And it’s “Go, go, go!”

By Kas Gardner

I was a bit nervous going into the Silverstone Half Marathon as this was the first, and probably only, real test of how my marathon training for the Boston Marathon was going. I suffered a bit from overtraining syndrome earlier on in the week which had meant I really backed off the training this week in order to be fit to go for it at Silverstone. I would love to have gone sub-1:45 for the first time but I honestly didn’t know if I could do it.

The race magazine had said that you should be parked up in the car park by 10:30 am, and I’d heard reports that it was a nightmare to get into Silverstone. My friend Karen and I decided to volunteer at Milton Keynes junior parkrun and then leave straight from there. But because we travelled to Silverstone via Buckingham and the Stowe road we were in the car park less than half an hour after we left Milton Keynes – while others were queuing from the Towcester direction we just breezed straight in.

The start area was well organised with plenty of announcements as to what was going on, plenty of refreshments, a London Marathon/Adidas store and plenty of toilets. With about half an hour to go we wandered through to the start area and lined up next to a 1:45 pacer. They introduced the wheelchair athletes, including the ‘Weirwolf’ David Weir, and then set them off. Three minutes later it was, “Go, go, go!” for me too with the sound of the BBCs F1 theme blaring over the speakers.

I’d done my homework so I knew because the twisty-turny nature of the course it would measure long (anything from 13.2 to 13.5 from what I could find on Strava) so my plan was to run the entire thing on effort level rather than pace – I would go out at half marathon PB effort and what would be would be.

As I ran I saw several people I knew from LBAC and Redway Runners marshaling and it was great to get shouts of encouragement from them and the public who were out in force. Having never ran Silverstone Half before I was expecting the spectators would only be near the F1 straight/pit lane, but that wasn’t the case. Lots of the course was lined with spectators cheering everyone on and it made for a great atmosphere – although by 10 miles I was so focused on maintaining the effort level that even though I was vaguely aware of people shouting my name I didn’t have the extra energy to acknowledge them.

Clearly the organisers and weather gods had been having a conversation, because not only is the last mile and a half up a gentle incline all the way to the finish, they’d manage to organise it so that the last 1.25 miles (ish) were also into a headwind. I finished strongly, upping the effort as much as I could in the last half a mile or so, which went something like this, “(insert your own swear word) hills.” “(Insert your own swear word) headwind.” “There’s the finish line!” “(Insert your own swear word) hills.” “(Insert your own swear word) headwind.” “Come on push it!” “I think I’m going to puke.” “Why isn’t the finish line getting any nearer?” “Urrgh. Finished.”

I shuffled through the finish funnel and up onto a ramp where a kind volunteer cut off my timing chip, and then I made my way to collect my medal and goody bag which I very nearly dropped straight away as I wasn’t expecting it to be so heavy. It included water, sports drink, cotton finishers tee, 3 little boxes of treats from Graze, some beef jerky and some promotional bumf for other races.

Getting out of the car park took a bit longer than getting in, but by going back the way we came we avoid the queues going towards the A43 and Towcester. But my lasting impression of the Silverstone Half Marathon is that it is well organised and there’s lots of information in the pre-race information pack.

In terms of the course, it is very twisty-turny and apart from the first lap and last lap I had actually no idea where I was on the circuit. Seriously it looks like the course designers chucked a ball of string over a map of the circuit and then said, “That’ll do.” The wide F1 circuit means there’s plenty of room for the first few miles although it does narrow in parts when going around pit areas. There are also parts of the course where there are no spectators but the organisers had put some vehicles with big sound/music systems in places to liven up the atmosphere.

I’d finished in 1:42:57, smashing through the 1:45 barrier and taking a little over 2.5 minutes of my half marathon PB. The icing on the cake was that during the race I’d also set a new 5k PB, a 10k PB, and a 10 mile PB. I guess you could say that marathon training is going very well.

And finally, my top tip for if you do the Silverstone Half next year – try not to make F1 car noises as you fly round the corners or overtake people!