Trailscape Marathon – Ashurst, South

On Saturday 23rd January I took part in the trailscape South marathon in Ashurst. Having done the previous two marathons in the series I was looking forward to getting back out on the trails. However, I was a little apprehensive because the first 3 weeks of the year I’ve been doing pretty big mileage (for me) as well as going to track and pushing the pace. I definitely approached the marathon as a training run and it was quite good to go into it relaxed not worrying about finishing time or positon.
With the race starting at 8:45 I woke up at 6am to head to James and Claudia’s. I was lucky enough to be asked to run as part of the AR (Advent Running/ar collective) trail team for the trailscape series and they’ve been kind enough to give me lifts to the races. After putting up the marquee and AR banner we had time to catch up with other members of the AR team and familiar trailscape faces from previous races.   

 The AR Trail Team (photo courtesy of Emma Sherwood @emmash32)

Jonny, Freya & me (Photo courtesy of Freya @fhotson)

Jonny & Freya, who run with a couple Nike run clubs and do long runs with me and a group of friends, were signed up to the marathon too which was good. We didn’t talk about goal times or anything but due to the fact we were all treating the race as a training run we ran together. Having done the last two trailscape races I learnt that the event is much more fun if you’ve got people to share the miles with. In the first event I ran a lot of the course with James and in the second race I made friends with an experienced marathoner. We settled into a good pace in the first few kilometres, the only problem was we ended up heading off course. I’m not 100% sure what happened but a small group of us missed a sign somewhere. All I know is James and Andy two fellow ARers were near the front! Haha After the slight detour we found ourselves back on course but behind a lot of other runners that went the right way. When doing tiring muddy trail marathons (that are generally longer than a marathon anyway) the last thing you need is to add distance.

The good thing about going the wrong way is that when moving through the field (pun intended) you get to see lots of other runners and have a quick chat. The miles went by really quickly, I’m not sure what me, Jonny & Freya were talking about half the time but we had lots of laughs.   

 Photo taken by Lucy @ljhoare

One thing we discussed was motivational/inspiring quotes. There was a hill to climb, only was it a hill!? We came up with the motivational saying “The hill is only as big as it is in your mind”. The marathon was a two lap route. This was good because we got to see other runners and high five; I have really enjoyed the trailscape races because all of the participants and organisers are so friendly. One of my favourite parts of the race were the aid stations, I described the event to Jonny and Freya as a long distance picnic. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Soreen, Hula Hoops, Jaffa Cakes and coke. 

 Why would you place a photographer just after an aid station!

We kept a pretty steady pace all the way round, we didn’t stop at the aid stations for long and only really walked the seriously muddy climb near the end of the route. We finished in around 4 hours and 10 minutes, Freya was 2nd female and me and Jonny finished in the top 15 or so.  


The medals are definitely worth the effort!

Once I finished I caught up with James, he finished 3rd. He was disappointed but he still achieved a great time especially considering the big mileage he has been doing and the tough conditions. Andy finished first in 3 hours and 20 minutes which is amazing on a course so muddy and undulating. I peeled off my muddy compression socks and got into clean warm clothes and then we cheered in a few runners and watched the presentations. It was great to see a lot of the AR trail team crossing the finish line, some of them were doing their first marathons and Hannah finished her first of twelve this year. After Freya collected her Buff for finishing second we headed back to London, we carried on the picnic in the car with pork pies (recommended by ultra-runner Holly Rush ha) crisps, and brownies/rocky roads. Overall a productive Saturday. My weekly mileage totalled 130k+ and therefore I rested on Sunday. My recovery rate is improving and I’m aiming to do a few more weeks of around 120k including track and do more speed work in February and March. I hope everyone had a great weekend and that your training is going well.

See a lot of you soon


Follow me on Twitter &/or Instagram: @StephenSkinner6

Also follow: @adventrunning @ar_collective @trailscape

The Run Through Battersea Park 10k January 16th 2016

On Saturday I took part in my first race of the year. I signed up with a group of friends, mainly because we enjoyed the Run Through Battersea Park 5k near the end of 2015. Being in marathon training I’ve been doing relatively high mileage weeks and therefore I didn’t set a goal time and was definitely not aiming for a PB. In December I ran a lot, mainly because I was doing Advent Running and I wanted to get in good mileage which would equate to base fitness to start marathon training. On Saturday morning I woke up quite early to head across the city, I was really excited to be racing again. I got to Battersea Park in plenty of time so I collected my number with ease, the Run Through races are always well organised in regards to number collection, bag drop etc. I met with friends and went through the normal “How are you feeling? Are you aiming for a time?” pre-race chat. We did a little bit of a jog to warm up and headed to the start line.
Once we got to the start we all positioned ourselves according to our expected finish times. Myself and Jonny went near the front knowing we’d run about 37-38 minutes or so and that we’d finish quite near the front. I bumped into George Lloyd on the start line; he’d been in The Running Works on a couple of occasions. He was a speaker at our Beyond 26.2 (ultramarathon) running event with OMM and for a triathlon seminar. We had a quick catch up before the start but then we were off. A few runners went out in front and opened up a gap quickly. Myself and Jonny set off around 3:45 min/km pace. We held this pace for the majority of the race and this meant we overtook a few people on the third lap.
Having already run 90k+ throughout the week my legs were starting to feel a bit cranky on the third lap. Just after going through the finish area for the third time I could see George through the trees around a corner. He was probably about 400-500 metres in front of me and Jonny. I was in two minds as to whether to go for it and try and catch him or just hold the 3:45 min/km pace I was around. I took the corner where I’d seen George and decided to start upping it, even if I couldn’t catch him it would mean the race would be done quicker. Also I’m pretty competitive and like a challenge. As I kept pushing the pace I was closing the gap, I got onto the long home straight about 50-100m behind him and went up another gear to catch him. With 50m or so to go I was on his shoulder, he must’ve heard my footsteps as he turned around and said “Shit, Steve!” It was a funny moment. He upped his pace but because I was already sprinting I went passed and finished just a few seconds before him. 

After the race we had a chat and George let me know he got a 10k PB, I love it when people race each other and then that results in someone getting a personal best. If you’re reading this George, well done, especially considering the cold.

I really enjoy the Run Through Battersea Park races, they are perfect for getting PBs and testing your speed. Shortly after crossing the line Jonny came storming through, he smashed his 10k PB finishing in around 36:30. A lot of the group achieved personal bests; I think Mark knocked a bit of time off, being paced by Bart. Hanif, Michalis & Alice all finished strongly and in great times too. Lorna and Liv also did really well. Liv has recently started running due to living with Lorna, she took part in Advent Running and then Lorna signed her up for the 10k, her first race. They were aiming for around 46 minutes; Lorna’s chip time was 46:01 I think, pretty impressive pacing. They both looked as though they enjoyed the run as they flew over the finish line. It was cool to be there to cheer them in. 

 Another great Run Through medal added to the collection

Overall it was a great first race in 2016. Next up is the South trailscape marathon on Saturday; I’m looking forward to hitting the trails and racing with the Advent Running trail team again. I hope everyone had a good weekend whether you were racing or training.

See a lot of you soon

2016 races, goals and adventures 

It’s been a little while since I last blogged. The last few weeks of 2015 flew by due to running a lot motivated by Advent Running and celebrating Christmas & New Years with friends and family. Now we are well into 2016 and training for the big races in March and April. Last year was a great year, I managed to achieve some big goals and run consistently whilst mixing it up running on road, track and trails. I am really excited to see what I can do in 2016 because I am in the best shape I’ve been in going in to marathon training. Last year I got myself in PB shape from January 1st to April when I did the Brighton Marathon and therefore it will be interesting to see how much fitter and quicker I can get by going to track and doing big mileage in the next couple of months. Now that I have run sub 1:20 for a half and sub 3 for a marathon I need to set some new goals.

The second half of last year I ran and raced a lot but once I’d gone sub 3 at the Thames Meander Marathon I didn’t set any goals for other races. However, by running at track regularly and doing pretty decent mileage I managed to chip away at my 5k and 10k times. My current PBs are:

  1 mile: 5:02 (City of London Mile 2015)

  5k: 16:31 (Run Through Battersea Park 10k 2015)

  10k: 34:58 (Mo Santa Olympic Park 10k thingy 2015)

 Half Marathon: 1:17:01 (Reading Half 2015)

 Marathon: 2:54:56 (Thames Meander Marathon 2015)

 100k: 13:28:00 (Race to the Stones 2015)

I always find it hard to set new goals. When people have asked me what time I would like to run the London Marathon in I have been replying “I’m not sure!” The main reason I respond like this is because I am still relatively new to running on track. I’m not sure how much quicker I can get or how long it will take to get to a certain time. Once I’ve said “I’m not sure” the person asking always says “If you’ve done 2:54, surely you’ll be aiming for 2:45!?” I normally then reply “we’ll see!” Another reason I struggle to set goal times is that I don’t follow a training plan. I like to mix it up and keep it fun but generally my week will consist of track, a quick run, a fair few steady mid-distance runs and a long run. In the next few weeks I may add a parkrun or hill session on a Saturday but it’ll depend what races I’m close to as I have a fair few lined up. Below is a list of the races I’m signed up to and I’ve set a few goals for various distances:

Run Through Battersea Park 10k – 16/01/16 (Would be happy with anything around 36/37 minutes)

Trailscape South Marathon – 23/01/16 (No time in mind, probably high mileage week)

Old Deer Park Half Marathon – 21/02/16 (1:21 last year. I’d like to go sub 1:20 this year)

Essex 20 – 06/03/16 (Fair bit slower than marathon pace)

Cardiff World Half Marathon – 26/03/16 (Sub 1:15, may be a little ambitious)

Paris Marathon – 03/04/16 (Steady as recovering from Cardiff and gearing up for London)

London Marathon – 24/04/16 (2:45 – 2:50 ideally but depends how much Cardiff & Paris take out of me)

City of London Mile – ??/??/?? (Sub 5 minutes)

Zagori Marathon – 22-24/07/16 (Aim – to survive!)

I’m really looking forward to these races; it’s been a while since I’ve pushed myself and aimed for times. Once I’ve done a couple of races and track sessions this year my goal times will probably change a bit. As well as quite a few big races I have some adventures planned. I’m really looking forward to the Paris marathon as there is a big group of us going and it’ll be great to do some sightseeing (there’ll probably be a few drinks celebrating some of the group’s first marathons!) after the race. We also have trips to Germany and Greece planned, we’ll be doing some trail running in the Black Forest in June and in July I, Lorna, Michalis & Freya will be heading to Greece to take part in the North Face Zagori Marathon. Lorna and I are going to do the race and then spend a few days exploring Greece which will be really nice.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years and that your training is going well. See a lot of you soon whether it be at track, running along the river, out on some trails or at a race.