Foxtrail Harvest Moon Half Marathon 2018 analysis & review

The fifth in a series of winter running events, the Foxtrail Harvest Moon Half Marathon trail run is my first proper race of 2018, and the distance slotted nicely into my marathon training for April.

Based at the holiday huts just north of Dunbar, the race is a beautifully-planned circuit around the local geography bringing a great mix of terrain, crossing hard-packed trail, thick mud, beach sand, streams and forest roads.

The last section of the race, along the beach sand. Photo by Emma Goodyer on Facebook.

Event participation

It’s one of the more ’boutique’ events in my calendar, the capacity of the race is limited and the smaller numbers supports a community-feel. There’s a sense of welcome here that I’ll be unlikely to find at some of the bigger events I’ll take part in this year, and it’s always great to catch up with mates while huddling around a heater inside a draughty registration tent. Maybe it’s the winter weather which forces everyone together inside, but I found the same atmosphere at the series’ Noctural Ultra Marathon relay in December too, and as part of an event series, many of the day’s runners have appeared at other Foxtrail runs over the past months.

The race results show an interesting trend towards female participation, where females outnumbered males in all but one age category (50’s).

Finish line results

Prior to arriving, I had been told to expect a technical course. It is definitely technical, but it’s also every enjoyable. The route takes enough sharp turns and winding courses through tricky terrain to force full mental engagement, while also presenting a few good opportunities to really stick the foot down and pick up speed on some long straights.

There’s a point, just after 5 miles, which set up my favourite part of the course. After popping out of the woods, onto an elevated section of the coast line, I was met with stunning views across the river Tyne towards Dunbar, and out across the North Sea. There’s even a small dip on my Strava timeline where I slowed down to appreciate the view.

It was during this extended horizon gazing that I realised I’d been hammering the course. The plan was to trot out the 13 miles, then do another five to hit my 18 mile target for the day. At that pace, I’d struggle to put in the extra five. I decided I was enjoying it too much to slow down, and there was a decent size pack of runners behind me, so the head went back into the race.

I managed to catch a couple of guys during the paved road section, which I’ve always felt most comfortable on. I spend too long thinking about my footing while on trails, and lose time. I’m much more fluid on the harder terrain, it’s also been my main training ground for the last few months. I chased one guy down the full length of the beach, and up to the finish line, but he found some speed at the end and I never quite managed to catch him.

Mapping out finish times to gender and age categories (I’ve created my own age categories, as the organisers didn’t set their own. Every participant was assigned to a category based on their age in decades), there’s a trend toward male participants finishing quicker than their female counterparts per categories.

The female subplot is brighter, as there were more women at the race, but there is a noticeable shift to the right, indicating that there is a trend towards females taking longer to finish than males. That’s not the whole story though, as there are patches of light toward the left of the female subplot, the organiser noted during the prize-giving that the female winner and runner-up both finished in the top 10 overall, a real achievement not always seen across other events.

Putting the same data into a histogram bar chart, it becomes clearer how a few females have put in a mighty performance to clinch the top three places.

Performance analysis

My own race went much better than I had expected it to. When I showed up, I was expecting to trot out a the run, and do some more miles at the end. The excitement got the better of me, and I ended up going hard and getting my second best ever half-marathon time, beaten only by a completely flat road race I did two years ago. Strava shows the race as being slightly short, 12.9 miles as opposed to 13.1 miles, but with all the technical turns and sharp corners, I’m sure the GPS will have smoothed some corners and lost a bit of distance.

The overall winner, 👏 Stuart Livingston 👏, finished in 80 minutes on the dot, and the female winner , 👏 Nicola Duncan 👏, finished in 90m 44s.

I managed to finish in 96m 28s, which I was more than happy with, and came in a good few minutes under my category median of 107 minutes.

The median finish time for the whole field was 119 minutes, with the median time for males coming in at 111 minutes and females at 128 minutes.

Race data

Distance12.9 miles
ResultsFoxtrail Winter Race Series #5: Harvest Moon Half Marathon 2018 results