Castles Half Marathon – 22nd October 2023

by Denyse Holman

After a five-year gap, I decided it was about time I challenged myself to run another half marathon.

I had been studying Geoff’s Race Calendar for months before finally deciding that the Castles half marathon was the one to go for. Graeme and I have done a few walks up near Bamburgh, so I knew I would be treated to some fabulous scenery. Plus, given the time of year, I banked on the weather not being scorching hot.

In fact, as it turned out, Storm Babet hit the UK a few days before the run so I was more worried about having to swim my way round. But thankfully its effects subsided over the weekend, and on the day conditions were just about perfect for a run. Blue skies, little or no wind and not too hot or too cold. No excuses for a bad performance!

The event itself is relatively low key. We managed to get parked easily, get my race number and most importantly there was no queue for the ladies’ toilets! I’m sure that must be a first. I wandered up to the start line where the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, until an ambulance with blue lights on headed straight for us just before the starter’s gun was about to fire.

After that drama, we all got back onto the starting line again and off we went.

The run begins just outside the village of Bamburgh and winds its way inland along minor roads through some beautiful Northumberland countryside. It then loops back out toward the coast with breath taking views of the Farne Islands, Holy Island and the North Sea, finishing in Bamburgh itself.

My plan was to get sub 2 hours. The strategy for achieving this was negative splits, but I was conscious this had worked during my training runs because I live in a valley, so I run uphill for half the distance and downhill for the rest!

I started off with a quicker than normal pace and it felt better than expected. So I decided to try and maintain it, particularly as the course had been described as ‘slightly undulating’. The route certainly does have some flat sections but in my opinion this isn’t the most accurate description. Particularly, the last 5 miles which seem to be all uphill back toward Bamburgh. However, I was buoyed up by the stunning view of Bamburgh Castle at this point, which helped me maintain my pace and finish with a PB of 1:50:51.

I know I have still have some work to do to get near the HM times of some of my fellow Group 4s, but I was pleased with that.

Unfortunately, there were no other Crookites to chat to afterwards! But I enjoyed myself nevertheless and will certainly be doing it again next year.

Denyse H