Hot on the heels of the Leeds Half Marathon, Simon tells us more…
Some had it booked for over a year (on the back of last year), some only signed up this week, some entered for their first half marathon challenge and one even had it bought as a Christmas present by fellow Pumas!
To start the day, there were some rain showers so there were a few bin liner fashion statements out from the early birds but the sun soon came out and it turned into a lovely sunny and hot day. We travelled over to Leeds in a few cars – Gabriella, Paula and Carine in one and Andrea, Tiff, Andrew and me with Andrea’s Simon in another. Simon (Warrington) had the most important (and maybe hardest?) job of the day – getting us to Leeds safely (parking in the secret underground car park), taking the official publicity photos, holding the hoodies, seeing us all out and then checking us all back in again plus the most challenging chore, inspecting the local Leeds hostelries for some breakfast and a coffee.
We all congregated outside the Town Hall for the obligatory toilets and Pumas photo shoot before making our way to the starting areas. We all separated into our respective colours and then after a quick sneaky dive under some rope, moved into the same pen for the start.
Carine ‘I can go out partying the night before my first half marathon’ set the pace off at the start and a brisk one it was too! I tried to keep up with her and we stormed out of Leeds city centre (clearly running away from the assembled crowds basking in the sun) before approaching Meanwood Road. Knowing Leeds from a previous life (and with warnings before we started from the announcer to take it steady) we embraced ourselves for the ascent. Ironically, Ascension (sung by Holly Johnson) came on my phone at that point. We were joined by Paula and Gabriella (#sistersledge) and Andrea ‘I can’t run this far’ and after exchanging frivolities saved our energy for the hill. ‘If you’re talking, you’re not running hard enough’ as Coach Canning says (yes Tracey!)
Once up Meanwood Road and the dog leg corner (part of my patch when I looked after a section of the route and a number of marshals in the earlier referred to previous life), we kept ascending up Stonegate Road to meet the ring road. As we approached the top of Stonegate Road and the roundabout, it reminded me of scenes from the recent Tour de Yorkshire as crowds lined both sides of the road, several people deep, angling themselves off the pavement to get a view of the top of the climb as we peaked the hill.
The quiet couple of miles on the ring road eventually passed by and we were soon seeing spectators and hearing the familiar sound of cheering again. Once in the leafy suburbs of West Park we were met by oranges galore and more jelly babies by the bucket load!
As we went round the route we passed partner charities and their volunteers and running clubs with their branded gazebos and flags all keeping us going.
We soon dropped on to Abbey Road (the top of Kirkstall Road) and for those of you familiar with the Abbey Dash route, then joined the familiar trek back to the city centre for the last and probably most gruelling four miles. As we ended the end of Kirkstall Road the feared slip road towards the Headrow became a reality before turning towards the finishing straight.
Those who’d run this race before warned me that the finish wasn’t where the start was (as is often the case) and the start gantry had now been rebranded to say ‘almost there’. Not a good sight when you’re so close but also so far, but I was glad someone had warned me where the finish actually was! I turned the corner and attempted a sprint finish (not much happened) only to be overtaken by a very speedy sprint finisher. Even though my trusty Strava app has been chatting away in my ears all the way around and knowing, I spotted the (gun time) clock approaching 2hrs (it was 1:59:50) and so bust my fat gut to get in just under it (think it was 1:59:59!) to be met by a smiley #firstpumahome Gabriella and pocket rocket Paula. Andrea soon appeared while we were collecting our medals, goody bags and non-alcoholic beer (but it tasted pretty good after 13 miles) and then we spotted half marathon first timer Carine. We congregated with our Puma support crew (Junior Pumas Jude and Orlagh and Mark Kirkby) along with friends and families before Tiff and Andrew soon joined us.
Throughout the route, the Leeds crowds were fantastic. We were fortunate that the weather brought people out – from people who took their morning coffee and a chair and sat outside their house to the spectators that had bowls of jelly babies (I could have eaten my weight in jelly babies that morning – yes that’s how many there were!), hose pipes to keep the runners refreshed and even orange segments (a new sight for me!).
There was plenty of encouragement, cheering and clapping as we trucked around including plenty of opportunities for high fives (Andrea tried to do most of these!). Here’s to the next one (and yes, there is already talk of signing up again!) and thanks to the wonderful Puma family who kept everyone going in training and on the day!
Scores on the Doors
Full times below:
Gabriella Kenny 1:54:56
Paula Snee 1:55:53
Simon Wilkinson 1:56:45
Andrea Warrington 1:58:47
Carine Baker 1:59:55*
Tiffany Lewis 2:11:10*
Andrew Mellor 2:19:18*
Paul Pickering 2:20:03
Alison Shooter 2:22:34
*denotes first half marathon