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.
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.