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Bideford Half Marathon

By Doug Alsop

3rd Mar 2014

"A Swift half" this is the tempting sub title of the Bideford Half Marathon and looking at the PB listings there are a significant number of records to back up the claim. It is a race that usually shares the same date as the Bath Half Marathon but it still attracts over 1000 runners looking for that elusive PB. Hence this year a small party of 9 STARCERS made the journey up to north Devon to see if it could live up to its reputation.

The weather on the drive up was fine but as the start time approached it turned wet and a little colder. We stripped off to our vests and shorts and went for the warm up in the rain. Local knowledge meant we were able to use the town toilets and avoid the queues at the start for the portaloos. It seemed like good running conditions and we were in good spirits. The start is a bit tight as the field is led over the timing mat but provided you are not too far back it soon eases off enabling you to get into your stride. Whilst the course is fast it does have some characteristics that need to be taken into account. The first 7 miles runs up on the road alongside the river Torridge and includes a few climbs and descents, nothing like the Cornish hills but it isn't flat. Stuart was off like a rocket and out of sight before we got out of the town. We were accompanied at the start by the local pipe band which drove Steve Reid, Jess, Emma and me at a brisk pace of 6:50 for the first couple of miles. When the route started to climb I trailed off a little whilst the rest continued on out into the Countryside. I noticed a few of the "TARMUD CREW" toiling up the road looking forlornly for a bit of mud to splash through, longing to get onto the trail.

Eventually the turn is reached where the route joins the Tarka Trail and it is flat downhill all the way back into Bideford. However, whilst it is good news there are no more climbs, it also means there are no more excuses, this is a fast course and there is no respite from here - it is a case of getting onto the pace and driving on through the attractive scenery as the trail crosses and re-crosses the Torridge. The 10 mile mark is in the middle of a tunnel and can easily be missed unless you are aware of it. In the past this tunnel has caused some confusion about the course, as Garmins lose the satellite signal in the tunnel and depending upon how they are set they can give erroneous readings. It was at this point that I made contact again with Emma, Jess and Steve. I thought they had misjudged the pace and were not pushing as hard as they should have been on this fast part of the course so I decided to go straight past them to give them a jolt forward. It worked to an extent but both Emma and Jess were slightly down on speed due to a hard reps session on Friday night with Lesley. I pushed on to the 12 mile mark with Jess was right behind me. I was about spent by this time and encouraged Jess as she came past. The last mile is a real "hang in there" experience - it is flat over the bridge and alongside the river to the finish but it seems like two miles.

First STARCER I met was Stuart grinning from ear to ear with a new PB of 1:17:38 finishing in 11th position. A great run showing the improvements in form that Stuart has made this year. Jess was 1:32:35 a new PB for Jess and just beating Kayleigh's previous club record by 10 seconds. Emma PB'd and set a new Club female 45 record of 1:33:43. My time of 1:33:00 set a new M65 record. Steve Reid was next in and had struggled with the last few miles due to expending too much effort in the first half of the race. Chris Phillips was happy with 1:41:50 for his first half marathon and he had tackled it well by being economical in the first half and then pushing on for the second. Steve Covus was next in 1:54:08 and the final STARCERS home were Deb Watts and Clive Gibbs 2:17:52.

A good day out and with plenty of PB's and club records, the event lived up to its name again. As for the "TARMUD CREW" they were last seen heading off to play in the estuary mud.