The Isle of Wight, a place I have been going to since I was a child, was the location for my first summer half marathon, which was part of my build up to the 2012 Berlin Marathon the following month.
Organised by the Ryde Harriers running club, one of the oldest in the country, it is a small event with just over 300 runners; a mixture of young, old, experienced and newbies. The course is a single lap, starting at Ryde seafront outside the running club, and passes through Ryde, Bembridge, St Helens and back to Ryde, and is run on roads which remain open to traffic.
Within minutes of starting, heading away from the seafront, you are running up the first hilly path, which has a gradual incline that hits your body. Through the winding, undulating roads you are surrounded by beautiful countryside so knowing where you are can be hard if you are not familiar with the island. Luckily for me, I constantly knew where I was on the course.
No particular part of the course was easy; Culver Point, Brading High St, St Helens Green, through Nettlestone village, to name a few points. It really was a brutal course and it is a race which relies on your self-motivation and fitness to get you through to the end.
Due to the various country lanes, room for water and food stations was minimal. Marshals handed out water cups every 3.5 miles and sponges on miles 6 and 8.5. There were no power drinks or bananas. Every mile did have a marker though. The race was sparsely supported, almost not at all, other than at the start and finish lines.
The finish line is a downhill path behind Ryde beach, reached via a small green 100 yards before the finish line. The finishing area had a school sports day feel with supporters and families sitting either side behind tape.
There is no electronic finish timer, just a local marshal with a clip board who notes finishing times; all very quaint and old school. Your finisher medal is given to you immediately. 21 km of picturesque hills, countryside and winding roads is done.
Overall, I found the Isle of Wight half marathon a very tough course. With the mid-summer warmth, the lack of sheltered roads, no support and the undulating hills it is a race not to be taken lightly. With a time of 01:52 I was just happy to make it home.
The only saving grace anyone can hope for when running this course is that the British summer has one of its days and the heavens open and the rain falls…heavy and all morning. Saying that, the Englishness of the Isle of Wight, the friendly marshals, and the challenge of bettering my time may bring me back to this race one day.