Finally, after a long ol' wait due to Covid, I have run my first half marathon distance at Frome Half Marathon. Entering this event was slightly spontaneous given I definitely did not follow such a rigid training plan in the build up as I did last year. However I just wanted to prove to myself that the distance wasn't out of my reach and, no matter the time, I could cross that finish line. Since moving down to the South West in September, I haven't done many local Wiltshire running events so I really enjoyed trialling this one out!
Right from initially arriving at the venue, everything was extremely well organised. Car parking was free and easy, there were an abundance of signposts sending you in the correct direction and the start line was well distanced and maintained. Given I arrived to this event feeling somewhat apprehensive, the seamless start line experience helped me to feel a lot more at ease before setting off. Overall I was impressed with how well the event had been organised and give huge kudos to The Race Organiser and all others involved for Frome Half Marathon - it's no surprise it has won a Silver Race Check award!
Now, let’s be real, the course for this event is hilly. Overall, the elevation gain according to Strava was 270m. For some, this may not seem a lot, particularly those who frequently tackle trail races. But for someone like me who is not used to these inclines, it is more than a noticeable impact. For some reason, I did decide to enter this event without assessing the route situation first. I'm sure you can imagine my dismay when I learnt from my running club buddies the extent of the hills I had just signed myself up for... That said, the route is still gorgeous and takes in some stunning Wiltshire countryside along the 21km.
The undulating route initially takes you around residential areas of Frome before you head out down country roads to the small, quaint village of Nunney. You then continue down more country lanes as you loop back towards the town centre of Frome. A big bonus for this event is that it is entirely closed road, which alleviates some stresses of road running for the duration.
Egford hill at mile 11 was an experience, a steep 1km long climb back up into Frome - a.k.a. a killer. As I understand, you can achieve a King of The Mountains award for soldiering up here in the quickest time on the day – showcasing the clear challenge involved. During my stint, I did not see a single person attempt to entirely run this beast - even power walking it felt intense in the heat - so a massive kudos to anybody who managed to run all the way up.
One highlight of this course for me is that it was the most well supported event I have ever raced, with hundreds of residents lining the streets outside their houses to cheer you on. The encouragement and atmosphere they provided, along with all of the brilliant route marshals, was second to none – and their hose pipes were a life saver in that disgusting heat! Every chance I had to have a quick, cold shower under one of those hoses I took with both hands.
The only thing I found during the course is that, due to a combination of a staggered start and a looped course, sometimes I found myself running entirely alone. Whilst out on the country lanes between miles 4 and 12, I ran a lot on my own, with limited people around me. I wouldn't say this had a big impact on my experience or performance, but I do think it allowed me to loose a little motivation during points of struggle. The atmosphere and sense of drive created by spectators whilst in the town was so uplifting that I largely missed that whilst out in the country side.
My performance and experience
In short - my finish time was way off what I would have liked. With a combination of the extreme heat and great amount of hills, I knew my time was not going to be what I'd anticipated and pretty quickly decided simply completing the run safely was my only real aim. Admittedly it was the hardest run I've ever done which was easily reflected in one of the slowest paces I've ever ran at - but I did it. Although I was disappointed in a personally slow time and beat myself up for a few days after, I am now just super pleased to have tackled the race and crossed that finish line in gruelling conditions. At least in the next half distance it won't be difficult to get a new PB!
Overall, the event itself was a complete joy to participate in and I am pleased to have chosen such a well supported and motivational half marathon for my first rodeo. Whilst the course and weather made a lot of the day a struggle, I still left the venue with a large smile on my face (and a Calippo lolly in hand). I would recommend this event to anyone – beginner or elite. It offers an abundance of challenge for those looking for the next step in their half marathon journey, yet offers an exceptional atmosphere that can support any beginner to their finish line dream, no matter the time. Plus, the medal at the end is definitely a pretty one to add to the ever-growing collection.
So, which half marathon should I tackle next? I would love to attempt the distance again this Autumn/Winter, perhaps on a considerably flatter course this time...
I also wrote a full run down of Frome Half Marathon for The Race Organiser themselves, which you can read on The Race Organiser website here.