Silverstone Half Marathon: Up the Hanger Straight on foot

By Scott McCarthy

CalendarMonday, March 16th, 2009

 
 

Silverstone played host to a different sort of racing line-up on Sunday as more than 8000 runners pounded around the historic circuit. Brits on Pole contributor Scott McCarthy was among them – and he did rather well…

It’s race day again at Silverstone – except this time, while I sit in traffic on the A43, I’m not contemplating where to stand to get the best view of the action, or which overpriced burger van to use.

Today is the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon, and I’m one of the 8000 runners taking part.

Scott McCarthy at the end of the Adidas Silverstone half marathon

Scott McCarthy at the end of the Adidas Silverstone half marathon

I’ve only been into running for the past year, and when I heard about the half-marathon at Silverstone I signed up straight away. The chance to run around the F1 track was too good a chance to pass up, so here I am!

Upon arrival, you quickly get an idea of the scale of the event. Thousands of runners going through their pre-race stretches and the like, surrounded by the usual army of burger vendors who seem surprised that no-one seems to want an overpriced quarter pounder and cheese just before they set off.

After walking through the area behind the main grandstand, it’s over the start-line bridge that leads to what would usually be the paddock area. Sadly the hospitality tents have been replaced with a Lucozade sport tent, and an Adidas stand. However, after this, you get directed down past the end of the garages, and onto the track.

I have to admit, I started getting a little over-excited at this point, but then who wouldn’t? I’m walking down the grid at Silverstone.

Over the grid positions, past the thin chequered paint on the start / finish line, then down towards the end of the straight where our start is just before the bridge. Today it’s adorned with Adidas colours – I think it had Santander blazed over it in July.

Now, for those of you who like your stats, the F1 circuit at Silverstone is only 3.2 miles, so in order to get up to the 13.1 miles needed for a half marathon some looping and doubling-back is needed.

You start by doing a lap of the main F1 circuit, and at the end of this you come into the pits. Sadly no one was waiting to change my trainers in under six seconds, although probably just as well. I’d hate to pull into the Ferrari garage by mistake, get hit by a mix-up with the lights, and end up running away with the bottle of Lucozade Sport still attached!

After this, you run the length of the pit lane and then turn right to run around the infield section, before ending up running over the bridge at “Bridge”. You then follow the perimeter road anti-clockwise right the way around to the circuit entrance behind the grid. Here you snake through the grandstands back onto the track, and finish with the lap around Silverstone in the wrong direction.

That’s the course, but while we are waiting at the start for our chance to set off around it we are told there is a 15 minute delay. This appears to be the cue for around 500 Johnny Herbert impressions as a crowd of runners dash off for a wee. I imagine for much the same reason as an F1 driver. You know you’re going to get through a lot of fluids during the race, so you keep yourself topped up before the start. Unfortunately your body isn’t clever enough to realise it’s going to need all that fluid pretty soon, and instead decides to get rid of it.

With that done, suddenly the loud-speaker starts playing “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac and we count down to the start. Some excellent timing results in the chequered flag dropping just as the famous guitar solo kicks in, and we’re off! I try to ignore my disappointment that they didn’t set us off with the five F1 lights as I set off around the track.

And now, with the race under way, I’d like to think the hours I’ve wasted playing computer games have paid off. A lot of runners were just following the inside edge of the track, whereas I know the racing line around this place like the back of my hand. Failing to take the correct line can mean you end up running up to half a mile further than you need to — and it’s not cheating to take the racers’ route as they measure the course at the shortest path.

It was an amazing feeling to be running down towards Maggots and onto Hanger Straight, hearing the crowd cheering and seeing the Union Jacks with my name written on. Okay, okay, there were no flags with my name on, but let me have my day-dream — and the crowd was a lot bigger than I expected.

I think it helped take my mind off the effort I was putting in to remember all the famous things that have happened at different points on the circuit as I ran past. I found myself thinking:

  • That’s where Massa spun off last year
  • That’s where Schumacher broke his legs
  • That’s where Massa spun off last year
  • That’s where Mansell got mobbed on his victory lap
  • That’s where Massa spun off last year

You get the idea.

Going the wrong way up Hanger Straight on the last lap was hard work. It doesn’t feel like much of a hill on TV, but after 12 miles believe me, you feel it! The finish line was met with jubilation and relief. I finished in 113th, and set a new personal best of 1:26:13 – a full 13 minutes faster than Lewis did it last year.

Mind you, I suppose that was in the wet.

After a much-needed drink, the only thing left was to celebrate with some donuts. But the only ones on show were £3 for a bag of five from the Dinky Donuts stand…

My next challenge comes in six weeks time, when I’ll be attempting to run the London Marathon for the first time in aid of the National Autistic Society. If you would like to sponsor me, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/scottrunslondon.

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