On Sunday 26th January 2023, I took part in the Stockport Trail Half Marathon, organised by Crazy Legs Events.
This was my first attempt at the course, but it's definitely an event I'll be adding to my annual race calendar going forwards!
I'm not going to lie; I have proper post-race blues today.
There were many reasons why Sunday was such a special and enjoyable day for me, including the fact that I VERY unexpectedly got my new Half Marathon PB! 🤯 But, first things first - I'll start right at the beginning...
The pre-race briefing emails from Crazy Legs were exceptionally thorough, which was really impressive. There was even a link to an article about Weils Disease, just in case someone fell in the canal along the route! (My inner-hypochondriac obviously clicked on the article, and then naturally developed all of the symptoms within half an hour... It's a miracle that I'm sat here writing this, actually 🙄🤣)
Literally no question was left unanswered in the briefing emails, which really set the tone for the actual race itself, which was equally as well-organised and efficient.
There was also a pre-event Zoom call too, which invited runners to join and ask any further questions. I've never known this before but thought it was a really good idea.
The attention to detail in terms of the planning of this event was outstanding!
Registration on race day took no more than two minutes, and the wave structure at the starting line worked really well.
... And I just have to say that the post-race homemade flapjacks were an added bonus! 😍 Not still craving them and daydreaming about them 24 hours later or anything... 🤤
The course was great, mostly attributable to the fact that the weather had well and truly been on side in the days leading up to the event. The fair weather meant that the route was relatively mud-free, aiding a fast pace.
(Any local runner will know the perilous combination of heavy rainfall, canal towpaths and the Middlewood Way! Two days of consistent rain and you've had it - it's an absolute mud-bath and an injury waiting to happen. In fact, attempting to long jump over puddles in the rain mid-run is exactly how I managed to do my groin in a few weeks ago.)
Luckily, race day boasted glorious weather! The startling blue skies and lazy rays of sun hinted that spring was imminent. It was the perfect morning for a run. I woke up with excited butterflies in my tummy and couldn't wait to just get on that course, in my happy place.
Just look at that stunning sky! 😍☀️ Race registration at Marple College.
The only challenge I faced along the course was the canal stretch, which seemed to go on forever. I think I 'hit the wall' about half way along the canal, which wasn't helped by the fact that the path became a temporary wind-tunnel.
A ferocious breeze picked up, defiantly barricading the way forwards. Grey clouds bared their teeth as they roughly prised the sun from the sky.
At this point, there were large gaps between the runners in-front and behind me, meaning that I ran much of the canal stretch alone. I think this also contributed to my temporary lag.
The gent far ahead was clad in the awesome, telltale black and red kit of the Marple Runners, so I tried to keep him in my sight to spur me on.
Personally, I don't much like running on canal paths. I used to regularly train on the canal, but found the little stones irritating underfoot, and I resented the winter's muddy puddles that presented as a pace killer.
Still, how could I begrudge with such panoramic beauty surrounding me? I focused on the scenery and pushed through the wall.
I picked up the pace again as soon as my feet hit the Middlewood Way for the home stretch. The wall soon forgotten, I regained my stamina and felt really fresh during the final 6k.
Running through that wall! The canal stretch - a gorgeous setting, but tough with the wind against us.
For me, the Stockport Trail Half Marathon course was beautifully nostalgic, which made running it all the more special.
Just as both Tatton and Lyme Park behold some of my happiest childhood memories, Marple and the Middlewood Way have also played big parts in the shaping of my life.
If you're a regular on my site, you'll know how much I LOVED college (if you fancy a laugh at my expense, there's even a whole 'college' section on my blog dedicated to my questionable antics ... !)
Being back at Marple College to pick up my race number was pretty bemusing, to say the least!
What would my 18 year old self think of 29 year old me actually running half marathons for fun on a Sunday morning?!
She'd probably be concerned that the perspiration would wreak havoc with her fake tan, or frizz up her hideously tacky blonde highlights... The only exercise 18 year old me was interested in was a twerking 'sesh at Birdcage on a Wednesday night, rockin' a Miss Selfridge minidress and reeking of Britney Spears 'Fantasy' perfume 🤣
I actually saw an old friend from college at the run.
"I never had you down as a runner!" He laughed.
... That's probably because I was too busy attempting to pursue a 'career' as a WAG back in the day. True story. (You don't need to tell me that 18 year old me was a disgrace, because trust me, I am already WELL aware!)
Prior to my wannabe-WAG college days, I had a slightly different passion: horses.
During primary school and my first few years at high school , Sunday mornings meant a long ride out down the Middlewood Way on my all time favourite pony, Billy.
I'll never forget the purity and simplicity of those mornings. They say there's no bond quite like the one between a little girl and her favourite pony - her first love - and that was definitely true in my case.
Sunday brought the feelings of that childhood contentment right back to me, as I ran down the very track that Billy and I shared all those years ago.
I thought of my beloved Billy often during Sunday's race. Maybe he was the guardian angel that helped me get my PB?
I don't know if it was the elements of precious nostalgia that made Sunday all that it was, but something just felt very right. From my very first stride, I knew it was going to be a good run.
Sometimes, the stars just allaign when we need them the most, and tiny little miracles happen; breaks in the mundane of life. For me, this is what running symbolises: miracles in the gloom. Sudden stabs of overwhelming joy.
I don't need to mention again the life-changing impact running has had on my anorexia recovery - I blog about it all the time.
Running has saved my life and as corny as it sounds, it has made me believe in magic, and fate. Mornings like Sunday just confirm all of my suspicions: running came into my life for a reason, at just the right time, and its sheer power continues to enchant me beyond words.
I completed the Stockport Trail Half Marathon with a new PB of 1 hour 30 minutes, placing me 2nd female, and 25th overall! ❤️
With the lovely ladies who finished first and third! Who run the world?! 💪🏼
I honestly never, ever expected to finish in the time that I did, and I definitely didn't think I'd place so highly! I was hopeful for a place in the top 10 females!
Given the multi-terrain, I was expecting a finishing time of around 1 hour 40 minutes. My PB - prior to today - was 1 hour 32 minutes, achieved in Brussels in October, but that was a very flat course consisting solely of road running, which suits me best.
When envisioning my predicted finishing time for the Stockport Trail Half Marathon, I factored in the off-road terrain, the narrow pathways, and the fact that there would be horse riders, dogs, and other non-event runners out on the course.
Unpopular opinion, but I never time my races at events as I think checking my wrist would make me feel pressured and put me off. I always rely on the chip timing. Sometimes, I am left feeling really disappointed with my results, however sometimes they can surprise me, and Sunday definitely did just that!
I think I pretty much danced all the way home, on cloud bloody nine!! 😍 I am still in complete shock and utterly over the moon with my time!
The pride is just indescribable. This meant so, so, SO much to me. ❤️
I felt I had run well and had pleasingly got through the race without any aches or pains, but I never imagined that I'd run well enough to achieve a PB, especially not a PB that knocked over 2 minutes off my previous best time!
The Half Marathon is fast becoming my favourite distance to cover. I have run one every weekend for two years now, and my times just keep on improving, even when I'm just training alone. For me, 13 miles is a very comfortable distance and one that my body seems to really relish. I'd LOVE to one day go sub 1 hour 30 minutes. What was once an impossible dream suddenly feels like it may actually be achievable for me!
My body continues to surprise me every single day. Watching it grow in strength and kick anorexia's arse makes me feel prouder than I can ever explain. ✨
I was lucky enough to be awarded this cool trophy as well as a medal and one of those INSANE flapjacks! (Uhhh, now I'm thinking about them all over again! It's true love!) 😍
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
✨ Crazy Legs Events: ✨ https://crazylegsevents.co.uk/events/
📸 Canal Photo Credit: 📸
(Check out his social media pages - his race pics are ace!)