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Colchester Half Marathon 2018

On Sunday the 25th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. It was the third time I have ran the race; mainly because it is Lorna’s home half marathon. Having only raced in a RunThrough 5k in January and the Cancer Research Winter 10k I wanted to push myself and see what shape I was in ahead of the London Marathon. I lowered my mileage in the week leading up to the race, pacing The Running Works Run Club and run commuting at a steady pace.

Last year Lorna’s brother Rob and I opted for an easy 5k on the Saturday to shake our legs out. As it worked well we decided to do the same again. I was really looking forward to race day but for some reason I doubted whether I could run a good time or be able to work hard when it got tough in the final few kilometres (which it always does).

With the race starting at 9am we woke up around 7 o’clock to have breakfast and get our race kit ready. I slept well and my legs felt good. Before the Colchester Half last year I’d ran Essex 20 the previous weekend and raced a lot so my legs were tired. Therefore I was aiming to beat my time of 1:14:58. We all headed to Colchester Community Stadium to drop our bags and get on the start line.

Photo courtesy of gazette news, Essex County Standard.

Having finished 2nd in 2017 I positioned myself near the front. Remembering the first 4k or so is slightly downhill I decided to push the pace early on and get into a good rhythm.

Two runners flew off the start and were into the distance but I had a couple of club runners for company in the opening kilometres. Running up the hill and onto the high street the crowds were out in force.

Approaching Ipswich Road, which is a gradual uphill, I settled into a good pace. I calculated I needed to hold around 3:30min/km to finish in under 75 minutes. Despite running on my own the kilometres went quickly and I was soon winding my way through the industrial estate. It was a shame not having anyone to race but I was focused on holding my pace and bagging a time to qualify for a championship start in the London Marathon for the next few years.

Running along Langham Lane and Dedham Road it was really quiet. It felt strange running in a race and for there to be no one around. I turned onto Straight Road which lasts for a good 4 to 5 kilometres. I knew this was where I needed to “dig deep” / “go to the well”. The long straight road is quite demoralising but luckily for me Lornas parents live a mile or so from the finish so I always look forward to cheers from her family and know I haven’t got long left from there.

Photo courtesy of Liam Winters Photography.

Nearing the football stadium I was keeping a close eye on my watch, as I was still holding 3:30min/km on average I knew I was going to make it in under 75 minutes. I mustered a sprint finish to cross the line in 74:05 in 3rd place.

I congratulated the winner and runner up before grabbing my bag to watch Lorna, Alex, Rob and Smithy finish. They all ran really well; Lorna clocked her second fastest half marathon time in 1:31 and Rob got a personal best.

Overall it was another great race. No doubt I will be back in 2019 to try and go quicker again.

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

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 

First Cross-country fixture: Not much mud

On Saturday the 15th of October I took part in my first cross-country race. A couple of months ago James & Claudia (Advent Running/AR Collective) announced they would be putting men’s and women’s teams into the Surrey League. I was interested straight away as it made me think back to when I ran a couple of cross-country races at school. I just remember it being freezing cold, tipping it down and struggling to stay on my feet due to ALL the mud. It was so much fun! If you’ve read my blog before you probably know how much I enjoy racing, I couldn’t wait for the first xc fixture to come around.

Being the “new kids on the block” we have joined the Surrey Cross Country League in Division 4. Going into the first race I was a little apprehensive, as I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was wondering how quick our competition would be and how tough the course would be. Things not worth thinking about really as I couldn’t control them. I was also apprehensive because I didn’t know how my legs would feel being just two weeks after Cologne Marathon and six days after the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Wanting to do well I decided to rest a lot in the week, the only real hard session I did was at Track on Tuesday night. The rest of the week I kept my legs ticking over by doing the Running Works Run Club on Wednesday and Thursday lunch times.

As the race started at 2pm I got a nice lie in and chilled for a couple of hours before heading to Wimbledon Common. Luckily as I now live near Oval it didn’t take long to get to the Common, once I arrived I met up with the lads. As James (Poole) was pacing Nic at Autumn 100 and Claudia was racing in Nonsuch Park, James Brewster & Tony To got us organised handing out our cool AR XC race vests and race numbers.

Once we’d all got our race kit on, including race spikes or trail shoes, we got in a couple kilometre jog to warm up. We ran the first few kilometres of the route; it was good to see how muddy and narrow/wide it was going to be.

Photo courtesy of Tony To

Once we got back to near the start line we were greeted by some of the girls, they had travelled over after their race to support and cheer us on. They let us know their race had gone well.

As the start time neared we positioned ourselves behind the line, knowing there were a couple of narrow sections we got pretty close to the front of the pack. It’s only when everyone makes their to the start that you realise how many runners are competing. For some reason I imagined that there would only be 50/60 runners racing, turns out there were hundreds. This was because we were racing with Divison 3. We were due to be given division numbers to have on our backs so we knew who we were racing but unfortunately none of the teams were given them. Before we knew it we were off. Thinking the route was 5.6 miles (as described on the surrey league website) I set off at what I thought was a maintainable pace, somewhere around 3:45min/km pace. The first few kilometres were spent trying to work my way past runners, in hindsight I should’ve positioned myself a little further up on the start.

I settled into my pace/rhythm and was feeling good; the course was pretty firm which helped. There wasn’t much mud at all. After 2km or so there was a section through a field where the grass was pretty long and soft and this meant more effort was required to maintain a good pace. The first 5/6 kilometres went by really quickly, mainly because the route was varied, there were a few ups and downs and I was focussing on the runner in front trying to chase them down. Knowing the route was two loops was a little surprised that I hadn’t passed through the start area until I got to around 6k. I was thinking, “this course is a hell of a lot longer than 8k, maybe we are doing 11k?” or “ok, the second loop isn’t the same as the first and will be 2/3k long”. I carried on running between 3:45 and 4min/km pace and just thought I’d have to hold on for as long as possible.

It was great to have a cheer crew, complete with cowbells, around the route. Having started pretty quickly the last few kilometres were always going to be about holding on. My legs were tiring quickly; they felt heavier and heavier having to lift them out of the long grass through the open field for the second time. I passed Spencer and Cassie (the dog) on this section and it definitely helped seeing a friendly face there. I really enjoyed the section after that as there is a slight downhill and you’re weaving your way through some trees. I soon got to 8k and knew that I was still a fair way from the finish line. I had to ease up a little as my legs were tightening up, especially on the one long hill. I got up the hill eventually, I felt as though I was crawling with concrete blocks tied to my feet. Once over the hill I knew there was only a kilometre or so to go on the flat.

I passed the Advent Running crew again and collected a power boosting high five from Claudi. I was working hard and couldn’t wait to see the finish funnel and clock. My watch had just ticked past 10k and then I was on the home straight. I would’ve like to have been capable of a sprint finish and to catch the runner a hundred metres or so in front of me but all I could muster was a slight increase of pace trying to avoid pulling a hamstring. I crossed the line in 38:56 but more importantly in 23rd position overall and 5th in Division 4, helping the team.

Once through the finish I spoke with Martin who had a great run, he was the first of the AR team to finish in 3rd place. We cheered our teammates in, and they were crossing the line thick and fast. Not knowing which runners were in Division 3 or 4 we had to wait until Saturday night for the results but we knew we’d done well as everyone was placing so highly. Post race we refuelled, Nikki had baked some delicious cakes for us, and Claudia had brought along some bananas etc.

On the Saturday evening my phone was going crazy with notifications from Facebook due to photos being uploaded. Then the results were posted and Claudia announced the girl’s claimed sixth place in the league, well done!! She then let us know that we are at the top of the men’s league by a considerable margin. Great work lads!

Overall it was a great day, I can’t wait for the next fixture in November and I’m hoping for more mud. To keep up to date with how the AR teams are doing follow @ar_collective @adventrunning on Instagram & Twitter.

Next up for me is Tough 10 in Epping Forest on Sunday, should be a fun event!

See a lot of you soon

Steve

The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday the 9th of October I took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I decided to enter the ballot earlier this year because I ran the event in 2014 and really enjoyed it. Back then I wasn’t in great shape so I thought it would be good to take part again and try and achieve a better time. When I signed up I didn’t know I was going to be doing the Cologne Marathon the weekend before so my approach to the race changed slightly.
During the week between Cologne Marathon and the Royal Parks Half I rested quite a lot. The only real running I did was for The Running Works Run Club and even then I did less sessions than normal. Thanks Nikki for looking out for me and telling me to rest. As the race was approaching my legs were feeling more normal as the days were passing. I knew they wouldn’t be completely fresh but I was hoping they’d feel good enough for me to give it a good crack.

With the race starting at 9am I got an early night on Saturday. Lorna and I woke up a bit before 7am to give us time to get stuff together. She would be cheering me on from the sidelines as she had chosen not to enter due to other races and the entry fee being expensive. For the second week running (pun intended) Lorna looked after all my stuff so I didn’t need to use the bag drop and gave me lots of loud cheers. It definitely helps having someone alongside you at races to take away some of those little stresses. We got the bus to Hyde Park Corner and met up with Tom at the entrance to the park and Ash, Julian, Laurent & Mark in the race village.

The race start time came around really quickly. As I had put in an estimated finish time of around 1:20-1:25 (I think) I was in the orange start pen, which was good as it meant I didn’t have many people in front of me. Mark Foster and Ben Fogle did short speeches about the Royal Parks and the race and before we knew it we were off. I’d decided to aim for around 1:20 so set off at 3:45min/km pace. I wasn’t really sure whether my legs would have it in them after Cologne Marathon but I was willing to find out. I think its good every now and then to push it on tired legs, as I mentioned in my last blog post I am trying to use races to pick up fitness and get back into the shape I was in when I ran Cardiff Half.

I started the race with a 3:43 minute kilometre, which is testament to getting in one of the front start pens and the width of the roads in that section. After 1km you are running through Green Park and shortly after you head past Buckingham Palace and along Birdcage Walk. Running in that area of London always gives me flashbacks to finishing races like the London Marathon, London 10,000 and the Westminster Mile. I’ve got some great memories of racing near Buckingham Palace, I feel incredibly lucky to run in London day in day out around such epic landmarks. The next few kilometres were less scenic as you are running along a few main roads, you run east to near Somerset House before doing a U-turn to head back along the strand and onto The Mall. At this point I was feeling strong and maintaining my goal pace. That said it was early days as when you are running along The Mall you have covered 5 miles.

The crowds were out in force as it was such a nice day. It was particularly busy around Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill, which was good, as when trying to hold a quick pace, that straight seems to go on for a while. As mentioned by Ben Fogle on the start line you don’t want to be struggling as you enter Hyde Park, there is still 7 miles to go. I still felt good at this point but knew that at any moment my legs could tighten reminding me I’d run a marathon the weekend before.

 I covered a few kilometres within Hyde Park but then unfortunately came a first for me in a race; I needed to nip to the loo. I was around the 8 mile point and had to ease up. I ran at around 4min/km pace for a while before getting to the toilets near the bandstand on Serpentine Road. After a quick stop I was back on my way, I knew that 1:20 would definitely be out of reach but I aimed to claim a few seconds back over the next few kilometres. Despite my best efforts my stride had been broken and I could only manage around 4 minute/kms until the finish.

 I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t run quicker and get closer to 1:20 but on the other hand I was happy to be able to run a nice half marathon the week after a marathon and enjoy it. My legs were tightening as the final kilometres were passing and I was entering cruise/damage limitation mode. I got massive cheers from the Advent Running crew at mile 12 and from Lorna and Nat as I was running down the long home straight of Kensington Road. Thanks for the shouts everyone, really appreciate it! 

 I crossed the line in 1:23:11 finishing in 86th position, pretty happy with that considering the circumstances. One day I’d like to race the Royal Parks Half fully rested and see what I could do. 

  

I collected my medal and then joined Lorna and Nat in cheering other runners through the line. We didn’t quite have the same effect on runners as the guy with the megaphone 800m or so before the finish line shouting “push, push, push, push!!” but we tried. A big shout has to go to Ash, Tom, Laurent, Mark, Julian etc for all running great times.

Overall the race was great fun, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I’d kind of class it as a mini London Marathon so if you want to run a flat, fast route and be cheered on by great crowds then enter the ballot. After all everyone loves a ballot right! Ha

Hope those of you in the ballot for London got in and to those of you who didn’t there are plenty of other great marathons out there so start doing some research.

Next up for me is some cross-country on Saturday with Advent Running. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Colchester Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday 13th March I took part in the Colchester Half. I signed up because Lorna and her brothers, Alex and Rob, were taking part. Before heading to Essex I decided to do a “shakeout” parkrun on the Saturday morning. I’ve now learnt that I’m too competitive to do a parkrun as a shakeout. I went to my local parkrun, Mile End. I was planning to run it in around 20 minutes or so but that plan soon went out the window. Having done decent mileage in the week and the Essex 20 miler the previous weekend my legs were feeling pretty heavy but I set out at a quick pace and just decided to try and hold it. I managed to finish in a course PB time of 16:59 in second place (parkrun is NOT a race though!). Immediately after the parkrun I was feeling happy with myself as I’d achieved a good time but at the same time I was thinking “I’m going to pay for this in the half marathon tomorrow”.

After the parkrun I packed my stuff and headed for the train to Colchester. Once I arrived, Lorna, Rob and I went straight to Nandos, perfect for post run and carb-loading for the race ha. We then did a spot of shopping before heading back to Lorna’s parents’ house to chill before the big day. On Sunday we woke up at about 7 o’clock. The race started at 9am so we had a good amount of time to have breakfast and get to Colchester Community Stadium where the race would start and finish. Being their local half marathon Lorna, Alex and Rob knew the route and gave me an in depth description of what the course was like. When we did a shakeout run post Essex 20 on Tuesday Lorna showed me where the hills were so I knew what I was going to have to tackle. At breakfast Alex walked into the kitchen at about 7:30 in full race kit with his number pinned on. Lorna and I knew he was well and truly up for the race. Alex and Lorna have done lots of races together and finished pretty close together, this was another chance to renew their rivalry. Having been following Alex on Strava we knew he was in good shape and had been training hard, having done a casual 1:32 half marathon a couple of weeks ago and doing hill sprints with Robbie Smith etc.

With race numbers pinned on and timing chips on our trainers we headed to the stadium. We dropped off our bags and were ready to run. On the start line my legs were feeling a little heavy, probably due to running the hilly Essex 20 at close to marathon pace the previous Sunday, doing pretty big mileage in the week and pushing it a bit at parkrun. The weather was perfect, nice and cool and the sun was shining so the crowds were out in force. I headed to the start line and after a short wait we were off. Knowing that the first 4k or so was slightly downhill I set off at close to 3:30min/km pace. This was to counterbalance the pace I would be running up the hills. The first 3k went to plan clocking: 3:30, 3:31, 3:23.

After this there were a few hills to contend with so my pace dropped to between 3:40 and 3:50 for a few kilometres. Around 7k into the race whilst running up hill I struggled with a stitch but managed to hold a decent pace.

With 10k or so to go I caught up with a man running in a green club vest. He matched my pace so we had a quick chat about marathons we were training for. He said how he’d done London in 2:50 last year and he asked what races I had lined up. It was good to have someone to run with as the last 5k or so was down a really long straight road. We kept pushing each other on. Luckily Lorna’s parents’ house is on the long home stretch so I was cheered on by Bob (Lorna’s dad), Phil (her brother) and Lidia (Phils fiancée).

It was nice to have people around the course cheering, earlier on in the race I had ran passed Ray (Lorna’s sister, who works for the main sponsor of the race so was marshalling) and Robbie Smith, who I met when I went on the Colchester running club Winterton training weekend. With 2k to go myself and the club runner picked up our pace, he surged and went in front for a while then I did the same. With 1k to go I started to up the pace a little more and could tell he was tiring as he was breathing a bit heavier. I decided to try and open up a little gap and try and hold on. With 400m or so to go I thought I’d moved in front too early but I managed a small sprint finish to beat him by about 10 seconds. I finished in 7th place in 1:16:28. Considering I’d run the Essex 20 miler in 2:03 the previous Sunday, done decent mileage in the week and finished Mile End parkrun in 16:59 on Saturday I was really happy with that result. I nipped straight to the bag drop to pick up my stuff before cheering Team Elliott through the finish line. When I went to pick up my bag the volunteers all clapped me in. There wasn’t anyone else around so they probably thought I’d finished first ha. That was a nice moment; it’s amazing how much time volunteers give up to make events like Colchester Half happen. With my big puffer jacket on to keep warm I made my way to the finishing straight. I was faffing around with my bags etc not expecting to see anyone for a few minutes but then I looked up and there was Alex flying through the finish. I knew he wanted to beat Lorna and run about 1:30 but I didn’t know he was going to do 1:27. He smashed it.

A couple of minutes later and Lorna came through the finish. She finished in a new PB time of 1:31 and again having done the Essex 20 miler (5 minutes quicker than before) she tore it up. Really proud of her and looking forward to running the Paris Marathon together. We then cheered Rob on. He was aiming to run sub 1:50 but similarly to Al and Lorna he beat his goal time by a few minutes, he finished in 1:46 knocking a good couple minutes off his PB. On a pretty hilly course Team Elliott destroyed it.

 Alex was really humble about beating Lorna and smashing his PB haha


The bling

7th man and 7th lady!

After the race we cheered other runners in before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. It’s fair to say I treated myself:

The rest of the day we chilled out and then made our way back to London. This week I’m aiming to do decent mileage before having a week long taper for Cardiff Half, can’t wait for that race. Well done to everyone that ran and raced over the weekend, I’ve seen lots of great times posted on social media over the last few days.

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