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.
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.
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