In short: Brilliant addition to the South West's Half Marathon calendar. In full: I ran in the Great West Run a couple of years ago and always assumed that this (a May event) was the "Exeter Half Marathon" by another name. Well, those chaps at Ironbridge Runners have proved me wrong - imagine my surprise to find this race coming over the horizon with a February calendar date. I hurriedly put in an entry and was numbered 280 out of 300 runners. Quite a small field, but I guessed they were just trying the event out and didn't want to make life too difficult. So, what was it like?
Race instructions and runner numbers were sent out in good time (even though the website said that numbers would be collected at registration on the day!). I knew the area because I had taken part in one of the "First Chance" 10k races on pretty much the same course a couple of years earlier. It was a fast and flat loop on a combinaiton of paving, tarmac and well-packed gravel, on routes that are popular walking/jogging/cycling terrain between the River Exe and the old Ship Canal. The HM would cover three laps - I think this route choice was the other reason for a cap on numbers, as there would undoubtedly be quite a lot of lapping going on and the route was still shared with other path users. I arrived in Exeter at about 8.00am and was able to find roadside parking 50 metres from the start. There were also several pay and displays in the vicinity, so the location shouldn't have been a problem for anyone.
There was no need to register, but I wandered over to the race HQ where they were offering heated air which was warmer than outside, where the temperature was still just creeping up towards freezing. It looked as if hot drinks were being brewed up, but I didn't stay, instead crossing back over the river to the start area. 9.30am arrived and off we went. The course lived up to expectations and was very good to run on. We had to keep one eye open for cyclists, as there were one or two out training on the drops, but most walkers and cyclists were considerately keeping to one side. There was a slight tailwind heading down from the Quay to the bottom of the course and my miles were about 5 to 10 seconds slower heading back up towards the start/finish on each lap, but it really was a very nice day to be out racing. There was one cleverly-positioned drinks station which served as six drinks points and which was manned by cheerful and friendly volunteers. Thanks to them and to all the marshals on the course - a good job done by all!
I really enjoyed this run and managed to average 7:15 minute miles throughout. Having started about two-thirds of the way back in the field, I was fortunate to have one of those days where I was steadily passing other runners on all three laps, which is always a nice feeling. I finished in 1:34, which I was very pleased with, and stopped to watch other runners coming in. The location for the finish was great. Not only was it 50 metres from my car (!), but there were several coffee shops and cafes right there, so stocking up after the run with refreshments was very straightforward. Good timing system and results were out promptly. Good photo service too. I was ever so slightly disappointed with the lack of either a medal or a T-shirt, as I am still new enough to all this to appreciate taking one or the other away as a souvenir. There was a goodie bag, though, which was appreciated.
Overall, as you will have seen from my summary line above, this was a race that I really enjoyed. I hope very much that it becomes a permanent fixture in the calendar. Thanks, Ironbridge Runners! Date of review: February 18, 2012