I was looking for a March half marathon and stumbled across Ironbridge. This wasn’t too far to travel (just under 30 miles each way), so I decided to do some research. I hadn’t seen the event advertised anywhere locally, however after some digging I found a lot of positive reviews for the event. With it fitting the date that I wanted I decided to enter. Entry cost £36.50, which included the processing fee.
To make sure that I was prepared for the day, I messaged the Ironbridge Half Marathon Facebook page to answer a few questions that I had. First of all, would I be okay in road shoes as it was classed as an off-road event? The organizers advised that some parts may be soft mud, but most was of the route was on trail paths or pavement. The second question was regarding headphones. On the official Ironbridge Half Marathon website it stated that no headphones were to be worn. I contacted the organizers to clarify if that was a total ban or if bone conducting headphones were still okay as per England Athletics rules. It turns out that bone conducting headphones were allowed; this was also confirmed in the final event instruction email.
One thing that I really liked about the Ironbridge Half Marathon before I even lined up on the start line was the possibility of transferring places. Most races either don’t allow transfers or charge a high fee to do so. The Ironbridge Half Marathon on the other hand was much more lenient. Transfers are charged at £5 for an administration fee and can be transferred even on the morning of the event. This is great for people who end up picking up an injury in training or can no longer attend for whatever reason. The event is usually a sell out so transferring places also allows people who were unable to get a place in time to still take part.
Race numbers are to be collected on the day of the event. A few days before you can look up your name on the Ironbridge Half Marathon website to find your number. This makes it a little quicker on the day as you don’t have to line up to read the information board and find your number. Instead you can go straight to the appropriate desk. Here you provide your race number and date of birth and are then given your bib number. Can I just say, I really loved the design of these! They also had the corner holes pre-punched for people who use race clips to fasten their number on. Alternatively, paper clips were also provided on each desk.
When I originally entered the Ironbridge Half Marathon my personal best was 2:33. As such, I was targeting a sub-2:30 half marathon. Since then I ran the Gloucester Half Marathon in January in a time of 2:11:02. This made me start to consider the possibility of running a sub-2:10 at Ironbridge. A few weeks before the event I managed to find a copy of the elevation graph. I had read online about the “down and up” nature of the course, and with many commenting on a tough hill climb just after mile 8. All things considered, the elevation graph didn’t look too discouraging. I was quietly optimistic about my chances.
I had tried not to look too much into the elevation or routing for the course beforehand. My knee was still giving me grief and I didn’t want to put additional doubt into my mind. With this being said, I did know about the “down and up” profile as mentioned above. As such, I knew that my first half split needed to be quicker than my goal race pace as I would more than likely slow down over the second half.
The first half led me into a false sense of security! I felt good as the course was mainly flat with some speedy downhill sections. I crossed mile 7 in good time and was feeling confident as I was well ahead of my goal pace. This all changed at around the 8.33 mile mark. “Hill” is an understatement as it felt like a mountain. I actually felt like I needed a rope to pull myself up at some parts and was reduced to a walk. It was pretty brutal and I actually contemplated dropping out, however I didn’t want to wipe all of the hard work that I had put into the first half of the race. I struggled to even walk to the top but eventually made it. This was then followed by a little downhill before another climb. The rest of the course was made up of flat ground, small climbs and then another tough climb later on.
I was actually grateful that the elevation map actually made it onto the design of the finisher’s t-shirt!
There were no pacers for the Ironbridge Half Marathon.
There were 4 water stations on the course. These were around miles 3, 6, 9 and 11. Water was also provided at the finish line. All of the aid stations provided water in plastic bottles. No gels or sports drinks were provided.
The entertainment was lacking, however that is never a big issue for me personally. The start / finish area had some live commentary, but there was no official entertainment along the course.
For a smaller scale half marathon I was quite impressed with the atmosphere. There were lots of marshals along the course, most of whom were Telford Harriers club members. The event also attracted quite a few spectators. I imagine that the warm weather helped to bring people out, but the atmosphere across Ironbridge was really electric. It’s not an easy course for spectators though as a lot of it is on trail paths. The parts through the town and across the main bridges were hotspots for spectators.
Wow, I had heard that the goodie bag was usually generous, but even still I was impressed! Upon crossing the finish line I was given my medal and t-shirt, then a good quality Telford Harriers branded drawstring bag, a bottle of water, an Ironbridge half marathon branded mug, and an oat flapjack. (The flapjack was actually really tasty!)
T-shirt and Medal:
Let me start off by saying that the medal is huge! It was the 30th Ironbridge half marathon and that is also featured on the medal. It also has a design on the back, which is a nice touch.
I like the t-shirt colour, but what’s more is the fact that it includes the elevation graph. This graph shows the key locations along the route, such as the Ironbridge and the Museum of Iron. Overall, I really like the t-shirt design. Plus it was a bonus to be able to get the right size!
Photos from the event were available a couple of days after the event and were free to download from Flickr.
I really enjoyed my first experience of the Ironbridge half marathon. The course was scenic, albeit tough, especially from mile 8 onwards. It was well marshalled and supported, despite the off-road nature of the route. The mementos were high quality and practical items, and the medal and t-shirt were well designed. As far as organization and goodies go, I can’t fault the Ironbridge half marathon!
Despite not getting the time that I would have liked due to those pesky two “hills” (more like mountains!), I still really enjoyed the course. It was nice to be off-road and spend some time taking in some overlooked scenery. I would definitely recommend this event, even if it is just to see the scenery and history around Ironbridge. It’s not the most practical if you are aiming for a personal best, but if you want a scenic run or are looking to ease yourself into trail running, the Ironbridge half marathon is definitely worth considering.