Race Report – Grand Union Canal half marathon

Sunday 10th November dawned cold but bright. No rain! As it rained for hours on Saturday this was definitely a bonus. Another bonus was the 10am start which meant that I didn’t have to get up at the crack of sparrow’s fa*t! Instead a relatively leisurely time getting up and ready. Another big bonus was that at the last minute my son Jack decided to come along too.

This run was well organised by Purple Patch. Because the run was point to point they laid on pre booked transport from the finish back to the start before the run. (Another reason for the 10am start probably, although we had organised our own transport.) Picking up our numbers was quick and easy, and Jack was able to enter on the day. And – plenty of toilets! Cowley recreation ground has some big trees in it and they were looking lovely in their autumn colours.

Before the run we held a minute’s silence because it was Remembrance Sunday. I noticed a couple of runners wearing Help for Heroes running tops, and along the canal there were a few flags on boats for Remembrance Day. The run started with a lap of the park and then we were on to the canal towpath heading north towards Watford. Apart from one small road crossing the whole route was off road, on the towpath and then through the park at the other end. The towpath was very wet and muddy most of the way due to the heavy rain on Saturday. I was glad I was wearing my trail shoes.

The towpath goes through some very rural places, which feel like they have hardly changed since the canal was built. At Denham Deep Lock there is a small cafe in the old lock keeper’s cottage, and it easy to imagine yourself back in time. There are lots of pubs and cafes along the towpath, and the smell of breakfast wafted across the path very temptingly! Alongside the canal and nearby are lots of lakes and several rivers, so there is a lot of wetland. The Rickmansworth Aquadrome is managed park/wetland. The lakes were originally gravel pits – gravel was extracted for the building of the original Wembley Stadium in 1923. I am planning to back there for a bit of an explore – it really isn’t far from my home.

It is interesting to see how the canal is used nowadays. There were lots of walkers (and some runners going the other way – tricky when you are facing 450 other runners!) and anglers. There were also some canoeists. I have always thought that would be a nice way to explore the canal. Of course there are lots of boats, some travelling and some moored. Some of the permanent moorings are very well established, with little gardens at the edge of the path, seating and barbecue areas, piles of logs etc. The smells of woodsmoke and frying bacon are definitely part of canal atmosphere.

After splashing through a lots of muddy puddles (I love doing that!) we arrived in Cassiobury Park in Watford. Cassiobury Park was once the country seat of the Earls of Essex. The estate has its roots in the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539, and the house was built in 1546. Sadly it was demolished in 1927. Much of original parkland has been sold for housing development, but the remaining park is very lovely and well used by people for leisure activities.

Going through the park towards the finish was really one of the hardest parts as it was uphill almost all the way! But the marshals were all very encouraging and cheerful – as they had been all the way (thank you marshals and volunteers 😊). And finally the finish line was in sight, with my husband and son there for the final cheer!

Smily happy faces 😊
2:02:27 for me and 1:31:50 for him – a personal best!!! Hurray!

This was a very enjoyable half marathon and has given me ideas for long training runs. Perhaps driving up to Denham or a bit further, and running along the canal or round the country parks up there.

Mud! Jack was caked in it!

As you know (or have guessed by now) I am running to raise money for JDRF. This brilliant charity supports children, adults and families affected by Type 1 diabetes. It also funds some amazing research with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for this autoimmune disease. I have achieved my fundraising target – but if you haven’t yet donated don’t let that put you off 😉 Every little helps! A massive thank you to everyone who has donated already – especially big thank you to my anonymous donors – I honestly don’t know who some of you are – so please accept this very heartfelt thank you.

I like this medal a lot – it really is a memento of the race with the boat across it.

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