The Ards Half Marathon and Walk is the annual race which helps to see in the summertime in Newtownards. Hundreds of people from the area come to take part. As running has become a more popular sport, we have seen people come from across the water to take part and collect some bling.
This year was the 10th anniversary of the race, and this was my year to take part. Everyone who took part would get a medal when they finished. The first 1,000 participants would get a t-shirt. I was taking part in the walk which is non-competitive. The half marathon was divided up so the top 100 finishers would receive a medal with a red ribbon and the top 200 would receive a medal with blue ribbon. The top prize which was up for grabs was £400 for first place.
As a walker, I would have to start right at the back behind the runners. I honestly believed it would be easy enough as I had been taking part in my local Park Runs so a 9km walk would be a piece of cake.
The first kilometer took us through the town center. There was a pretty good turn out of spectators who were happy to cheer everyone on. The roads had been partially closed to allow traffic to move through the town.
We began heading out of the town at this point along South Street. South Street is a long road with a few side streets. I was still managing a reasonable pace at this point but decided to pick it up a bit after a few walkers raced past me. This was really annoying, and I know I’m probably being petty, but why enter the walking race if you plan on running parts of it?
We were now heading past Regent House School and the walkers had found their pace. I was still keeping an average pace of 8’52” per km.
At this point, we were still walking on the flat but I could see Scarbo Hill in the distance.
This would be the start of the countryside walking. Scrabo Hill is surrounded by a country park and we had to walk around the edge of the park and on the country roads. The main road snakes up the hill and has a beautiful view of the lough.
I was hitting the one hour mark as I hit the 6km mark. This was a lot slower than I wanted to be. But it was a walking race so I hoped that this was still a decent time.
This was pretty much an uphill march, but I was still keeping a really good pace of around 8’44” per km at this point. the unfortunate thing about this point in the race was the amount of green. There was nothing but trees and green. Not a bad thing but it did make it seem like this km was longer than the others.
I was feeling pretty smug at this point as I was going to be finished within 90 minutes if I kept up the pace. Not bad for walking the entire thing.
My Nike running app whispered in my ear that I had reached 9km and I was a little bit horrified. I was nowhere near the finish line. The finish line was miles away. I caught up with a couple of friendly ladies who were just ahead, and asked them what must have been the stupidest question they had ever heard, “was this not supposed to be 9km?” No. It turns out one of the information sheets I had been reading was labeled wrong. The walk was 9 miles. I was only 5 and a half miles in.
At this point, I was starting to get tired. I was not prepared for a walk longer than 10km. Admittedly I was still doing a lot better than the last 10km that I tried. We were still walking through the countryside at this point and had mixed in with the half marathon runners again.
I had officially reached the biggest distance I have ever gone competitively. Not that I race very much. I was now slowing right down because I was annoyed at myself for being very stupid and not reading the information properly. Even though I am convinced somewhere it said “9KM” on the paperwork. Thankfully there were people, beautiful people, who were dishing out sweeties. Those jelly beans were the nicest bloody things I had even tasted. This felt like the longest KM in the history of everything.
We were still in the countryside and I was starting to wonder if the end was in sight. I had slowed badly to 10’59” per KM and was approaching 2 hours walking. I had to shake myself off and pick up the pace.
At this point, we were around 8 miles in. Only Another mile to go. Although this was downhill, I couldn’t get my legs to move quick enough. My right hip and leg were really hurting as the pressure of the walking pulled at my weird knee.
The finish line was finally in sight. Sort of. I knew where I was and I knew I only had around half a mile left. As I rounded the final corners, I saw my husband and kids waiting for me. Even though I was a walker, the crowd gave a cheer as I crossed the line.
I absolutely loved my first time at the Ards Half Marathon and Walk. I managed to finish the walk with a respectable time of 2 hours 24 minutes.