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Great Bentley Half Marathon 2020

On Sunday 2nd February I took part in the Great Bentley Half Marathon for the first time. Lorna and I signed up to the race because her brother Alex had enjoyed it in 2019 achieving a personal best. As the race is local to Colchester, where Lorna’s parents live, it was easy to get to and we thought it would be good timing ahead of the Barcelona Marathon on the 15th of March.

I travelled back to Colchester on Saturday evening after work. We carb loaded on pizza and chips and put our feet up watching a film before getting an early night. Having not raced for a while I was really looking forward to it. Over the last few months I have been following a training plan as part of the Fast Running “Performance Project Spring 2020”. The plan is put together by Tom Craggs and Robbie Britton and so far has included quite a lot of fartlek, lactate threshold/tempo and easy long runs. I have definitely started to realise the benefits of running at closer to 5k/10k pace more regularly and subsequently the easier slower runs are feeling more comfortable week on week.

Leading into the race I was looking forward to seeing what sort of shape I was in. However I was also aware that the following weeks training included some tough sessions that would be a struggle if I emptied the tank in the race. I decided I was going to run at around goal marathon pace and practice my nutrition strategy.

Obligatory kit pic

Arriving at the Village Hall I felt good, I’d slept well and my legs were feeling relatively fresh having rested on Saturday. Number pick up and bag drop was straightforward and then I ran an easy 2k with Alex to get the legs moving. It felt like the race start came around really quickly. I think I was quite relaxed because I wasn’t aiming for a PB. We listened to the quick race briefing while positioning ourselves on the start line and then we were off as the clock struck 10:30am.

Everyone bolted from the line but I tried to hold myself back and settle into a rhythm around goal marathon pace. I was aiming for around 4 min/km pace but my first few kilometres were closer to 3:50. The course was really flat so I felt comfortable holding that pace for the first 6k or so. I tried to resist the temptation to race but with my legs feeling good I decided to push on and see what time I could do. In the car on the way to the race Lorna predicted this would happen!

At the half waypoint I picked up the pace nearer to 3:25 min/km for the next 5k. I thought if I could hold that pace for a while I could get closer to a finishing time around 75 minutes. As I reached 10 miles a lot of the course was taking us into a headwind. Due to my “alternative” pacing I was moving through the field but was running a lot of the race on my own.

I caught up with a little group and decided to ease up and tuck in with them for a couple of kilometres. As I was tiring, before every corner I was thinking, “please let the wind be behind us when we get round there” but unfortunately the majority of the last 5/10k was into the wind.

Having battled the wind I knew early on I wasn’t going to get that close to 75 minutes but in the conditions I was happy to cross the line in 1:16:19 in 12th position. On one hand I was thinking “these sessions in the week are going to be brutal” but on the other hand I thought, “I guess I’m in decent shape at this point in marathon training and once I recover I’ll feel stronger”. I was excited to see how Lorna, Alex, Rob, Smithy and Frosty had got on. Lorna’s dad and sister made it to the finish to cheer everyone on; we stood on the village green along the finishing straight which was uphill, on grass and into wind… just what you need at the end of a gruelling half marathon. Despite the tough conditions everyone ran really well and were pleased with their times.

Overall the Great Bentley Half was an excellent race. It was really well organised and is a quick course, I guess that’s why it’s so popular with all the local clubs. If you want to take part you’ll have to sign up as soon as registration opens, it fills up quick! I hope to take part again next year.

As marathon training ramps up over the next few weeks the key will be staying consistent and prioritising the sessions and long runs. Some of us are taking part in the Cancer Research London Winter Run on Sunday, which should be fun. Fingers crossed it wont be too windy!

Hope your training and racing is going well.

Steve

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

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

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

Third Cross-country fixture: flat as a pancake

On Saturday the 14th of January I took part in the third Surrey Cross-country league fixture. It was held at Cranford Park, not too far from Heathrow. As the race start time was 2:30pm I had the morning to relax and I travelled with Lorna to Blackfriars to meet the girls before they headed to Lloyds Park for their race starting at 12 o’clock. I killed some time by grabbing food and reading some of Like the Wind mag issue 11.

I travelled to Paddington to meet a fair few of the lads, this included Dean and Alan, they were taking part in their first cross-country fixture with the AR team. It just so happened they’d done the Run Through Victoria Park 10k & Half Marathon respectively, so they were well warmed up. Initially when I found out the race was at Cranford Park I thought it would be a mission to get to, but it turned out to be a 15 minute train journey to Hayes & Harlington followed by a mile walk. The walk took us over part of the route; it was good to see what the terrain was like.

I always get excited about cross-country races. I look forward to seeing what the course will be like, will there be really muddy/boggy sections, and large hills etc to contend with. Simon Hazel had done some research for the team; he ran the route a couple of days prior to the race so we knew the route was flat as a pancake. We all sorted our race vests and numbers and then jogged part of the route to loosen our legs. I was feeling in good shape, I had completed a good track session on Tuesday, a quick ten mile tempo on Thursday evening and a good shakeout run commute on Friday morning in the lead up to the race. After the warm up we de-layered and made our way to the start line for the pre-race briefing.

With the knowledge of the course being flat and having finished highly in the previous two fixtures Martin Harris and I positioned ourselves on the start line with the rest of the team just behind us. Despite knowing there was a section that was firm and included stones through some trees I opted to test out my new Brooks Mach spikes as I am planning to wear them for the Southern Cross-country champs at Parliament Hill on the 28th of January.

Luckily the majority of the course was soft so I could test them properly. The route ran around the outside of Cranford Park, there were a couple of long straights before the winding section through the trees near the end of each lap. The 8k course was over three and a bit laps.

We were sent on our way; I started off at around 3:30min/km pace following Martin and Paul Piper (a friend, running for West 4 Harriers in Division 3). Immediately I was finding that my spikes were giving me good traction especially compared to other runners in trail shoes along one of the long straights which was boggy and included a large puddle. It was funny seeing each runner negotiate the puddle; some would skirt around it but most went straight through. Having seen other runners go through it and not sink I ploughed straight through. With soaking feet I pushed on along the west side of the park before heading into the trees. At this point I was still following Martin and Paul, this was the only section where I regretted having spikes on. Every now and then I would land on a stone and could feel a spike pushing up into my foot, not ideal but bearable for about 1km. Once out of the trees I knew I could pick up the pace on the grass along the straights and so passed Martin and Paul heading into the second lap.

Once I’d run one lap I knew which sections to push on and where I’d have to take it steady. I went through the puddle for the second time with no issues and held a good pace through the trees, trying to surge around the corners so if anyone was behind me I would be further away when they turned the corner. It’s all about the racing tactics ha. I finished my second lap and got cheers from Tony To (unfortunately had to drop out due to cramp) and Emily (Deans girlfriend). I was feeling really good at this point and knew I could maintain my pace for another 2.5k or so, I was really enjoying the run. With some energy left in the tank I picked up the pace on the home straight, I managed to finish 2nd in Division 4 in 27:45.

Shortly after I crossed the line Paul and Martin came through the line, they both ran good times and scored well.

I caught up with Tony and Emily; we cheered the rest of the lads through the finish and watched some great sprint finishes. We were keeping an eye on how many of our runners crossed the line as opposed to Woking (our nearest rivals in the league). There were a lot more black and green vests finishing before orange and green so we knew we’d extended our lead at the top of the league. Job done.

Here’s the team results:

Our top 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

8th: Ben Rajan

12th: Adam Lennox

15th: Nic Wuthrich

25th Alan Gardiner

28th Simon Phillips

31st: Matt Hanson

33rd: Rory Campbell

A massive well done to the girls team over at Lloyds Park in the snow. They smashed it! Lorna had a great run and really enjoyed it, she finished as the second AR runner behind Claudi.



Note: Emma Wallace = Lorna
It was a great day for Team AR XC on the whole! I can’t wait for the final fixture now.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Kingston 10k

On Sunday the 27th of November I took part in the Energized Sports Kingston 10k. I signed up a couple of months back due to the fact Lorna, our flatmate Liv and her boyfriend Toby wanted to do a 10k race. Not including the Battersea Park 10k, which I took part in after big mileage during the day, the last 10k I took part in was the Fast Friday track race put on by Orion Harriers in June (back then I clocked 34:50). Leading up to the race in Kingston I made it to Track Tuesday consistently and I could feel the speed work paying off. Unfortunately, two weeks before race day I picked up the lurgy. It wiped me out completely and so I only took part in the work run club when needed and did the bare minimum for a couple of weeks. I found it really frustrating not being able to train properly especially because I knew track was making a big difference. Although I really wanted to go I had to give it a miss the week before the 10k. I couldn’t complain too much because I knew I’d be back on track (literally) pretty quickly.

Race day was getting closer and closer and I wasn’t feeling much better. I rested on the Friday and Saturday to give myself the best chance of being fit but to no real avail. Waking up on Sunday morning I still felt a bit light headed and my stomach wasn’t 100%. I had already made my mind up that I was going to race and just give it my best. It was an early start, Lorna, Liv, Toby and I caught the 7:22 train from Vauxhall to Kingston. Unfortunately Lorna’s injury didn’t improve in time for her to be able to run; therefore she was on dog-sitting duties looking after Hank whilst Michalis ran. Walking to the Hawker Centre it was really quiet along the river, I guess because it was freezing cold! We were all thinking “Why are we doing this!” Arriving at the centre with plenty of time before the start, it was nice to be able to walk up to the organiser sand be able to pick up my race number without having to queue in the cold. Lorna and I kept warm inside the centre and she helped pin on my race number.

As start time neared we met up with Michalis, Lorna looked after Hank and we went for a little jog down the road to warm up. Having not seen Michalis since the Athens Marathon he let me know how it went and we talked about training and future race plans etc. When we made it back to the start area everyone was taking part in the warm up and there were only a few minutes until gun time. With the standard “3,2,1…go!” we were off. 

My legs felt good after the warm up so I decided to set off at around 3:30min/km pace, I knew if I could maintain this pace I would finish in around 36 minutes and that would be ok taking into consideration not feeling 100%. On the start line I recognised a runner; he often comes into The Running Works and runs with the Ravens that we see training around Shadwell Basin when we are on our lunchtime run club. Having spoken to him before I knew he would be aiming for a similar time to me, I decided to catch up and use him as a bit of a pacer.

The first couple of kilometres went by really quickly a) because it’s not very often that I run at 3:30min/km pace and b) because I had a “pacer”. Around 4/5kms problems began to arise, the firm road was replaced with muddy towpath, I wasn’t feeling too great and the runner I was trying to use as a pacer was quicker than me and opening up a bit of a gap. Luckily he was still in sight and I could motivate myself by trying to keep the gap as small as possible. I held a pretty consistent pace but despite my legs feeling good I just couldn’t pick it up. Just after the 6k point I ran passed Lorna and Hank, it was great to see them and it gave me a little boost. 

I started thinking “there’s only 3.6k to go, that’s just 9 laps of a track”. The last couple of kilometres were hard work, I was tiring but managed to keep my pace sub 3:45min/km. I was completely unaware but another runner was creeping up behind me; he had obviously planned a sprint finish to pass me. Luckily I heard him with 200m or so to go and just had enough in the tank to outsprint him. I crossed the line in 36:16 in 9th position, all in all not a bad result. 

Here’s a map of the route and my splits from Strava:


Lorna & Hank met me at the finish, I had some cuddles with Hank and we cheered Michalis, Toby & Liv through the finish line. Michalis ran spot on 45 minutes, really impressive given how close this race was to Athens Marathon. Toby and Liv also ran really well, Liv finished 5th female! Well done guys.

Overall the Kingston 10k was a great race. It’s really well organised and the route is flat and fast. It’s probably not quite a PB course due to the muddy sections, a few sharp corners and the roads not being closed to the public but I’d definitely recommend it as a relatively cheap fun race to do.

I hope everyone that was racing and/or training over the weekend had a good one. I haven’t got any races lined up for the next few weeks but I’m looking forward to taking part in Advent Running. I’ll see a lot of you at the events in London.

Steve 

Second Cross-country fixture: Much more mud

On Saturday the 12th of November I took part in my second cross country race. It was held at Epsom Downs racecourse. With there being heavy rain the few days prior to the fixture I knew that conditions would be muddy underfoot, especially compared to the first race around Wimbledon Common. I was excited to be racing on softer terrain and experience more normal cross country conditions.

With the race starting at 3pm a group of us got the 12:30ish train from Victoria. There were mini groups of Team AR (AR collective/advent running) XC heading to the racecourse from different stations. We arrived in plenty of time and all convened at Beefeater just opposite the start area. Some of our runners got their pre-race coffee fix and we kept warm for as long as possible. Once James arrived with the team vests etc we headed to the car to pin on our race numbers and drop our bags.

I opted to test out my Salomon Speedcross 4s. I think you can guess if this is pre or post race.

We then headed around the first part of the route, as we did at the first fixture. This was a) to warm up (definitely needed in the cold weather due to the wind) and b) to do some course research. Having learnt from the first race most of our team positioned themselves near the front of the pack. As JP mentioned it’s probably best to be overtaken by a few people than have to go around a load of other runners if you start too far back. Before the start everyone observed a minutes silence for the two girls who tragically lost their lives earlier in the week whilst out running. I think the whole running community has been shocked and deeply saddened by the event, my thoughts go out to all their friends and family.

3..2..1..GO! We were off, hundreds of runners stampeding down the racecourse like horses. Mud and sand flicking up our legs, that initial heavy breathing to get into a good position and on a good pace. The first kilometre or so was fun, jostling for a good line around the first few corners and down a couple of sharp slopes. Once we hit the first couple of inclines everyone had spread out and there was more room to breath. Initially there were four or five Team AR runners within a couple hundred metres. The course was nice and varied and there was only really one long steady incline. At this point I was chasing JP and Martin and wanted to close up with them in the next few kilometres.

Once back on a flatter section after approximately 3k I passed James. I then set my sights on reeling in Martin and overtaking as many other runners as possible. As I found with the first fixture I find it really motivating to be chasing people down as opposed to running for a time which is normally the case with road races.

Photo courtesy of Emily @em_runs_

I completed the first lap and was feeling good, my legs felt light but strong. I enjoyed the first section of the lap again, with more space to choose the racing line. I passed a few runners on the long incline and was gradually closing the gap to Martin. I knew if I could get close to him I would place pretty highly. With a couple of kilometres to go I upped my pace and continued to close the gap. The last kilometre being slightly downhill I pushed and overtook a few rivals. I just about managed to out kick a few runners and finished two seconds behind Martin.

Photo courtesy of Sarah @stella_runs

We congratulated each other on another great run and cheered the rest of the lads through the finish line. It wasn’t long before JP and Brewster were flying passed us. The team was super consistent again and I knew we’d be in with a chance of winning the fixture. It wasn’t as emphatic as our 90 point gap last time out but we still won by 7 or so points to increase our lead at the top. Great running lads! To be fair we were aided by having an awesome cheer crew with all sorts of musical instruments.

Once we’d all finished we tucked into some awesome AR XC branded cupcakes made by Roland and family, they were delicious. That is what cross country is all about, racing hard and enjoying the carmarederie. Overall it was a great outing and I can’t wait for the next fixture already, here’s hoping for even more mud!

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Adidas Runners #UnlockPeckham

On Friday 28th of October I took part in the Unlock Peckham Adidas Runners event. Since the Adidas Runners started a few months ago unfortunately I have only managed to make it to a couple of their runs but I’ve been keeping a close eye on their facebook page as I knew they would have cool events lined up. As soon as the Unlock Peckham event was posted I signed up because I thought it would be good fun as Team North, captained by James & Claudi, would take on Team South. I signed up for Team North as I used to live North of the river and I often run with the advent running guys, it would’ve been wrong to run for Team South despite now living near Oval.

I left work at 6:30pm and ran to Peckham. On the way there I was wondering what the event would be like, all I knew was the route would be around 6k or so and we would split up into three pace groups. As I was nearing Peckham I bumped into Tony To, we helped each other navigate our way to the meeting point. The Adidas Runners set up is really cool; the bag drop van/trailer is awesome and they had done up one of the warehouses in the industrial estate.

Adidas Adios 3 X Stance Crew

I dropped off my bag, put on my Team North/Team Orange bib and caught up with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Photo courtesy of adidas running

After a short wait James Poole got the show on the road, he explained how the run would work and how we would be split up into groups etc. We then went through a quick warm up led by Claudia, Ash and I demonstrated how to do the perfect squat! Ha

Once we’d warmed up we got into our paced groups, I opted for the sub 23 minute 5k group led by James and sub captains Coren and Heidi. Our groups (Team North) were well split up; we had about 25 or so people in each group, which was good. The challenge was, as a group, to beat Team South back to the warehouse. Therefore it was all about working together and encouraging the person at the back. We had a bit of a dodgy start as we ran straight towards a locked gate, how ironic. This only cost a few seconds and then we were back on course. The route was really well marked the whole way round, there were little orange/blue arrows to direct us and marshals were positioned at major crossings/points. The teams were going in opposite directions so we wouldn’t know who was in the lead until we got to the half way mark (3.25k). To begin with the route was a little busy with some road crossings but we soon reached quieter areas and got onto a decent pace that everyone was happy at.

The course was nice and varied; it included one hill, which was around halfway and was lit up in orange and blue. It was along this stretch that we passed Team South, despite being in competition we shouted words of encouragement to each other and high-fived. It looked as though it would be close between the two teams although they were spread out more but there was less of them. We pushed on and covered the next few kilometres pretty quickly. At points of the route there were posts and other various “urban” obstacles. We worked well as a team to give each other a heads up and avoided collisions.

With a couple of kilometres to go we made our way up a little hill, we were rewarded with a great view of London all lit up. One of the best things about doing events with brands is that you normally end up running around new places and get a different perspective of the city. Within the last few kilometres we ran passed Advent Running/Adidas Runners regulars Spencer and Simon who were marshalling. Good work lads on volunteering to help out. We made it back to the warehouse and unfortunately Team South/Team Blue was already there. It was disappointing but we knew that it would come down to the last group in deciding which team won overall.

We all grabbed some pizza and beers and awaited the arrival of the second and third groups. Out of the second groups Team North arrived back first and then it was down to the final group.

Luckily for us the first colour we saw flying through the gates was orange, Team North ran the best on the night. It wasn’t by much as 30 seconds or so later Team South came into view. The running was done, we all enjoyed the free food and beverages and then Ash and I decided to run down the road and home.

Overall the event was really good fun. In the last few weeks Adidas have put on some really cool events, including the Urbanathlon with the Brownlee Brothers that I unfortunately couldn’t make. I definitely recommend following what the Adidas Runners are up to, I’m sure there will be great events coming up.

On Saturday I ran my first parkrun in a while and was happy to finish in 17:12 despite running on tired legs. I feel like I’m getting some speed back now that it’s been four weeks since Cologne Marathon. Hopefully with going to track regularly and racing cross-country etc I can keep up the momentum.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed their running whether racing or training.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

 

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