Serpie Planner - event reports

Stevenage Half Marathon (02 Nov 2003)

Undulating course

Stevenage Half Marathon (06 Nov 2005)

Parking problems at the previous venue meant that this year's race started and finished at the Ridlins Track. Runners were asked to park at the Fairlands Showground and coaches were laid onto transport them the mile-and-a-half to the track. I can't comment on how well this worked, but I saw several packed coaches arriving at the track so it seemed to be pretty well organised. For those of us who took the train, the track is approx 2 miles from the station, although frequent stops to consult the map as I tried to navigate my way around Stevenage's cycle path network made it seem much longer.

There was a new course to go with the new venue. Starting at the exit from the track, it follows traffic-free cycle paths for 2 laps before finishing on the track. The section through Fairlands Valley Park is longer than in previous years, especially on the second lap where an extra section is added to make up the 13.1 miles. This would no doubt have been very pleasant in fine weather, however the strong head wind and driving rain as we headed back through the park turned it into a real battle. The course is slightly undulating but there are no significant hills, most of the undulations occuring where the cycle paths dip under roads. Marshalling was fantastic throughout, and even after several hours in the rain there were lots of shouts of encouragement. At around the 3 mile mark, the sudden appearance next to me of what had been the lead runner suggested there may have been some problems at the head of the field, but I never felt in danger of going off course.

Despite the conditions I had a great time, although taking 7 minutes off my PB may have had something to do with that. The course is certainly capable of producing fast times. Almost a dozen Serpies made the trip, with Jamie Felix finishing 2nd lady. A few grumbles - the new venue seemed too cramped for a race of this size (there were 735 finishers), and there were not enough loos (but then there very rarely are). Also, baggage was stored in the stand next to the track. This was fine if your bag was at the back under the roof, but for a lot of people, finishing in heavy rain only to be handed a soaking bag with no-longer-dry spare clothes in it was a somewhat disheartening experience. Hopefully the organisers will look into this problem for future years, but you would be advised to bring a bin bag just in case.

Report by Andrew McGovern.

The Fairlands Valley Spartans had picked a new course for 2005 that consisted of two laps and was fairly undulating. I had never run in Stevenage before and was expecting a soulless run along long straight highways. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the route followed cycle paths and paths around the Fairlands Valley park.

The conditions on race day were among the worst I've run in for a sustained period of time. For almost a mile on each lap we were running directly against the wind and rain. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I had finished.

With better conditions this would have been a very enjoyable half marathon and I would recommend it to anyone looking to do a half in November 2006.

Report by Robert Howells.