Colchester Half Marathon 2019

On Sunday the 24th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. It was my fourth time running the race; it is easy logistically because Lorna’s parents live a mile from the start/finish. As the event was 5 weeks after the Seville Marathon I was a little apprehensive as I didn’t know if my legs had fully recovered and I hadn’t ran at or quicker than half marathon pace for a long time. However, with the London Marathon coming up I was keen to see what shape I was in. In the week leading up to the race I was in two minds whether to race it or run it at marathon pace. As the weather forecast looked good, I decided to ease off training and make a call on the day.

The Colchester Half Marathon is always a competitive affair for the Elliott family, this year was no different with Lorna, Alex, Rob, Rachel and Phil all taking part. We opted for an easy 5k shake out run on Saturday morning to loosen the legs up. I was looking forward to seeing how everyone else would get on, knowing they had been training well. Most of the group, including Robbie, Smithy, Helen and Andy were gunning for PBs. Our good friend Simon made the trip to Essex to take part in the race, with Abi and Beau as cheer crew. Despite losing to Lorna’s Dad we had fun playing crazy golf in the afternoon and then fueled up on Nandos (plainish, if you were wondering) in the evening before getting an early night.

With the race starting at 9am we woke up at 7am to have breakfast and get our race kit ready. I slept well and my legs felt good. Over the last few years I finished the Colchester Half within 75 minutes, qualifying for London Marathon Championship entry. As the conditions were perfect, I decided to aim for sub 75 again. I figured it isn’t very often you get the chance to race in good weather so wanted to make the most of it. I also thought if I can hold 3:30 min/km pace for a half then marathon pace would feel more comfortable in the following weeks once recovered. We all headed to Colchester Community Stadium to drop our bags and get on the start line.

Having finished 2nd and 3rd in 2017 and 2018 respectively I positioned myself near the front. Last year I opted to attack the first 5k and bank some time, on this occasion I settled into 3:30min/km pace and held back on the downhill sections. I remembered suffering through the last 5k or so in the race previously, so I tried to conserve energy.

As the first couple of kilometers are flat/gradually downhill I kept an eye on my watch to check I was on the correct pace. With half marathons it’s incredibly easy to go out quick and suffer trying to hold on. Luckily, I felt really relaxed in the opening stages, my legs felt fresh and I knew if I could get through the first 10-11k on goal pace I would do well as the second half is relatively flat.

I managed to keep a consistent pace despite the short sharp North Hill. I always push up the hill and then get back into my stride down through the High Street. As always, the support was great. Heading along Ipswich Road, which is a gradual uphill, I was still holding goal pace and feeling comfortable. In contrast to the last few years I had a couple of other runners for company which was nice. I was soon winding my way through the industrial estate and got a few cheers from friends around the course.

Running along Langham Lane and Dedham Road it is quieter. Luckily, I had closed the gap to a runner, so I worked with them from 16k onwards. My legs were starting to tighten but they didn’t feel half as bad as they did in 2017 and 2018 along this part of the route. I turned onto Straight Road which lasts for a good 4 to 5 kilometers. I knew this was where I needed to focus and work hard. The long straight road is demoralising but Lorna’s parents live a mile from the stadium so I always look forward to support from her family and know I can grit my teeth to the finish line.

Nearing the football stadium I checked my watch to see I was still holding 3:30min/km on average so I knew I was going to clock inside 75 minutes. I managed a sprint finish to cross the line in 73:58 in 9th position.

Iffley Road Lancaster Vest, adidas Split Shorts, Stance Socks & adidas Adios.

I congratulated runners nearby before grabbing my bag to watch everyone finish with Abi and Beau. There were some cracking performances including personal bests from Robbie (1:22:53), Alex (1:25:20), Helen (1:29:39), Smithy (1:32:04), Andy (1:33:52) and Rob (1:39:49). Lorna clocked another great time (1:33:52) while pacing Smithy and Andy for parts of the race.

The squad: Me, Andy, Helen, Phil, Alex, Smithy, Rob, Lorna, Rachel and Simon.

Another couple of Colchester Half Marathon medals to add to our collection.

Overall it was a great event, no doubt I will be back in 2020 to try and go quicker.

Steve

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Salomon Sonic RA Pro 2 Review

Over the last few weeks I have been sent several trainers to test and review. After leading the Running Works run club events with Salomon throughout December and January, I was sent a pair of Sonic RA Pro 2. Salomon are best known for manufacturing alpine gear and trail shoes, including the Speedcross. However, recently they have been developing shoes to break into the road running market. In 2018 Salomon released Running Avenue (RA) a three shoe collection, including the Sonic RA a lightweight responsive trainer, Sonic RA Max offering more stability and Sonic RA Pro an even lighter racing option.

 

I have always been a big fan of Salomon trail shoes, running regularly in the S/LAB Sense 6, S/LAB Ultra, and Sense Ride so was looking forward to seeing how their road shoes would fare. Putting on the Sonic for the first time I was pleasantly surprised; the toe box felt spacious but structured, the Sensifit upper secured my foot in position and there was a great amount of padding in the heel. 

 

 

Due to using firmer/more synthetic materials I have previously found trail brands struggling to make comfortable road shoes, but Salomon in this instance have got the balance right. I sometimes find road shoes too soft and not responsive enough. I understand brands want their shoes to feel comfortable when you step into them but in certain instances they seem to prioritise that more than how it performs when running.

 

 

Luckily Salomon have designed the Sonic RA Pro 2 to be incredibly responsive. They are well cushioned and deliver a comfortable, stable ride. This is mainly thanks to the Vibe Technology midsole which reduces fatigue-causing vibrations. I have relatively narrow feet but the Sensifit upper works well despite a minimal appearance and the Contagrip outsole provides good traction for taking corners at speed. I think Salomon have done incredibly well to produce a shoe that is comfortable on easy recovery runs yet light and responsive for tempo sessions. I personally prefer them for the latter but if you are looking for a shoe that is at home on the track or out on the roads, the Sonic RA Pro 2 would be a great option. They run (pun intended) relatively true to size, I feel comfortable in a UK 11.5, I opt for a half size bigger in lightweight/racing shoes like the Adidas Adios.

Now for the stats:

Support: Neutral (stable)

Weight: 263g

Heel/toe drop: 6mm

Price: £125

Overall, I am a big fan of the Sonic RA Pro 2, I will continue to use them for tempo and hill sessions. I am looking forward to seeing how Salomon’s road shoes develop over the next couple of years. As they are one of the most innovative brands, I would recommend keeping your eyes peeled.

Seville Marathon 2019

On Sunday 17th February I took part in the Seville Marathon having signed up with my girlfriend Lorna and her brother Alex. Having struggled in the heat running the Boston Marathon in 2017 and London in 2018, Lorna and I thought Seville would be a great race as it boasts “the flattest route in Europe” and the weather is generally good. I was really looking forward to exploring the city and predicted it would be perfect timing as over the last few years I have felt in better shape in February as opposed to April. 

 

In October, 17 weeks before race day, I wrote a rough training plan. It included going to the Run-Fast/The Running Works track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday nights, sessions around marathon pace on Thursdays and easy long runs on Sundays. I always find training easier when the temperature drops; I managed consistent weeks of training throughout October and November. Averaging around 130k per week I felt as though I was balancing speed work, tempo sessions and long runs well. Some of the marathon paced runs along the river and around Battersea Park on Thursday evenings felt tough two days after hard track sessions, but I figured it was the most specific training to replicate how my legs would feel nearing the end of the marathon. In the past I have been guilty of running either a lot quicker or slower than goal marathon pace. 

 

To see how training was going I ran the Run Through Victoria Park Half in January at around marathon pace. Considering I had run two 20ks on consecutive days before the event I was glad I could hold goal pace. As the race neared Lorna, Alex and I ran long runs spending almost marathon time on feet. I was feeling confident that with a good taper and race nutrition strategy I would be able to achieve a sizeable PB. Learning from previous years I lowered my mileage considerably in the two weeks before the race and made sure to keep hydratedand eat well. 

 

We travelled to Seville on the Friday to explore the city, pick up our race numbers and get into a routine ahead of race day.

 

 

On Saturday morning we did a 5k shake out run to stretch the legs and see the start/finish line. Staying in an apartment near Plaza Nueva (close to Seville Cathedral) it was only a couple of kilometers to the start on Paseo de las Delicias which is very close to Parque de Maria Luisa and Plaza de Espana. To save our legs for the rest of the day we took a bus tour, it helped us visualize the marathon route. From the bus Lorna spotted a pizza place so we jumped off to carb load at lunchtime. On Friday we found a restaurant serving chicken and chips so opted for that at dinnertime. We thought we would leave the amazing paella, tapas, ice cream and alcohol for after the race. 

 

As the race started at 8:30am we set our alarms for 6 to eat breakfast and get to the start area in plenty of time. The last thing you want on race morning is to be rushing around and stressing over small things. I was feeling relaxed about the race. I knew I had trained well and was excited to see what I could achieve. I also couldn’t wait to see what Lorna and Alex could do. We dropped our bags and headed to our start pens. Having run sub 75 for half marathons I was in the sub 2:45 pen, I decided to start the race around 3:55 min/km pace (2:45 pace) and see if I could hold it. With the London Marathon lined up I figured I had nothing to lose and that it could be achievable having managed more marathon paced runs in training than in previous years. I settled into a good rhythm and ticked off the first few kilometers between 3:55 and 4 minutes.

 

 

I saw Lorna’s dad Bob and her brother Rob early on, it was great to have them supporting us around the course. Just before the 5km point we crossed the Puente de la Barqueta Bridge that provided great views of Puente del Alamillo Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

 

 

 

As Maurten gels provide 25g of carbohydrates, and they are smaller in size than SIS gels, I opted to use them throughout the race. Previously I felt as though I hadn’t taken on enough fuel so I planned to take one every 6 kilometers while sipping on water at every aid station. I ran through 10k in 39:49 feeling comfortable. I was enjoying the race; it was nice to be in a group running alongside the river on perfectly flat roads. Roughly every 5 kilometers there were bands playing which was good entertainment. The first half of the race included quite a few long straights. As we hadn’t turned many corners I was surprised to be clocking 400m or so more than when passing kilometer markers. I crossed the halfway point in 1:23:36, just slightly behind goal pace but I felt good and was hopeful that I could pick it up near the end. 

 

Having consumed four gels by 25k unfortunately I was starting to feel a little sick/nauseous. I think because the Maurten gels are thicker and have a neutral (but sweet) flavor I was perhaps taking on too many carbs/glucose and fructose. My legs were tiring so I needed to keep taking on fuel but I didn’t really want to. In hindsight perhaps I should have taken some of the sports drink from the aid stations but I didn’t really feel like taking on anything. I should have practiced more with the Maurten gels in training, generally they are great but I think I need to experiment with the frequency and or drink mixes. 

 

Just after running through Plaza de Espana at around 35k my left hamstring tightened forcing me to stop and stretch it quickly. I knew the last 7k would be tough but despite my goal time being out of reach I was still hopeful of running a PB. My 30-35k split was 20:42; I lost the best part of a minute stretching. I got back into a rhythm albeit at 4:30min/km pace.

 

 

It was frustrating to have to suffer through the last 7k but it was a great learning experience. The marathon is always hard to predict, as there are so many factors. After another quick stretch and a few kilometers of “shuffling” I crossed the line in 2:52:09.

 

 

 

A new PB by a couple of minutes but not as large as I would have liked. 

Overall it was a great experience, it had been a while since I attempted a marathon PB and I learnt a lot while enjoying the training process. I now feel like I’ve built a good base to work on for the London Marathon and other races. I would definitely recommend the Seville Marathon; it is perfectly flat, the weather is often favorable and the support is superb. Lorna and Alex had terrific runs; Lorna ran 3:25 equaling her PB and Alex knocked 25 (yes 25) minutes off his PB running 3:11. 

 

 

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I’m glad to have got a marathon PB under my belt so early in the year and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in stall. I love this time of year when everyone is motivated and inspired building towards their goals/challenges.

 

Hope everyone’s training and racing is going well. See a lot of you out on the roads. 

 

Steve

The Run Through Victoria Park Half Marathon 2019

On Saturday 5th January I took part in the Run Through Victoria Park Half Marathon. A group of us signed up because we have marathons etc lined up and we wanted to dust off the cobwebs after Christmas. With Victoria Park featuring heavily on my regular running routes I was looking forward to trying to hold a solid pace, making the most of the flat course. 

As we planned to go to our friends, Liv, Ben and Harrisons for lunch, Alex (Lorna’s brother) drove us to theirs. We then took the central line to Stratford and walked to the park helping to loosen the legs up a little. Ben joined us in taking part in the half marathon as he is building up for the London Marathon and we met Dean at the number collection point, chilling. 

We arrived at the race village nice and early so we could fit in a decent warm up. Number collection, toilets and the bag drop were all nicely spread out so everything was really efficient. It’s always important to be relaxed before a race so it was good not to have to stress about these things. Ben and I ran a few laps of the cinder track to try and warm up, before dropping off our bags and getting on the start line. With Run Through organising a 5k, 10k and Half with various start times there was a great atmosphere as friends cheered each other out of the start funnel. 

A couple of days before the event, James from Midnight Runners dropped me a message on Instagram asking if I was taking part to see what my strategy was going to be. We decided we would see how we felt on the morning but were both leaning towards running it around marathon pace. Due to Christmas and New Year I hadn’t ran much at the start of the week so I had done a few quicker 20ks on Thursday and Friday so was more than happy to try and work together around the 6.5 laps and hold a decent pace. Off the start line we settled into a pace around 3:50min/km, it felt harder than it should have due to recent mileage but I figured it would be a good test 6 or so weeks out from Seville marathon to hold it on tired legs. 

The first few laps went really quickly as James and I chatted about training and race plans for 2019. Passing the race village Matt Wood and others shouted words of encouragement to our little group; Markus and Sam had joined us. Sam was targeting a PB so we had an extra motivation to keep the pace consistent and get him across the line under 1:24. Throughout the run I had moments where I doubted I could hold the pace but the group was keeping me honest. It was tough but it was the sort of challenge my mind and body needed. 

Overall, we paced it really well. It reminded me that in the longer races you need to be persistent and work through the tough spells because your body can often handle more than you think. We crossed the line around 1:21:30 covering positions 14 through 17 and Sam clocked a minute and a half PB, result!

It was a great way to start the year and I feel I’m in good shape building towards Seville & London Marathons. 

Everyone else enjoyed the race; Alex smashed his PB, clocking a 5k PB as well on his way to 1:26:24. Lorna ran with Ben and Dean for the majority of the race, they clocked 1:39:11, 1:43:01 and a DNF respectively. Dean won’t mind me saying that, he planned a long run on Sunday so decided the laps weren’t worth the hassle. There were some other standout performances from friends including PBs for Michael Wiggins and Tony To to name a few, great work guys! 

It was the perfect start to the weekend and I can’t thank the Run Through team enough for braving the cold conditions to put on another superb event. I’ll be trying to fit in a few more Run Through races throughout 2019 for sure. 

Hope everyone’s running/training is going well. See a lot of you on the roads soon. 

Steve

The RunThrough Colchester Stampede Half Marathon 2018

On Sunday 9th September I took part in the inaugural Colchester Stampede Half Marathon. Lorna and I had been meaning to take a trip to Colchester Zoo for a while and with her brother Rob racing we thought it would be a good opportunity to visit. Having fully recovered from SVP100 and Clacton Half I wanted to see what sort of shape I was in ahead of Munich Half on 14th October. I’ve done several Run Through races in the past so knew it would be well organised and that a few friends would be there.

In the lead up to the race I banked a couple of solid weeks training including tough track sessions running at quicker than half marathon pace. I also added a few longer runs around 16-20k into my week to improve my speed endurance. On the Friday before the race I ran 20k along the river in London with the first 10k easy and the second 10k around marathon pace. I didn’t run on the Saturday but Lorna, Rob, Sheilagh and I walked 8 miles around Alton Water with the dogs. In the evening Rob cooked chicken and sweet potato frittas to fuel us up and we got an early night as the race started at 9am.

Ahead of the race I was feeling really relaxed, I was looking forward to the challenge and seeing how my body would cope with pushing the pace. As I struggled to hold a decent pace in the Clacton Half I was wondering if I’d have to take it easy and settle for getting around at near marathon pace. However, I decided “there’s nothing to lose, I may as well set out around half marathon PB pace and see how it goes”. I figured the worst-case scenario was that I would have to ease up. This would still mean I’d put in a good effort and feel stronger after the race building towards Munich.

Speaking to race organiser Matt Wood before the start he let me know that the course was quick but undulating with a sharp hill near the end. Taking the start line I had a good catch up with Ken Hoye, then some elephants were brought into their enclosures before we started. The race began promptly at 9am and we weaved through the zoo for the first 300m or so. Sticking to my plan of pushing the pace I clocked an opening kilometre of 3:18, chasing two runners in front. A little further down the road the leader dropped out, my chances of competing for the win increased. I settled into a pace closer to my half marathon PB and got around the first (small) loop clocking 17:05 for the first 5k. Despite this being only 45 seconds slower than my 5k PB the legs felt good and I was enjoying the route. Having grown up in Devon I used to love running around the hilly country lanes.

Heading into the first of two longer loops I was closing the gap on the leader. As I was aiming to run as close to 75 minutes as possible I kept an eye on my watch to check I was around 3:30min/km pace. Some kilometres were a little quicker when running downhill. I let the legs do the work, it felt like I was getting a little rest before working harder into the wind or on the gradual inclines.

Thumbs up for the Iffley Road Lancaster Striped Track White Vest

I moved to the front of the race part way through the loop and ran through 10k in 34:26, again only a few seconds over my PB for that distance but I was feeling strong. I think the combination of doing regular track sessions and finishing SVP100k has improved both my speed and endurance.

Over the last lap I slowed a little as my legs began to tire. However, I knew I’d banked time in the first half of the race, so I could ease up and still finish around 75 minutes. Running passed people on their first long loop I received lots of shouts of encouragement which was great. It really helped distract me from the fact my legs were tightening. I made it into the final kilometre and tackled the hill before entering the zoo. Weaving by the animal enclosures I lost a few more seconds but crossed the line in 75:20.

I cheered Lorna and Rob through the finish then we spent the day looking around the zoo. All in all, it was a great day in Colchester. I will be back to try and improve my course record (disclaimer: this was the inaugural event) if it fits in the race calendar next year. The Run Through team organised another great event.

Steve