Colchester Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday 13th March I took part in the Colchester Half. I signed up because Lorna and her brothers, Alex and Rob, were taking part. Before heading to Essex I decided to do a “shakeout” parkrun on the Saturday morning. I’ve now learnt that I’m too competitive to do a parkrun as a shakeout. I went to my local parkrun, Mile End. I was planning to run it in around 20 minutes or so but that plan soon went out the window. Having done decent mileage in the week and the Essex 20 miler the previous weekend my legs were feeling pretty heavy but I set out at a quick pace and just decided to try and hold it. I managed to finish in a course PB time of 16:59 in second place (parkrun is NOT a race though!). Immediately after the parkrun I was feeling happy with myself as I’d achieved a good time but at the same time I was thinking “I’m going to pay for this in the half marathon tomorrow”.

After the parkrun I packed my stuff and headed for the train to Colchester. Once I arrived, Lorna, Rob and I went straight to Nandos, perfect for post run and carb-loading for the race ha. We then did a spot of shopping before heading back to Lorna’s parents’ house to chill before the big day. On Sunday we woke up at about 7 o’clock. The race started at 9am so we had a good amount of time to have breakfast and get to Colchester Community Stadium where the race would start and finish. Being their local half marathon Lorna, Alex and Rob knew the route and gave me an in depth description of what the course was like. When we did a shakeout run post Essex 20 on Tuesday Lorna showed me where the hills were so I knew what I was going to have to tackle. At breakfast Alex walked into the kitchen at about 7:30 in full race kit with his number pinned on. Lorna and I knew he was well and truly up for the race. Alex and Lorna have done lots of races together and finished pretty close together, this was another chance to renew their rivalry. Having been following Alex on Strava we knew he was in good shape and had been training hard, having done a casual 1:32 half marathon a couple of weeks ago and doing hill sprints with Robbie Smith etc.

With race numbers pinned on and timing chips on our trainers we headed to the stadium. We dropped off our bags and were ready to run. On the start line my legs were feeling a little heavy, probably due to running the hilly Essex 20 at close to marathon pace the previous Sunday, doing pretty big mileage in the week and pushing it a bit at parkrun. The weather was perfect, nice and cool and the sun was shining so the crowds were out in force. I headed to the start line and after a short wait we were off. Knowing that the first 4k or so was slightly downhill I set off at close to 3:30min/km pace. This was to counterbalance the pace I would be running up the hills. The first 3k went to plan clocking: 3:30, 3:31, 3:23.

After this there were a few hills to contend with so my pace dropped to between 3:40 and 3:50 for a few kilometres. Around 7k into the race whilst running up hill I struggled with a stitch but managed to hold a decent pace.

With 10k or so to go I caught up with a man running in a green club vest. He matched my pace so we had a quick chat about marathons we were training for. He said how he’d done London in 2:50 last year and he asked what races I had lined up. It was good to have someone to run with as the last 5k or so was down a really long straight road. We kept pushing each other on. Luckily Lorna’s parents’ house is on the long home stretch so I was cheered on by Bob (Lorna’s dad), Phil (her brother) and Lidia (Phils fiancée).

It was nice to have people around the course cheering, earlier on in the race I had ran passed Ray (Lorna’s sister, who works for the main sponsor of the race so was marshalling) and Robbie Smith, who I met when I went on the Colchester running club Winterton training weekend. With 2k to go myself and the club runner picked up our pace, he surged and went in front for a while then I did the same. With 1k to go I started to up the pace a little more and could tell he was tiring as he was breathing a bit heavier. I decided to try and open up a little gap and try and hold on. With 400m or so to go I thought I’d moved in front too early but I managed a small sprint finish to beat him by about 10 seconds. I finished in 7th place in 1:16:28. Considering I’d run the Essex 20 miler in 2:03 the previous Sunday, done decent mileage in the week and finished Mile End parkrun in 16:59 on Saturday I was really happy with that result. I nipped straight to the bag drop to pick up my stuff before cheering Team Elliott through the finish line. When I went to pick up my bag the volunteers all clapped me in. There wasn’t anyone else around so they probably thought I’d finished first ha. That was a nice moment; it’s amazing how much time volunteers give up to make events like Colchester Half happen. With my big puffer jacket on to keep warm I made my way to the finishing straight. I was faffing around with my bags etc not expecting to see anyone for a few minutes but then I looked up and there was Alex flying through the finish. I knew he wanted to beat Lorna and run about 1:30 but I didn’t know he was going to do 1:27. He smashed it.

A couple of minutes later and Lorna came through the finish. She finished in a new PB time of 1:31 and again having done the Essex 20 miler (5 minutes quicker than before) she tore it up. Really proud of her and looking forward to running the Paris Marathon together. We then cheered Rob on. He was aiming to run sub 1:50 but similarly to Al and Lorna he beat his goal time by a few minutes, he finished in 1:46 knocking a good couple minutes off his PB. On a pretty hilly course Team Elliott destroyed it.

 Alex was really humble about beating Lorna and smashing his PB haha


The bling

7th man and 7th lady!

After the race we cheered other runners in before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. It’s fair to say I treated myself:

The rest of the day we chilled out and then made our way back to London. This week I’m aiming to do decent mileage before having a week long taper for Cardiff Half, can’t wait for that race. Well done to everyone that ran and raced over the weekend, I’ve seen lots of great times posted on social media over the last few days.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

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Essex 20 

At the weekend I took part in the Essex 20. Having run it for the last few years, Lorna convinced me, Alan, Jonny, Dean, Michalis, Emily and Freya to run it. We all thought it would be a good race to do in preparation for the Paris and London marathons. Having not raced a 20 miler before, I was looking forward to getting a PB by default and seeing what time I could do bearing in mind I have done quite a few long runs and big mileage weeks (for me) recently. Before heading to Colchester I made it to the Advent Running bagel run on Friday morning for a shakeout run.  Not a bad way to start a Friday. Photo taken by Ash @ashrunstheworld
On the Saturday morning (the day before the race) Lorna, her brother Rob and I ran 10k or so to loosen up.  

It was nice to be out of the concrete jungle for the weekend. Colchester, although a lot bigger than Holsworthy, reminded me of home to a certain extent. After the run Lorna and I headed to the supermarket to stock up for the whole weekend. We had so much nice food over the weekend including mince with pasta, rice and sweet potatoes, Pizza and an epic roast on Sunday night post-race. The rest of the gang arrived in Colchester on Saturday afternoon; we spent the rest of the day relaxing and carb-loading for the race. We had a very civilized evening, most of us wanted to run the 20 miler at marathon pace so decided not to go big on the drinks.

After a relatively early night, I woke up fresh and excited to race. Luckily the race start was at 10am so we had a good amount of time to have breakfast and drive to the hall where we could collect our race numbers etc. After being dropped off by Lorna’s dad and sister we chilled until the start of the race (it was freezing, see photo!). 

   Emily, Dean, Jonny, me, Alan, Lorna and Michalis.
Before we knew it we were off. Having not raced a 20 miler I was a little unsure what pace to run at. Similarly to how I approached the Old Deer Park Half marathon, I looked up a few different finishing times and saw what paces I would need to run to achieve those times. I decided I would start off at around 4 min/km pace and see how that felt over the first lap of three. Lorna had let us know the course was hilly; there were three considerably steep hills to tackle each lap. After a few kilometres I was running a little under 4 min/km but was feeling pretty comfortable so went with it. The race was relatively small, I think approximately 300 runners took part. A lot of them were club runners so it was really competitive, this was good for me as I like to have people nearby to chase.

I went through 10k in 39 minutes and was feeling good. I liked the course as you could mentally split it up in to chunks according to the hills, the taking of gels and seeing the cheer crew (Freya was cheer crew for the day, unfortunately she is out of action for a little while due to a stress reaction, it was good to have her there cheering us all on). On the second lap the hills felt a lot longer and I was breathing a lot heavier than on the first lap. I kept thinking the quicker I get up here the quicker I’ll get my breath back and be back on pace. Luckily as well as there being some steep inclines there were some nice downhill sections. Over the whole race I managed to stay at below 4 minutes per kilometre pace, apart from hitting 4:03 for the first kilometre and the 26th. After the second lap I was feeling pretty knackered but thankfully another runner was nearby, he pointed at two runners in front of us and said “we can overtake these guys”. Despite pushing the pace we had a quick chat about upcoming races and PB times etc. This was a good distraction from being tired and we held pace and kept tracking down more and more runners. Another good thing about races with loops is that you pass people on their 2nd lap. The little interactions pick you up and motivate you to run quicker. As we got closer to the finish I started thinking about how long we had left to suffer. At 5K I said “5k to go, less than 20 minutes to run for” and so on.

With 1k or so to go I still felt good so upped the pace.  

I managed to finish in 31st place in 2:03:54. Coming in to the finishing straight I could see Freya, Emily, Dean, Rob, Ray and Bob. It was cool to have friends and Lorna’s family there to cheer me in. Emily had decided to stop after doing one lap due to suffering from a foot injury and Dean stopped as he was feeling the effects from a trail marathon the previous week. This wasn’t an A race for any of us so it was definitely not worth pushing it or making any niggles/injuries worse with big races around the corner. Alan was also suffering with an injury so he wisely decided to stop after 15 miles or so. Jonny, Lorna and Michalis all ran really well and it was fun to cheer them through the finish line. Lorna knocked 5 minutes off her Essex 20 PB, really proud. Because the race was £6 to enter there was no finishers medal or goodie bag. Therefore, Lorna thought it would be a good idea to make some up. The bags were from the film Frozen and they contained mars bars, flapjacks, sweets, a banana and a medal (best goodie bag ever! Ha).

We headed back to Lorna’s to freshen up and then we had an epic Pizza feast with champagne and an awesome birthday cake. The weekend flew by and the crew were heading back to London before we knew it. Due to it being Lorna’s birthday on the Monday we stayed for a few days, we had a relaxing day and then did a shakeout run on the Tuesday. 

  

This week has flown by and my attention is now on the Colchester Half Marathon on Sunday which Lorna and her brothers are also taking part in. It should be a fun one. Due to not running much this week, I’m looking forward to racing it and seeing what time I can do two weeks before Cardiff Half.

Hope you all had a good weekend whether you were racing, training or resting.

Steve