It’s so much warmer this year. Last year I was wrapped up with my gloves and a buff and jacket for the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon . This year we arrived for the inaugural Portsmouth Harbour 50k with the temperature a good 10 degrees warmer.
Family Day Out
The forecast was for it to be overcast all morning and I was perfect comfortable in my X-Bionic running top and club vest. I knew there was likely to be a bit of wind along the seafront. It’s to be expected in Portsmouth. I’ll never forget the run in on my one and only Great South Run.
We travelled with the whole family and met Richard and his family there. The Portsmouth races are good for families because The Pyramids leisure centre has soft play for the children. Victoria and Tanya could stay there out of the cold and drink coffee all morning.
100 Club Vests
Richard and I are getting to the point now where we arrive at races and see numerous faces we recognise and a good few we know to speak to. That said, we’ve only done around 30 marathons and ultras and there are soooooo many people with way more experience than us at these events. There seem to be more and more people with 100 Club vests at every race!
Initially at least the weather was good. Not too cold for the time of year and no rain forecast either. The Portsmouth Festival of Running had three races on today. The half marathon, marathon and the Portsmouth Harbour 50k ultra. We were to go off in waves with the ultra starting first at 8:30am. Our race had about 350 entrants as opposed to the marathon with almost 1000 more than that. There are some rather narrow trails on the route and I did wonder if we might all get snagged up with fast ultra runners passing slow marathon runners at some point.
Richard and I stood chatting to our friends Paul Coe and Laura Newell on the start line. Paul was running and Laura was going to jog along and keep Paul company for the first few miles. Paul runs with Tone Zone Runners from Bognor and we meet at lots of events. He’s recently started filming some of his runs, so do keep an eye out on YouTube for those.
My plan was to run at around 4.45 per kilometre. I wanted to try and come in as close to 4 hours as possible and in the top 30. Richard wasn’t feeling great so he was going to take it a bit slower. That said, he still went off faster than me at the beginning! The route is out from the Pyramids Centre, round Langstone Harbour to the tip of Hayling Island and back. We headed out along the promenade past the pier, with the wind behind us and I settled in to a comfortable rhythm, running for much of the race alongside Tomasz Wasiak. A friend, Mark Cameron, shouted to me as I passed one of the early checkpoints. Mark has written two great books available on Amazon about his running experiences. Certainly worth checking out.
Portsmouth Harbour 50k
We had heard that the Billy Trail, following the line of the old Hayling Island railway, was very muddy and photos we saw on Facebook seemed to confirm this. However, when we got there, it really wasn’t as bad as we had expected. However, the weather was deteriorating. The wind is always pretty bad on the coast, but it also started raining in spits and spats. I was managing to keep to pace and got to the half marathon point, where the marathon runners turn for home, in 1 hour 40 minutes.
It wasn’t entirely new territory from then on because the Hayling Island 10 mile race, which I did in 2014, takes in a lot of the route we were about to run. However, once we got to the bottom we turned on to the beach and into the sand dunes. This was the hardest part of the run. Getting to half way at 25 kilometres and having to run on soft sand and pebbles really took it out of my legs. The eventual winner, Daryl Hards from my club, Worthing and District Harriers, came by on his way back and gave me a shout of encouragement. I still had 2km to the turn!
We turned at the tip of Hayling Island at the ferry terminal. Richard was not too far behind me and I also passed Paul Coe on the beach, so he was doing well too. My fastest kilometre of the Portsmouth Harbour 50k was at 30kms (18 miles or so) and I managed to hold on to goal pace for another 2 or 3 kilometres. Two things happened at 20 miles.
First we joined the marathon runners on their way back. Thankfully, the organisers had planned this very well. We were running alongside the fast marathon runners, so we were not stuck behind slow runners and perhaps some might have felt the benefit of being dragged along. However, it may have had the opposite effect on me, being passed by people doing a much faster pace.
Second, as we came to the more exposed section of the Billy Trail, the wind was in our faces and it really began to rain harder. From 33 kilometres I slowed and slowed. Of course, 20 miles is the classic point where runners hit the wall and there may well have been some of this going on on too. Tomasz had pulled away ahead of me by now but it was good to see lots of faces I knew heading in the other direction.
Then with about 6 miles to go the weather suddenly went crazy. For about 10 minutes we ran through the most aggressive hailstorm I have ever endured! It was literally horizontal hail and it was painful! I’ve run in horizontal rain before and through hail storms, but I don’t recall anything as bad as the weather we experienced in Langstone Harbour on December 20th 2015.
Things did eventually calm down and I did my best to maintain some sort of pace for the final stretch. Unfortunately, the last 3 kilometres were on the promenade with the wind right in my face. My slowest kilometre of the run was a 5:52 at 49kms. With 1km to go I tried to put in a little more effort. In 2014 I sprinted to the line at the end of the marathon. I couldn’t do that this time.
My wife and children were there at the line to cheer me in and in fact, I was very pleased to cross the line in 4 hours and 8 minutes in 23rd place. I finished just ahead of the female winner and new friend, Di Roy. The Portsmouth Harbour 50k is now my PB course. It was a 50k personal best by some 40 minutes, although all my previous 50k races have been over hilly terrain. The winner, Daryl Hards, finished in 3 hours 16 minutes in his first ultra, which is pretty incredible. Steve Way ran the marathon distance and only finished half an hour before him.
Richard came home in a respectable 4:34 in 63rd position and Paul Coe came in at 4:47. Tomas, the chap I was running with for much of the early part of the race, finished in 16th place in 4:04. All in all I am very pleased and, despite slowing somewhat at the end, it felt like a solid run.
Every Two Years
Regardless of the weather and the conditions underfoot, this is a very enjoyable race. The scenery varies enough that it’s not boring and you run on almost every kind of terrain you can imagine. If this was a summer race it would be incredibly popular. I would still recommend it. If you are looking for a flat and potentially fast 50k, or something to enter as a first ultra, the Portsmouth Harbour 50k is certainly worth a try. The plan is for it to be a bi-annual event…..that’s every two years, not twice a year! So the next Portsmouth Harbour 50k will be in 2017.
As always if you have enjoyed this Portsmouth Harbour 50k race report, do please share it with your friends or anyone you know who might be considering doing the event next time. Give it a ‘like’ or a +1 and share it with your friends. See you at the next race! Also don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Film MY Run channel. Thanks
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