Another week, another race: Dartford half marathon 2016 race review

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Another week, another race. Anyone would think I was marathon training… After last week’s 20 miler I was looking forward to ‘only’ doing 13.1 miles, although my knee was still playing up. Aware that this was a pretty hilly course, my plan was to keep things steady, relax and get round stress-free.

COST

£23 affiliated, £25 unaffiliated, £27 on the day.

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PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

I did nearly get lost on the way – the website simply said that race HQ was a 10 minute walk from the station, which was fine if I had a clue in which direction! Eventually found the way via the tried and tested ‘follow someone in running gear who looks like they know where they’re going’ method. Picking up numbers for those who’d booked in advance was fairly straightforward, although there did look to be quite a crowd inside where on the day entries were being taken. Baggage drop was also a simple, no-fuss affair.

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TOILETS

At 9am I went to the toilet queue, only to find it was pretty massive. Another runner tipped me off that the park toilets a couple of minutes away had a significantly shorter queue, so I headed there instead. Even at a fraction of the size the queue was still pretty lengthy though, so by the time I’d got out I found myself legging it to drop my bag off in time for the 9.30am start.

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THE RACE

It’s no secret that the race isn’t exactly flat, so I was well prepared for a tough race. But the first couple of miles were surprisingly flat, leaving me wondering if it perhaps wasn’t actually that bad after all. Ha. There was soon a hill to put me right on that one.

After mile 2 the slightly dull streets had given way to beautiful countryside and I was feeling pretty happy. After one hill, things were quite gentle and by mile 6 I was actually getting into a decent rhythm. Then I turned left to be confronted with a large hill. I may have uttered an expletive at this point. I ran the whole way, but incredibly slowly. By this point I was starting to regret wearing long sleeves and leggings, as the sun was now shining and I was getting rather hot. Then I was overtaken by a man in a wolf costume and I suddenly felt I had no right to complain!

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Another couple of pleasant downhill miles followed and I was getting back into things again, but crossing a bridge to get over the main road did end up with a bit of knee pain, and I knew the infamous mile 10 hill was still coming. Mile 9 was a slightly dull affair as we ran by the road, while I was constantly on the look out for the hill. When it came it was hard to miss. As a rule I always try and keep running up hills, however slowly, but soon realise in this case it was futile. Running so slowly I was barely going forwards, I eventually gave in and walked the rest of the long, steep hill.

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Knowing the worst was behind me and it was all downhill, I tried to up the pace but found mile 12 seemed to go on forever. A burst of speed on the athletics track was more to avoid a personal worst than anything else!

After trudging back to the train station I realised my fairly slow time wasn’t actually that bad; it was still faster than my target marathon race pace and I was feeling fine. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to go for a slightly faster time…

BLING

I’ll be honest, it was the bling that originally tempted me into doing this race. It certainly didn’t disappoint; it looks cool and it’s fairly hefty too. A really nice souvenir for the run’s 40th anniversary.

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OVERALL VERDICT

Challenging course, but the pleasant views and excellent race bling made it all worthwhile! Great marshals and some lovely support on the route too.

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Next week: Back to city for the North London half!

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