Yes, that most illustrious of events never to appear on any fixtures list ever has taken place again. So “pop-up” that sometimes the entrants don’t even know they’re taking part, the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon returns to form and offers a new twist on previous runnings of the event.
Firstly, this is the first night-running of the event. Night events have become very popular of late, and with this tip-of-the-hat to the adventure racing fraternity, the organisers of the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon hope to draw in the adrenaline-fuelled crowds.
Secondly, this is the first time the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon has been held on Christmas Eve, that most festive of all eves. Finishers were treated to a mince pie at the Race HQ afterwards, and refreshed with a yuletide beer.
Mmmm, beer and pies.
Anyway, back to the story, eh?
So I’ve stopped smoking again – did I tell you I’d stopped smoking again. That’s good news, though it does make me prone to fancying-a-smoke, which can lead to feeling-a-bit-glum-I’m-not-smoking. One of the best cures from glumness, I’ve found, is to run and run and run until all the glumness is sweated out of you. That may sound trite, trivial and rubbish, but I’m telling you now that it’s also 100% true.
Having finished work early, and come home, the main spot of tidying up and the rest was done by around half five. Looking forward to a whole evening of not-smoking and possibly watching-rubbish-telly, a hint of glumness overcame me. I tried washing the filter on the vacuum to see if that would entice me to excitement, but no, there was only one cure that would work, and it was a good-hard-run-don’t-mind-if-I-do-thank-you.
Off, off, off into the sunset I set, though it was already dark as it happens, but that’s a much more poetic way to begin. Left at the sea front, up towards Seaton Sluice. It’s a good while since I’ve run up the back of the caravan park to get to Seaton Sluice, but I went that way tonight – it has lights, and the trail round the front was likely to be waterlogged, and there was me without a head-torch in the pouring rain. In one spot that actual road appeared to have dissolved a bit, had to check I wasn’t hallucinating, but no, it appeared to have crumbled at the edge, and some hasty traffic lights had been set up around it.
Arriving at Seaton Sluice, I was surprised how good I felt – lungs in good working order, not breathing very heavily, could it be that the failing-to-smoke could be paying dividends already? Maybe I should run through Seaton Sluice, to add another mile or so on, see how that felt?
Hmm, that felt good. Now I need to turn around now, there’s no path between Seaton Sluice and Blyth, except along the dunes and that’s not lit and clearly will be populated by a collection of murderers, perverts and well… people. Let’s just go and see where the less-dangerous, better-lit path along the side of the road runs out. It’ll be at the car park, right? Well, maybe by the pub then. Ok, well it’ll have to stop at the edge of Seaton Sluice, there’d be no point to it… oh, it keeps going, eh? Well, I’m still feeling pretty groovy, maybe I could run along to the toilet block at the car park on the dunes, that’s 4.5 miles from home. Made it, Perhaps to the farm towards Blyth, that’s 5 miles, and I’ve never reached there without being knackered (and often accessing an emergency cigarette at this point, hidden in the nook of a dune, puffing away). Oh, that was it I just passed was it? Well, I’m almost at Blyth now, might as well continue, that’ll be something close to 6 miles. Right that’s Blyth, and 5.7 miles. Might as well do the extra bit to make it 6, shame not to, don’t you think?
Right. That’s 6 miles. Let’s stop messing about and run home, shall we. Back through Blyth, felt good. Back along the road by the dunes – groovy, kept on plodding. Into Seaton Sluice, remembering that the last time I did this run in conventional shoes, I felt like my foot was going to break in half and my knee pop out of my leg at this point – no such complaint from my barefoot shoe approach. Back through the Sluice, I’m essentially home-free now, yes? Down the hill into Whitley Bay, avoiding the dissolve-o-road and along the Links, still feeling ridiculously chipper.
Finally, along the Promenade and back to the start. Look at watch, that’ll be 12.1 miles sir. Hang on, that’s only one mile short of an actual half-marathon. Well, it seems a shame to miss the chance, so I scamper off another half-mile down the road, abrupt turn around and back to finish my 13.1 miles. I may even need a t-shirt to prove it.
Couldn’t quite get under the elusive two hour mark, but then I was three quarters of the way through the run before I realised I was taking part in a half-marathon, so I can’t be entirely blamed. Finished in 2:10:11 for a spot-on average ten minute mile.
Watch this space, I may publish the rules for the Occasional Half Marathon series in the near future.