The Knebworth estate in rural Hertfordshire is famous for its rock concerts, including holding two of largest ever staged in the UK: first, when first Oasis played in 1996 for two nights to 250,000 fans, and then in 2003 Robbie Williams performed three nights in front of 375,000, apparently in an attempt to outdo his rival Noel Gallagher. Many other artists have played there including The Beach Boys, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Elton Jon, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones.
Knebworth house itself, an imposing Gothic mansion, has been the home of the Lytton family for 500 years. One of the more noteworthy members of the family was the Victorian novelist Edward Lytton who wrote the famous lines “the pen is mightier than the sword” and “on a dark and stormy night”.
It certainly wasn’t dark or stormy when we arrived there very early on Sunday morning to run the Hertfordshire Half – more like misty and frosty – but a very cold dawn turned into a beautiful autumnal morning, with blue skies and sunshine enhancing the red, yellow and golden brown of the leaves remaining on the trees. Just the sort of place to get the literary mind working.
But it was the musical past that Run Through events decided to celebrate in this half marathon, which was a slight deviation from their usual smaller low-key events in the London parks. We have run a number of their races in the past and found them always to be faultless in their organisation and execution. Today was no exception.
So with a bit of help from the Knebworth Concert set-lists, here are our reflections on the day.
- Morning Glory (Oasis, 1996) – The Setting
As we mentioned earlier, we arrived to find the rolling parkland of the Knebworth estate crusted with frost and shrouded in mist. But very quickly the sun rose to clear off the mist and reveal a stunning autumnal landscape, with Knebworth House itself looking very grand in a Gothic kind of way. What a morning for a run!
- Hot Dog (Led Zeppelin, 1979) – Breakfast
Unfortunately, no-one has sung about a “Sausage Sandwich” – but that is what we enjoyed for breakfast. Having been instructed to arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 for a 9:30 start (because of road closures for the race), we were pleased to find good catering facilities as well as plenty of parking and adequate portaloos, which made the early arrival more bearable.
- Running Up that Hill (Kate Bush) – Course Profile
OK, so Kate Bush never played Knebworth, but if she had she’d definitely have sung this. We thought we’d read that this was a fast, closed-road course and were somewhat surprised by the degree of elevation, which we only discovered during the run. Another contender for this category – especially for Jacquie – would be “I Walk the Hill” (Big Country, 1986). The Strava profile claimed a total gain of 281 metres and there were three vicious climbs, plus a energy-sapping uphill finish. But the course was stunning through the country lanes of Hertfordshire, and worth the effort.
- Sacrifice (Elton John, 1990) – Throw-away Tops
Our throw-away tops have featured in a couple of previous posts (Toronto and Manchester Marathons) – and yes, they survived to run yet another race. This morning’s run was the first really cold UK outing of the year. We did both finish running in just club vests, but held on to our throw-away tops just in case. Maybe one day they’ll get a blog post of their own.
- Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams, 2003) – Spirit of Knebworth
To follow in the footsteps of the Knebworth legacy, Run Through had provided a number of bands on the route to provide musical encouragement, and a stage at the end entertaining the finishers. A nice touch.
- Throwing It All Away (Genesis, 1992) – A Moment of Doubt
(Cam) As we’ve mentioned earlier, the course was somewhat hillier than we’d expected. I’d set off at a good pace, and at about 5½ miles I was enjoying running down a long, gentle incline when I saw the lead runners storming back up. I’m fortunate enough not to experience such moments often, but this was about to be one of them. My heart sank at the thought of the effort I was going to have to make to run back up. For one of the few times ever in a race, I considered stopping, with no good reason other than the thought of a few tough miles coming up. The reason I didn’t stop was that no matter how much it was going to hurt, I knew how awful I would feel if I just quit. So it was head down and time to push on, push negativity aside and concentrate on not throwing it away. Pain is temporary pride is forever, as they say.
- Achilles Last Stand (Led Zeppelin, 1979 again!) – Injuries Not a Problem
During the week before the race, we’d both had a few concerns about niggles – admittedly to our knees, but no-one sings about knees (not that many sing about Achilles). Having each had one serious injury in the past we are now both hyper-vigilant about the various aches and pains that runners tend to get. It’s so often hard to distinguish those that need attention from those that disappear as suddenly as they come. We now err on the side of caution and hold back if we need to. We’d treated ourselves to massages earlier in the week and fortunately neither of us suffered problems during the race. We’ve made a note to try to get more massages and do a bit more strength work – especially as we need to do more hills in preparation for the Comrades up run in 2019.
- Money (Pink Floyd, 1990) – Value for Money
The Run Through Event included chip timing; closed roads; an attractive, good-quality medal; a tech T-shirt; free photographs and a goody bag containing Epsom salts and numerous food items including their famous flapjacks. As we said earlier the organisation was faultless and we’d definitely recommend this event.
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones, 1976) – Jacquie’s Time
(Jacquie) Although I came first in my age category, I was disappointed with how I ran. Right from the start it was a struggle to even keep to marathon pace, and then when I hit the hills there was no chance. I finished in 2:00 hrs – probably my worst recorded half time. I’ve no idea why this happens from time to time; it’s one of the challenges of running. Next week could be different.
- Champagne Super Nova (Oasis, 1996) – Cam’s PB
The best part of the whole weekend is that Cam ran a half-marathon PB of 1:42 on what was a pretty difficult course. Celebrations all round – can’t wait to see what she does on a flat half marathon early in the New Year!
(Sorry to any Beefheart fans, but it’s hard work fitting “Big-Eyed Beans from Venus” or “Orange Claw Hammer” (1975) into the story).