The Castle Run Series is part of the Castle Triathlon series, which are events hosted at a selection of iconic castles across the UK. My local one was at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire and included a full weekend of racing with the half marathon taking part on Sunday.

My friend had found discounted places on Groupon and the course was described as ‘undulating’ so we entered as part of training for the Loch Ness marathon.

Before the race
We received nothing through the post and no emails regarding the start time – checking the race day information on the website, it wasn’t any clearer and resulted in me emailing the event who answered my questions. Maybe this is common with triathlons, but you receive a text with your wave start time the week of the race. It all seemed a little last minute to me as I like to plan, however, Friday lunchtime I finally received a text with the 10.30am start time!

Being local we know the A64 gets rammed with coast traffic on sunny days, so we set off early to avoid queues and this gave us chance to watch and cheer on the triathletes.

It seemed to be a little disorganised upon arrival. After repeating our names several times we received our race numbers. (It’s since become apparent that my friend received the wrong number in the registration tent and ran the whole race as a man with a foreign name).

Once we were in the actual event I could fault it. Plenty of food and drink and a few good shopping opportunities. Spectators were really well catered for. After choosing our post-race feast of curry we headed over to the lake to watch the 9 am swim wave. Really inspiring stuff – a tri could be next years challenge. How far can I get on a mint green bike with a basket?

During the race
The run kicked off at 10.30am. The half marathon was 2 loops of hilly trail. I say, hilly, it wasn’t actually that bad. The first 5k was horrendous, so horrendous I was convinced I was pulling out when I reached the end of the first loop.

‘I don’t care about a medal’

’10k is better than nothing, right?’

‘It’s too hot for this, my hands have swollen up.’

Then I remembered some friends of mine did 100k at Race to the Stones a few weeks ago. I told myself to (wo)man-up and get on with it.

There were large sun-exposed areas which were hard going in the baking heat. It was uneven terrain in places, the ground had cracked so you had to watch your footing and it was really dry underfoot which made it dusty. Then there were the passing triathletes. I admire their stamina and commend their commitment to training, however, some of them really need to work on their manners.

Some gave you no warning they were approaching until you could feel that they were right behind you. Then they expected you to stop / suddenly move. Others did shout ‘approaching left/right/middle’ to let you know they were coming up behind you, which was fine.

There seemed to be a lot of frustration as very few thanked you as they passed. I get it, no one likes coming across an obstacle that slows you down mid-race. But we had all paid to enter, so everyone on that course had as much right to be there.

Being on the slower side as I’m recovering from injury (how long can I use that excuse for?) I felt inferior. I also became very aware of my size (there is NOTHING on these guys) you can tell they don’t enjoy a pizza and a beer on a Friday night.

The second half of the loop was in the woods so shadier and you could get a decent run in places. Due to the heat, we had decided on a run-walk strategy – as did a lot of participants we chatted to on the course, all of us questioning ‘why are we doing this?’ ‘I didn’t expect it to be this hot.’

We made it around the first loop, reassured there was some shade we carried on for the second. We knew it would be slow so we had a toilet break before we continued on. My leggings were so sweaty it was like trying to get a wet swimsuit back on.

The plan was the same, walk the sun-exposed areas and run the shade. I found it more enjoyable than the first loop. The approaching triathletes weren’t as fast, they were more chatty and we encouraged each other in passing. My friend and I had stuck together throughout the whole thing, until the last 2k where she told me to go ahead. I sped up purely to get it over with quicker, to be greeted with an uphill finish.

The spectators along the finish were amazing. After a tough run where I wanted to quit, I was greeted by complete strangers applauding me for my (slow) efforts. I could’ve burst into tears. As Castle Howard was open to the public there were plenty of visitors on the course nearer the house, elderly couples out for a Sunday stroll ‘rather you than me’ ‘ooh it’s a warm day for it’ ‘that looks like hard work’ which was lovely.

Post race
Crossing the finish line you were handed your medal and volunteers were there handing out drinks. The finish line buffet was the best bit drinks/watermelon/jelly babies/Soreen.

Finish time of 2hrs 42 – not that I was bothered, I was just glad it was over. I’ve filed it under the ‘worst races ever’ along with the Huddersfield Half and the Dales Trails 20.

When we arrived back at the car the temperature gauge read 35 degrees.

Entry Cost: £25.00 (reduced from £34.00 with a Groupon deal)
Water stations:
 Every couple of miles – paper cups
Parking: Plenty (free)
Photos: Yes
Baggage Facilities: Yes, but didn’t use.
Post-Race Goodies: T-shirt  / medal / water 
Highlights: An odd one but, the drinks stations – the volunteers there were brilliant. Keeping runners spirits up whilst handing out water / coke / gels and filling up water bottles for them.
Low points: Lack of communication before the race. Warm day (not the fault of the race).