Race report – Clare Valley Half Marathon

This was my fourth time running at Clare.

2014 was my first EVER half marathon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All smiles after my first half!

2015 could have been subtitled ‘When Good Runs Go Bad’ and you can read more about that here. It was my first experience of a race not going to plan!

More relieved it was over, than happy! DEFINITELY not happy here!

2016 for me was all about redemption and I’m pleased to say I achieved it – full report here.

Happy days!

In each of those 3 years I had stayed up in the Clare Valley the night before. In 2o14 I bunked with Rula at the caravan park. In 2015 I left my run a bit late and had to stay 20k away in a motel Auburn. In 2016 I got really lucky and stayed in an AirBNB within walking distance of the Clare Oval!

This year there were a few firsts. It was the first time I had driven up on the day. The drive up is about 2 hours, and I figured that a) I don’t want to spend more time driving there than it takes me to actually run the thing and b) 2 hours in the car makes me really stiff and not in ideal shape to run a half!

Why did I decide to drive up on the day? Well, other than not being able to find accommodation when I looked all the way back in November, I had decided to run the 5k and not the half. Boston being only 2 weeks away, I thought that the risk of damaging myself was too great. I did, however, want to be involved, so running the 5k and volunteering either side of that, seemed to be the logical solution! (It is a long way to go for a 5k but not the longest trip I’ve done – last year I did a 500k round trip to attend the launch of Renmark parkrun!)

It does seem like an odd choice, 2 weeks out from a marathon, to be looking for a ‘fast 5’ rather than the half which could double as my long run for the week.

Especially when the medal for the half looks like this:

No bling for the 5k… but I need to focus on another sweet piece of bling coming my way in a few weeks!

I tried to figure out a way to fit a long run in around the race. I was scheduled to do 24k. Friday evening was out, as I wasn’t going to be able to start until around 7 and didn’t want to run in the dark by myself. Saturday was a possibility but did I really want to run 24k the day before a race? Probably not. And Sunday after the race I wanted to be able to enjoy brunch and possibly some wine tasting – the thought of an afternoon long run after that was not exactly appealing!

So I decided that, after doing 3 runs of over 35k in 4 weeks, I would skip the long run this weekend!

On Sunday my alarm woke me at 5am (the end of daylight saving meaning it was effectively 6am – MUCH more civilised!) with the plan being to hit the road at 5:30 . My race wasn’t until 8:45 but I wanted to get there around 7:30 to help out with bib collection if needed. Consequently, I took breakfast  (a smoothie) on the road and pulled over on the side of the road in Tarlee to drink it – 5:30 was WAY too early for me to be breakfasting!

I wasn’t too fussed about my kit, being ‘only’ a 5k – I even revisited the compression socks that had got me my Boston qualifier at Gold Coast but which had cost me a couple of toenails. I figured they would be fine for a 5k plus I didn’t have any other clean socks!

I had a long sleeved top and a jacket, as well as long pants, over my race kit, but even so, as I approached Clare I could feel it getting colder (but I didn’t want to put the heater on). It wasn’t as cold as I have experienced at Clare in the past, and at least I was better prepared than I was last year!

After helping out at bib collection for a while I warmed up by running a few laps of the oval (taking care not to cross the finish line with my bib on – that would be a great way to piss off the timing team!) before wandering over to the start line just off the Riesling Trail.

According to Wikipedia the Riesling Trail is 35km long. It runs from Auburn, to a place north of Clare called Barinia. It passes a lot of wineries, and is named after the wine that the Clare Valley is best known for (they also have some nice reds – I am NOT a riesling person!) The trail is gravel with a bit of a camber which can make running a bit difficult if you happen to be stuck running on the edge! And with 442 finishers in the half marathon the track can get a bit congested at times!

I was there in time to see the 10k runners set off and then we had 15 minutes to wait until we started. It was a bit chilly – I kept moving and trying to find a patch of sun in the hope that this would be warmer – it wasn’t really, but I tried to convince myself that it was!

It was actually perfect running conditions. Not much in the way of wind, a little bit sunny, but not at all hot.

While the half marathon and the 10k runs headed south towards Auburn (the half marathon turnaround being at Penwortham, roughly halfway between Clare and Auburn), the 5k went the other way, meaning we would be unlikely to encounter any of the 10k or 21.1k runners, except maybe in the finishing chute. (I did a few calculations – realistically I was going to finish well under 25 minutes which would be 1 hour 10 into the half marathon, and 40 minutes into the 10k. So while there was a chance I might cross paths with some of the faster 10k runners, it was unlikely that any of the half marathoners would finish before me.)

There were only 68 runners in the 5k (well that’s how many finished so I assume that was the number of starters) so congestion was not an issue!

I was at the front of the pack but not right on the start line – I was waiting for someone to get in front of me but nobody did! I’m certainly not used to being in that position!

There was quite a range of ages in the race – lots of kids, with their parents (some kids as young as 5!) and also plenty of more ‘mature’ runners (as the race starter John described them!). I assume many of them were locals – I mean, who drives nearly 2 hours from Adelaide to run a 5k? (Don’t answer that.)

There’s not much to say about the race itself – it was all over pretty quickly (quicker than I’d anticipated, even!) 

I had hoped for about 22:30 – 4:30 per kilometre. That was faster than I’d run in a while and especially coming off a 36k run a week ago, that seemed like a fairly challenging goal! (If I added together the 5 x 1000m reps I did at speed training on Friday, that would make 22:20)

I started running a bit too fast – at one stage inside the first kilometre I was on 4:15 pace so I dropped it back a bit and by the time the first kilometre ticked over I was on 4:30. Perfect! The second kilometre was a bit slower, and then we hit the turnaround. Not long before the turnaround the leaders started coming back and I discovered I was in second place -albeit MILES behind the leader! (Well maybe not miles. But almost MINUTES!) And after the turnaround, seeing the runners behind me, I estimated that the 3rd place female was about the same distance behind me. So, pretty much, barring disaster (or the first girl falling over!) I was going to be second!

According to Strava the first 2k was slightly uphill so therefore the next 2k had to be downhill. And my faster splits (4:16 and 4:19) would back this up!

The final kilometre was the same as the half and the 10k, and brought back memories from previous halves! Unsurprisingly I was somewhat fresher this time! It was slightly uphill but only slightly. 

Despite no chance of the placings changing, I still did a sprint finish. After stopping my watch I was surprised and pleased to see 22:06 (and my official time was 3 seconds better!) The winner did it in 20:14 which is 10 seconds faster than I’ve EVER run. And she was only 13! She also won the 5k last year – quite remarkable!


I did ask the guys handing out the half marathon medals if I could have one, but they (quite rightly) politely declined my request!

It was my best 5k time since the Christmas Fun Run in December 2016 and oh so close to getting back under the 22 minute barrier. Which WILL happen!

The finishing chute! Great atmosphere!
Just after crossing the finish line. On the ground is Brianna who had just done a 10k PB a week before she does the Paris Marathon!

The great thing about doing the 5k and finishing so early was that I got to see all of the 10k and 21.1k finishers. Well I didn’t see them all but I was there for them all. I saw the first 2 half marathon finishers  (Adelaide Harriers teammates Bryn and Paul in pretty much a dead heat) right through to the last 2 ladies finishing together, right on the 3 hour cutoff time. 

One of the younger 5k finishers crosses the line!

Then it was time for the trophy presentation. Clare being in a wine region, the trophies were actually engraved wine glasses! Despite wandering around for a good half hour holding my glass, no-one put any wine into it! (A group of us did go to a winery for brunch and I may or may not have tasted and purchased some wine to go in said glass. Because, Clare Valley! (When in Rome etc!)

A useful trophy! And something to put in it!

For the 4th year in a row I have had a brilliant time at Clare (despite the race itself not always going to plan). The locals are always very encouraging and enthusiastic! And I couldn’t finish a race report without once again thanking all the amazing volunteers and supporters – you guys rock!

Some of the more colourful local characters at the start of the finishing chute!

So, I’ve got just over 2 weeks until Boston and this race has given me great confidence that not only can I make the distance, but I still have some speed left in these legs!

This time next week I’ll be on a plane to Hong Kong en route to the States!

Shit is well and truly getting real!