A tough one to start! – Amy F’s First Half

The Eco Half Marathon

by Amy Farnfield


Back in December 2017 upon seeing there was to be an Eco Half Marathon in Harpenden held in March 2018 I was intrigued. Harpenden being my home ground through my school years, I decided perhaps this was the challenge I needed for 2018. My running is generally fuelled by a race in my diary, if not I tend to default to the gym. I signed up but kept it quiet. Being somewhat nervous of anything ‘long distance’ which in my mind was anything over a 10k, I needed to attack this head on and I wasn’t going to let on I had this planned. I didn’t need anyone to ask me anything about my training or why I was doing it – this was for me!

Training consisted of a few long runs; an 11 and 13 mile run alongside the cross country races and a few club run sessions over the winter months. I didn’t particularly focus on training any differently although I was conscious that my legs needed to endure the mileage. This run was not only on mother’s day but within the period of Lent. To challenge myself further I decided I was giving up sugar for Lent, on top of my already restrictive diet. This affected some of my training as I realise now the carbohydrates fuelling my day to day life quite possibly came from the finest pick n’ mix selection. At times when training I felt drained, eating less than usual and my body still adjusting to a complete change of diet.  All in all, my training was sporadic, unplanned and somewhat less textbook and more freestyle. As the final weeks approached I let on to a few people what I was doing, more so I couldn’t back out. They would ask the inevitable training questions and estimated time I was going for; to which I replied ‘finish it and don’t walk!’

5.30am and the alarm goes off. Why so early – well because I failed to realise when I signed up that this was an 8am start in Harpenden, with number collection from 6.30am! I had my porridge and cup of tea and headed off. I knew where I was going albeit feeling a little apprehensive whilst thinking what if my legs can’t manage this or I run out of energy…. but I was nearly there and I may as well give it a go! The race was the Inaugural Harpenden Half Marathon with the aim to be an Eco Run. They spoke of no generators, recycled water cups and hessian race numbers on a scenic course; this could be the formula of future races. What I failed to read (along with the start time – perhaps highlighting I didn’t read many of the emails prior to race day) was the terrain.

I’m by no means adverse to a bit of off-road running, mud and a puddle however I left the house in my clean, road shoes. I had a perfectly good pair of trail shoes that would have been particularly well suited to this run; but no, they were safely sitting in the cupboard at home. I collected my hessian race number, my cotton t-shirt, timing chip and headed for the necessary pre run toilet stop (x2). The run had a 500 person capacity which attracted me as I’m not fond of a large field of runners.  The briefing was vague and the start was indicated by some bunting in a field. The mist lay across the park, dew on the grass and the sun was just deciding if it was ready to appear.

The run commenced across the muddy grass of Rothamsted Park before we made it out across fields, tracks, the Nicky Line, more tracks and fields and of course mud at every given opportunity. I slid around somewhat but did not stop. Before long mile six seemed to have arrived and I decided I had some energy (not sure where from) and picked up the pace. I felt I sustained this pace ok but towards the final few miles my legs felt heavy. I managed to keep myself upright as I took on a number of mud slides in my inappropriately chosen road shoes. Three water stations offered a cup of water: with a lid; I’m still somewhat puzzled with this concept.  I managed sips here and there but am still wondering why not a standard open paper/plastic cup?!

The route was predominately off road with scenic views, even managing a stretch through the bluebell wood and past some rather nice houses. Rothamsted Park paved way to a large proportion of the route of which I had run through previously in the Herts 10k. The final stretch was opening up and I could see a hill to the finishing line; who puts a hill to the finishing line?! I gave it everything I had left; unfortunately not enough to classify as a sprint finish but I crossed the line in an official time of 1.47.57 as 9th female and 81 overall out of a field of 313 runners. We were handed a cotton bag with a wooden medal and a cup of water. Pleased I managed the distance, slightly happier I didn’t walk and finished with a trip to Costa for a quiet coffee.

Will I do a half marathon again – ask me in a few weeks when I’m over this!