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The Run Through Victoria Park Half Marathon 2019

On Saturday 5th January I took part in the Run Through Victoria Park Half Marathon. A group of us signed up because we have marathons etc lined up and we wanted to dust off the cobwebs after Christmas. With Victoria Park featuring heavily on my regular running routes I was looking forward to trying to hold a solid pace, making the most of the flat course. 

As we planned to go to our friends, Liv, Ben and Harrisons for lunch, Alex (Lorna’s brother) drove us to theirs. We then took the central line to Stratford and walked to the park helping to loosen the legs up a little. Ben joined us in taking part in the half marathon as he is building up for the London Marathon and we met Dean at the number collection point, chilling. 

We arrived at the race village nice and early so we could fit in a decent warm up. Number collection, toilets and the bag drop were all nicely spread out so everything was really efficient. It’s always important to be relaxed before a race so it was good not to have to stress about these things. Ben and I ran a few laps of the cinder track to try and warm up, before dropping off our bags and getting on the start line. With Run Through organising a 5k, 10k and Half with various start times there was a great atmosphere as friends cheered each other out of the start funnel. 

A couple of days before the event, James from Midnight Runners dropped me a message on Instagram asking if I was taking part to see what my strategy was going to be. We decided we would see how we felt on the morning but were both leaning towards running it around marathon pace. Due to Christmas and New Year I hadn’t ran much at the start of the week so I had done a few quicker 20ks on Thursday and Friday so was more than happy to try and work together around the 6.5 laps and hold a decent pace. Off the start line we settled into a pace around 3:50min/km, it felt harder than it should have due to recent mileage but I figured it would be a good test 6 or so weeks out from Seville marathon to hold it on tired legs. 

The first few laps went really quickly as James and I chatted about training and race plans for 2019. Passing the race village Matt Wood and others shouted words of encouragement to our little group; Markus and Sam had joined us. Sam was targeting a PB so we had an extra motivation to keep the pace consistent and get him across the line under 1:24. Throughout the run I had moments where I doubted I could hold the pace but the group was keeping me honest. It was tough but it was the sort of challenge my mind and body needed. 

Overall, we paced it really well. It reminded me that in the longer races you need to be persistent and work through the tough spells because your body can often handle more than you think. We crossed the line around 1:21:30 covering positions 14 through 17 and Sam clocked a minute and a half PB, result!

It was a great way to start the year and I feel I’m in good shape building towards Seville & London Marathons. 

Everyone else enjoyed the race; Alex smashed his PB, clocking a 5k PB as well on his way to 1:26:24. Lorna ran with Ben and Dean for the majority of the race, they clocked 1:39:11, 1:43:01 and a DNF respectively. Dean won’t mind me saying that, he planned a long run on Sunday so decided the laps weren’t worth the hassle. There were some other standout performances from friends including PBs for Michael Wiggins and Tony To to name a few, great work guys! 

It was the perfect start to the weekend and I can’t thank the Run Through team enough for braving the cold conditions to put on another superb event. I’ll be trying to fit in a few more Run Through races throughout 2019 for sure. 

Hope everyone’s running/training is going well. See a lot of you on the roads soon. 

Steve

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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

The Southern XC Champs

On Saturday the 28th of January I took part in the Southern XC Championships. After watching the race in 2016 I decided I wanted to get involved, mainly because of the challenging course and standard of competition. In recent months I have been taking part in the Surrey XC League with Advent Running, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m glad I’d got a few cross-country races under my belt ahead of the 15k of mud on Parliament Hill. Having only recently started training more seriously for the Boston Marathon I knew I wouldn’t be in great shape to place highly but I wanted to race to gain some strength and enjoy the experience.

I had been looking forward to the race since signing up in December. In the week leading up to the race I was keeping a closer eye on the weather than normal, I was wondering whether the course would be super wet and muddy. On the morning of the race I got a bit of a lie in and relaxed, the few hours flew by and I was soon making the trip up to Parliament Hill.


With a few friends taking part in the women’s race I arrived at around 1:30pm that gave me time to pick up my race number and chat with the rest of Team Run-Fast. I also met up with the Advent Running group and had a quick catch up before watching the start of the women’s race. The men’s race started at 2:50pm so James Poole and I headed to the registration tent to sort our race numbers and put on our spikes. It was a shame we missed the majority of the women’s race but we did catch the sprint finish from the first four runners. Hannah Walker representing Run-Fast ran well and came third, it’s amazing how quick she is and how she can pull a result like that out the bag after not racing cross-country for a while.

James and I ran to the start line. It felt as though I had been looking forward to this race for ages and then all of a sudden it was upon us. I was really excited; it felt as though it was FA Cup final day (I used to get excited about that). I definitely prefer taking part in races with friends and having people around prior to the race to distract me from thinking about every eventuality. We positioned ourselves a couple of rows from the front knowing that there were some seriously quick club runners around us.


The gun went off and the herd of over 1,000 runners stampeded up the first big hill. There was so many people lining the course and the noise got louder as you made the climb. It is rather quiet at the beginning near the athletics track but soon the cowbells are ringing in your ears and you’re trying to listen out for familiar voices. With the first hill conquered at “start strong but pace yourself as you’ve got 15k to go pace” you take a sharp right before winding your way down through a particularly muddy section to then tackle a steady longish climb up through some trees. Due to the tough climb a lot of supporters and coaches positioned themselves there to encourage their runners. Some of the AR lot were there to cheer myself and James on and take photos.

Having not raced the southerns before I decided I was going to take it relatively steady over the first 5k and then up it if I could for the final 10k. I also figured that being three laps of 5k it would give me a chance to work out which lines were best to take and where you could push the pace and where you had to work hard up the hills. The fact that there was such a big field forced me to take it steady over the first lap; it was especially busy around the first few corners. I really enjoyed the first lap, my legs were feeling good and I was enjoying the variety of the course. 

Having raced a couple of club races I recognised quite a few faces. It was good to have some friendly competition, I knew if I could stick with them or go passed them I’d have a good race. Whilst on the first lap I was really focussing on where I was placing my feet, there were a few really muddy sections which were tricky to negotiate. Some runners would take a slightly wider route to go around the wet patches whereas other would fly straight through and trust their balance. I was still finding my feet and working out which was the best approach for each section of the course.

Despite focusing on foot placement I remember thinking “I can’t wait to see Lorna and the Advent Running guys!” They always make so much noise. The group had positioned themselves just before a downhill section to finish the 5k lap.

 Photo courtesy of Claudia (@claudi8s)

This part of the course was a lot of fun because of the support and the adrenaline from running fast downhill through the mud. It was the perfect position for supporters to be in because it acted as motivation to get round the lap quicker. As well as having the AR guys cheering there was a handful of Run-Fast runners/supporters on the first hill. It was great to have them at that point offering advice and cheering me on, they let me know I was “coasting” and that I should pump my arms and get up the hills quicker. I’m not sure I was coasting but maybe I was holding a little back for the final 5k or so.

As everyone had spread out I found the second lap a lot easier than the first. I had locked onto a good pace and could break the lap up into chunks mentally; I worked harder up the hills and let the legs do the work on the nice downhill sections. I was moving up through the field and started to pin point certain runners to catch. This is what cross-country is all about, there is no point wasting energy/time worrying about the pace or distance you need to knuckle down and race the course and try to finish as highly as possible. After completing the second 5k I was still feeling strong and ready to chase people down. I was making small gains on the climbs but slipped back on some of the downhills. One of the runners I was tracking down was Neil from VPH; we have finished close together on a few occasions. He is really strong in cross-country/fell races in particular and has run the Comrades Marathon on numerous occasions. I knew if I could finish near him or pass him I’d had a decent run. There was a bit of toing and froing as I went passed him on a couple of the hills and he flew passed me on one of the downhill boggy sections. With 2k or so to go I started to increase my pace and then passed Neil with about 1k left, knowing the final section was downhill and then on the flat to the finish I opened up my stride and sprinted to the line overtaking a couple of other runners in the process.


I managed to finish in 58:20 in 235th place, which I am happy with. Hopefully over the next few years I can take part in more cross-country races and improve, I think some specific hill training and more trail running is required. After crossing the finish line I caught up with Lorna and the AR crew and put on some warm clothes.

 

Thank you so much for the support everyone, you made my race really enjoyable. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be back running on the road the majority of the time in training for Boston; however I do have the last Surrey XC League fixture on the 11th which I’m really looking forward to.

I hope those of you that ran the Southerns enjoyed it as much as I did and I hope everyone’s training is going well for the busy race season ahead.

See a lot of you soon 

Steve