On Sunday 15th October 2017 I ran the Great West Run, a half marathon through the streets of Exeter. I had a great time and managed to achieve a new personal best of 1:52:59 so while I am still reeling over this achievement I thought I’d write a quick review!
Registration & pre-race organisation
I signed up to the Great West Run in August when it cost the full price of £36 (early bird prices are already available for 2018) and I received a lot of information in the run up to the event. Thankfully, I didn’t need a shuttle bus ticket but those were also available to take you from the city centre to Exeter Arena. I think all races are expensive but I think this might be one of the cheaper half marathon options (please tell me if you know of cheaper races in the South West!). I received my bib number about a week or two before the race so everything was under control and I was feeling prepared!
See for yourself! Symbolised according to elevation, this map shows the low-lying roads close to the River Exe in pale yellow and higher ground (university climb) in dark purple. Click on the mile markers to find out more.
The route was different this year than last and having chatted to friends that have also ran in both 2016 and 2017, I have heard mixed opinions. As you can see from the map above, the race starts and finishes in Exeter Arena, home of Exeter Harriers, where Jo Pavey started her running career. With speedy flat roads through the city centre, challenging uphills and a testing out and back section, I think the Great West Run really does have it all. There are plenty of supporters there to cheer you on but with the start/end being out of the city centre, you might need a bike if you want to cheer at multiple points. I enjoyed ending on a downhill and the out & back section wasn’t as bad as I anticipated as I could watch those right at the front speeding past me on the other side of the road. You also finish by doing a lap of the track so you can feel like the professional athlete that you truly are!
Now to the good stuff. On finishing the race you are awarded a medal, t-shirt and a goodie bag. The t-shirt this year was white with purple writing, definitely one of my new favourites and the medal is now proudly hanging up in my bedroom. I have to say the goodie bad was disappointing in comparison to other races I have done. It contained a Clif bar (I did not actually pick one of these up but I am sure it would be lovely), a bag of popcorn (which I also did not pickup because the flavours sounded terrible) and an ginger flavour energy drink (which tasted strange but also healthy).
Will I run the Great West Run again?
Yes I will, mainly because this race is on my doorstep but also because it gives you a challenge without being an absolute killer. I wouldn’t say a PB is always guaranteed because of the hills but it definitely provides an interesting route. Exeter is a city with a small town vibe so if you are looking for a friendly place for your next race then it’s for you.
If you ran the GWR last weekend let me know how you got on and what you thought of the race!
It’s currently a pre-race day for me but my thoughts in the lead up to the Great West Run have been slightly overshadowed by my recent Edinburgh marathon registration. So before I put a pasta bake in the oven and lay out my kit for that all important Instagram, I thought I would share my reasons for choosing to a run a marathon. I should say that I might change my mind about these in the future as I haven’t even ran a marathon yet so how should I know how good it will feel or what would make other people also run one? I guess these reasons can be applied to any race distance and for running in general. Have a read & let me know what you think!
To achieve a goal. I have already ran a few half marathons and I have got to the stage where I can run past the 13.1 mark in a training run so I think it’s time to up my game! I love that feeling when you have ran further than ever before and suddenly feel invincible. Then you push hard for the last mile, pain hits and you start to question everything again! Seriously though, that sense of achievement is a fantastic feeling and you’ll not only get that when crossing the finish line of a race but with each long run that you do.
To get fit/be healthier. I think running is one of the best ways to stay in shape and running a marathon is going to make you think more about your body and what it is capable of. I feel quite fit as it is due to recent half marathon training but I know full marathon training will make me think more about what I’m eating and the different types of running sessions that I am doing.
Travelling / visiting a place you love. I’m happy that the race I am doing tomorrow is within walking distance from my flat but sometimes the adventure of travelling to a race makes the whole experience even more exciting. I have chosen to run the Edinburgh marathon because I went to uni in Scotland and have a lot of family & friends living there so it is a place very close to my heart. I have ran the Edinburgh half 3 times and loved every second of it (apart from in 2015: post-dissertation meant very little training and a lot of toilet stops – maybe more on that in another post?) so I know going back for the full thing will be fantastic. I also didn’t get into London but hey, what can you do?
To raise money for charity. I absolutely love running a race and reading the names of charities and the special messages people have written on their t-shirts. I raised money for Helping Hands – the charity to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 2014 and the support I received was wonderful. Recently, at the Great North Run, a friend ran for Sue Ryder and we arranged to meet in their tent afterwards. They gave me such a warm welcome despite having not ran for them myself and I thought how great it must be to be in the community of people running for the same charity. You can motivate each other and celebrate together.
Making new friends / joining a group. I am lucky to be part of 2 great running groups in Exeter and the combination of long runs, sprints and hill sessions make it easier to get training in during the week – especially in winter when it’s raining and all you want is a glass of wine in front of the TV. I am hoping that marathon training will make me more committed to the club sessions and really value what we are doing. Of course, as time goes on and I chat to more people who have actually ran marathons I hope to make more friends who I can ask questions to and find out what it’s really like.