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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

MK Winter Half Marathon

The Winter Half in Milton Keynes is quite often my final race of the year these days. I’d hoped I’d have done my 50th parkrun yesterday, and would be going to MK on the way home from London, but due to circumstances outside of our control that was not to be. I didn’t really feel like racing, but this one is one that I do like to do every year, so wasn’t going to miss it.

I was up at 06:15 for breakfast, and on the road by 07:00. I’d not slept well at all last night or the night before, so wasn’t anticipating a particularly good race. If I could keep a steady pace and just get around, that’d be great. At least it’d be a good way to kick off marathon training for the season ahead. Things actually seemed to be going okay as other than about a mile at 40 mph due to a stranded car, the M1 was in good shape and I made it to Milton Keynes before 08:00. However, there was already a queue from the roundabout into the car park for Willen Lake. That’s never happened before at this time of day, and didn’t seem like a good sign. A thought kept into my mind, wondering if I should have stayed at home, or if I should go home now. I wasn’t prepared to give up just yet though.

After 20 minutes of queueing I finally got to the car park, but it was full. They’d not opened the overflow car park, so I assumed it must have been waterlogged and they didn’t want people getting stuck in there. Makes sense really, but I was starting to wonder what I was going to do. Usually at this time there’s plenty of spaces in the car park! I tried the next one along, but it was the same story, long queues of cars looking for spaces that could not be found. I did a complete lap of the lake and didn’t find anywhere to park, so when I got back to that starting roundabout I thought I’d head in the opposite direction. After a while I tried another car park, and was fortunate enough to find one space available. To make things even better, it used the same iPhone app as what I’d used in Gunnersbury Park a few weeks ago, so didn’t need to queue for the machine.

This saved some valuable time, and I started heading in the direction of Willen Lake - it was about a mile away to the race village and I still needed to collect my race number. I’d expected to be collecting it at a lot earlier than this. I jogged to try and make up some time and followed runners that were walking presumably to the start. After a while though I realised they seemed to be going the wrong way, or a long way round, so I crossed the dual carriageway whilst it was quiet and ran along the grass to the entrance of the park. Fortunately it wasn’t too muddy so it seemed like it may have dried out a bit overnight - we’d been warned last night that it was going to be waterlogged in the last mile. Maybe it wasn’t as bad now. I also noticed that in the time since leaving this car park, and getting back here after eventually finding somewhere to park, they’d opened the overflow car park. Typical.

I collected my race number quickly, and then joined the toilet queue. It was that long I couldn’t see how it was going to be possible to use the facilities before the race start. Sure enough, thirty minutes passed and I was still in the queue and the race had started. There were so many people in the queue behind me as well as it looped around the field. There was about a dozen loos, which I felt must have been fewer than previous years as I don’t remember the queue ever being so bad. Maybe it’s just the parking had made me so much later than normal I hadn’t seen it get this bad previously. Apparently the day before they’d had a marquee and a large television destroyed and they’d had to work hard to get ready for the race today. I wondered if that had been why things felt more hectic this morning, but then, I couldn’t see why that’d have affected the parking so much.

When I got to the front of the queue the first two waves had already started. I was then as quick as possible, more so than ideal really, and then ran across the grass, jumped over the railings and joined the back of the third wave. I was late, but at least I’d started. My first thought then was “don’t let what’s happened so far ruin your enjoyment of this race. It’s going to be fun!”

The route as always was familiar, but it was far busier than I’ve experienced before. I assumed it was because usually I’d be further forward and at the front it spreads out thinner sooner. Here it felt like I was battling for space, and constantly slowing down. At times I felt I needed to weave to just keep moving, but was mindful of the people around me. As always in races though, you do get some that are not so mindful, but at least this time there was only the one.

In the first 5K there were some puddles and some muddy areas, but fortunately I managed to keep my feet dry in these early stages of the race. At the first water station at 3 miles in, it was still quite busy so I decided as I didn’t really need any yet I could wait until the next at around 6 miles. I did walk briefly around the 4 mile mark, but then pushed on as often as I could - I was actually feeling a little tired already.

When I got to the water station at mile 6 I grabbed a plastic cup of clear fluid and started to drink. It wasn’t water though, it was some sort of energy drink that just happened to be clear. I’d wished they’d said who was handing out water and who was handing out whatever this stuff was. It was too late to go back and get some water though. I did however realise around this point that my race number was flapping around - two of the runr magnets I’d used had popped off, and only the bottom magnets remained. I was about to lose one of the bottom ones as well, so I started to walk checked where I was going, and then started to fiddle with the magnets to try and secure it the best I could. I then found a couple of puddles that were big enough that I couldn’t avoid them, and my feet got a little damp. I could already feel them getting cold after several minutes had passed.

For the remainder of the race the magnets were my main concern. I remembered the race envelope was stashed in my flipbelt for disposal in a bin should I see one - something I’d long forgotten about. I thought there might be safety pins in there, so I stopped again rooted through it. No luck. I adjusted the magnets again, and this time noticed I’d got three back magnets on one side, and one on the other. So the magnet there had caught the two that had fallen when the front ones had popped off. I evened them out, hoping that the added strength would prevent the last two magnets from getting lost. All the flapping about of the number was not helping them stay secure though.

When I was running into a headwind it felt like my number was being held in place by the wind blowing into it, but I was still a little nervous about losing it before the race finish. I considered taking it off and holding it in my hand but didn’t want to risk damaging the strip that would be detected crossing mats. Instead, I stayed patient and careful. There were times though when I could keep on running for longer without being distracted by it too much, but I felt with all the stopping I’d completely lost any sort of rhythm so now it would be just a slow run/walk to the finish.

At mile 9 the people at the aid station were actually telling people what was water and what was High-5. So at least I knew what that stuff I didn’t like the taste of was, but more importantly this time I managed to get some water.

When I got to mile 12 I realised that at any moment the flooded section would arrive, and when it wasn’t covering the entire path and was able to run around it on the mud I thought that wasn’t too bad after all. However, just before getting to some bridges over the canal that was where the real flooded section was. The first ‘puddle’ could have been worse, but I still got my feet wet. Then there was a second one just centimetres after that. Not only was it past ankle deep (there may have been pothole there making it deeper), it was actually flowing as well and this time my feet got completely drenched with cold water.

As I ran across the first of the bridges I winced at how cold my feet were already feeling. It wasn’t that long before they started to feel sore too. It was probably down to them being wet more than the cold though. After some walking I got running again and then ran until the finish was in sight. One runner saw me overtake and started to sprint, so I sprinted and kept the lead until I’d crossed the finish line. I finished in 1:41:28, in position 421 out of 2,133 finishers (first 20%).

The medal was a nice big one that would spin on a vertical axis and said about this being the 10th anniversary. I’d either not realised, or had forgotten that this race wasn’t giving out water at the finish so I’d not brought any with me. I then had to figure my way out of the race village which was the opposite side to where the finish line was, across the swampy grass, to then walk back from where I’d came and begin my journey back to my car and home. On this walk back I did wonder if maybe I shouldn’t bother with redoing races now.The Winter Half in Milton Keynes is quite often my final race of the year these days. I’d hoped I’d have done my 50th parkrun yesterday, and would be going to MK on the way home from London, but due to circumstances outside of our control that was not to be. I didn’t really feel like racing, but this one is one that I do like to do every year, so wasn’t going to miss it.

I was up at 06:15 for breakfast, and on the road by 07:00. I’d not slept well at all last night or the night before, so wasn’t anticipating a particularly good race. If I could keep a steady pace and just get around, that’d be great. At least it’d be a good way to kick off marathon training for the season ahead. Things actually seemed to be going okay as other than about a mile at 40 mph due to a stranded car, the M1 was in good shape and I made it to Milton Keynes before 08:00. However, there was already a queue from the roundabout into the car park for Willen Lake. That’s never happened before at this time of day, and didn’t seem like a good sign. A thought kept into my mind, wondering if I should have stayed at home, or if I should go home now. I wasn’t prepared to give up just yet though.

After 20 minutes of queueing I finally got to the car park, but it was full. They’d not opened the overflow car park, so I assumed it must have been waterlogged and they didn’t want people getting stuck in there. Makes sense really, but I was starting to wonder what I was going to do. Usually at this time there’s plenty of spaces in the car park! I tried the next one along, but it was the same story, long queues of cars looking for spaces that could not be found. I did a complete lap of the lake and didn’t find anywhere to park, so when I got back to that starting roundabout I thought I’d head in the opposite direction. After a while I tried another car park, and was fortunate enough to find one space available. To make things even better, it used the same iPhone app as what I’d used in Gunnersbury Park a few weeks ago, so didn’t need to queue for the machine.

This saved some valuable time, and I started heading in the direction of Willen Lake - it was about a mile away to the race village and I still needed to collect my race number. I’d expected to be collecting it at a lot earlier than this. I jogged to try and make up some time and followed runners that were walking presumably to the start. After a while though I realised they seemed to be going the wrong way, or a long way round, so I crossed the dual carriageway whilst it was quiet and ran along the grass to the entrance of the park. Fortunately it wasn’t too muddy so it seemed like it may have dried out a bit overnight - we’d been warned last night that it was going to be waterlogged in the last mile. Maybe it wasn’t as bad now. I also noticed that in the time since leaving this car park, and getting back here after eventually finding somewhere to park, they’d opened the overflow car park. Typical.

I collected my race number quickly, and then joined the toilet queue. It was that long I couldn’t see how it was going to be possible to use the facilities before the race start. Sure enough, thirty minutes passed and I was still in the queue and the race had started. There were so many people in the queue behind me as well as it looped around the field. There was about a dozen loos, which I felt must have been fewer than previous years as I don’t remember the queue ever being so bad. Maybe it’s just the parking had made me so much later than normal I hadn’t seen it get this bad previously. Apparently the day before they’d had a marquee and a large television destroyed and they’d had to work hard to get ready for the race today. I wondered if that had been why things felt more hectic this morning, but then, I couldn’t see why that’d have affected the parking so much.

When I got to the front of the queue the first two waves had already started. I was then as quick as possible, more so than ideal really, and then ran across the grass, jumped over the railings and joined the back of the third wave. I was late, but at least I’d started. My first thought then was “don’t let what’s happened so far ruin your enjoyment of this race. It’s going to be fun!”

The route as always was familiar, but it was far busier than I’ve experienced before. I assumed it was because usually I’d be further forward and at the front it spreads out thinner sooner. Here it felt like I was battling for space, and constantly slowing down. At times I felt I needed to weave to just keep moving, but was mindful of the people around me. As always in races though, you do get some that are not so mindful, but at least this time there was only the one.

In the first 5K there were some puddles and some muddy areas, but fortunately I managed to keep my feet dry in these early stages of the race. At the first water station at 3 miles in, it was still quite busy so I decided as I didn’t really need any yet I could wait until the next at around 6 miles. I did walk briefly around the 4 mile mark, but then pushed on as often as I could - I was actually feeling a little tired already.

When I got to the water station at mile 6 I grabbed a plastic cup of clear fluid and started to drink. It wasn’t water though, it was some sort of energy drink that just happened to be clear. I’d wished they’d said who was handing out water and who was handing out whatever this stuff was. It was too late to go back and get some water though. I did however realise around this point that my race number was flapping around - two of the runr magnets I’d used had popped off, and only the bottom magnets remained. I was about to lose one of the bottom ones as well, so I started to walk checked where I was going, and then started to fiddle with the magnets to try and secure it the best I could. I then found a couple of puddles that were big enough that I couldn’t avoid them, and my feet got a little damp. I could already feel them getting cold after several minutes had passed.

For the remainder of the race the magnets were my main concern. I remembered the race envelope was stashed in my flipbelt for disposal in a bin should I see one - something I’d long forgotten about. I thought there might be safety pins in there, so I stopped again rooted through it. No luck. I adjusted the magnets again, and this time noticed I’d got three back magnets on one side, and one on the other. So the magnet there had caught the two that had fallen when the front ones had popped off. I evened them out, hoping that the added strength would prevent the last two magnets from getting lost. All the flapping about of the number was not helping them stay secure though.

When I was running into a headwind it felt like my number was being held in place by the wind blowing into it, but I was still a little nervous about losing it before the race finish. I considered taking it off and holding it in my hand but didn’t want to risk damaging the strip that would be detected crossing mats. Instead, I stayed patient and careful. There were times though when I could keep on running for longer without being distracted by it too much, but I felt with all the stopping I’d completely lost any sort of rhythm so now it would be just a slow run/walk to the finish.

At mile 9 the people at the aid station were actually telling people what was water and what was High-5. So at least I knew what that stuff I didn’t like the taste of was, but more importantly this time I managed to get some water.

When I got to mile 12 I realised that at any moment the flooded section would arrive, and when it wasn’t covering the entire path and was able to run around it on the mud I thought that wasn’t too bad after all. However, just before getting to some bridges over the canal that was where the real flooded section was. The first ‘puddle’ could have been worse, but I still got my feet wet. Then there was a second one just centimetres after that. Not only was it past ankle deep (there may have been pothole there making it deeper), it was actually flowing as well and this time my feet got completely drenched with cold water.

As I ran across the first of the bridges I winced at how cold my feet were already feeling. It wasn’t that long before they started to feel sore too. It was probably down to them being wet more than the cold though. After some walking I got running again and then ran until the finish was in sight. One runner saw me overtake and started to sprint, so I sprinted and kept the lead until I’d crossed the finish line. I finished in 1:41:28, in position 421 out of 2,133 finishers (first 20%).

The medal was a nice big one that would spin on a vertical axis and said about this being the 10th anniversary. I’d either not realised, or had forgotten that this race wasn’t giving out water at the finish so I’d not brought any with me. I then had to figure my way out of the race village which was the opposite side to where the finish line was, across the swampy grass, to then walk back from where I’d came and begin my journey back to my car and home. On this walk back I did wonder if maybe I shouldn’t bother with redoing races now.

Tags: 13point1 halfmarathon race running sport

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