Watford Half Review: Chilly and Hilly!

Watford Half medal

Watford Half Review – A hilly and chilly race half marathon and my second race of the year in my aim to get PBs in everything from 5 to 50k. But I wasn’t planning a PB for this race, rather, just a check of my fitness level.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for this one. Most of the half marathons I’ve done have been pretty flat. I’d looked at the race profile a few days before and did a little swearing under my breath – this wasn’t going to be an easy one.


The route

This is how it went…

It was an easy start to the day. Six-thirty wakeup call, toast, a bucket of coffee.

I headed out the door by 7.45. Two buses and three tubes later, I arrived at Watford. It was a 5 minute walk to the start point and it was so cold. I always forget that where I live in London is relatively warm in comparison to further out in London and/or along the Thames.

Me in the coldI picked up my number and chip timer, got myself sorted and dropped my bag. All very easy in a very crowded tent where lots of folks were avoiding going outside to face the cold. I don’t blame them!

I said hello to a few fellow Racecheck visorclub members. Wearing the visor feels a little like belonging to a secret, only not so secret, club. You see someone wearing it, you make eye contact, nod, and perhaps even say hello – it’s a fab way to get to know other runners. (head over to the Racecheck site to add your review of the race)

After a few quick chats, I headed out for the all important final pee before the race began. Then off to the start line.

The first part of the run was largely downhill through the park and then onto suburban streets. I managed to say hello to some folks who I’d met via Twitter at previous races.

A few miles in, we were in the country where the hills began. Up and down, up and down. Some of the hills were steep to a point where most folks were walking early on – it reminded me of my ultra training. So walk I did.

My pace at this point was pretty mixed and with the variation of terrain I was finding it hard to even it out. While I’m slow, very slow, on the uphills, it was lovely flying down the downhills.

And the scenery – the countryside, paddocks, beautiful country cottages. This was not a race where you could get bored. There was a fair amount of chatting. Headphones were banned and for good reason. There was a motorcyclist looking after runners and the odd car. Also, it was a great way to engage in the scenery and the race itself.

In the second half of the race, I did slow a little and I knew the time I was aiming for was out the window. The hills had done me in. And to be fair, I hadn’t done nearly enough training to do a good time.

Up and down, up and down. Not far to go. I did a final push and managed to pass a few folks in the last couple of miles. Then to the finish line, a lovely bit of bling, a technical t-shirt which will be fab in particular to be seen on night runs, some cordial, some chats.

And my final time – 2:16:26. OK, so I wasn’t happy with my time. The preceding months had not gone to plan, and January was a little bit of a washout when it comes to running. But onwards and upwards!


Saying hello
Saying hello to Gaz and Darren at the finish line!

Would I do this race again?


  • Easy to get to using public transport and a civilised start time of 10.30 am


  • Number and timing chip pick up quick and easy as was the bag drop


  • Partners with a local charity, Peace Hospice Care, who provide vital services for people with life limiting conditions – good stuff!


  • Great support from the organisers and marshals. Three water stations well supported.


  • A good mix of running paces


  • Like the bling and the technical t-shirt!


The only point where the race could be improved was the organisation of the portaloos at the start. Where everyone was queuing, there weren’t enough. But there were some temporary cabins which folks could have been directed to.


Lessons learned

  • I’d been to speak to a pharmacist the day before – I get a histamine reaction to running the cold. What this means is after a run in cold weather, I quickly develop a rash, mainly on my legs. It looks like hives and is incredibly itchy. Based on her advice, I took an antihistamine before I started running. Guess what? No itching once I’d finished – YAY!


  • You get out what you put in – I need to seriously up my game to get those PBs. This means more miles and being specific about the aims of each of my runs (LSR, speed, hills etc).


  • Hills, hills, and then a few mores – yep, need to hit more hills in training to build technique, stamina and endurance. But the little bits I have done are starting to pay off a little. Namely, for once I didn’t trash my quads with the downhills which has been an issue in the past.


  • Weight – Yep, those hills were a nice reminder of the need to lose a few pounds. I managed to lose 2 kgs in January with some tweaks to my diet, now I have to keep it going.


  • Need to do my core exercises – my posture started collapsing at about mile 9.


And the great thing is, this is all stuff I can work on!


So how’s your 2018 shaping up?

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