Brighton Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 26th of February I took part in the Brighton Half Marathon. It was my first ‘A’ race of the year and a good opportunity to see where my fitness levels are leading up to the Boston Marathon in 7 weeks’ time. In February last year I ran the Old Deer Park Half Marathon (1:16) before the Cardiff Half (1:13:27) in March. I decided to aim for sub 1:15 in Brighton mainly because I wanted to achieve Championship entry for the London Marathon next year. It felt like it had been ages since I’d raced a half marathon properly. I was excited to see what I was capable of but nervous at the same time as in training for the marathon I’ve either been doing track and tempo sessions (much quicker than HM pace) or long steady runs (much slower than HM pace). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace required to go sub 75 (3:33min/km), however I tried to remind myself that I didn’t train specifically for Cardiff Half last year but felt good then.

My girlfriend Lorna, and Alex (one of Lorna’s brothers), had also signed up. We travelled down to Brighton on the Saturday morning so we could relax and do some sightseeing.

Once we arrived Lorna and I headed in to town for some food and a look around the shops whilst Alex had a nap. Having only been to Brighton once before, for the marathon, it was nice to explore and go in some of the quirky independent shops. Alex then joined us, despite the cold and windy conditions we walked to the pier to try and win some prizes. We had a bit of a shocker, Alex and I couldn’t throw for toffee and we weren’t much better with the football.

Being competitive I was really annoyed and we decided we’d go back for another attempt after the race. As the weather was rubbish we went for dinner at Bills earlier than planned. Suitably fuelled up we got back to the hotel to prepare our race kit before watching some Saturday night tele and getting an early night.

My race kit

Alex’s race kit & nutrition

As is often the case on race morning I beat the alarm clock. We were up around 6:30 so we could get ready for breakfast. I opted for toast and a coffee despite being tempted by croissants and all of the nice food on offer. Alex had brought his own slab of Soreen (see pic above), like he’d said the previous day “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Having woken up nice and early we had plenty of time to don our race kit and make our way down the road to the race village. As we were heading to the hotel door we had our fingers crossed for calm weather, we knew we’d be in for a tough run if the wind was up. It was a bit gusty which was a shame but I guess that was to be expected post Storm Doris and being on the seafront. Having not really looked at where the bag drop was situated on the map, none of us realised we had to walk through the start/finish line and through loo queues. Fortunately we’d given ourselves enough time to get there and negotiate our way back through to the right start pens.

I wished Lorna and Al good luck and headed to the sub 1:20 (grey) pen. My legs were feeling fresh after a couple of easy days and the coffee had kicked in, I was ready for the challenge.

I caught up with a couple of friends on the start line (Enrique, Dominic and George) and then we were sent on our way. It took a little while for everyone to spread out so the first kilometre was marginally slow. I worked my way past a few runners and was soon tucked in behind George and a couple of others for a few kilometres. It was good to be shielded from the wind for a while and ticking the kilometres off comfortably. As I previously mentioned I’d run the Brighton Marathon in 2015 so I knew where the inclines and turning points were. We made the turn at mile 4 to start heading back West towards the city centre, unfortunately the wind was against us and we had 5 miles or so to make the next turn. I was still amongst four or five other runners but as we had completed 8k or so they seemed to be dropping pace slightly so I had a decision to make: a) stick with the group for a while and then try to pick up enough time in the final 5k or b) go it alone and try to hold around 3:33min/km pace. I opted for the latter as my legs were still feeling good and there was another group ahead which I thought I could close up on and tuck in behind after a while.

Around the 10k point I saw Alex and then Lorna; we gave each other a shout knowing we wouldn’t see each other until the finish. When I’m in the same race as Lorna I always worry about how she is getting on so it was nice to see her looking good and with a decent group around her. I knew she’d run well as her training has been great over the last month or two. I went through 10k in 35:25, not far off my current 10k PB (34:50). It felt quick but my legs were ok, my breathing was a little heavy but that was always going to be the case running into the wind. I kept ticking the kilometres off counting down until the turning point where I’d finally have the wind pushing me to the finish. I had gained on a group of four or five runners and was alongside them between mile 8 and 9. They were slowing up so I went straight past, unfortunately meaning no rest from the wind. The crowds were starting to build, my legs were tiring but I knew I’d soon be on the long home straight.

I took the turn at Hove Lagoon, immediately breathing was easier, the wind was at my back and the crowds were making more and more noise. After 10 miles/16k I looked at my watch to start working out how much time I had left to go sub 75 minutes. I figured I had 18 minutes to make it, so if I could maintain my pace or pick it up to closer to 3:30min/km I’d be home and dry. I was soon passing the beach huts along the seafront, my legs were tired and I was just about holding it together.

It felt like deja vu as this was exactly how I felt running the same section in the Brighton Marathon. That day I managed to run 3:03 and qualify for the London Marathon through GFA (Good for Age), this time round I was closing in on qualifying for a championship entry. The final few kilometres seemed to last forever; I tried not to look at my watch too much and tried to focus on racing a couple of the runners nearby.

The final kilometre arrived. The support was awesome and then with 400m left I could see the clock, it had just ticked into the 1:14s. I sprinted through the line knowing I’d achieved my goal: London Marathon Championship entry. Job done!

I caught up with George (finished in just over 75 minutes, as part of a long run) and Dominic (71 minutes, well done mate!) and then went to the bag drop to get some warm clothes on. I met up with Alex who’d just crept under 1:30 and Lorna finished in 1:33:55, well inside her target of 1:35. Overall it was a great race for all of us.


We made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before going to Harry Ramsdens for fish and chips.

When you’ve been out in the cold for a couple of hours the hot shower and nice food is so rewarding. As we failed to win anything on Saturday we went to the pier to try our luck again. With the advice of the man running the tin can place, I threw my first bean bag like a dart knocking the bottom right can and subsequently flooring the rest of them, winner! I was handed minion Stevie which I rightfully (unwillingly) handed to Lorna.

After attempting to eat a couple of scoops of ice cream (so full from fish and chips) we picked up our bags from the hotel and made our way back to London.

It was a great little weekend in Brighton, over the next few weekends Lorna and I are in Colchester for the Essex 20 miler and Colchester Half. We then have Hampton Court Palace Half before winding down for Boston. I hope those of you that raced over the weekend got your times and enjoyed it. A massive shout has to go to James Poole for smashing Transgrancanaria 360 in 72 hours placing 8th. Well done to the Advent Running collective for finishing various transgrancanaria races as well as everyone completing the Tokyo Marathon. I’ve seen some great results posted!

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

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Fourth cross-country fixture: maracas & mud 

On Saturday the 11th of February I took part in the fourth and final Surrey XC League fixture of the season with the Advent Running team. Before heading to Lloyd Park to run our 8k race some of us joined the girls at Happy Valley Park to encourage them around what was a tough course, not helped by the snow. Lorna and I met up with most of the girls at London Bridge to get the train to Coulsdon South or as Ben Rajan aptly named it Coldsdon South. We arrived in plenty of time which was good as we still had a bit of a trek to get to the start area and then to the nearest car park/toilets. As I normally run in the same races as Lorna it’s not very often I get to support her, however when I have cheered it’s been great fun. It was nice for some of us to be able to repay the favour as lots of the girls cheered us on at Clapham Common, Epsom Downs and Cranford Park.

I always find cross-country days funny; the first few hours seem to drag on but once you’ve started travelling to the race and met up with the group/team time disappears. The girls sorted their race vests & numbers before doing a quick warm up. With just a couple of minutes to go they shed their warm layers and headed for the start line.

Before we knew it they were charging off at what I would describe as “It’s so bloody cold, let’s get this done” pace. Normally when I’m watching races/supporting I feel left out and want to be taking part, not this time. I was more than happy to be in warm clothes, shouting useless words of support and shaking some maracas.

Photo courtesy of Abi Williams @afloralcrown

We positioned ourselves near a slippery chicane in a bid to get good photos and give the girls a lift before they zoomed down the hill into the second lap.

The girls ran really well in what were horrible conditions, I don’t think they could believe their luck with the bad weather. After their third fixture they all said the conditions were “brutal” and “really muddy and hilly” but apparently this course was a lot tougher due to the long hills and ploughed fields.

As the men’s race started at 2pm we had to depart after cheering the girls around one lap. We opted to jog to the train station to loosen our legs up. With the large snowflakes falling on our faces it felt like we were on some sort of arctic expedition, far from it really. We jumped on the tram from East Croydon to Lloyd Park before sorting our race numbers and vests, using a couple of cars for a bag drop (thanks Matt and Sarah). Claudia and some of the other girls arrived before the start so they showed us where the hilliest and muddiest parts of the course were. It’s always good to do a bit of a recce so you can roughly work out how to pace yourself. With 5 minutes until the start I stripped down to race vest and split shorts and did a few strides to try and keep warm. Luckily the weather was much clearer in Lloyd Park than in “Happy” Valley Park, there was no snow to be seen. As we walked to the start line I was really excited to get going but at the same time I was a little sad as it was the last fixture of the season. Similarly to the third fixture I positioned myself near the front alongside Martin Harris with the rest of the AR team just behind us. After a short announcement from the organisers we were on our way.

The first kilometre was relatively flat resulting in a split of 3:33. Over the four fixtures I’ve found it interesting learning how to pace the races, trying to take the mud and hills into consideration. The pace felt fast for the first couple of kilometres but I was feeling good and I’d decided I would get the first lap done then either ease off if need be or push on. Unfortunately after about a kilometre and a half one of my shoe laces came undone, rookie. I mustn’t have tied it tight enough due to having freezing cold hands. I was in two minds whether to stop and attempt to tie it back up or chance it and hope my shoe wouldn’t come off in the mud. I opted for the latter having weighed up the pros and cons, I figured I’d probably struggle to tie it up again giving my hands felt like icicles and the laces were covered in mud. It would’ve been like taking on a challenge in the cube. Luckily the next few kilometres went by quickly a) because I was thinking about my laces and b) I was chasing Martin down.

Photos courtesy of Claudi @claudi8s & Lorna @lorns_runs

The first lap went by pretty quickly; it definitely helped having the AR lot making a racket (I mean playing their musical instruments to an incredible standard) and cheering the team on. I closed the gap on Martin as we entered the second lap; we were side by side for a kilometre or so. Then came the short sharp muddy climb that we had recced, I think we both knew if one of us could push on after the climb that would be it as the rest of the course was relatively flat.

We both dug deep to get to the top of the hill, my legs were surprisingly feeling ok so I got back onto a quick pace to open up a gap and push on. There was no looking back; I started to think about catching two of the other runners to put myself in with the chance of finishing top of the individual standings in the league. They were a couple of hundred metres ahead of me so they were a good target to chase for the remainder of the race. For a kilometre or so I maintained the gap knowing that within the last 1,000m or so there was a downhill stretch into the finish. Having some energy left in the tank I started upping my pace, I opened up my stride.

After getting through muddy sections and up sharp hills it was great to be on the home straight and to let fly. I closed the gap on the two runners but unfortunately couldn’t quite catch them.

I crossed the finish line in 5th place (2nd in Division 4) in 29:41.


Martin finished in 7th (3rd in Division 4) claiming the top spot in the individual standings. If you’re reading this well done mate you were so strong and super consistent throughout the season, it’s been great fun racing with you. The whole team smashed it again!

Division 4 champions!

Team results


Our 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

7th: James Poole

11th: Ben Rajan

14th: Adam Lennox

15th James Brewster

22nd: Rory Campbell

30th: Matt Hanson

32nd: Robin Davies

Here’s how the girls got on:

Team results


Our 10 scorers

12th: Claudia Schroegel (ADV A)

19th: Svenja Espenhahn (ADV A)

21st: Melanie McKay (ADV A)

23rd: Alice Milne (ADV A)

28th: Lorna Elliott (ADV A)

36th: Sarah McCarthy (ADV B)

62nd: Julia Mitchelmore (ADV B)

71st: Emma Finch (ADV B)

78th: Nikki Rees (ADV B)

80th: Claire Weustenraed (ADV B)

I’ve really enjoyed the cross-country races with the Advent Running team; I can’t wait for next season. A massive thank you has to go to James and Claudia for organising everything. It has been great to see everyone enjoying themselves racing around on the mud.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

The Soar Indoor Mile/Winter Warmer

On Wednesday the 1st of February I decided to take part in the Soar Indoor Mile at Lee Valley Athletics Track. I heard about the event a few months back and wanted to get involved, I was in two minds whether to opt for the mile race or do one of the 3,000m races. I decided not to sign up in advance due to being in marathon training, I wasn’t sure if my legs would be up to a fast mile or 3k the day after a big track session. I made the decision to race after doing The Running Works club run at lunchtime as my legs felt “ok”.

Having raced over the mile distance on a couple of occasions I’ve learnt about the pain and heavy breathing that comes with the occasion, despite the tired legs I still thought it would be “fun” to see what I was capable of. Plus I’d never had the opportunity to run a mile on a 200m indoor track and I wanted to see how it would compare to doing a road mile. I got the train from Liverpool Street Station to Ponders End to make it in time to watch the BMC 800m races. Once off the train I bumped into Martin White and Lydia O’Donoghue and we had a good catch up whilst walking to the athletics centre. We spoke about training, races coming up (Lydia is running Tokyo in a couple of weeks) and whether we were looking forward to the mile and what times we were expecting.

At the City of London Mile last year I had a solid run and clocked 4:43. Factoring in Track Tuesday I decided I’d aim for 5 minutes and see how it goes, if I had to ease up then so be it. Having arrived at the track I caught up with Andy Cohen-Wray (Athlete in Mind), Alex Van Oostrum (Freestak), Marcus (The Marathon Marcus) and Douglas Cameron (Southwark parkrun) whilst watching the BMC 800s, 3k races and some of the mile races unfold. 

With money on the table, the standard was high. The women’s and men’s A races were just before the men’s B and C races. The winning times were 4:05 by Dale King-Clutterbuck and 4:50 by Faye Fullerton. As well as their great performances two age-group mile world records were broken; Anthony Whiteman ran 4:12:94 to beat the V45 record and Lucy Elliott crossed the line in 5:03:60 to break the V50 mile record. In the 3,000m races the winners were John Sanderson and Tamara Armoush in 8:22:81 and 9:34:10 respectively. It was really inspiring to see these athletes tearing it round the track putting in cracking performances.
As race start time was nearing I headed up to the warm up area to do a few strides. My legs were feeling tired just putting in a few hundred metres of effort and so I knew the race was going to be hard. With 10 minutes or so to go we were summoned to the call area so the organisers could check who was present and line us up in number order. 

Having signed up on the night I was given the number 147 (maximum break!) and this meant I was to start in one of the outside lanes, ideally I’d have been on the inside lane. We lined up and before we knew it we were off.

 Photo courtesy of AVO (@alexvanoostrum)

I sprinted off the start line to take to the inside lane before the bend, it was myself and Douglas setting the pace for the first lap or two. I went through the first 200m in 37 seconds; on pace for a 5 minute mile (Andy and I had discussed the pace required). 400m down in 75 seconds and my legs were feeling ok, a quarter of the race was completed and they went by pretty quickly. After the first couple of laps I went passed Douglas and tried to hold sub 5 pace. This was when it got harder, I was racing the clock.

The laps were going by really quickly yet I still had time to think, I remember thinking “try to keep tight on in the inside lane especially around the bends and off the corners push on using the cambers to pick up speed.” I was still on pace after lap 6 but I could feel my legs tightening and I wasn’t able to stride out as well as over the first 400m or so. With 400m left I had 75 seconds to go sub 5 with 200m 35 seconds. I tried to up my pace over the last lap but struggled over the final 100m. My legs wouldn’t cooperate so I had to settle for crossing the line in 5:02.

 

Immediately I was disappointed not to go sub 5 again but I was pretty pleased taking into account the big track session on Tuesday and having done the Southern XC champs on Saturday followed by a 26k run on Sunday. Excuses excuses I know! 

Overall I enjoyed the race, it was really well organised and it was great to catch up with a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a little while. I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on Soar running and signing up to their next event, even if you aren’t in PB shape a mile or 3k can act as a great speed session and give you a good indicator of where you are fitness wise. Over the next few weeks I’ll be focussing more on mileage as I prepare for the Boston Marathon, I’m really looking forward to banking some steady long runs.

See a lot of you soon

Steve