Middlesbrough Half Marathon – 3rd March 2024

by Josh Pearson

Earlier this year I picked this race out as my first main goal race of 2024. I had planned out a whole 6 week plan specific to this event, working on improving the body’s fitness in a variety ways.

The night before I had a look at the forecast for the first time and saw that it was actually a nice day for a change, cool and dry with winds of 5-7 mph which was very good to see.

On the morning of the event I got up to Middlesbrough just before 8am (Race starting at 9am) and met up with a few friends that I knew were doing it. About 30 mins before the race I bumped into Simon who was the only other runner from Crook AC taking part in this event. 15 mins before the race I headed out for a light warm up before getting back and then getting in the pen ready to be let go.

My main thought about 2 minutes before the race started was that the conditions (especially the wind) are very kind and in our favour so whatever you do don’t waste this opportunity by going off like a mad man in the first mile. As the gun went off, I purposely put myself about 5 rows back so that I couldn’t go off like a rocket and settled into a nice pace for the first 0.5 mile.

When we’d just got past 1 mile a guy on my right, Tim Taylor (Darlington Harriers), started chatting to me about what the goal was today and we both had similar times in mind trying to tackle our PBs (My old PB was 1:17:28) and both try and run under the 1:17 barrier for the first time. Another lad overheard us and said that was his target also so we formed a great little group at this point knowing what each other’s goals were.

As the race went on our group kind of worked nicely together, having a good vibe and hitting consistent splits around the 5:50 mile pace or just under until we hit the 10k mark in the town in 35:46. When we got to 10k, which was back in centre, it then took us out the other side of the course heading over a couple of overpasses to get us towards the Riverside Stadium

These overpasses slowly started to sap some of the energy from the legs and this is where our group of around 8 started to separate. A few of the group dropped off as the energy levels dipped. As I hit the 10 mile mark with only 1 other athlete for company it became a huge mental battle, I knew it was going to feel like this as it always does when you are on your limit and trying to break new territory for your body.

Mile 11, if I’m honest, seemed to last for an age and I don’t remember much of it apart from just talking to myself in my head “keep pushing keep pushing…” After analysing the route in detail the night before, it was surprisingly a little more difficult a finish than me or most of the other people I was chatting to thought it was going to be with a few little sharp climbs.

Mile 12, just like mile 11, was very hard to maintain the pace and effort levels but managed to dig very deep. At this point I was thinking the work is done now… don’t let it slip… There was a ½ a kilometre stretch where you run up to a roundabout before turning to come down it which seemed to go on forever and after the race someone asked me where I thought the toughest part of the course was and I would probably say there, for the timing of it.

When the watch beeped with 1 mile to go I was on an average pace of 5:48 per mile through 12.1 miles and I knew that it was going to be hard work but you can always find a tiny little bit when you know you’re nearly done! The problem was that there was a sharp bank for like 200 metres which was very unwelcome but I knew it was coming! The positive thing though was that I knew that sub 5:52 pace would get me under the A goal of the day breaking 1:17 for the first time in my life and I had 3 to 4 secs per mile pace to play with so barring a disaster or a stop I knew that I had a great chance of doing it!

Simon will back me up in saying that the final stretch seems to go on forever, like the Great North Run, when you can see the finish but you feel like it’s never getting any closer. Eventually I managed to get to the line in a massive new PB of 1:16:12. Simon also managed to get a PB today which was great news all around. Me, Simon and another mate headed to a local pub for a well earned pint and some food to celebrate a great day out!!

Josh Pearson – 1:16:12 (New PB)
Simon Pickering – 1:33:18 (New PB)

Cheers to Darren Fairclough on the route shouting support and getting some photos