Race Review – York Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2014

I’ll be honest – the thought of entering the Brass Monkey scared me a bit. All the races I’ve done so far have been big ‘mass participation’ events where I could hide away, trotting invisibly at my own pace. But the Monkey is a proper club event, organised by York Knavesmire Harriers and featuring lots of serious runners – you know, the sort of people who are fast enough to wear shorts and vest even in the depths of winter! And because it’s held at a time of year when there isn’t much else going on it’s always oversubscribed. But it seems daft to pass up the opportunity of taking part in such a great event that’s right on my doorstep. Getting onto the entry system and securing a place is a feat of endurance in itself, however, also involving a certain amount of luck. I actually entered for the first time last year (having first checked the 2012 results to make sure the organisers probably wouldn’t have packed up and gone home before I’d finished) but unfortunately the event was called off due to icy weather.

 Race day morning dawned… miserable! This was a bit of a surprise as the forecast had been great. A steady rain had been falling in York all night, so bin bags and massive puddles were the order of the day on the starting line, but at least spirits didn’t seem dampened as we set off. Apart from a couple of short inclines the route is as flat as billed, and there seemed to be hardly any wind. The rain stopped after a while – hard to say exactly where as the first few mile markers were way out – and conditions were great. I wondered whether a PB could be on the cards. My race preparation hadn’t been ideal; I had a nasty cold over the Christmas holidays, and although I managed to get in all my longer Sunday runs I’d had to miss a few threshold sessions, but I felt OK. Steve and Milly were waiting to cheer me on in Appleton Roebuck, just after the halfway point, and it was good to have an opportunity to dump my cap and gloves.

However, for some reason I only managed to pull off a rather mediocre time of 1:58, some five minutes off my PB set at last year’s Great North Run. I can’t really explain why. Maybe I’m still not back to full strength – or maybe I’m just making excuses! I don’t know. A Monkey friend who was also disappointed with his time told me it wasn’t a good time of year to get a PB – maybe we’re still too full of mince pies! It would have been a great time for the first half of a sub-4 marathon – but could I have kept it up for four hours? Again, I don’t know. What I do know is I need to knuckle down for the Manchester Marathon, which is now creeping up fast!

 On a practical note, the Brass Monkey is a great event. It starts and finishes at York Racecourse (also the venue for this summer’s Tour de France départ) and there’s plenty of free parking. With efficient bag drop, minimal toilet queues and brilliant support from the Knavesmire members/marshals, I would definitely do it again and recommend it to others. I loved the finisher’s t-shirt, a hi-vis long-sleeved top that is actually a pretty good fit for once! I’m now actually considering joining Knavesmire Harriers so I can do their summer 10K race series, which I think would be good training for the Berlin Marathon in September. Watch this space!