Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 19th of March I took part in the Hampton Court Palace Half. I signed up because Lorna, her sister Rachel, Marie (Lorna’s manager) and her husband Quentin had decided to run. As the race was organised by Run Through I knew it would be good, I was looking forward to running along the river and finishing just outside Hampton Court Palace. I didn’t really have a race plan as I knew my legs would be tired from the Escape to trail run, organised by Dean, on Saturday.

Despite the trail run I thought it would be good training to see how quickly I could get round. At the end of the day in Boston I will no doubt get to a point where my legs are feeling heavy and need to try and hold on to a decent pace.
We woke up at around 6am on Sunday morning so we could enjoy breakfast and get organised. Furthermore, we wanted to leave ours at 7am to make it to the palace in good time to park the car and walk to the race village. Lorna and Rachel were excited to see what time they could achieve. Rachel hadn’t raced since the London Marathon 14 years ago but had increased her mileage well over the few months before the race so we were all pretty confident she would run well. Ideally she wanted to beat Phil’s time of 1:43 from Colchester Half the previous weekend. We bumped into Tom (@tom.runs) and had a catch up before dropping our bags off. I headed to the start line and had a quick chat with Joe while we positioned ourselves near the front.

Off the start I went out pretty quickly, I was through the first kilometre in around 3:35 (75 minute pace) alongside Joe and a handful of others. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for long but decided to go with it and see what happened. I stayed with the group for a couple of kilometres but then I started to open up a little gap, first place was no longer visible but I could still just about see second place. I decided I was going to try and stay in third place and keep him in view for as long as possible. My legs were already feeling pretty heavy and tight from around 5k but I could still hold a decent pace, I was around 3:40-3:45 pace at this point. I knew it was going to be a long 16k but I wanted to have to dig deep and test the legs.

As I was on my own it was tough going especially running into the wind along the river. I didn’t turn around at all to see if I was being caught but when running past big crowds I could hear how close the runners were behind me. The support along the river was great.

Going from running on concrete to running on the towpath my legs were not happy especially having been on my feet for 4 hours, running 27k the previous day. I was relieved to make it to within 5k from the finish line and knew I could suffer for just less than 20 minutes to get it done. The final few kilometres were into the wind, which wasn’t great, but I just couldn’t wait to see the finish line and the palace. With 800m or so to go someone let me know there was a runner about 30m or so behind me, I upped my pace a bit to make sure no one was going to overtake me and then I was on the home straight. I crossed the line in 1:18:55 in 3rd, job done.


I cheered Tom, Hanif, Lorna, Rachel, Marie & Quentin through the finish. Lorna and Rachel smashed it finishing in 1:42 to beat Phil’s time. We went for a nice roast and then chilled for the rest of the day.

Overall it was a great day, if you’re looking for a quick scenic half next year I’d definitely recommend considering the Palace Half. The route was scenic and relatively flat, the crowds were good and the medal was cool (as to be expected from a Run Through event).

After racing the last four weekends in a row I’m looking forward to doing a steady long run at the weekend before tapering ahead of the Boston Marathon. I hope those of you that raced or had long training runs at the weekend enjoyed it and got the results/times you wanted. I love this time of year when everyone is racing and training hard. It’s inspiring to see so many great performances every weekend.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

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Colchester Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 12th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. I signed up because Lorna, her brothers and some friends were racing and I enjoyed the event in 2016 finishing 7th in 1:16:30. Lorna and I travelled back to Colchester on the Friday evening; it was deja vu as we had made the same trip the previous Friday for the Essex 20. Having raced Brighton Half Marathon and Essex 20 over the two weekends in the lead up to Colchester Half I took it easy during the week, no hard track sessions or tempo runs. My legs were feeling good going into the weekend and I thought a short shakeout run would be good on the Saturday morning so Rob and I did a nice 5k.

Rob was really excited to be racing, he was aiming to smash his PB and beat Phil. On our 5k run we talked about training and thought about how he should pace it. Having trained more specifically this year he knew roughly what paces he should be hitting when going down or uphill so was confident he would get a good result. As I have been doing more long runs recently the 5k went really quickly; it seemed to do the job of loosening my legs up and it was a good way to start the day. To fuel up for the race Rob and I met up with Alex and Smithy for Nandos whilst Lorna went for lunch with Holly. We then had a look around the shops before going back to Lorna’s mum and dads to chill, eat and get an early night.

We woke up at 7am on Sunday morning to give us time to have breakfast and get our kit ready. It had been while since I’d raced so frequently but I was looking forward to the challenge. Toast and coffee consumed we went to Alex’s place before walking to Colchester Football stadium where the race started and finished. We met Robbie Smith near the start line, it was great to have a catch up with him. He said he wasn’t in great shape due to injuries etc but I knew he’d still run really well! Having dropped a bag full of warm clothes for after the race we got ourselves on the start line. Normally I prefer to position myself a few rows back but having finished 7th in 2016 I decided to get to the front with a couple of friends: Ciaran Saunders and Sam Cornforth. We talked about training, recent races and what times we were aiming for and then we were sent on our way.

Quick off the start line with Ciaran (left) & Sam (right).

As my legs were feeling relatively fresh I decided to aim for 75 minute pace (3:35ish min/km). Knowing the first couple of kilometres of the race were flat then downhill I went out quickly with a view to bank a few seconds for the hills later on. There was a group of 5 or 6 of us to begin with; it was nice to be in a group for the first few kilometres. As we tackled the first hill in the 4th kilometre Ciaran and I pushed on, we passed the two runners who had taken the initial lead and settled into a good pace.

Once at the top of the hill I found myself at the front with one other runner for company (see runner on the right in the pic above). We both got back onto a good pace straight off the top of the hill to open up a bit of a gap to the rest of the field. Down the high street the crowds were in good voice. I was really surprised to be at the front of the race with the car and bike; I kept pushing the pace on the downhills. I knew that I was approaching the long pull up Ipswich Road that lasts for a good couple of kilometres. Finally we turned onto Severalls Lane to get back on the flat road and go through an industrial estate. The hardest parts of the course were done and I could focus on holding around 3:35min/km again. I didn’t look around to see where the other runners were but I still had the one runner alongside.

The kilometres went by quickly; I really enjoy the Colchester Half Marathon route because of the variety. The hills and corners break it up nicely. With 5k to go my competition started to up the pace, my legs were tiring but I tried to hold onto him for as long as possible. It was good to be pushing it on tired legs. I stuck with him for another 3 kilometres but then a gap opened up quickly. I was still on my goal pace but he was finishing strongly. It was disappointing to see my hopes of winning the race run off into the distance but I kept digging deep to get to the finish line inside 75 minutes. I passed Lorna’s parents’ house with just over one mile to go, Bob (Lorna’s dad) and Lidia (Phil’s fiancée) were outside trying to take photos and cheering.

There was a short incline just before the finishing straight, my legs were not happy. I just about held it together to finish in 2nd place in 1:14:58.

I congratulated the winner on a great run and then grabbed my bag before cheering Robbie, Frosty, Alex, Lorna, Rob and Phil through the finish. A big shout has to go to Rob for smashing his PB by 5 minutes and beating Phil by 2 in finishing in 1:41.

 Robbie, Alex, Lorna, Rob and me

We all freshened up before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. Overall a great weekend and another race completed.

Next up: Escape to Trail run (Saturday 18th) & Hampton Court Palace Half (Sunday 19th)

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Essex 20 2017 

On Sunday the 5th of March I took part in the Essex 20 miler for the second year running. As it was one of my favourite races in 2016 I was really looking forward to it. Similarly to last year Lorna invited a group of our friends to stay with us at her family’s house, this included Michalis, Alan, Dean and Tom. Lorna and I travelled to Colchester on the Friday evening to catch up with her family and to tidy the house for the lad’s arrival. On the Saturday morning we had a bit of a lie in and went food shopping before going for a nice walk with Rob (one of Lorna’s brothers).

Late Saturday afternoon the guys arrived, we had a catch up over dinner, chilled and watched some Jackass (forgot how crazy they are!) and then got an early night ahead of the race.I woke up at 7:29am to narrowly beat the alarm. The race didn’t start until 10am so we had plenty of time to have a good breakfast and get our kit ready. Unsurprisingly when I got to the kitchen Dean was already up chilling and chatting with Rob. We were soon joined by the other boys and Lorna, we tucked into some toast and cereal. Suitably fuelled up we all donned are race kit and filled bags with warm clothes for after the run. Dean was struggling to find his SIS electrolyte tabs…

One of the dogs was well hydrated!

Around 9:15am Alex arrived to pick some of the boys up to take them to the race start near Langham Community Hall. He was taking part in the Essex 20 for the first time as he has got the Manchester Marathon soon. Once at the hall we picked up our race numbers and limbered up. As we had a little time I had a quick catch up with Mark Boulton and Billy Rayner, they’re both gearing up for the London Marathon.

Tom, Alan, Dean, me, Michalis, Alex, Faye and Lorna

As it neared 10am we took off our warm layers and handed them to Rob. He was our one man crew for the day, looking after our stuff, driving around the course to take photos and handing gels (sometimes empty!) to some of us. Just as we were about to make our way to the start line it tipped it down. It was so annoying because when we woke up the sun was shining and we thought we’d got lucky. Everyone stayed in the hall for as long as possible, you don’t want to get too wet and cold before tackling a hilly 20 miler. We all made our way to the start line, having rested a lot during the week my legs were feeling pretty good so Tom and I positioned ourselves a couple of rows from the front.

Last year I finished the race in 2:03 in 31st position. I wanted to get as close to this time as possible despite running the Brighton Half Marathon the previous weekend in 1:14:22. I knew this would be a tough ask especially in wet and windy conditions. My average pace was 3:50min/km in 2016 so I decided to start the race at 4min/km and go from there. Despite running the Tokyo Marathon the previous weekend Tom ran with me. Our first kilometre was a little slow as the road was narrow and everyone was settling into their paces. Over the next few kilometres we made the most of the downhill sections and picked up the lost time. My legs had seemed to recover well from Brighton Half with track on Tuesday being my only tough session of the week; I felt strong on 4min/km pace but knew it may not last. We were getting through the first lap and soon saw Rob; he’d positioned himself just before the big climb in the 5th kilometre.

Tom and I pushed on up the hill maintaining pace. We both said how we enjoyed tackling hills and often tend to overtake people going up them. Once over the brow of the hill it’s important to get back into a good rhythm, we did this well but knew it would be harder and harder as the laps went by.

Along the main roads Tom and I were just inside 4min/km pace. It was good to be banking time that we could use on the hills. As the first lap was coming to an end (11k) I took my first gel and drank some water. I thought it would be a good race to test my nutrition strategy before Boston; I opt for the SIS gels because they are isotonic. I quite like the Essex 20 route; the variety of flat sections and hills breaks it up into chunks. As we weren’t boxed in by other runners we picked up the pace, especially on the downhills. Before we knew it we saw Rob and tackled the big hill again. My legs were feeling stronger as the race went on; I decided to up my pace to nearer 3:50. This meant leaving Tom but I thought it would be good to suffer on my own as come Boston Marathon/other “A” race days I’m going to have to put in the hard yards alone.

One of the best things about the Essex 20 miler is the competitive field. It is the Essex Championships and an inter county match between 8 counties meaning a lot of quick club runners take part. Throughout the whole race I had runners to chase down, even more so than in the Brighton Half Marathon.

Testing out my Iffley Road X Vivobarefoot Cambrian Chevron t-shirt & Iffley Road Thompson shorts

On the final lap my legs were tiring but I managed to hold 3:50min/km pace. I crossed the line in 2:06:10 in 43rd.

Overall a decent result and a great race to have under the belt before Boston. Tom crossed the line a couple of minutes later, great running mate especially the week after Tokyo. Everyone ran well and most importantly got through it unscathed.

Over the next few weeks Lorna and I have the Colchester Half and the Hampton Court Palace Half. I’m looking forward to seeing what the legs are capable of.

See a lot of you soon

Steve