Not For the Faint-Hearted – Hadrian’s Wall Half-Marathon 2017

Race Report by Jasmine Hazlehurst, June 2017

When I entered The Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon I didn’t believe that I could do it. I thought it would be beautiful, interesting, challenging and if nothing else an enjoyable day out. The big day arrived and as we drove to the start on the top of a very steep hill my stomach began to knot. I was terrified! What had I let myself in for? Things did not get better as I got out of the car to find the sunshine of Newcastle had turned into an icy whipping of northern winds. Super fit looking fell runners were carrying out Monty Pythonesque walks and forward lunges. As I walked past the cars to get an unobstructed photograph of the view I overheard a gentleman saying to his friend “Oh my running is so much better since I had my heart attack. The stent has really helped improve my running!” Yep, I had stumbled into the fertile land of the zealous, ardent and crazy. My not so internal monologue was yelling “Prosecco why did I listen to you? I am so out of my depth. Get me out of here!”

The race started and after a few metres my left lace came undone. I stopped to sort it. I ran a few more metres and the other came undone. Last before I even got started. The super fit became dots on the horizon and the slower runners seemed to get further ahead. I stopped trying to run at their pace and settled into my own stride. I felt calmer. The cold winds had calmed as soon as we left the hill top and was replaced by a pleasant gentle breeze with intermittent bursts of sunshine. Soon enough I turned off and were running along the fells. I recalled advice from fellow runners. “Think of this as three separate races. A road race, a fell race and a forest trail”. One runner was already turning back. An old injury maybe? He wished me luck as I passed and I carried on. The views were amazing. At one point a tail runner called out to me to point out the famous Sycamore Gap on the opposite hills. I stopped to admire the view then continued on my way negotiating tussocks, contemplating sheep and melodramatically wondering if the ram I had spotted was of the psychopathic rambler killing ilk that I had read about? Not today it seemed. I ran some more crossing some styles that resembled sturdy looking ladders. Much more civilised than the barbed wire, electric fence ensconced styles I have encountered in the Lake District. I was beginning to enjoy myself. I could only see one other runner running several minutes ahead of me. I spent the next three miles catching her up. I passed another marshal point and saw runner wrapped in a foil blanket. Injured. As I ran down the hill followed by the two tail runners they told me that this year the course was dry so we would be fine but on previous years this section gets very boggy and runners lose their shoes.

We approached the second water stop and the female tail runner from the Tyne Bridge Harriers took my water bottle and sachet of Isogel and ran ahead to fill my bottle for me. How is that for service! We entered the woodland trail which felt great. It marked the beginning of the third and longest race. Once I finished this section I would only have a mile or two of road running before the end. I felt happy. I began to notice wild orchids on the road sides. One of the tail runners warned me that at mile 8 her partner would be waiting with a large sign that often provoked swear words and uncouth comments from passing runners. When I approached it the sign made me smile. It said “This is not the end. Keep going!”

From the point that I entered the forest trail the Mountain Rescue Team and The Water Station Marshals waited for me with offers of water. They waited for me to pass then over took me and drove off ahead in their two Land Rovers to wait at the next mile marker. It became a friendly toggle and a beacon of hope knowing that once I reached them I had not only checked off another mile but had a refill of water if I needed it OR a lift back to the finish line. At mile 12 the water marshal held the mile marker whilst jumping up and down to encourage me. It was great. The tail marshals encouraged me saying that this is the quickest they have completed this run in the past three years of tail running. As I neared the top of the final hill three fellow Frontrunners ran back towards me and accompanied me towards the finish line. I also had an entourage of Frontrunners, two tail runners cross the line with me, a mountain rescue man on his bike and the water marshal congratulate me on my efforts. This really has been my favourite race to date. It was well organised, friendly, supportive and scenic but also came with an immense feeling of accomplishment knowing that all of the runners that took part have achieved something very special.   I came last but am so happy to have finished having ran the whole thing that I really don’t care. I would happily run this race again and recommend it to other runners. If I could say anything to encourage others run a race like this it would be that you don’t know what you can do until you try, and don’t forget to enjoy it!