The Monsal Trail Half Marathon was my second half marathon of the year and my third ever. I booked it last year before Heaton Park Half with the thought of guauging my fitness and running as compared to last year.
I had cycled along the Monsal Trail a few years ago and recall it being flat, whilst having a look of a few YouTube videos also showed the terrain being pretty flat. I selected this due to its flatness and pretty scenery. I thought running through the long tunnels would be kinda different too.
I’m still pretty new to running, and working out my pace at all distances. Liverpool Rock and Roll being my first helped me understand what pace I was at (1.44.24) whilst the most recent race – Rhyl 10 mile, very flat, gave me a much better understanding of what I could achieve currently (1.16.12 – 4.43/km pace). My aim for the Monsal Trail Half marathon was >1.40 (4.42/km pace) or anywhere close to it as long as I could hold on.
Bakewell, not to be confused with Buxton (a story for another time) is just an hour from me and across the Staffordshire Moorlands, a really picturesque drive cross country. Coming into Bakewell, there were plenty of signs to the nearest car park which was around 500m from the registration/start area. It was a great day, perfect for running, around 5c or so, dry with clear skies. Didn’t need the Dryrobe, and just walked to the start with my kit in the bag.
After a warm up (and wee stop) I made my way to the start line, lining up behind the front runners. I did feel I was still a bit too far forward but couldn’t go any further back because of the crowds. There was around 300 or so for the Half Marathon, whilst another 200 or so waiting for the 10km race which started several minutes after the half marathon.
We were off pretty much on time and after the first fast km (I think around a 4.25) I settled into my target pace of 4.42 and followed a pair of runners who were pretty much on the same pace. The route itself is really pretty, unfortunately I wasn’t really looking around, just concentrating on keeping a good pace along with ensuring the two in front didn’t get away too far from me. The route was a simple out and back, taking on 3 tunnels (all around 400 m long) – Headstone, Cressbrook and Litton before getting to Litton Mill (I think) for the turn around and hitting the trail back.
The trail up seemed to drag on and at times I saw my pace drop. It was only after the run and looking at the profile, did I realise how “not flat” the trail was. I knew the route was a false flat, but I didn’t realise how “false” it was. And does go to explain how difficult I felt the first part of the run was. I was therefore very grateful in having a couple of pacers in front to drag me through.
I managed to keep pace, but the way I have my Garmin 235 set, I don’t have the total elapsed time showing on the main face, so I wasn’t sure what my finish time was. I was so happy that, somehow I managed 1.37.37, smashing my target of sub 1.40 with an average pace of 4.39/km (I even managed a 10km PB along the route)
Across the finish line and I grabbed my well deserved medal, a protein drink and a few fig rolls (retro!) A short warm down and then a walk to the car to bask in the glory of a new PB.
Upon reflection, the route was a simple and boring out and back, not near as flat as I thought and so I did well to keep the pace in the first half and on the way back I may have been able to let go a little bit more. A really pretty route but was really lost on me as I was concentrating on the run. Whilst the tunnels was a welcome difference to the run. One word of warning, you cannot rely on GPS to map this route accurately due to the long tunnels (which works out to be around 2.5km in total). I would defintely do this route again, but possibly not to race, but a gentle social run with friends to take in the beautiful scenery.