I love Keswick. It seems to have everything an outdoorsy family would want. I’ve been going there every year since I was born so now my wife and I use any excuse to take our 2 there to explore and be outside. When I saw the Keswick Half Marathon pop up on my Facebook suggested events I was on it in a shot. I know the area very well so that would surely be an advantage?
The race was a lovely flat (cough) route starting at the rocky swing bridge at Portinscale. (see elevation image). The route was an anti-clockwise traverse around Derwent water with an added loop in Newlands to get the mileage up to 13.1.
We set off at home early doors with the plan to arrive in the centre of Keswick to collect my number for 10:30am. The race started at a very respectable time of 11:30am which was another tick in the box for me. I hate early races! I find the hydration/getting food on board very hard for early morning races. We arrived in good time and had a wander over to the Rugby club who were hosting the race to raise fund for their development teams (they also have an amazing beer festival in June which is fantastic) – the finish line was at the centre of their rugby pitches. There was a slight haze overhead and the sun was shining but there was a biting blustery wind. The race limit was 1000 so I was expecting a good buzz around the club and I was not disappointed. Everyone was wandering around in club colours and “active wear”. Once I collected my number it was time to pass on my Purple hoodie to my wife and go for a nice 1 mile warmup to the start line. This actually worked out really well as it forced everyone into a proper warmup be it a nice walk or run.
The start was bang on 11:30am and took everyone through the village of Portinscale which was full of lots of supporting friends and family. There was a great friendly feel about this race which developed over the course. I met the same people throughout as I passed them and they passed me back. Plenty of local and NE club runners were out in force so there was a good air of camaraderie.
The first hills came quite quickly and I was met by family in Newlands as I started a nice pacey down hill section…..as we all know about these nice bits though is that they are usually met by something to take you back up again….and after 15mins I was met by one hell of a hill and a very steep ascent. There was little time to strap on my oxygen bottle I had to just go for it. The air by now had warmed up but it was still very blustery in parts. The hill kept on coming as if it was toying with us. It even added in some tight corners to throw us off our stride. By now I was passing quite a few people as I love my hills. I did suspect this might come back and bite me on the bum but I was enjoying myself too much to worry about the latter part of the race. I figured the Lucozade tablets I was carrying would do the trick….as long as I had something left for a sprint finish I didn’t really care.
Although this was a road race, it was not closed to traffic. A motorbike decided it wanted to tootle down the single track road we were on. Shouts of “MOTORBIKE!” cascaded along the line to ensure nobody got squished (although it was only crawling along). Then we hit the 4th and 5th big hill sections…I say this because all in all my Garmin counted about 19 in total. These were massive in terms of the rate of ascent. I got on my tiptoes and pushed on trying to pretends in my head it was only as big as the DLI hill but in reality this was a monster. At the top we were met by smiling families and locals shouting their encouragement, many strangely wearing hats made of flowers (I think this was related to May day the next day).
Once on the top the views were simply amazing. Anyone who know the area will love the vista from the side of Catbells looking down onto Borrowdale. The sun was shining through the slight haze and all the peaks were visible. This section was a long downhill aiming to take us into Grange and across onto the main road back up to Keswick. I knew the last 4-5 miles would be tough but I was enjoying the race for the now. I cannot imagine there is a prettier race out there. The views all around were simply stunning and there was plenty of opportunity to take them all in as it was on road and not trail.
After we passed through Grange we turned left and we knew it was a long road back up to Keswick. This is the bit I wasn’t really looking forward to as I knew it was a long slow incline with traffic all the way to the finish. In reality it was horrid but everyone seemed to club together at this point with words of encouragement and support. I imagine only the elite runners had good legs after 10 miles so I just had to knuckle down and get on with it….although this is never my strong point. At the 10 mile point there was a shout of “only a parkrun left!” and we all seemed to up out game a tad.
The last mile took us into the south side of Keswick and round the rugby club where I knew my family and Neil Sleeman would be waiting. There was no chance of being the first strider home today. After seeing him on the DT20 I knew he’d have finished long ahead of me. I always look forward to the finishes. It is my motivation through much of the latter part of races. Finish strong, take as many people out with my sprint finish as possible. Here I knew I would have the added incentive of my kids and wife being there cheering me on. I rounded the corner and put my food down as soon as I hit the grass. There was a very loud tannoy with a woman shouting encouragement. I managed to stretch my legs and not trip up (always a worry) and pass about 6-7 people in the last 50 yards.
Once I caught my breath I was given a really nice white tech tshirt, a banana, bottle of water and some shortbread. All quite decent for the £15 it cost me to enter. A lot cheaper than many of our other local half marathons and 4 times cheaper than the most famous half marathon in the world ™. Excellent value and I cannot recommend this race enough. Yes it is hilly. Yes it hurt my legs but the views and 4-5 water stations made up for that.
Tim Skelton – 198/683 – 1:48:23