All hail the King
‘The King of the mountains’?? I know the Tour de France was in full swing but this was a bit over the top. Such were my immediate thoughts when reading the race description for the Frome Half Marathon. They were offering prizes for the fastest man and woman up Egford Hill, which was a mid-race 0.6 km uphill stretch with an average gradient of around 7%. Hmm, lovely.
How’s your French?
Nonetheless, the rest of the race looked nice and Frome isn’t far, so I decided to go for it. Another club member had decided to go in for the 10k and I met her at Frome Football Club, where the race started. Parking was in the cricket club, 5 minutes walk from the start and the ground was packed with the usual array of club runners, with plenty of maillot jaunes to be seen. With 5 minutes to go we were called to the start, which happened to be along the back of the main stand. I decided to forsake my usual start place as ‘lantern rouge’ at the back and instead found myself about midway down the sizeable peloton. They were starting both half marathon and 10k together, so about 900 people gradually made their way over the start line and rolled out into the street at a comfortable pace.
I was planning to use this as training for the marathon in August, so had decided to run the half marathon at a comfy pace and then run the 10k course straight afterwards, thus doing around 19.5 miles in total. This required a nice steady start, and I was very lucky that my fellow club member was running at pretty much exactly the right pace. We made our way out through the housing estates, and it was soon apparent the locals had come out in force to support. Some had even put little tables out with sweets on for runners to take, which was really thoughtful. One guy was providing music (Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild as we were passing) and in general it was a very nice atmosphere.
After a couple of miles, I wanted to push on a little, so said goodbye to my colleague and moved ahead. We were then beginning to leave the housing estates and head back into town, where it was becoming increasingly undulating, but still with loads of people. At the 4.5 mile stage, the half marathon split from the 10k, and it was out into the country, heading for the village of Nunney. Here, the countryside was lovely and although there were less people, the marshals were still very enthusiastic. At one point we ran down a 13% hill, just thankful that it was down and not up.
The King’s crown slipped
Progress was steady until we got to mile 11, at which point we encountered The Mountain. It started fine, but as it got progressively steeper, we all got progressively slower. At its steepest it was 11%, and by this time I was so slow I was walking (as a comparison, Highfield Rise maximum gradient is 8%). I did smile slightly when some guy came hurtling past. He’d obviously been targeting the polka-dot jersey by having a very easy race before really going for it on the hill.
Once over the hill, it was downhill for 1.5 miles into Frome. As we re-entered built up areas, so the number of spectators increased, and they were as enthusiastic as ever. On entering the town centre, it was a quick whizz down the hill, through the town centre and then up the hill towards the finish. This hill was a bit steep and I was beginning to struggle when I glanced up and saw my friend pointing her mobile at me.
On finishing the race, I grabbed to goodie bag, had a banana, drinks and toilet break before heading back to the car park and a quick change of shirt (I didn’t want anyone to think I was still competing). And then it was back out to re-trace the 10k route. They’d already taken the route signs down, but it was no hassle remembering the route. What was really noticeable is how much harder it was second time around.
So what was the overall impression of the race? Simply the most enjoyable race I’ve done this year, mainly down to 2 factors
a) Not trying to do a PB meant I could just relax, kick back a bit and enjoy it. Going for a PB would have been pointless anyway, as it was far too hilly, but maybe I should leave the stopwatch at home every so often.
b) The crowd and marshals were all so enthusiastic. They were applauding and cheering everyone. I had so many people shouting ‘Come on Shrewton’ and even more shouting ‘come on number seven’ (my race number – I think having a low race number was a big plus as I didn’t hear too many people yelling ‘come on number five hundred and forty eight’)
I was a little surprised so few from the club had entered this, given it is only half an hour’s drive. Ok, so it was a bit hilly, but that gives a nice workout. It’s currently top of my list for next year, so maybe I’ll see one or two more people there.