Running in Colchester 

Last weekend Lorna and I headed to Colchester to spend time with her family. We got the train out of London early on Friday evening. We were picked up from Colchester station by Alex, Lorna’s older brother, to go and do some hill training. Robbie Smith and Frosty joined us; it was good to catch up with Robbie who I’d met at the Winterton training weekend with the Colchester running club last year. He is taking part in the City of London Mile on 19/06/16 and it’ll be interesting to see what time he posts as he is a short distance track runner. Frosty had done the Manchester Marathon the same year as me so we talked about how annoying it was that the course was short and how they’d altered everyone’s finishing times. Having not done any hill sessions recently and with the Zagori Marathon around the corner it was good to do a few reps. From running a decent mileage and a couple of marathons in the last few months I’m feeling quite strong at the moment.
The hill we ran up was Balkerne Hill, it was a relatively short sharp incline (approximately 35m) but it felt pretty steep as we were hitting it at pace. We then jogged down North Hill for recovery. We did 6 loops, well most of us did but Robbie snuck off, those short distance runners ey!! Ha Post hill session Al cooked us and Rob (Lorna’s younger brother) a feast, we had Chicken and Halloumi etc, good for recovery and fuelling parkrun which me and Rob were to run on the Saturday morning. After food Rob headed back to get an early night, he was on the Soda water; we knew he was going to be attempting a parkrun PB in the morning.

Like a flick of the switch Saturday morning arrived. I was looking forward to running parkrun a) because I hadn’t run one in a while b) because I like doing a bit of parkrun tourism c) because I’d heard Colchester parkrun got a good number of runners and d) because I was excited to see how Rob would get on knowing he’d been running and going to the gym lots. Rob drove us into town and then we jogged to the park. Colchester parkrun has a pretty cool setting; the park is really nice with a castle situated in it. Having run through there before with Lorna I had a good idea of the route and knew it would be a bit twisty turny and uppy downy (technical terms!).  

Photo courtesy of Neil Wray

Rob and I discussed pacing strategies just before the start and then we were ready to race (umm I mean run; I must remember parkrun is NOT a race!).

When making our way to the start line I was expecting to see just a handful of runners but what I actually saw was around 400 people. It always amazes me how many people get up early on a Saturday morning to do parkrun; I guess Colchester is a relatively big one in comparison to some in London because there are so many different parkruns in pretty close proximity. On the start line I was a couple of rows back, I didn’t know what the standard of runners was going to be like.  

After about half a kilometre two guys and I were running together at the front. One of them was breathing pretty heavy at this stage and so after another 500m or so it was just me and one other runner setting the pace. Turns out the other runner was called Paul. I found this out a couple kilometres down the path because you double back on yourself and run passed the other runners; a lot of them were cheering Paul on and wanted him to beat me. You do a U-turn around one of the marshals which is funny. On the way back towards the castle it was good to see Rob, he was looking strong and I was pretty confident he’d be close to his PB if not better it. Lorna had decided not to run because she picked up a niggle in the Hackney Half Marathon on the previous Sunday. It was really nice to have her around the course cheering me on and tell me which way to run haha. Despite the well marshalled route there were a couple of occasions where I almost went the wrong way. Because I hadn’t done one lap yet and was in the lead I had to shout back to Paul and ask whether it was straight on or a left turn, it was good of him to shout “straight on” which turned out to be true. Someone more competitive could well have sent me off track ha. The other occasion I nearly went off piste was just before the castle, I thought you went through the start/finish area as opposed to taking a left up round the castle again. With one lap done I was feeling good, despite the hills I was holding a pace around 3:20min/km. I quite enjoy routes that are a bit up and down and where there are quite a few turns to break the run up into chunks.  


 

I held a decent pace to the end and finished in 17:47. Lorna and I then cheered on Rob as he came storming through the finish.  

He smashed his PB by over a minute finishing in 22:24, well done if you’re reading this Rob. It was a great start to our Saturday. We are back in Colchester next weekend and are planning to do the parkrun again, I’m looking forward to it already especially because Phil (Lorna’s older brother) is also going to run and race Rob. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On the Sunday Lorna, Rob and I wanted to make the most of the nice weather so we made a trip to Alton Water to do a spot of trail running. I always enjoy getting out of the city every now and then and being able to run in some countryside.  

We ran at a steady (some might call it sexy) pace and the route totalled 12 kilometres.  

  

It took us a little longer than normal due to the obligatory selfie stops. When we are back next Lorna and I are planning to run a couple of laps in training for the Zagori Marathon. We are also scheming a group trip to do some paddle boarding which should be fun and hilarious in equal measure. Post trail run we treated ourselves to ice creams and flapjack, of which drew interest from two massive swans. We made it out of Alton Water alive and then in the afternoon Rob, Lorna’s Dad and I hit the golf driving range.

Overall it was a really nice weekend; we got a good balance of running, chilling, baking and eating great food. Post London Marathon I’m really enjoying my running again, mainly due to mixing it up with things like hill training, track, and long runs along the river. This weekend I’m doing the “Escape to Trail” run that Dean has organised for charity before heading to the Night of the 10,000 PBs. They should both be great events.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you then.

Steve

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