The ups and downs of running the Sheffield Half Marathon
What goes up must come down. Every outdoor citizen knows this, whether they’re walking up the Long Causeway, cycling over Cut Gate or running the Sheffield Half Marathon.
Last Sunday just under 4,000 runners took on what is known in local half marathon circles as ‘The Hill.’How’s it going? “Gasp,” said the runner from Wimbledon, putting her thumbs up uncertainly on her way down after cresting the 1,100 foot high summit just after Ringinglow.The Sheffield Half Marathon, returning after its Covid break, involves a welcoming Sheffield start of five miles of running upwards. We all knew this, but set off anyway, happily waving at the crowds on Arundel Gate at 9am who could then nip off for a latte while awaiting the return of their red-faced family runner a couple of hours later.(Unless you were the families of Andrew Heyes or Caroline Brock, both Sheffielders, who nailed their home course victories in the ‘beyond reckoning to the rest of us’ times of 01:06:04 and 01:23:27 respectively).
Here’s what you have to do: essentially, keep going, smile at people, marvel at the wigs, flags, rattles and airhorns, shout something witty if you like but only on the first mile on Ecclesall Road, because after Hunters Bar you’ll have no breath left.Then keep marvelling, as so many folk have come out to cheer you on. Ascending Ecclesall Road South, use your thumbs up, waving and maybe even single syllable shouting technique. Remember not to grimace too much, as work colleagues may be there in their Sunday best.
As you ascend the crowds appear to get more jovial. There’s a cheery acoustic trio on a pedestrian crossing, hordes of urchins with jelly babies and chocolates, Ecclesall mothers with sliced organic oranges, and a table of wet volunteers managing the water station at Ecclesall Church.And then the irony starts at Knowle Lane. Road chalk messages telling you how well you’re doing as you turn purple.“Nearly there” says one message. The family in the nearby garden are laughing. First time runners from Lincolnshire will be killing themselves.As the wind blows down from the moors, you head out into the countryside, watching waves of runners cresting the summits of Ringinglow Road, and one or two people sprint past optimistically hoping for a good time on the King and Queen of the Mountain sections.
And then you’re there. You’re up The Hill. And then round the corner a tantalising sign notes you’ve done six miles and are thus not even halfway yet.To say it’s all downhill from there is not even remotely true, despite the fact that nearly every spectator tells you so. Dore Village is out in its deckchairs, and then there’s those niggling slight inclines on Limb Lane and Ecclesall Road South, and then, finally, you pass the Silverhill cowbells and guitarists and tumble happily down to Hunters Bar as the cheering crowds pull you back home.The spectators are still doing their best, but since Andrew and Caroline hurtled by an hour ago, they’re getting a little less enthusiastic, except for the regular screams of “Ghost Rider!” Which may seem baffling to club runners from over 100 miles away, but for those of us in the gold and green of the Steel City Striders, what they’re actually saying is I’m not running today, but I’m still going to spur on my hundreds of club mates by crying “Go Strider!”.
We pass the 12 mile marker and the city centre beckons, with the final insult of a climb up Charter Row and a ‘sprint’ finish.“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” said Sheffielder, and England and Great Britain athlete Dot Kesterton.
“It means an awful lot to see so many people out in the sunshine, having fun, safe because we’re outdoors, and challenging themselves.”My daughter Emily ran in long ago. “It makes me emotional,” she said. “It’s so good to be back.”