Thousands of runners turned out to take part in the Sheffield Half Marathon on Sunday.
Over the years the event has grown bigger and better and this year it was a real triumph.
The first time I ran it, most in the field were serious club runners, the route went out to Catcliffe and there was little support along the way.
It was tough, even soul-destroying, and at points I wondered why I was doing it.
Sunday’s event was totally different – almost a pleasurable experience.
The number of charity and novice runners has increased hugely and as a result so has support along the route.
Families and friends got up early to watch their loved ones toil away in the hot sunshine, many holding home-made posters, others cheering, shouting and clapping.
When the legs are aching, you’re tired, hot and sore and wondering how you are ever going to make it to the finish, a shout or a cheer makes an unbelievable difference.
In times past, the only real support has been along Ecclesall Road with the return to Attercliffe a long and lonely experience.
Ecclesall Road was packed again with hundreds of supporters and a band playing to distract runners from their pain.
But the support didn’t end there, it continued through the city centre and back out to Don Valley – making a huge difference to all completing the 13.1 mile route.
Conditions were tough due to the heat and blazing sun and it was sobering to see so many runners needing medical assistance, but the emergency services did a great job.
My only gripe is the water situation – I’ve done many big city races over the years and in comparision the water stations at Sheffield are chaos. It really needs sorting, especially on a hot day when runners are keeling over from the heat.
Ideally a big sponsor is needed to provide bottled water and sports drink containing electrolytes to replenish those lost through sweat.
Runners can grab bottles and carry them along – rather than waiting for volunteers to fill up plastic cups.
Spray showers are used in other big city races and again, they would have stopped people over-heating.
Having said that it’s a great experience and anyone wondering whether to sign up next year should do so.
You will get a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement and the response as you enter Don Valley will help you find that final bit of energy from somewhere to make it down the home straight to the finish.
Runners will also see some inspiring sights along the way – Army lads in uniform carrying huge rucksacks, runners bearing the names of loved ones who have died, John Burkhill the ‘Man with the Pram’ and the frizzy green wig who has raised thousands for Macmillan over the years, along with all kinds of wacky characters in fancy dress.
Not to mention the volunteers who cut the timing chip off your weary foot when it’s all over, dish out water, T-shirts and goodie bags and offer words of encouragement and congratulations – all out of the kindness of their hearts.
It just gets better each year.