Jedburgh Half Marathon Race Report

[Sun 30th Oct 2011]

“Even the longest journey begins with a single step” (Attrib. Confucius).

The road to Jedburgh certainly isn’t the longest of journeys, however in a bid to guarantee parking and no last minute rush it was at around 8:30 am on Sunday morning that I found myself venturing from home to join Steve Dobby in his brand new car (which I should add has an impressive array of gadgetry and statistics which he will no doubt be glad to share with you should you ask) on the road to Jedburgh. Given that I wanted to break the 1 hour 30 minute mark for the Half Marathon the ultimate question was inevitably going to be ‘was getting up early on a Sunday morning going to be worth it?’

For those of you who don’t know much about Jedburgh, I suggest a visit to Wikipedia, there you’ll discover a vast amount of previously unknown things about the border town - I know I did.

After a journey of about an hour and a half, which involved such conversation as “what’s your favourite song to run to?” (Sinnerman by Nina Simone – should you be interested), or whether music needs to have a fast tempo when you listen to it when you run etc… we eventually arrived in Jedburgh.

Having parked up, we made our way to the race HQ to pick up our chips (unfortunately plastic and not potato) and surprisingly our rather fetching blue commemorative t-shirts (normally prizes are given out after the event – not judging just saying). Having dispatched t-shirts, attached chips to shoes and completed a short warm up we headed for the start.

As we wandered to the start, Steve and I discussed whether we were the only Blyth runners taking part, neither of us were aware of any other Blyth runners’ presence in the race, however, as it would transpire, when we arrived at the start we discovered Julie Lemin and Davina Lonsdale waiting to begin the race too – Steven Wright once joked “small world wouldn’t want to paint it”. After meets and greets and good lucks and cheerio’s we prepared for the gun.

Jedburgh, according to Wikipedia, is “dominated by the substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey” it was, figuratively speaking, under this domination at 11 am on a slight hill that we, along with 527 other people, started the 10th Annual Jedburgh Half Marathon.

The start of the race, for those who don’t know, meanders through the town and heads down to the A68.  Thanks to a very visible police presence the race runs along the A68 till just before a bridge over the Jed Water, here the race turns right off the main road and up a sharp hill. The course undulates for the next mile or so until the road reaches the A698. Here, as the race turns right along the A698, the road flattens out.

It’s at this point that I became acutely aware of the speed of certain runners around me and then the fact that they were all turning around a cone and heading back. This was of course due to the starting of both the 10k and half marathon races together. Confusion over concentration was regained.

At about 4 miles the race turns left off the A698 onto the B6400 for under a quarter mile until the race turns right onto a minor road. This minor road runs between fields and back towards the A698. When we re-joined the A698 initially the route turned right back towards Jedburgh before doubling back again on another minor road to return to the A698 (everybody still with me?). The race continues along the A698 and as the road begins to dogleg left the race, at about 6 miles, follows another minor road to the right. Here the road rises slightly and then veers left towards the village of Eckford at halfway. In this village sat three old ladies with a table full of orange quarters should anyone have wished to partake, I did not though I had a rather vile strawberry and banana gel that I’d brought along. Just after here the race turned left back towards the A698. Once at the A698 the race heads back in the general direction of Jedburgh over most of the previously ran course.

Where the dogleg was in the A698 the race overlaps between outward bound and inward bound - or maybe Jedward bound (see what I did there), and it was here that I met Julie and Davina running in the opposite direction. Mutual encouragement over I returned to running back to Jedburgh.

During our short warm up it was discovered that, despite the warmth of the autumn sun and the few clouds dotted in the almost clear sky there was as nasty headwind for our return to Jedburgh – just as “every cloud has a silver lining” (Attrib. John Milton) “every silver lining has a cloud” (Attrib. Julian Schnabel). It was between mile 7 and 8 that the headwind really started to cause a bit of a problem (previously it had been a tailwind though I do not possess a tail). It had been my aim to break the 1 hour 30 minute barrier and Steve’s aim to break the 1 hour 40 minute barrier the headwind unfortunately put paid to any chance of either of us reaching those milestones – though not for the want of trying.

At about mile 9 the race returns along part of the off shoot route from earlier in the race and eventually returns to the A698. Any respite at this point, though very much so welcome, felt rather short lived and at around mile 10 the slog through the headwind returned.  Prior to this I was still on course for a sub 1 hour 30, however it had become abundantly clear to myself that any energy I had in reserve for the remaining 3 and a bit miles was going into battling the headwind and controlling my breathing as a result. I knew therefore that today was not going to be my day.

At around the 11 mile mark the road starts to kick up into what seemed like at the time and in reality probably is a rather steep ascent, and just when I thought it was plateauing out it went even higher –tends to be the norm. Up to mile 10 I had been predominately passing people, fairly comfortably I might add. Since mile 10 it seemed like everyone had been passing me. At the top of the hill, with about a mile and a half to go, I decided to put a final push in now that the headwind had stopped being a headwind and I was closing in on the finish.

I have had first-hand experience of the what could be the “real” Scotland – having lived there for four years - and In spite of what Hollywood would like you to think, Scotland, and the towns and cities therein, bear no resemblance to Brigadoon. Though the tourist board certainly must appreciate the “Brigadooned” bagpipers for lending a tartan flavour to the occasion, I do not. This had been only my second ever trip to Jedburgh and as I had regaled to Steve in the car on the way up I could only remember that it had a Jedburgh Woollen Mill rather than an Edinburgh Woollen Mill – though now they have one of those too and it’s just across the car park from the former (talk about cornering the market for woollen goods). Anyway, having played us off at the beginning the bagpipers had now found more lucrative ears for their warbling as they played shoppers into the Jedburgh of the two Woollen Mills as I ran past.

With the 400 metres to go sign came the sense of the finish line and it was time for one last hurrah. I sprinted in with an official time of 1 hour 34 minutes and 13 seconds, not a new pb but by no means my slowest half marathon. Having disposed of my running chip, collected my abundantly biscuited goody bag a bottle of Yorkshire water? and a banana – probably Costa Rican – I ventured to cheer the others in. Steve finished slightly disappointed, like myself, in time of 1 hour 42 minutes 21 seconds followed by an eyeballs out sprinting – surprisingly sprinting since she’d ran the cross country the day before – Julie with 1 hour 54 minutes 38 seconds (she was unfortunately pipped on the line thanks in part to mine and Steve’s voracious support on the finishing straight. The chap she was chasing down got wind of what was happening and changed from an amble to full on tearing up the grass shoots sprint (I’ve embellished here slightly for dramatic effect though it shouldn’t detract from what was a very competitive finish) to stop her taking his place. We apologised as did the chap she was racing but as Julie said she would’ve done the same to him - that’s racing). Davina wasn’t long in after that, only a minute longer to be exact, in a less dramatic by comparison, but by no means unworthy, finish of 1 hour 55 minutes 38 seconds.

The consensus at the end was that in spite of the headwind the race had been a good one (I almost described it as enjoyable here given time I may change my opinion). Here the story ends life carries on and indeed carries on regardless as it must. So was it worth it I hear you ask. The Rolling Stones once sang “you can’t always get what you want”, which in mine and Steve’s case on the 30th October we didn’t, “but if you try sometimes you get what you need”. Maybe we came away from Jedburgh a bit despondent, a little annoyed that what we wanted we couldn’t achieve. But sometimes you have to know the bitter to appreciate the sweet. Maybe that was what the 2011 Jedburgh Half Marathon means now to us. Maybe you need a race like that every once in a while to wake you up a bit or show you that everything’s not lost, to show you where you’re really at. So when I do break 1 hour 30 minutes, which I intend to aim for just as hard as ever now, I’ll look back at this race and think I learnt something there and like Nietzsche once said “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Thanks for reading


Stay tuned for the abridged version…

Ran it, didn’t win it, here’s a picture of some bongos.