04 June 2020

Event review: Race Your Pace Half-Marathon

March 19, 2011

It is rare that a race leaves you feeling a bit flat. You may feel miserable after a bad time or an injury; you may be livid with a rude marshal or naffed off with a goody bag full of rubbish – but just feeling “meh”?

Race-Your-PaceDorney Lake, Eton, Berkshire – February 20, 2011

That, in my experience, is unusual – especially when you’ve just got a PB in your first half-marathon since being injured 18 months earlier.

That’s the feeling, though, that the Race Your Pace Half-Marathon gave me. On paper, it sounds impressive – a flat race, full of PB potential, round the scenic Dorney Lake, location of rowing events in the 2012 Olympics.

It is an ideal pre-VLM event, where you can pace yourself against a team of Runner’s World pacers and run in one of two races – Performance for sub-1:45 runners and Improvers for those who reckon they are 1:45 or slower.

I entered the Improvers category, being on the cusp of the cut-off between the two races – I’d like to get near 1:45 but wasn’t confident enough to go with the fast runners, as I felt it would put too much pressure on me to run faster than I wanted to.


The entry fee is £25 – and I have to say, for that amount, I was expecting an impressive goody bag or t-shirt after finishing.

The warning signs should have come with the race packet. This came the week before the race and comprised a race number, timing chip and a flyer for a another forthcoming race. No instructions on what to do with the chip, or directions to the race, or even a jolly message.

This is because the race instructions were just put online and not posted out. Yes, it’s a good way to save paper, but those without printers (or, in my case, without a working printer) were put at a disadvantage and the lack of printed information didn’t give a welcoming feeling.

Once at the start, I initially stood with the pacer aiming for nine minute miles, but once we started, a throng of runners crowded around him making it difficult to find space on the fairly narrow path.


The website admitted that the race wasn’t particularly interesting, and it wasn’t, simply comprising four laps round Dorney Lake. However, I actually quite enjoyed counting my laps and spotting the same things each time – the more stony asphalt at the top of the lake; the two main bridges that didn’t look too much of an uphill, but that made you work harder on each lap; the spectators cheering each time you passed the boathouse.

The lake was pretty enough to look at, even in the somewhat murky weather, but the support was pretty much non-existent away from the boathouse. Marshals were scarce – understandably, given the fact that the route was pretty easy, being simple circuits – and, with only one exception, they were rather quiet.

I found the flat route and lack of obstructions created an ideal situation to run fast and strong. However, halfway round my third lap, my longstanding hip injury flared up, leaving me in a lot of pain. Although I had to slow slightly, I was determined not to walk, aware that a good time was within sight.

Coming back down the straight of the fourth lap, I could see the flags and timing gantry of the finish ahead in the distance and, despite a headwind, kept my pace and even managed a spring finish.

I managed a time of 1:48:41, a PB by a minute. If my hip hadn’t complained, I feel quite confident that I could have managed the magical 1:45.

But the finish was disappointing and took the gloss off my time. Runners were handed the smallest medal I have seen in quite a while and a bottle of Lucozade Sport. And that was it. No ceremony, no t-shirt, not even a whiff of a goody bag. Runners finished and that was it. Time to do the long walk back to the car park.

I don’t do races for the goodies. But it’s a nice touch to offer runners something, especially after they’ve paid a decent amount of money to race. It would have been a nice touch to have had something to give runners, or to have created a medal that you could see without a microscope.

It was good to race at Dorney Lake, on footpaths with no traffic. But the organisers, Human Race, could have made it feel far more of an occasion, and that’s why I felt so flat at the end of the race.


  • Good for PB hunters
  • A flat course
  • Plenty of drink at the drink station, which was passed four times along the race.


  • Value for money (or lack of)
  • Low-key finish
  • Several monotonous laps with no surprises

Nell Darby, Sportsister
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