On Sunday 22 May 2016 the inaugral Brathay Windermere half marathon took place and I ran it with my mum. For the last ten years the Brathay Trust have organised a marathon around Lake Windermere and this year they decided to add a half marathon. So what did I think?
Well if you want to run a very well organised race, in a beautiful area, which raises money for a good cause and has a community feel you should think about running Brathay.Why you should run the @BrathayRunning half. A beautiful race raising money for a good cause Click To Tweet
Although it was the first year of the Brathay Windermere half marathon, it is part of a larger, established race. The Brathay Trust have held a marathon each year for the last decade and also an event leading up to the marathon called the 10 in 10, that is 10 marathons in 10 days following the same route around Lake Windermere. So they know how to organise things!
The registration desk was open from the Friday before the half marathon which meant collecting our race number really easy. At registration we were also given our goody bag which contained Kendal mint cake, a bottle of beer, local tea and coffee, foot cream and an energy gel. There was also freshly made gingerbread biscuits available if you fancied some. I didn’t ask if it was vegan so didn’t have any.
The weather leading up to the race wasn’t great and the Sunday was supposed to be cool and overcast. However, we woke up to blue skies and sunshine and it stayed that way for the whole of the race.
We had booked our car parking at the same time we booked our race place. I’d really recommend doing this, it costs £5 and as many of the roads around Brathay are closed for the race you will have to walk a fair way if you end up parking in nearby Ambleside.
Due to the road closures we decided to get there early and ended up arriving at around 9.20. This gave us plenty of time to look at the stalls, join the queue for the toilet and see the procession for the start of the marathon. As soon as the marathon runners left we warmed up and got ready for our race.
The race briefing happened at the finish line and a few minutes afterwards the local drum group started and lead us down a hill to the start line. Notice I said down the hill. That meant around a 200m sharp uphill end to the race, something which I kept to myself as I didn’t want to scare my mum before we had even started!
We gathered at the start line, keeping to the back of the group and once the gun started off we went. Before the race me and my mum had talked strategy. This was her first half marathon so we were running to finish rather than for a time. Given that, we decided trying to keep under 11 minutes per mile would be a good idea. It would challenge us but keep the race comfortable. We also decided to run the hills until we felt that walking would be quicker.
Of course, we started a bit quicker than that and I had to get my mum to hold back a bit as I was worried we wouldn’t last the course! Once we got through the first mile we settled into a good pace.
The route is beautiful. It’s an out and back route that skirts Lake Windermere, goes through Hawkshead and up to Esthwaite Water before turning around to go back. Most of the route is on closed roads with a short section through Hawkshead where only half the road is blocked to traffic. This made the race feel even more rural and quiet, which was nice.
Although it is a very beautiful route the stand out thing wasn’t a view but a smell. The route was lined with wild garlic in full blossom. It wasn’t so noticeable in the shade but once you got in the sunshine all you could smell was garlic! It wasn’t unpleasant (I like garlic anyway), just unexpected. I had never seen or smelt wild garlic before this trip so I know whenever I see it again I will always think of this run.
The route is also ‘undulating’. Now, considering this was my mum’s first half marathon I’m not sure how ‘let’s pick a flat half’ turned into us running the Brathay Windermere half. There was maybe half a mile to a mile of flat road, the rest was hills. Having said that I think undulating, rather than hilly, is a fair description. There were only one or two long hills, most of the route was just constant up and down shorter hills and inclines.
As I had only started running again after my injury 6 weeks before the half marthon I wasn’t sure how I would get on and before we reached the half way point I really started to feel my lack of training. My foot wasn’t causing me a problem but the hills were! I had really lost my hill legs! My mum, however, was steaming ahead and a few times I walked the uphills and then caught her up on the down. Around 10 miles in I think the heat and the hills finally got to both of us and we started to walk more of the uphills than we had on the way out.
As we neared the finish I remembered that hill we had walked down but my mum hadn’t so she wasn’t best pleased when we turned the corner into the road to the Trust and saw the hill. I always think it is rather mean to put a hill right at the end! However, we managed to make it and finished with a strong sprint across the finish line. There were plenty of people cheering us on and we managed to cross the line in 2:25:52.
Afterwards we had a well deserved shandy and sat in the sun for a bit and cheered the marathoners and half marathoners across the line.
I would really recommend this race. It is a beautiful area and has a fantastic atmosphere.