On 12th March 2017 I paced Silverstone Half Marathon for Runners World. I have paced for Runners World 6 times, and will be pacing London Marathon next month, this was also the 24th event I have paced. This was the 3rd year in a row that I’ve paced the 1:45 group, and I managed to complete in an official time of 1:44:56.
This year was a little more stressful for me getting to the start, and the first year I have not had my family with me. I had been offered a place at North London Half Marathon, which I really wanted to do, but unfortunately it clashed. Kirsty decided to take this place, which is great for her first half in years. We stayed at her parents so they could look after the children and she set off early for her 08:30 Wembley start. I left a bit later and had to travel to a convenient pick up point to get a lift from another pacer (my wife and family normally take me). I decided to take a detour as I had time and arrived at the start line in time to see Kirsty start her race, which I am really pleased about.
I then made my way to Silverstone, and as always, the traffic leading to the racecourse is unnecessarily busy, I think the car parking could be handled so much better. With a 12:00 start we had time, but they must set it so late as it is so difficult to get to. Once we finally arrived I am privileged as a pacer to get VIP parking so I get to drive to the centre carpark which is right next to the race village.
I also get to go to the hospitality section, so I grabbed a coffee and the best bit is a private toilet. This killed a bit of time, which was good as the weather was terrible. I didn’t bother looking around the race village, so can’t really comment on it, in previous years there hasn’t been much around so I don’t tend to bother. One criticism I often hear is that they sell London Marathon clothing, which is great if you are running London, but what about Silverstone branded kit?
The weather appeared like it would be horrendous, but it was actually really nice, and got really hot eventually. The start is one big mass pen which people can self seed, with signs posted so you could work out where to start. This has worked really well in previous years, but this year they moved everyone forward which was really annoying.
I stood by the 1:45 sign and everyone advised I had to go further forward as they were much slower and had been pushed forward. Once I got to about the 1:30 sign people said they were aiming for 1:45, so I stopped there. I know there were many who had been pushed ahead of me who wanted 1:45. I also had a lot of requests about other pacers whilst waiting, and a few disappointed people that we were only every 15 minutes. I ended up with a big crowd around me at the start, and I knew it was going to be a good day.
So, what you need to know about Silverstone is that a big reason you race there is the venue. This is an awesome experience for true F1 fans, entirely within Silverstone circuit. It is a mostly flat course, so good for a PB. There are a lot of narrow sections though, even when the road is wider they have often made it narrow with cones, and so it feels congested for most of the race. It doesn’t stop you from racing at the speed you want, but it can slow in places. Overall though, it is not the most exciting of courses. There are long sections with minimal support. Marshals are all great, and because of the narrow sections the runners around you make great support (although I don’t know if this is just around me or in general, as I do talk a lot).
Pacing this race is fairly difficult though because the mile markers are always massively out. I completed the first mile in exactly 8:00 flat, which is perfect. But did not meet the marker for another 10 seconds. By mile 3 we were about 400 metres out, and this remained all the way to mile 12. I was very vocal about this to the runners around me, and my splits all sped up between 10-20 seconds a lap to get me to where I needed to be. The key about doing this as a pacer is to do it gradually and keep everyone informed.
By the time we got to mile 12 I was 2 minutes ahead of the pace according to mine and everyone else’s watch, but I was within 10 seconds of the mile marker. I made everyone aware that worst case scenario we would tuck in 10 seconds under, best case for them we would be 2 minutes quicker. I did expect the course to even out in the last mile, but I can’t rely on that just in case, and would rather be quick than slow so everyone achieves.
The 13 mile marker was then right next to the finish. I saw this a while out, as you can see far ahead on this circuit course. I therefore slowed to encourage everyone around me. I wanted them all to know that I was the marker and as long as they were in front of me they would get under 1:45. I then came through in an official time of 1:44:56 which I am really happy with.
It is more difficult having to account for mile markers being out and I prefer getting even splits. According to my watch I finished in exactly 1:45, which should be 8 minute miles, but mine shows as 7:51 which accounts for the extra distance. I also have faster splits, but again this is necessary to come under otherwise we would not have made the required time.
From the queue of people waiting to shake my hand I think we had a lot of happy runners. This is why I do this, #myreasontorun is to get everyone through to their goal time and make lots of happy runners.
This race does have a great goody bag full of treats. It also has water around the village for you to help yourself, a good medal and a nice cotton finishers tshirt. On top of this I still had access to the VIP tent so could get food and drinks, this is a nice touch.
For more reviews on Silverstone Half Marathon check out Racecheck:
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