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

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