. His goal was 1:50-2hrs so I thought I might still be in with a chance. I also felt a bit queasy right from the start, and had to forced myself to swallow the gel at the turnaround, usually I quite look forward to the gel. And storm Kathleen definitely didn’t provide tailwind. More like side and headwind gusts throughout, it was a bit awful.

But I did speed up after the turnaround… just not enough to make up the shortfall. The second half of the race was enjoyable in that you really got going (not as fun as throwing yourself down Ecclesall road south though), and my audible tennis breath turned on from mile 8 all the way to that end. I satisfyingly overtook some runners during the second half, but it was hard work, and I had to dig deep to keep up the rhythm until the end, having a word with myself a few times (“come on” or “you can do it”) – I do love it when I start talking to myself like a loon during races. The fairly quiet tennis breath grunts turned into uninhibited complaining style aacks in the last km sprint. And then – I’d done it! Is there a better feeling than having finished a race having given it all you got?! Bring on the next one.

The race was won by Andrew Penney of Hercules Wimbledon in 01:10:05. The first female home was Joanne Jones of Holmfirth Harriers AC in 01:29:24.

Striders results:

Position Name Category Time
172 Lisi Briggs Female Vet 35 02:06:21
271 Joanna Sparks Senior Female 02:30:00

The full results can be viewed here.


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