Trying to Love Luton
Love Luton Half
by Pete Mackrell
Last weekend, Amy Inchley and I both travelled over to Luton to run in the Love Luton Half Marathon. The race is named as such because Love Luton is a campaign which aims to “create confidence, pride and a positive image for Luton”. With Luton’s reputation, that’s quite an ambition! It aims to do this by organising various events for the community including the Love Luton Half. This year marked the 5th anniversary of the race and they have added a 10k.
Amy had been looking for a local half marathon since the unseasonably warm NSPCC Half in September where she had hoped to run under 1:40 but missed out by a couple of minutes. I entered because I wanted to see where my fitness is as my long injury comeback continues.
The race starts on the track at Stockwood Park before making its way down to Luton Hoo where there are a series of out-and-back loops taking you through the half way point. You then run through the town centre before heading north, completing a loop around Wardown Park and then back to the town centre for the finish. Before the race I had commented to Amy that the first half around Luton Hoo is surprisingly hilly. She responded by saying that hoo is an old Saxon word for hill and therefore it isn’t really surprising at all. With me firmly put in my place, we collected our numbers and after a token warm up we made our way to the start.
The first half was indeed hilly and to make matters worse, due to the point-to-point nature of the course for much of the race we were heading north into a constant headwind. The race standard at the front isn’t the highest, I guess the super-fast boys and girls aren’t typically doing half marathons in November. After the first mile I found myself in a leading group of three with a gap to those behind and I realised a high placing was possible. As we hit the hills in the Hoo we splintered and I ran alone for the final 10 miles to finish 2nd. I felt as good as I’ve felt since the injury and I was pleased with my time of 1:17:02, which was hopefully worth more due to the conditions.
As Amy approached the finish she agonisingly saw that she had just missed out on sub-1:40 and her time of 1:40:26 placed her 7th woman and 3rd W35. Whilst she was somewhat frustrated, it was an improvement over her NSPCC time and the hills and wind probably added a couple of minutes.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the event which had some teething problems in the first few years including a short course one year. It is run on completely closed roads and it has the feel of a larger race, especially as you pass through the town centre at mile 8 and then at the finish on the pedestrianised high street where crowds gather and make a lot of noise. The looping on the course meant that I received lots of encouragement from other runners, I’m always pleasantly surprised when people make an effort to cheer me on when I’m wheezing and panting away in my own world. Having two distances also adds to the event and it meant there were lots of 10k runners mingling around the finish and cheering on the half marathoners.
If I was being critical, I do wonder whether the point-to-point nature of the course serves any purpose, it creates logistical issues and it would further enhance the event to also start in the town centre. They should also hold the presentations in the town centre rather than in the dingy clubhouse back at the track. But I’m being picky. Overall I enjoyed it and I would happily run it again.
Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the club. Based on her sentiments straight after the race, Amy does not have much love for running, or half marathons, or Luton.