A year has passed already since I last ran the Love Luton Half Marathon. On 30th October 2016, it was time to do it all again! The run up to this race, no pun intended, has gone really well. With a stream of Half Marathons undertaken in the last few months, and my performance improving for each one, it was looking good for me getting a good run from this race, this time around.
Running in the UK this last year has been a much hillier affair, and that alone has helped leading up to this day. As we all know by now, I am not one for hill training, or speed work for that matter, and the Love Luton half is one of the hiller races. You could say, I was a little more prepared this time.
Bib and chip collection was on the day again, same as last year. Good communication had been sent through, either via emails, or via the Facebook group. You just had to remember your bib number, as that was how the queue for collection was divided. I have been slacking with my training runs recently, I did a 3 miler on Wednesday, and then the usual Parkrun, on Saturday, the day before the race. I was glad to have done the Parkrun, as I have had a lingering cough, and didn’t know if it was going to turn into a cold or not. Although I did have to walk a couple of times, my overall pace was still ok and I didn’t feel weak. It was a good shake out run to get my legs moving.
I was up before the alarm went off. The clocks went back an hour, I should have had an extra hour of sleep but my body woke we up, and refused to let me go back to sleep. I didn’t get up straight away though, I surfed the net a little, checked the weather, and this and that. I then got up and got ready. Breakfast was 2 slices of buttered toast, along with a black coffee and honey, which I took along with me for the ride.
I decided on a long sleeve shirt, as it looked liked it would be a chilly start. It was to be 9°C and would not get much higher. It was also very foggy. Which I hoped would clear by the start of the race, as the Luton Hoo grounds are beautiful to run through, and it would be a shame not to be able to see them fully.
At 7:45am, I jumped in the car, also grabbing a banana on the way, and headed off to the race HQ. It was just a 15 minute drive away and I didn’t want to be standing around for too long in the cold. I arrived at just after 8:00am. There should have been ample parking at the time I got there, but some people just don’t know how to park, or are totally inconsiderate, when there are no lines marking out the spaces. Driving in to the first car park, there were huge gaps between cars. Not enough space to fit even my tiny car. But if you added up the spaces, there was at least 2-3 more cars that could have parked there. Not good!
By the time I exited the first car park there was a huge line up of cars for the parking spaces closer to the Athletics ground. By the time I reached the entrance they were turning us away 🙁 I then decided to drive to the car park I passed earlier which was further out, hoping that would still be empty, but as I exited the grounds I spotted a space on the street across the way! Perfect timing.
It was 8:20am by the time I was able to get out of my car and could go pick up my bib and timing chip. Phew! I collected them with no issue and stood around pinning my bib to my top and looping the chip in my laces. There was a sea of colour, of people in their running club tops. Mostly red for the Stopsley Striders and burgundy for the Dunstable Runners. I am starting to feel jealous by still not being a member of a running club… next years goals! 🙂
This year I didn’t feel as lonely as last year. There were so many faces I recognised who I have met and got to know over the year – either from parkrun or from all the races I have attended. It was nice to feel that I fit in. Runners are a friendly bunch 🙂 I love that I am part of this wider team. The only time I felt left out was when they all went to take their team photos.
Before we knew it, it was time to line up at the start. There was around 850 runners who registered this year, so no separate corrals. You just needed to go stand by your expected finish time. I went to the 2.30+ spot. Last year I completed in 2:37 and though I’ve improved some, I didn’t think I would get under 2hrs 30mins in such a hilly course. It was a foggy foggy day!
The start was a lap of the athletics track and then out into Stockwood Park. Just as I remembered it, but a much foggier version. I was hoping that the fog would have cleared up by the time we got to Luton Hoo, may be burned away by the sun a little. But that was not to be the case. It was still cool, but that was good for running. We entered the Hoo to cheering marshals. This year they didn’t have the scouts and sea cadets on hand. Running through the grounds was still beautiful but lacked the whole effect of seeing the landscape especially the lake, in the distance.
A bonus of the fog, though, was that you couldn’t see the hills that you were about to climb, or descend, so it felt less of an impact. We still had to run them, but for some reason it was not as noticeable as last year. This could also mean I am better at hills this year 😉 or the slight variation on the route around the park made it easier to deal with. But comparing my elevation maps for both races, we did run the same hills with the same amount of elevation.
After leaving Luton Hoo, the rest of the course was on residential streets around Luton. Running through the town centre and passing the finish line. I was surprised to hear my sister shout my name. She had arrived a little earlier than I had expected her to. Unknowingly, she would still have to wait for another hour for me! It was a great boost for me though. After running passed the finish line, seeing others actually finishing – already – I felt really good in myself. At this point, around 14-15 km, last year I was nearly dead on my feet. I ran through as there were so many people cheering, but as soon as I could, I stopped to walk. Even looking at my pace I can see I was over 20 seconds faster at this point. I was feeling so proud of my self. I just kept plodding on.
The next bit of the course up along Old Bedford Road. I could see a group of cheering spectators. As I drew near I recognised some of them, as fellow ParkRunners. They recognised me too and started cheering my name. It’s so lovely being cheered on by name, but when it’s also by people you know it so much more of a boost. I had this lovely feeling most of the way round. The route goes round to New Bedford Road and then in to Wardown Park, which is where our Parkrun is held. One of the ladies came over from the earlier group, to cheer me on a second time. How lovely! 🙂 I also saw another couple of people I knew in the park too. It was definitely a Love Luton Half Marathon for me this year! 🙂
Coming out of the park was the last stretch to the finish. I could tell that I did better this time, as there were still a lot of people waiting at the finish. I did my classic speed up at the end, but if I was checking my times properly I would have not walked that little bit after I came from the park. 🙂
|Distance||Splits 2016||Splits 2015|
|1-5 km||6:34 6:31 5:57 6:44 8:37||34:24||6:45 6:55 6:18 7:00 9:19||36:17|
|6-10 km||7:34 6:26 8:22 8:25 7:15||38:02||7:51 7:20 6:43 7:55 8:30||38:19|
|11-15 km||6:27 7:27 6:54 6:51 7:55||35:34||6:19 7:35 7:24 7:17 8:18||36:13|
|16-20 km||7:41 7:05 7:02 7:10 7:09||36.07||7:27 7:25 7:34 7:48 7:53||37:27|
|The Finish||7:11 0:39||07:50||7:38 0:37||08:51|
The comparison table above shows that each 5 km split I performed much better than last years Love Luton Half Marathon. The 2nd 5km was my slowest, both years. You can tell that’s where the hills were!!! I love my Garmin for that, collecting and reviewing the stats is quite satisfying. I felt the improvement in me during the run, and the stats just act as a back up. I can only hope I start to feel this good when doing the full marathon, but I don’t do that many of them, so that will take a while.
My official time came in at 02:31:55, that’s just under 5 minutes faster on last year, so a course PB. It’s only 2 minutes slower than my PB. I am very happy with my results and pleased with the purple medal and goody bag too. I will definitely do this race again next year 🙂
The Love Luton Half Marathon has become my favourite race! Have you found your favourite? Tell me in the comments 🙂
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