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Stockport Trail Half Marathon 2024 - NEW PB! 🏃🏻‍♀️💥


Does anyone else get ‘race hangovers’?

I get a severe case of ‘comedown’ the day after a good race.

On race day, I’m on cloud 9 from the moment I wake up; a slow-building climax of pure ecstasy that reaches its peak when I feel that out-of-body experience taking hold as I tear down the finishing straight, physically lifted off the ground by endorphins.

I waltz through the remainder of the afternoon, dazed by the feeling of accomplishment and pride.

And suddenly it’s Monday, and it’s back to reality. A step back into the ordinary, after a weekend doing something extraordinary; something that fills my heart with more elation than I can ever explain.

 

On Sunday 25th February 2024, I took part in the Stockport Trail Half Marathon, organised by Crazy Legs Events.

I also ran this event last year and achieved what was, at the time, my PB of 1:30:21. Having since run 1:29:14 at the Macclesfield Half Marathon and 1:29:36 at the Tatton Park Half Marathon (which are both more challenging races in terms of elevation), I was intrigued to see how I’d finish on this course this year.

 

The torrential tsunami that struck Cheshire in the week leading up to the race didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. We all know what the Middlewood Way and canal can get like after a bit of rain. A runner’s nightmare!

Fortunately, race weekend boasted glorious weather, and a generous sprinkling of stunning spring sunshine made a welcome appearance.

Race day dawned the kind of morning that makes you feel so proud to be a runner; the kind of morning that makes it all worthwhile.

I was up at 6am, tucking into my Olly’s Pretzels as per tradition (it’s gone wayyyy beyond an addiction now, I won’t lie). I watched the sunrise from the window; dramatic shades of red rupturing the sky.

People think I’m mad for willingly getting up at daft-O’clock at a weekend to go running, but I think they’re the mad ones. The things I’ve experienced by simply running with the dawn make me fall in love with this sport over and over again. The sunrises that pirouette across the sky while the rest of the world slumbers. The fresh cobwebs bejewelled with raindrops. The first frost, untouched underfoot.

God, I wouldn’t change any of this for the whole world, even if it does mean foregoing a weekend lie-in.

Being a runner is honestly  the greatest honour. ❤️

Outside, the air was crisp (read: absolutely bloody FREEZING!). 🥶

Race HQ was once again at Marple College, my old 'stomping ground.' 😏

Fun fact: rumour has it that the handles on the port-a-loos actually froze. 🤣

I stubbornly stayed padded out in my 89 layers of clothing until about 09:27am, when I reluctantly dithered into my starting position. I swear my thighs had actually fused together in the cold.


 I've been called worse 🤪


Despite setting off in the first wave, I had a steady start, and was overtaken by a number of runners.

No matter the distance I cover, it always takes me a good 3k to really settle into my stride. I seem to gain more energy and strength as the miles pass by, and the half marathon distance is becoming second nature to me: I did 43 half marathons in 2023, and have already done 9 this year.

I 100% trust my body to do what it has to do, which is why I wasn’t worried by my relatively slow start. I held back and took it easy for the first quarter of the race.

 

To be honest, it was actually quite nice to turn the pace down a notch and fully appreciate the scenery.

As I mentioned in last year’s blog, both Marple College and the Middlewood Way behold many happy memories for me. I had some the best days of my life at Marple College, and much of my childhood was spent down the Middlewood Way with my favourite pony, Billy. ❤️

It was incredible to immerse myself in this comforting nostalgia, all the while making new memories doing the thing I love the most in the whole world: running.

This is why this event means such an awful lot to me. Being out on that course surrounded by so much joy of both past and present times made my heart so happy. 😍

 

There was one particular stretch of the Middlewood Way that absolutely took my breath away. It was the section just past the wall of fir trees near the Shrigley Road carpark. Billowing blossom trees shimmed in the light breeze, draping their branches across the trail. The sun prised the branches apart, illuminating the path, softly blowing kisses as we passed beneath it.

It’s little moments like that, that just get me. I know it sounds daft, but sometimes when I’m running, I just get hit by this wall of overwhelming emotion. It tends to happen at some point during every race I do, usually when faced with a striking staple of scenery. 🌸

How infinitely lucky I am to be able to do this; to be able to run, and race, and see the beauty of the world.

The first 10k absolutely flew by, and was definitely helped by the awesome Stockport Tri Club manning the aid station in their tutus! Legends!!

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating when I saw the lobster.

I thought ‘Oh God. I’ve finally OD’ed on Olly’s pretzels. Either that, or endorphins have finally got the better of me...'

It was later confirmed that the lobster was very much real, and what a wonderful addition to the course he was!

In my opinion, every race should have a strategically placed lobster mascot. It certainly helped to keep spirits high! 🦞

I could just hear runners behind me laughing out loud as they rounded the corner and saw him. Such a lovely atmosphere out on the course.

I know I say this in every race blog, but there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be than out on the race course, surrounded by the running community. It’s the best, most uplifting place.

 

The canal section was… Interesting! 🥴

I’m not a great fan of canal paths for running anyway, and the muddy puddles were a bit of a nightmare. It was difficult to maintain any sort of pace, but I was thankful that the wind wasn’t against us as it had been last year.

I ran much of the canal stretch with a group of gents, and we took it in turns to pass one another, each of us briefly leading our little pack.

Families and dog walkers and fellow non-race runners were all so supportive, standing in and cheering us on.

Before I knew it, the canal came to an end and we bolted back onto the Middlewood for the final 5/6k.

I adore that final, long stretch back down towards the finish line.


 ‘I don’t even know how I got here, but I know that I never want to leave. There’s something taking over my heart…’ ✨🖤🏃🏻‍♀️


I never run with a watch so didn’t know what time I was on for, but I did have a gut feeling that I might just be rewarded with a PB… And I was right.

I completed the Stockport Trail Half Marathon 2024 in 1:28:58, finishing second lady, second in my age category, and 25th overall. ❤️

Weirdly, the top three female line-up was exactly the same as last year! It was really lovely to see the other two ladies again. The first lady ran an incredible time of 1:26!

 

This time last year, I dreamed of one day running a sub 1:30 half marathon. 12 months later, and I’ve done it 3 times*.

I will NEVER take this for granted.

But it’s not just the PBs, the medals, the trophies, and the ‘podium finishes.’

No, it’s so much more.

It’s everything: every single little thing about running. It’s the passion that sets fire to every last shard of doubt. It’s the self-belief that spreads across my mind like honeysuckle.

When anorexia says I can’t, running says I can. And I’m starting to believe that I really can, and I will. With running and the happiness it so bountifully blesses me with by my side, I can continue on this magnificent journey that I never want to end.

I never want this feeling, this love, to go away. ❤️

 

*If only my mission to do a sub-40-minute 10k was that bloody easy…! (Yep, I’m still painfully stuck on 40:24 after what feels like 10 billion attempts to ditch those 24 seconds!)


 Cara Jasmine Bradley ©


🏃🏻‍♀️Crazy Legs Events: https://crazylegsevents.co.uk


📸 Professional photo by Jon Paul Kates: check out his Facebook page for his awesome running pictures.


📸 APN Photography also took incredible professional photos on the day: http://apnsportsphotography.photodeck.com/m


🏊‍♀️ Stockport Tri Club: https://stockporttriclub.co.uk


 

 

 

 

 


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