The Brass Monkey half marathon is well named given its mid-January position in the running calendar, but also finds itself as a good early season measure of fitness for those runners planning Spring marathon PB conquests or other racing! This may partly explain the popularity of the race despite the possibility of snow and cancellation (as in 2013), and some calamitous web site registration shenanigans last year with the registration site and/or associated payment site being unable to cope with the registration demand peak at opening. The other very good reason why this is attractive is that it is a PB course, as it is VERY FLAT, with just the odd road bridge to skip over, but otherwise it is pancake-flat (running from York racecourse, out and out to the East of York and back).
(As a blatant plug, the new Vale of York half offers similar terrain advantages and in a warmer part of the year – watch out for this in early/mid-September!)
If you want to get into the Brass Monkey Half you need to watch out for the registration (usually late autumn?) and be at your keyboard, credit/debit card in hand, at the start time for registration as this now sells out in about 45 minutes!
Race HQ is at the main pavilion at York racecourse – a luxurious venue for a road race headquarters with good parking available in or nearby and a large 2 floor areas with café / bar available and plenty of toilets and open spaces for changing. There is an information desk; well-run baggage stores also which helps with logistics; and massages were also available.
On the day the forecast was for temperatures round about freezing and there was certainly some frost and a few icy patches on the ground. After the previous cancellation, organisers and runners where both nervous over whether the race could be run safely, but it was allowed to go ahead and (I believe) was a reasonable decision and that the race took place without major incident.
From my perspective, the race organisation was excellent in every respect, including the marshals on the course actively steering runners away from the most icy patches on the roads. The race timing, water etc. all seemed very good and met runner’s needs for a race of this nature.
The start of the race is on the road right outside the race course with a starting funnel on the racecourse driveway with a few broad sections for runners in different speed categories – “Over 2 hours”; “1:30 – 2 hours”; “sub 1:30”…..
I decided that a compression vest under my Abbey vest and a rather unflattering hat and gloves were required to stave off the winter chills. Personally I get very hot whilst racing and so wear as little as I dare (typically just shorts and vest (and socks/racing shoes), supplemented by gloves and hat in very cold weather or racing ‘sun hat’ un sunny days).
My race strategy “sucked” as usual, going off way to fast and dying in the second half of the race. I realised this as I stuck close to Nick Rank for about 6 miles (so far too fast) or so before gradually losing pace, but putting in a decent ‘sprint’ in the last mile and overtaking a few runners. I usually give myself a good talking to towards the end of any race with the aim of getting some adrenaline flowing and generating a final kick – it seems to work OK for me.
The course was quite icy in places and caused us to take great care where we could see that we were running over frosty or icy patches. I don’t think I actually slipped or saw anyone fall over but I did see a few people slipping and recovering.
There was good support from locals and relatives of runners out on the course and this was much appreciated, particularly as were could keep warm(er) through running, but standing around in that temperature must have been chilling!
The end result was a PB for me and for some of the other Abbeys, which was pleasing given that I had been carrying some extra weight for a while and I am pleased to say that of us negotiated the course and finished safe and sound.