Chester Half Marathon
Tourist Running Guy's Report

It is a truism, often spouted by 'holier than thou' 'fun runners', that the 'best' way to see a new town or city is, to do a half marathon around it.

Like all truisms, this statement is only actually 'true' under circumstances, which depends on the nature of the truism you are naively pinning your life planning to.

"Don’t start something you can’t finish."
Unless it's a half marathon, you've pulled a muscle, twisted an ankle or have simply had e - bloody - nough! And don't care who thinks your throwing your toys out of the pram or how bloody big the ***king medal is!!

"History repeats itself."
Not if you are not stupid enough to enter the London Marathon ballot it doesn't.

"If it walks like a duck,…it’s a duck."
Unless it's just gone passed the mile 12 mark and the race planners have decided to throw in an uphill final mile. Then the thing walking like a duck is probably a runner who is close to not finishing something he/she started and doesn't want history repeating itself while they show off with a sprint finish and fall flat on their face in front of a couple of hundred cheering well wishers, with buckets of soul cringing sympathy at the ready, should it be needed.

In this case, the truth of the truism has got a lot to do with the nature of the town or city that you are interested in visiting. Vigorous exercise takes a lot of commitment. Not all places are worth it. Apologies Scunthorpe.

It also depends on just how good the course is. Just because you are running round a really nice city, with gorgeous architecture, several centuries of history and enough pubs to organise a pub crawl Premier League around, it doesn't mean to say that the half marathon course will be any good. Even the nicest city has got it's fare share of crummy back streets that an unsympathetic local council or chief of police, who have not bought into the sanctimonious, Lycra clad, ethos of the half marathon runner, are more than happy to send you on a 13.1 mile tour of.

This can lead to the develop of an almost terminal case of 'runner's boredom'. Thus ensuring that the temptation to contravene truism 1, long before you get near to contravening truisms 3 and 2 is well and truly triggered.

Then of course there is the little detail of actually liking the whole running lark. Although it is often assumed that runners like running, this is conditional. Any number of factors may act against it. A minor injury, that under normal circumstances would go completely unnoticed, will become a career threatening excuse to spend Sunday in the pub, if the course proves to be no more interesting than a training run round a couple of industrial estates, it's raining or the town in question is actually Scunthorpe.

The Smith Challenge

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If however all these things work, then the truism I started with, has a fair chance of holding 'true'.

In the case of Chester, the first factor works. I had never been to Chester. It has always been on my hit list but I just never got round to it. Having now seen it, all I can say is. 'if you haven't been, Go!'

The course was excellent. A combination of late medieval streets, lovely countryside, warm spring sunshine, support everywhere and bands playing all along the course. OK there might have been a sneaky uphill ... for the last mile ... causing me to waddle a bit, (see truism 3) but I should have predicted that. The city was, after all, built, for defensive reasons, by the Roman's, on a hill, so it was always going to finish with duck impersonations all round.

The first real challenge to the truism came once the race was over. The stonking medal round my neck and the numerous chocky bars from the goodie bag having been well and truly munched.

It began to dawn on me that running a half marathon around Chester was just possibly not the 'best' way to get to know the city.

The City had clearly put in a bit of an effort to create a festival feel.

The excuse may have been the half marathon. But judging by the masses of people milling around - enjoying the countless street performers, taking in the sights, floating on the atmosphere and staggering, good humouredly, from half timbered pub, to half timbered pub, full of character, good natured people* and tales of ghosts, rogues and villains - vigorous exercise is vary much optional on Half Marathon Day in Chester.

During our post race exploration, forcing aching legs to climb up 'The Rows' to discover The Boot Inn - a couple of ghosts, a musket ball found in the rafters with several amusing explanations for it - The Kings Head which is the most haunted pub in Chester/Cheshire/England/U.K. (it was several pints into the exploration and I know it was one of those but not sure which) and being pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of the roast potatoes that where placed on the bar of the Cross Keys just as we were thinking of ordering some actual food, I began to hatch a cunning plan for next year.

Maybe I could negotiate looking after everyone's bags whilst they do all the exercise stuff and I have a go at planning the after race pub crawl. After all, judging by the number of pubs, it will take some serious research. Possibly starting on the Friday night.

Now just maybe that will be the best way to see a new city.

*Apart from the old fogies who took umbrage at us sharing running stories about rubbing Vaseline into nipples to prevent 'jogger's nipple'. I'm not entirely sure if it was distance memories related to the word Vaseline, rubbing or nipples, or indeed all three words, coming together in traumatic recollection from their younger days when everything still worked, that really caused the umbrage. But umbrage there certainly was.

The Rock 'n Roll Half

 Guy will by running ... in the loosest sense of the word ... the 13.1 gruelling miles of Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon around Liverpool on 20th May.

It's all to Raise funds for the Get Involved Project.
Engaging young people with special support needs in the production of the Oh My Nottz online magazine.

Don't let it be in vain!

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