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Harewood House Half Marathon

The trails around Harewood House form part of my regular training, so when the chance came to race there I felt like I had a home advantage, this would later prove to be true, but not in the way I’d hoped.

The event is organised by the British Heart Foundation who describes it thus:

Try running with a difference at this popular off-road Half Marathon and 10K in February 2019.

This extremely hilly route offers a challenging trail run with miles of muddy tracks, steep forest inclines and tree-lined fields, all set within the stunning grounds of Yorkshire’s historic Harewood House.

Personally, I think extremely hilly is overcooking it a tad, but then again there is a Strava segment called the Harewood Hill Of Pain and it was part of the route, so perhaps I’m just being facetious.  According to the course map and GPX route, I’d found from the year before there would be around 400m of altitude gain spread across three main climbs, the first starting at around 3 km and peaking around 4 km later, so this was not going to be a walk in the park.

Upon arrival, it was clear that this was a very well organised event.  Parking was free and very close to the race village, which had a variety of food, beverage and bobble hat vendors, but more importantly lots of clean toilets.  Registration was not required as race packs had been sent out the week before, so I just rocked up, collected my free T-shirt and then went back to the car to stay warm and fret over my kit.

A first for me at an event were race pacers, these nice folk agree to race at a set pace and carry a big flag advertising this fact, so if you are hoping to make a certain finish time you stay with the pacer.  This told me that this event might be a bit more serious than say the Belvoir Challenge I did in 2018, where the main pace incentive is getting to the next cake stop before the rampaging hordes eat all the Victoria sponge.

After the aforementioned fretting, it was race time, I joined the hundreds of bodies in the start pen and shuffled my way to the 2-hour pacer as that was my minimum pace, so the theory was get in front of him and keep things that way.

10:00 and we were off, pounding across Harewood Park towards the first bottleneck and the only tarmac on the course, Church Lane.  Following Church Lane the course dropped down Sandy Gate towards the village of Weardly, from here I normally pick up the public bridleway and head out of the Harewood estate, however, the race route swung left along a private track keeping us within the estate and heading towards one of my favourite named places, Stank.

So far, excluding a slight incline as we left Sandy Gate the course had been all easy going, but as we passed through Stank that all changed and being “local” I knew about the short, but sharp incline we were about to hit.  After a short lung buster it was downhill past the old walled gardens before picking up another private track that runs alongside the lake, or Fish Pond as the estate map calls it.

Following the track through Carr Plantation and on into Piper Wood it was a steady climb on firm ground before being diverted off the main trail into a section of fields known as Carr House Park.  These fields normally house cattle and sheep so the ground was pretty cut up, making the going tougher than just the battle with gravity.  As we were still in the early part of the race most folk were powering up the hills hoping to recover on the downhill section, however, I’d read the map and I knew what was coming, The Hill Of Pain.

At just under a quarter of a kilometer and a having an incline of 30% in places The Hill of Pain hurts, especially after a very short recovery section, so it was time to engage low gear and grind up the rough trail.  Once up the hill it was a sharp left and then the sneaky incline that leads past the set of Emmerdale Farm, I’ve run here many times but so far have failed to become part of an episode, but I live in hope.  After Emmerdale it was short downhill section on a loose stone track before climbing up to Swan Bushes, here the route dropped off the public bridleway and into the woodlands of Grey Stone and Beech Bank.  This was one of my favourite sections, easy woodland trails that ran parallel to Eccup Beck (could these names get any more Northern?) in a normally private part of the Harewood estate, lovely.

Leaving Beech Bank we arrived at New Bridge which is the starting point of my regular hill training, so you can guess what came next.  Climbing up from New Bridge the route veered left into the fields around the woods of Nan Pie (it really is called that!), before looping through another cattle trodden section known as Lodge Hill Plantation.  Finally, the route met back up with the track from New Bridge pushing us along towards the last water point before we headed back towards the race village.

Once more my local knowledge was put to good use, I knew we had covered 16 km (10 miles) and the route back to the event village was mostly downhill and well surfaced, so it was safe to open the legs up and push the pace a little harder.  2km later with the finish in sight the route took a hard left and once again we found ourselves in rough grassland, not the best surface for tired legs and empty lungs.  Looping through the lower aspects of Harewood Park the route skirted the woodland we had just emerged from before dropping us onto a rough track that led to the finish line, however, because this is Yorkshire, it was uphill.  The next 600m nearly broke me, I’d pushed too hard in the last couple of kilometers and there was nothing left in the tank, just a few vapours, thank heaven for Caffeine Bullets.

Crossing the line I was happy to see I’d come in under 1:45, so much for the pacers and after a quick wander around looking for my lungs I headed back to the car and set off home.

Would I do it again, yes.  It is a great race and a really good indicator of pre-season fitness, I might even sign up to be a pacer.


Get The Details On

Harewood House Half MarathonRunning Review


Event Website
https://www.bhf.org.uk/harewood
When Was The Event?
17th February 2019
Was This A Qualification Race?
No

Your Reviewer

Richard "Itch" Ward
Reviewed By
Richard “Itch” Ward
About The Reviewer
Richard was born in the late 60’s, the consequence of a chance encounter between a one-handed truck driver and a Catholic. He finds being described as an athlete vexing.
What Age Group Was I In?
50 Plus
Type Of Competitor
Competitor
Was This My First Time At This Event?
Yes
Read More By Richard “Itch” Ward

Quick Overview

This extremely hilly route offers a challenging trail run with miles of muddy tracks, steep forest inclines and tree-lined fields, all set within the stunning grounds of Yorkshire’s historic Harewood House.


Value For Money
80%
The Pros
Free Parking
Plenty of toilets
SMS message from timing provider upon completion of race with a link to the results
Thirty minutes from my house
The Cons
Some issues leaving the event for later finishers, confusion after signs and tape were taken down too early

Event Location

Address
Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds, UK

Booking The Event

How far In Advance Did I Book?
1 month before
What Discount Did I get?
No Discount
How Easy Was It To Book?
100%
Book Your Ticket Now

The Event Arena / Village

Rate The Event Arena
100%
Rate The Buzz Around The Event Arena
80%
Rate The Food And Drink Stalls
80%

The Event Facilities

Rate The Parking
100%
Rate The Toilets
80%
Rate The Showers
No Showers%
Was There A Bag Drop?
Yes
Was There A Changing Tent?
No

The Swag

Rate The Medal
60%
Rate The Swag Bag
No Swag Bag%

The Course

Rate The Marshalls
100%
Rate The Course Marking
100%
Rate The Course Buzz
80%
Was The Event Timed?
Yes
Was There Water On The Course?
No
Types Of Terrain On The Course?
Rolling
Forest
Mud
Grass
Tarmac
Tracks
Hills
Paths
Mixed