Brass Monkey Half Marathon

19th January 2014
By Matthew Rose

Sneaking around the house at just after 5am is not my normal idea of a Sunday morning… thankfully I was able to skip breakfast at mine and head to Mark and Natalie’s for Organic Porridge Oats and a cup of tea courtesy of Mark Owen. We, along with nine other Harriers were travelling over in the club minibus and had arranged to be at Neiley for a prompt departure at 6:50am… almost to plan we were on the bus and on our way!

Attracting a field of around 1,500, this popular race sets off from York Racecourse and takes in Acaster Selby, Appleton Roebuck and back through Bishopthorpe. The race was cancelled in 2013 amid heavy snow but this year it went without hitch.

We arrived at a very wet, rainy York Racecourse for about 8am and had first access to many of the fine facilities on offer. No queues, a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of conversation and camaraderie among our group and over the next hour we were greeted by a sea of other harrier runners; 18 in total all keen to do the business.

Tim, Alwyn and Adriene had travelled over in support of the troops; Alwyn as normal, ensuring adequate preparations for our runners and coordinating warm ups and drills etc.

Soon it was time to get moving and queue up at the starting line. I made my way with Shaun Coggan who was himself out for his first half marathon… it was miserable and very wet and the ‘black sack’ I was wearing was a godsend! We were corralled along towards the start line and found ourselves around the 1:45 marker… a few moments later we were joined by compatriot Neil Harrison. The familiar sight of the Amber vests were seen among the fellow runners in the crowd was a welcome sight; good luck all!

I had my plan and knew I had to avoid a quick start; a gradual build up and a strong finish and a target of 1:37/38… I wanted to run even splits of around 7:24.

brass monkey leaders

Matthew Pierson and Dave Turnbull
working hard up front (Photo by: David Harrison)

Eventually we were off and Neil, Shaun and I got into a steady rhythm; those two just ahead of me and further ahead still I could see Karen Sinkinson and her daughter Holly. I’d done this run twice previously and as we got moving, memories started to come back to me. There were marshals warning us of the upcoming speed humps and after a couple of miles I remembered that spot – where previously I’d had to stop and retie my shoe lace; not this year though.

My pace was right on target; Shaun and Neil had moved ahead but I wasn’t phased. I maintained my pace and after a while caught up with Neil, exchanged a few words and pressed on… like clockwork, I was maintaining my target pace. I’d kept Shaun in my sights and caught him around mile six; I was feeling strong and invited Shaun to join me for the remaining half of the race. We passed Flaming Photography at around mile seven and I was informed Mr Edwards was 90 seconds ahead… he wasn’t my target but I did work out we’d have to increase our pace by 15 seconds per mile if we wanted to catch him… stick to the plan!

bm mr

Me feeling great at mile seven

Shaun and I were like metronomes and exchanging race/pacing and fuelling strategies… we passed Holly and now had Karen in our sights. At mile 9 it was the last water station and as I collected a cup, Shaun pushed on opening a gap between us. I overtook Karen and I could feel she’d anchored onto me… I lifted my pace and reeled Shaun in and we continued working together for the next couple of miles.

The course is mainly flat with two little hills, one at the beginning and then repeated at the end. As we hit the last hill my approach was caution and Shaun pushed on again opening quite a substantial gap between us. I was still on track and happy with my performance and again lifted my pace. At mile 12, Tim and Alwyn were shouting words of encouragement – ahead of them was the final elevation up and over the A64 before a short descent. After a few hundred yards we turned into the race grounds and as I looked towards the finish line I remembered the speed sessions; it will soon be over. I overtook Shaun and pushed on to the next runner – Pierson and Turnbull were track side offering support as I leapt into the final 100 metres. I was running 5:29 pace and could feel my legs disappearing beneath me… I crossed the finish line in 1:35:29.

bm mp

Matthew Pierson wins in 70:19
(Photo by: Flaming Photography)

Shaun followed seconds later; we were both delighted with our performances. I handed over my souvenir t-shirt before heading out with Stu Sharp for warm down. Stu had been travelling through Northern India and Nepal for the three weeks prior and had little opportunity to train (see http://wevishnuamerryxmas.blogspot.co.uk/) ; Stu finished in 1:17:54! We got a little lost on our warm down but a very beneficial extra 2.5 miles and great marathon training!

We returned to the main hall to hear the results. It was great to see our athletes invited to collect their prizes. Matthew Pierson ran brilliantly, winning the race in 1:10:19. Dave Turnbull was next, recovering from illness he came in 8th in 1:12:16. Margaret Sykes had a fantastic run finishing as 5th female and 1st F45 in 1:23:40 and Karen Sinkinson 2nd F50 in 1:36:53. The winning female was Jilly Woodthorpe (Barnsley AC) in 1:15:57.

There was a lot of optimism among the Harriers to win both the mens (Matthew, Dave and Stu) and ladies (Margaret, Lucy and Jacquie) team prizes; for some reason the organisers had decided not to award a team prize this year!

Update: Since the race we have had confirmation that we have indeed won both team prizes :)

We returned to the minibus and were rewarded for our efforts with some of Lucy’s finest Rock buns and Blondies before the journey back to Holmfirth.


Holmfirth: Matthew Pierson [1] 01:10:19; David Turnbull [8] 01:12:16; Stuart Sharp [32] 01:17:54; Margaret Sykes [1st F45/108] 01:23:31; Brandon Holroyd [149] 01:25:43; David Roberts [162] 01:26:17; Lucy Verrill [166] 01:26:28; Seton Waddington [183] 01:27:09; Jacqui Khoueiry [4th F40/291] 01:31:25; Marwan Khoueiry [292] 01:31:25; Matthew Rose [423] 01:35:29; Shaun Coggon [424] 01:35:30; Karen Sinkinson [2nd F50/453] 01:36:53; Neil Harrison [600] 01:41:19; Mark Owen [931] 01:51:14; Katherne McFaddean [1027] 01:54:45; Natalie Allan [1328] 02:11:45

Complete: http://ukresults.net/2014/brass.html
Photos: http://www.flamingphotography.co.uk/brass-monkey-half

Looking back!

Coming home on the bus athletes took a moment to capture their thoughts onto paper; this is what they said...

Brandon Holroyd

At the start of 2013 I was seriously thinking of giving up running due to injury and illness. I took nearly a month off from running; that’s what this sport can be like… you have to pick yourself up and start again.

12 months later I find myself on the start line of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon getting soaked to the skin; BBC weather said clear skies! For the first 6 miles I ran alongside David Costello as we both watched Maggie Sykes disappearing into the distance never to be seen again. I tried to push the pace at mile 7 opening up a gap on David so wasn't pleased when he overtook me at mile 8 and opening up a 30 metre gap on me! I’ve been beaten by David consistently in races for nearly two years I was determined not to give up; maintaining that same distance until mile 11.

At mile 12 Alwyn was shouting to me to push it for the last mile.. I went for it; overtaking David I went all out opening up a 30 second gap by the time I crossed the finish line! It was my 2nd fastest half marathon and my best time since 2007; I finished in 1:25:43. All in all a good race, great venue and I would highly recommend it.

A Big thanks to all the Harriers and supporters who made it a successful day.

Karen Sinkinson

The first road race I’ve entered with my daughter Holly and a great introduction for her beginning with the shared minibus journey, a fast course and lots of Lucy’s fab homemade cakes for recovery.

York is the flattest half marathon I’ve run but I missed the fast downhill and hard climbs, finding it difficult to maintain the necessary pace to beat my PB from last September. Matthew came flying past me at the 10 mile marker and despite the encouragement from Alwyn and Tim there was not catching him – this time!

Well done Matthew.

Katherine McFadzean

Ahhh – I got a PB… 1:54:45 never been as happy!

I thoroughly enjoyed the race, even splashing through the puddles; it’s all thanks to the hard work and training with the Harriers that has brought me on so much.

Hopefully the next time I am at York Racecourse it will be with a drink in hand!

Natalie Allen

Having not done a half marathon since 2008 I was pretty nervous! I was determined to beat my Great North Run and 14 minutes off definatly put a smile on my face. Although a flat course, the urge to walk at certain parts was ever present; I dug in, splashed through the puddles and was so pleased to see Alwyn at the last 200 metres urging me towards the finish line!

A fab day with fab Harrier friends and looking forward to a big pub meal later!

Mark Owen

This was a race that was planned into my timings for the London Marathon but was unable to get a place initially.

I set off with a pace in mind and was consistent up until the end. I finished in 1:51 beating my PB of 1:58 set in May 2013 in the Sheffield Half.

Overall very pleased with my result.

Neil Harrison

This was a big day for me after a shocking back half of 2013 most of which I missed due to illness. I had finally got myself back in some kind of shape having happily been running 8/9 miles regularly over the Christmas period. My New Year resolutions for Harriers were to get more amber days under my belt and extend my running circle at the club. You can only spend so long looking at the rear of Rich McLeod!

When Jonathon King made noises about missing Brass Monkey due to dodgy-knee-itis I jumped at the chance to take up his place. Only a couple of minor details to overcome…I hadn’t run 13 miles in over a decade and I needed new trainers, no prizes for guessing where this ends up!

Travel arrangements went like clockwork, Lucy Verrill was a star getting us all there and I hopped on the bus at Scissett Baths as arranged. The course is very flat and must be flattering if a donkey like me can get around in 1.41 a PB :-)

I took Matthew Rose’s sage advice after a couple of miles, it might have been something like "Slow down fatty or you’ll blow up", anyway it worked and I got around without much drama and no skin left on one of my small toes, finishing with a smile. A big thank you to Alwyn & Adrienne Dewhirst and Tim Cock for their encouragement at mile 12.

Would I recommend the Brass Monkey? Definitely!

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