Another weekend, another race. One of my aims for the year was to run at least one event per month, this was my fourth in July after (half of) Endure24, the Pendle Running Festival 10k and the Run For All Burnley 10k!
This race was my first half marathon since Leeds back in May and to be honest I have struggled to do anything over 10 miles in training since then, largely because of the recent warm weather which I refuse to call a heatwave because it actually already has a name; summer.
I have been looking forward to the race for a while as it was the first It’s Grim Up North Running event I’ve entered. All the reviews I have seen about their races has been really positive and I know a couple of people who run with them regularly and their feedback has always been very complimentary about the organisation and friendliness.
The half marathon was part of a number of races on Saturday that came under the banner of the Sir Titus Summer Trot with all events starting and ending on the Leeds – Liverpool canal in the shadow of Salt’s Mill in Saltaire. Now for those of you who have never heard of Sir Titus Salt he was something of a philanthropist, he was way ahead of his time in many ways, Google him and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by his work. Saltaire itself is actually a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site no less and growing up in Bradford I have visited this brilliant village many times before.
Race registration was in the beautiful setting of Victoria Hall, it was very quick and simple and after a brief visit to the facilities I headed off down to the canal for the race briefing. The route was effectively two out and backs along the canal, firstly down through Shipley to Esholt before heading back through Saltaire past Five Rise Locks at Bingley and then a turn and back down again to the finish at Saltaire, simple. Well it would have been except for a late canal path closure which forced a slight change and extended the half marathon to 13.9 miles, oh well I’m a Yorkshireman, I like value for money!
The marathon, 20 mile and half marathon races all started together and despite running on a canal path it didn’t feel particularly cramped and everyone spread out relatively quickly. Underfoot the path was in pretty decent condition although some sections were rutted from the harsh winter, there was also a grass verge along much of the route and some competitors decided to run on there. With it being a public path I encountered a real mix of other people during the race, there were cyclists, dog walkers, parents pushing prams and a rather weary looking group of young people, maps in hand, who I assume were doing a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. With the out and backs the majority of spectators/supporters decided to remain at Saltaire so they could see their friends and loved ones numerous times, that aside there was little support apart from words of encouragement from other runners, people I passed on the path or those on barges going along the canal.
By their very nature most canal paths are designed to be pretty flat and so it panned out but I knew that around 10 miles we’d hit Five Rise Locks and getting up there would be a real test for the legs. On my way up I passed several runners who had already looped and were heading back to Saltaire, I tried to put myself in their shoes and knew that soon it would be me coming down whilst others looked at me as they went up with that slightly tortured look on their face. In all honesty I have run up worse climbs but there is no escaping that it is a steep ascent and when your energy levels are already depleted it takes some physical and mental strength to keep the legs turning over.
Having safely reached the turning point and descended the locks my mind turned to one thing, cake. At the start/finish a couple of tables of fine looking treats had already been laid out, not just sweet I hasten to add, if you wanted spuds there were some lovely looking mini baked potatoes to boost your carbs. With the last couple of miles done and the bells of the local church ringing out for a wedding the finish line came into sight along with my wife and children. Although my time was far from my quickest I was happy with how I had done and I’d enjoyed the race and running somewhere different. The highly anticipated treats did not disappoint either with a myriad of choices to go along with the chocolate, beer and lovely medal already in the finisher’s bag.
I would certainly recommend It’s Grim Up North Running to anyone, the organisers are a great bunch, they make a fantastic effort to put on a top event and for me they deliver plenty of what I am looking for in a race, so much so that I have already signed up for their Christmas Cracker in December, can’t wait for the mulled wine and Christmas cake.