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FIRST LADY! Stockport Hatters Half Marathon 2023 ❣️🏃🏻‍♀️💥

“I’m not feeling it today” were my exact words to my friend Natalie, five minutes before the start of the 2023 Stockport Hatters Half Marathon.

You know when you’re just… Well, not feeling it?

A long line of mishaps had occurred before I even managed to get to the starting line, which didn't exactly inspire me with confidence.

I actually almost didn't make it!

I’d stayed at my Mum's the night before so it would be ‘easier’ to get to the event in the morning.

... Famous last words! The bus never turned up and Uber was just doing that annoying thing where it leads you on by saying 'finalising driver details!' for 20 minutes straight, so it was down to good old Northern Rail to save the day - and they did!

I rang the race director, John, who was amazingly helpful and agreed to hold my number back if I was any later than the close of registration at 09:15am.

I arrived at Edgeley Park at 09:10am - probably the latest I’ve ever rocked up to a running event.

My warm up came in the form of a panicked sprint from Stockport train station, which was made even more difficult due to the fact that I had a ma-HOOSIVE rucksack full of Sainsbury's bang-bang cauliflower on my back (don't ask!).

(Side note: for someone who worships the song No Scrubs, I sure do have a staggering amount of my life dictated - and wasted - by public transport. The irony! 🤔🤣)

Anyway, I made it, albeit with my stress levels slightly worse for wear. I was that flustered, I even forgot my pre-race Curly Wurly - gutted!

At this point, I wasn't even slightly optimistic about having a decent run. It was already nearing 20 degrees, and the event rounded off a 140k week for me (walking and running combined). It was also 7 days after my 35 mile ultra hike across the Gritstone Trail last weekend.

The ONLY thing that gave me a little bit of hope was the fact that I had been allocated bib number 32, which is one of my lucky numbers.

I'll be happy with any time under 1:40, and a place in the top 10 females, I told myself as the claxon sounded and we set off down the street...

What a cool race HQ! Loved starting the run at Edgeley Park! 💙

The first kilometer or so took us downhill into Stockport.

Ahhh, I thought as I cruised along, what a sublime start to a run! All downhill - wooooo!

... It was only later, at 20k, that the true horror of the situation dawned on me: the route was an out-and-back, meaning that the glorious starting kilometer was going to make for a particularly ghastly last kilometer. The less said about that final uphill slog, the better...! 🥵

We left the town and headed along the River Mersey. My God, it was hot. The rare shaded woodland sections were SO welcome.

I personally found the terrain really, really tough. We had it all: rocks, grass, mud so dense it may as well have been a bog, and even sand at one point. SAND! I mean, come on, give me a break! 🤣

The return stretch just after the half way turn was one of the most challenging sections for me. Navigating the bumpy surface of the grass banks under the blazing sun made it difficult to build up and maintain a decent pace. I'm really not the strongest trail runner, and I HATE running on grass at the best of times. I just wanted to get back onto the road and stretch my legs out at a faster pace.

An amazingly rapid lady led the way for the first 11k, and then I managed to push out in front.

I still had no idea how the race would pan out. I was tiring pretty fast with the effort of running across the grass, and knew that I could be overtaken at any second.

After placing second female at the Stockport Trail Half Marathon in February, fifth female at the Buxton Half Marathon in May, eighth female in the Midnight Sun Half Marathon over in Iceland in June, and second female at the Lyme Park Half Marathon in July, I became determined to take the half marathon top spot at least once. Since I started racing just over two years ago, I have been extremely lucky enough to finish first in a 5k event, two 10k road races and one 10k trail - I thought a first in a half would complete my little set of proud achievements nicely.

After my hectic start, I really didn’t think that the Hatters Half would be the day my dreams came true! This, of course, just made my win all the more special. ❤️

‘To the only thing that matters in just a matter of years…’ 🔐

If I could have paused time during those final few seconds of the 2023 Stockport Hatters Half Marathon, I would have. I'll never forget making it up that hill and landing on the home straight in Alexandra Park, knowing I had finally got my precious Half Marathon first place. The tunnel of cheers and the elation I felt gave me bountiful helpings of adrenaline that threw me over the finish line.

🥇 First lady, out 97

🥇 First in my age category, out of 39

❣️24th out of 329 overall

⏱️1 hour, 31 minutes, 56 seconds (chip time) - just 2 mins off my PB

I’ve had two years to try and describe how running makes me feel, but in each and every blog, my words fall short. Quite simply, there are no words powerful enough.

Running is a feeling that takes a hold of my entire being. Every step I take is euphoric. My mind is taken to another place. My heart bursts until it fills every inch of me. It’s almost as though my body becomes one with the sky and moves with the motion of the stars, as my veins explode in a thousand atoms. I swear sometimes I could honestly take off. My feet kiss thin air as I free fall through this incredible sensation. ❤️

Nothing else in the world brings me back to myself and back to life with so much intensity.

Running is more than just a hobby; it means absolutely EVERYTHING to me. It’s my lifeline.

I was absolutely blown away by the support at the Stockport Hatters Half Marathon. From the marshalls to dog walkers down the river, everyone went out of their way to lend a word of encouragement.

There was an especially lovely group from Moor Road Runners by the steps where the river cuts off to the road near Waterside Gym. They were there both on my way out and back, and cheered so loud. On my return lap, their support was exactly the push I needed to plough through.

I can’t believe people stood out in that heat for hours just to cheer us on. 🥺

I know I say this in all of my race blogs, but support out on the course really does mean so much. It can make the world of difference in those moments where you feel as though you have nothing left to give.

Meeting Stockport MP Navendu Mishra after the run. What a lovely gent, and how nice of him to give up his Sunday to spend time at the race. Legend! 😊

Whether you're new to tackling halves, or a pro who just fancies a challenge over mixed terrain, the Stockport Hatters Half is a fantastic run, taking in an exciting mixture of urban and rural scenery along the way. It's not an easy course, and the last few kilometers will undoubtedly test even the most seasoned of runners, but the feeling of accomplishment afterwards makes all of the calf cramps and internal thoughts of 'why do I do this?!' worthwhile!

The race was brilliantly organised, and John was a great director who clearly put a lot of thought into executing a flawless event.

My thoughts during the Stockport Hatters Half Marathon 2023 -

At the starting line: Omg my Curly Wurly is in my rucksack, which is at the bag drop. This is a disaster!!!!!!

At 1k: A downhill start?! NICE! Maybe this won't be as hard as I thought after all...

At 5k: Ah, grass. Hello darkness my old friend. Okay, so maybe this IS going to be tricky...

At 10k: Why is it THIS hot in September, in England? I think I might be melting.

At 15k: Sand?! Are you actually serious right now?! Thank god that was over quick... Wait.,. MORE grass?!

At 16k: Is that... Is that an ice-cream van parked down the River Mersey, or is it a mirage? What I wouldn't do for a Twister RN!

At 19k: I am a shell of a woman. A burnt shell, with VERY angry calves.

At 20k: Okay, so I remember running down here earlier which means... Oh GOD!! I'll have to run UP it now!

At 20.5k: I will NEVER run again! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!!! DOES THIS HILL EVER END?!

At the finish line: OMGGGG THAT WAS AMAZING!!!! I LOVED EVERY SINGLE SECOND, I LOVE RUNNING, I LOVE THE WORLD! (I'm also slightly delirious and am allowing my endorphins to do the talking as I currently don't think I remember my own name. Oooh, shiny medal! OOOH, FLAPJACKS!!!)

... and so the cycle contuines. 🤣 The endorphins win again, and it's on to the next one!

This was also a conversation that took place in my head at around 20.8k…

Brain: Cara? Can I have a quick with you please, away from the endorphins?

Endorphins: Cara’s busy at the moment, you’ll have to talk to us!

Brain: Jesus. Okay… Well, in about 60 seconds time, you’re going to place first female in this race and-

Endorphins (interrupting): I KNOW, RIGHT!!!! PAR-TTYYY!!!!

Brain: Please listen. At the finish line, there’s going to be a photographer, and those photos will be available for everyone to see. So this is just a gentle reminder not to do any strange leaps in the air, or manic beams. Just smile demurely and cross over the line.

Endorphins: But-

Brain: No buts. You nearly put your back out last time you did a star jump. You’re nearly 30 now - you’re no spring chicken! Just don’t go embarrassing yourself by chucking your arms around or smiling manically, okay?

Endorphins: 😁💃🏻🕺🏻🤩🥳😃⬇️

... when endorphins take over 😅

So, with another goal now ticked off my running bucket list, what's next?

Well, I have three main running dreams that I'm hoping to achieve one day:

  1. Run a sub-20 minute 5k (PB is currently 20:32).

  2. Run a sub-40 minute 10k (PB is currently 40:24).

  3. Run a sub 1 hour 30 minute half marathon (PB is currently 1:30 exactly!).

Oh, and the lucky number thing I mentioned earlier? Bear with me while I get all mystic for a paragraph or two . Apologies to those who don't believe in this sort of thing. 🤣

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I wear a bracelet with the numbers 24 & 32 on it every single day. They've been my lucky numbers since I was a kid, and seem to pop up whenever I run a PB or win a race.

It can't be coincidence that I ran in bib number 32 on Sunday... I also finished 24th overall! 🔮

I never take days like Sunday for granted, and I pray my running journey never ends.

Of course, anyone would be delighted to place highly at an event, but it means so much more to me than simply coming first.

For me, running is a continual symbolisation of winning a personal battle, not just a race.

I know I'm not alone in finding therapy within the art of running. I think the thing that makes running so wonderfully addictive is the fact that it grants us freedom from our demons, if only temporarily.

For as long as our run takes, our mind and body are forced to put their differences aside to work together, and we're reminded me of the very best version of ourselves: the version that's strong, capable, and powerful beyond measure. ❤️

My gorgeous medal! Absolutely obsessed with the detail on this, and I adore the nod to Stockport and the iconic Edgeley Park. 💙

Cara Jasmine Bradley ©

💙 Stockport Hatters Half Marathon:

📸 Amazing cover photo by APN Sports Photography:


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