Plymouth Half Marathon 2014
It was hard to believe I hadn't run a Half Marathon for 12 months, but heading to the South West corner of the UK, I hadn't run the 13.1 mile distance since the North Lincs Half Marathon in April 2013. Not a local race, but with many family in and around the area, it doubled up as a chance to see many of the extended family, as well as friends on route.  
It was good to also meet up with Jo Cavill and her Dad, Alan.  Jo has signed up for the 40-40-40 challenge and this was only her second half marathon.  Jo was staying within 100 metres of the start line whilst I had travelled in from the suburbs after cousin, Tamsin, had been very hospitable.  The race starts on Plymouth Hoe, famed for being where Francis Drake played bowls before sailing out to the Spanish Armada returned.  The Hoe now has an infamous Red & White stripped lighthouse - Smeaton’s Tower - that once stood on Eddystone Rock just off the coast (14 miles/22.5km) and the current lighthouse is visible on a clear day.  The area is filled with memories as my late grandparents (on my mother's side) lived over the river Tamar on the Rame Peninsula within striking distance of Whitsand Bay. They are buried at Maker Church, which is near enough visible from the Hoe and it felt as though I had them watching over me as I lined up to start the race.  I never ran before they passed away but always feel my Granddad Walker would have been proud being a runner is his younger days.

I had warmed up the morning before with a 5K parkrun around Plymbridge Park with my Uncle Derek supporting.  This assured me my back injury from the previous weekend had eased enough to take the risk. (I had driven 340+ miles so didn't want to not run!) As the Plymouth Half Marathon started, I took it steady, very conscious of the back and needing to be aware not to do anything (more) damaging! (Yes, most people who have a back injury wouldn't be starting the race in the first place, but I am not most people!!)

The route takes you on an undulating start around Plymouth Hoe and Barbican and skirts the edge of the City Centre and heads out east, where it levels off for a few miles as you cross Laira Bridge towards Plymstock and over the river Plym. I had started with a steady pace without over doing it and just allowed myself to go at a pace that wasn't over doing it.  We had a gradual climb from 4 to 5.5 miles along the edge of Plymstock  and as we turned left my nephew, Marc, was there to give me a cheer.
The route then had a harder climb up to Saltram Park, before finally commencing s drop to match through the park grounds and a flat section alongside the river Plym.  During this two mile section I was reminded why runners should not where headphones in a race as a lady seemed intent on running across my path and then alongside me oblivious to me even when I tried to move away from her!  (I was more frustrated her pace didn't vary to mine even when I tried to slow or pass!).  If you insist on having your headphones in a race (contrary to UKA rules) at least have only one ear piece in so you can hear what's going on around you!  Rant over!


With   Alan and Jo Cavill before the start (apologies blurry - but only pic we had!)

On Plymouth Hoe looking towards Cornwall and the mouth of the river Tamar

Lucas  making his way for the finish line - and it is evidently not a sprint!

Back over Laira Bridge (Having finally shaken off Ms Headphones) and an out and back along the Embankment road - a road I am more familiar with as my route into Plymouth for the past 30+ years. My pace had picked up a little again, but remained steady as we headed back along the Barbican into what I nicknamed a sadistic finish. Much of the final mile involved some climbing but with a nasty little spike as you switched back to get to the Hoe (past Marc again) and across the line.  No sprint finish like normal - the hill had taken it out of me and I had needed to force myself not to lose momentum going up it!  A time of 1:43:42 - which I was quite happy with given my recent marathon efforts and the back injury (which seemed to have held up on route but partly because I hadn't pushed myself where I usually would have).  

Thanks to Marc for coming along to support - the rain held off until I was into my 11th mile but we got soaked getting back to the car!  Jo and her Dad were still running as the down pour arrived - finishing in :2:31:34 and 2:25:49 respectively.  Well done to both.  Jo keeps her own blog at:  Jo Learns to Run

With Marc after the finish - no smile from Lucas as he’s soaked and getting wetter!

To the left of the picture on the distant horizon is Maker Church and Nan & Granddad Walker (insert)watching over my finish.