Back in May, just a few days after completing the Brathay Windermere Half Marathon, I asked the good folks of #UKrunchat to recommend a half marathon in the autumn that I could run with my mum that was on road, scenic and flat. Several were recommended to me and my mum chose the Barns Green Half Marathon.
What we didn’t realise until the evening before the race is that it’s not exactly flat. In fact, I’m not sure I will trust those good folks at #UKrunchat again when I ask for flat races!Barns Green Half Marathon Race Review. Small, scenic and a bit hilly! Click To Tweet
As the Barns Green Half Marathon is in Sussex and a bit far for me to drive to on the day of the race I spent the night at my mum’s with the idea that we’d have a relaxing evening. However, she was a bit nervous about the race as her training hadn’t gone to plan so she thought she’d read some reviews to get some tips. It was then that she said to me ‘I don’t think it’s a flat race’. Still, we reasoned, it won’t be as hilly as the Lake District.
All week the weather forecast was for rain on the morning of the race but thankfully all the rain happened overnight and we were just left with a bit of a dull and grey morning. It was a slightly earlier start for us as we had to travel down from London and we had been given conflicting details on what time we had to arrive in order to avoid the road closures. An email confirmation had said 8.15am but our race pack letter said 9.15am. Neither me nor my mum like being late but as the website confirmed road closures started at 9.30am we opted to aim to arrive at 8.30am, not too late, not too early.
The signs to the car park were very clear and once parked we had plenty of time to use the portaloos (less than a 5 minute queue) and have a look around the race ‘village’. We were also in time to see the fancy dress competition. Cash prizes are awarded to the best fancy dress costume but at the time of the judging only three people had turned up! I’m not sure who won as the judging happens before the race but the announcement is afterwards, which I suppose is to take account of any costume malfunctions on the way.
I think I would have picked the woman in the Star Wars costume as it had no arm holes and I can’t imagine how she managed to complete the course in a paper mache ball.
There was a mass warm up with music and an instructor if you wanted to join or you could use the adjacent field to do your own warm up. We did a bit of both and before we knew it it was time to get to the start line.
As our goal for this race was just to finish it we went straight to the back. However, if we did have a time in mind there were pacers up to 2 hours 15 minutes, which was great as you don’t often get pacers at the smaller races. We weren’t waiting too long before the count down began and we crossed the start line.
The route is a figure of 8 course and I really think is is a race of two halves. The first 6 miles were on flatter roads, running through hamlets and alongside fields. Mile 3 took us through Christ’s Hospital school which was very beautiful and very flat. The school band were supposed to play us through the grounds but unfortunately the band were away! Just outside the school we encountered our first hill which was up a gravel road and not very steep.
The route snakes back to the race village and then you are on to the second half, which was something of a shock! We had been warned that the last 4 miles were ‘fun’, ‘interesting’ and ‘a challenge’ but even leading up to these last 4 miles was quite ‘interesting’. This second half of the race became very hilly, very quickly. It wasn’t really the steepness of the hills as I don’t think they were that steep. We had certainly ran up steeper hills at Brathay. It was really the relentlessness of them. They just carried on for what seemed like miles. Just a gradual, steady incline with no corresponding decline. The best bit about hills is the downhill part and there just didn’t seem to be any of them!
Needless to say we slowed down a lot in the second half. But it did mean we chatted to more people as we went and everyone was very friendly, even if it was just to swear at the hills together!
The final mile or so was quite hard. We were very close to our Brathay time of 2:25:52 and I tried to get my mum to run a little faster, but the hills had really sapped her energy so there was no sprint finish for us! However, we weren’t that far off with a finish time of 2:26:02. My mum was still pleased with the time as she had missed a few weeks of training due to an injury and her longest run leading up to the race had only been 10 miles. She now knows that with better training (and no injuries!) she will be easily be able to get a quicker time and she is already planning her 2017 races!
What I really liked about the Barns Green Half Marathon was the support and the bands along the route. There were four bands in total but because of the figure of 8 route you passed two of the bands a couple of times. All the bands were great but especially the band and support around mile 8. They were playing Outkast’s Hey Ya! and were surrounded by supporters from St Catherine’s Hospice who were whooping, shouting and banging clappers as we went past. For about 400m we suddenly sped up as we ran through this happy wall of sound.
I would really recommend this race. It has a great community vibe, all the profits go to local charities and is very well organised.