Me in the orange vest with our friends Amy, Abi, Becky and Chris nervously waiting at the start of the race. (Tom’s not pictured as he wanted to get nearer the front!) (Photo by Amy Wagner)

We were unable to tour the Cotswolds as we normally would on Sunday 26th April because of road closures in Stratford-upon-Avon due to the Shakespeare Marathon and Half Marathon being in town. But, as they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join em’, so instead of having a day off, Tom and I ended up running in the half marathon instead!

Tom and I are both keen runners (although I never thought I would hear myself say that!) and while Tom has run the Shakespeare Half several times before, this was only my third half marathon and my first time on this course. And what a stunning course!

Starting with a lap of Stratford’s town centre, the race really gave me a whole new perspective on Shakespeare’s home town – it’s not often that Stratford is filled with thousands of lycra-clad runners, but what a sight to behold! The atmosphere as we waited to cross the start line was fantastic.

Leaving Stratford town centre behind, the course heads out to the pretty village of Luddington (where Tom had cunningly stashed a bottle of orange squash in our friend’s garden!), then crosses a picturesque humpback bridge over the River Avon to enter the gorgeous village of Welford-on-Avon. At Welford’s iconic maypole, volunteers were on hand to pass out bottles of water and some much needed wet sponges to help us cool off!

Passing Welford’s pretty thatched cottages, we then climbed up Rumer Hill, the only significant hill on the otherwise fairly flat course. It was hard work, but the beautiful view at the top made it all worthwhile – as did the welcome downhill section!

Tom and I with our friends Chris and Amy, proud wearers of Shakespeare Half Marathon medals!

Tom and I with our friends Chris and Amy, proud wearers of Shakespeare Half Marathon medals!

Leaving Long Marston Road, we then passed through Milcote and finally onto the home stretch – the ‘Greenway‘, a public footpath usually popular with cyclists and dog walkers, but today was the domain of the runner! As pretty as it is, the Greenway is a very long, very flat and very straight path that stretches on for several miles – the mile markers seemed to get further and further apart so it was quite a mental battle to keep going!

Finally though, shortly after saying goodbye (and good luck!) to the poor souls diverting off for a second lap to complete the full marathon, we emerged on to a short stretch of main road, passing over and then under a road bridge across the River Avon. From here, it was a short romp home along the river, to rapturous applause from the crowds gathered there as we finally – finally! – crossed the finish line! Tom had a brilliant run, beating his personal best to finish in a time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, while I also beat my personal best and managed to come in under 2 hours at 1 hour 59 minutes. Hurray!

I'm running for CALM, a charity that helps to prevent male suicides.

I’m running for CALM, a charity that helps to prevent male suicides.

The Shakespeare Marathon and Half Marathon is organised by the Stratford Rotary Club, a charitable organisation that raises money for lots of good causes in the local area.

In addition, the half marathon was part of my effort to run 1000 miles this year in aid of a suicide prevention charity called CALM. You can read more about this challenge on my running blog here. If you have a few spare pennies and would like to send them in the direction of this very worthy cause, you can donate via my JustGiving page, here: https://www.justgiving.com/LisarunningforCALM.

The Shakespeare Marathon and Half Marathon happens every year on the nearest weekend to the 23rd April, which is St. George’s Day (St. George being the patron saint of England) and also happens to be Shakespeare’s birthday. As well as the run there are lots of things going on in town, including the famous Shakespeare’s Birthday parade, so if you’re in the area this time next year, don’t miss out – and don’t forget your running shoes!