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Race report: Burnham Beeches Half Marathon

August 23, 2009

23 August 2009
Sunny, around 27°C

My first half marathon, and I thought I’d selected a scenic-but-achievable course to ween myself into longer distances and stretch my stamina for the last half of the 10km. As I was driving through the idyllic National Trust woodland, the sun streaming through the leafy trees on a warm late-summer morning, I was in good time.

Now, I’ll confess that I’m not great with directions. I manage, but I find scrabbling the last few miles of a journey with a clear deadline a stressful situation at best. I’d navigated to the post code provided in the race brochure using sat nav and arrived at the starting venue about 40 minutes before the starting gun. However, the parking was quite some distance from the venue. And not sign posted.

This was a bit of a problem, and judging by some of the erratic driving I saw as I fumbled my way to a parking space, it wasn’t just me having this problem. This turned a fairly leisurely start into a rush as I walked to the starting venue, deposited my bag, found the gents, and tried doing a quick limber up while lining up for the starting gun. Not great.

Once the race started, though, all was fine. It’s a lovely two-lap course, mostly on roads or footpaths and cuts through the undulating woodland. I’m sure someone at some point had said the course was relatively flat. It’s not, but it is achievable for the most part. It’s only when you get to the end of the first lap that you realise you’re going to need to keep something back – miles 6-7 and 12-13 are up a long and not inconsiderably steep hill.

The bottleneck early in the race

The bottleneck early in the race

Tips for running Burnham Beeches Half Marathon

  1. There is a bottleneck a couple of hundred metres from the start line as the course goes up a short, steep hill. Nothing much to do about it, but keep it in mind as you set off.
  2. On a hot day, you need the four water stations that are scattered around the course. Remember to drink, not just chuck it over your head.
  3. Save something for the last mile of each lap. I found that leaning forwards slightly and reducing my stride length helped greatly.
  4. Make the most of the descents, but don’t stray too close to the edge of the roads as they can be uneven.
  5. Remember that although the start and finish lines are essentially in the same place, the finish line gets moved back a few hundred metres to make up the distance. Worth noting when you’re starting a sprint finish.


Finish time

Finish time: 1:35:50
Chip time:
Position: 148 out of nearly 1000

Mile 1: 7:20.56
Mile 2: 6:52.15
Mile 3: 6:57.57
Mile 4: 6:42.10
Mile 5: 6:43.19
Mile 6: 7:09.71
Mile 7: 7:20.42
Mile 8: 7:24.37
Mile 9: 7:20.57
Mile 10: 7:34.10
Mile 11: 7:17.83
Mile 12: 7:50.29
Mile 13: Fumbled with watch, so no unofficial split

The race photographer captured my watch fumbing - and  13-mile tired face.

The race photographer captured my watch fumbing - and 13-mile tired face.

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