On Saturday 11th August I took part in the Stour Valley Path 100k. I signed up to the race for a number of reasons: a few friends had taken part in previous years and recommended it, the finish isn’t far from my girlfriend Lorna’s parent’s house and I wanted to get some strength/endurance in the legs ahead of training for Munich Half Marathon. I know it’s a little different to run 100k in the build up to a quick half but I thought it would be a fun challenge to tackle.
In the lead up to race day I was excited but equally nervous. I questioned my decision to sign up on numerous occasions; I knew I wasn’t going into the race in great shape and was worried I may not be able to cross the finish line. On the other hand my motivation was to run as far as possible and enjoy a long day on the trails. I gathered my kit on the Thursday evening to give myself the chance of picking something up on the Friday had I forgotten anything.
Bag/vest: Salomon S/Lab Adv Skin 3 12L with two 500ml soft flasks. Perfect size for kit and super comfortable.
T-shirt: Iffley Road Cambrian Striped T-Shirt. I often wear Iffley Road tees on long runs because they are really soft, breathable and lightweight.
Shorts: Iffley Road Pembroke 5″ Shorts.
Socks: I opted for a pair of Stance Crew socks in the end as the route took us through long grass.
Running Cap: Iffley Road Putney Running Cap. Generous peak, really lightweight and very breathable.
Watch: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Good battery life and easy to use for navigation.
Shoes: Salomon S/Lab Ultra. Great amount of cushioning and good grip on dry hard packed trails. Running 100k you would expect blisters and/or black toe nails but I had no issues.
The majority of the kit I took were favourites that I use on a regular basis. Initially I was concerned about wearing the Salomon S/Lab Ultra shoes as I had only ran in them a couple of times. I chose to wear them over the S/Lab Sense 6 because I lacked cushioning when I completed Race to The Stones in 2015. The other main change from RTTS was taking a variety of food and asking Lorna to bring me various sweet and savoury options at aid stations. I learnt that crisps and granola bars are only good for so long.
The night before the race Lorna and I stayed at her parents. On arrival we were greeted with pasta bake and steamed syrup pudding for dessert, Sheilagh knows my favourites. I double checked my bag, laid kit out ready for the morning and got an early night. The alarm clock going off at 4am was a rude awakening but I slept well. As Lorna’s brother Alex was going out on his bike he arrived early allowing plenty of time to get to the bus pick up near the finish point. It was good to speak to a number of runners waiting for the bus, one of them was aiming to compete for the win/course record and others were hoping to beat the cut off time. Arriving in Newmarket around 6am the conditions were looking good. I showed the volunteers I had the correct mandatory kit and was given my number; this was all very straight forward with less than 200 runners taking part. I caught up with James Poole, Mark Parry and Matthew Hanson before the race briefing and we all made our way up the road to the start.
As the start line was a little walk up the road only a handful of participants had made it for 7am but the organisers were happy for it to be a rolling start. It took most of us by surprise but I don’t think anybody minded, we all knew we’d be running for a fair few hours so what difference would a matter of seconds make. It’s a strange feeling starting an ultra, there’s still that adrenaline rush but everyone knows to take it easy and settle into a comfortable pace. Running up the road I was joined by Mel and Matt, having not seen them for a while it was great to have a proper catch up. Mel completed the 100k in 2017 whilst Matt was taking part in his first 100k. We settled into a good pace of around 7min/km and went through checkpoint one quickly only topping up soft flasks. Over the first 20k or so we were bunched up with quite a few runners, it was good to have a chat with some of them to hear about their racing/training. Unfortunately between the first two checkpoints Mel wasn’t feeling it so decided to join the cheer crew. At this point it was quite hot and my legs were already starting to ache a little due to the uneven terrain.
Matt and I ran into the second aid station together and grabbed some food. It was great to see Lorna, her brother Rob and friend Sasha, they all helped me fill up my flasks and I took some jam sandwiches to eat whilst walking out onto the course.
Just after the second aid station Matt decided to ease off the pace a little. As I was feeling good at this point I carried on, hoping at some point later in the race we’d be able to run a few more miles together. There was 10 miles between Clare and Long Melford, as I was on my own I checked my watch frequently to make sure I was following the blue line but also took the time to look around. Having lived in London for the last few years I really enjoy getting out onto trails and exploring somewhere new. When I ran RTTS in 2015 my right hamstring tightened just 18 miles in and I shuffled my way to the finish. I made sure to top up my soft flasks with water and SIS electrolyte tabs at every aid station.
The aid stations were excellent, they always had sweet and savoury options so I could mix it up depending on what I was craving. As there was roughly 10 miles between each of them it broke the challenge down into manageable chunks. I always felt energised leaving each aid station having eaten and seen my cheer crew. Lorna’s mum and dad walked the dogs to support me at Long Melford (at 33 miles) which was nice as I was struggling in the heat. As James Poole had ran the North Downs Way 100 miler the week before he decided to call it a day at checkpoint 3. With many Advent Runners taking part in the 100 or 50k he popped up at every aid station offering support and checking everyone was ok.
The 50k started in the afternoon and took runners along the second half of the 100k route. It was great to see friendly faces on the trail having fun, I was worried that in the latter stages of the race I would really struggle running on my own and the fatigue would take it’s toll. After my RTTS experience I was glad to still be running, albeit it slowly, 75k into the race. However, due to the undulating course my hamstrings tightened and I had to stop and stretch briefly. I knew from this point it would be a tough 25k to the finish but kept plodding away.
The food on offer at the last few aid stations was excellent and they were a lot busier with 50k and 100k runners passing through. I enjoyed salty potatoes, watermelon and flat coke to fuel the final stretch. Over the last 10k I was incredibly tired, every kilometre dragged and I couldn’t wait to reach the finish. It was frustrating wanting to run faster and get it done but my legs were so tight I could only manage a shuffle. I focused on ticking off each kilometre. Lorna, Rob, Sheilagh and Rita walked the dogs to cheer me on in the latter stages and this really picked me up.
Photo courtesy of Lenny Martin (@lennygoesoutside)
Luckily over the last few kilometres I had two runners alongside to work together. We were all so tired we didn’t speak much but just having company distracted me from how exhausted my legs were. It was a great feeling passing the 100k point and knowing I just had 2k to go. After nearly 12 and a half hours of running I finally made it to the finish at Brantham Leisure Centre
Photo courtesy of Rob Elliott (@rob_elliott_1991)
I shuffled over the line to be given my medal by Lorna, it was great to see her and friends. I was so relieved to finish the race in one piece.
Overall it was a great day out on the trails. I was really impressed with the organisation and volunteers, so much so that I will probably return next year to race either the 100k or 50k. Straight after finishing I thought about what I would do differently and how I could improve my performance, I learnt a lot taking part in my second 100k. As there is only two months to go until the Munich Half Marathon I will now focus on sharpening up with track and tempo sessions. It will be interesting to see what sort of shape I can get into off the back of the ultra.
A massive thank you to race organiser Matthew Hearne and his team/volunteers that made the day so enjoyable and congratulations to those of you that took part. I hope the recovery is going well. See some of you again next year!
On Sunday the 15th of October I took part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon. Over the last few years Lorna and some of our friends have raced in various European cities in the second half of the year. Last year Cologne was the destination of choice with it offering a marathon (which I took part in) and a half. The group decided Lisbon would be good fun as it is becoming an increasingly popular city to visit and because it hosts races of varying distances. I decided to opt for the marathon again thinking I would be in good shape a few weeks after finishing OCC.
We flew to Lisbon early (the security gates weren’t even open) on Saturday morning so we would have some time to sightsee. As we knew the expo would get busy later on in the day we went straight there to collect our race numbers. The expo was relatively small so we had to queue for 20 minutes or so to get in.
After picking up our race numbers and t-shirts we got the metro to the city centre to grab some food and find our bearings. Following lunch we thought it would be a good idea to check out the finish area and arrange a meeting point for after the races. The lamppost with lanterns worked well!
In the afternoon we killed some time by queuing to go up a viewing platform and enjoyed ice creams, custard tarts and custard doughnuts to fuel up. Wanting to feel fresh for our races we decided to check in at our hotel near the expo and have a nap before dinner. We found a good restaurant just around the corner from Casino Lisboa, I chose to go for Lasagne and garlic bread whilst most of the group fuelled up on chicken and chips or pizzas. As the marathon started at 8am I got back to the hotel, laid out my race kit, filled my bag for dropping at the start and got an early night.
On Sunday morning despite my alarm being set for 5am I woke up at 4. I think having been up at 2am the previous day and taking a nap on Saturday afternoon my body clock was a bit all over the place. At 5am I started to get organised and by 6 I was in the hotel reception asking a group of runners from Normandy if they would like to share a taxi to Cais de Sodre where we could then get the train to Cascais for free. The runners from Normandy were really friendly, they asked about my goal time and as I said “hopefully just under 3 hours” they let me go in the first taxi.
Once I arrived at Cais de Sodre station I was lucky to squeeze on the train, it was rammed. Despite not being able to get a seat the 40 minute trip went quite quickly, perhaps because I was still half asleep.
After a 15 minute walk to the race village there was about 30 minutes to go until the start. I quickly dropped my bag on one of the lorries and then got in the queue for the toilets. Frustratingly there were only 10 or so toilets which didn’t seem like a lot when you consider 4,500 runners were taking part in the marathon. As 8am neared I had a decision to make; a) wait in the queue, miss the start and play catch up or b) start on time and stop part way through the race. I opted for the latter as the last thing I wanted was to have to weave through hundreds of people to try and hit a decent pace.
Leaving it late to join the start line I was lucky that I could enter the funnel near the front because I was number 347. I bumped into a guy that I had met on the plane on the way out, he said he wanted to finish around 3:00-3:05 and so he joined me for the first few kilometres. With it being around 25 degrees I decided to aim for another sub 3, I locked onto 4:15min/km pace for the first few kilometres and then nipped into the roadside portaloo at 4km. To make up some time for my toilet break I started running between 4:05 and 4:10 and felt good. Running along the coast and back through Cascais was beautiful, it didn’t feel too hot at this point but I knew there was still a long way to go.
As I struggled in the last 10k or so in the Boston Marathon earlier this year I decided to take an SIS gel every 7km. This didn’t just help me keep fuelled but it broke the race up into smaller chunks and I just kept thinking “keep working hard, get through the next few kilometres then down a gel”. With the route being relatively flat I felt comfortable at around 4:05-4:10min/km pace. This meant I soon caught up with my friend from the plane and went straight passed on one of the small hills.
At 35km I was on track to go sub 3 again. However the temperature was rising and running along the main road there wasn’t any shade and there were only one or two runners to chase down. I was starting to suffer so I took my caffeine gel to try and perk myself up. I got to 39k but then I got cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop and stretch for 30 seconds which I thought cost me any chance of getting over the finish line under 3. Luckily it loosened up and I got back on pace. I was doing the maths in my head and trying to work out what pace I needed to hit. As I was running over the distance I knew I needed to up it. Thankfully my legs cooperated with me and allowed me to push on; I got through the 41st kilometre in 4:02, 42nd in 3:53 and then was at 3:33min/km pace for the final 500m to finish in 2:59:37.
It was such a relief to cross the line and I was chuffed to get another sub 3 marathon in the bag. It was definitely a lot harder than it needed to be but I guess that’s running. After collecting my medal and goodie bag I got roadside to cheer the squad round the half marathon.
In contrast to last year in Cologne Robbie didn’t run really really well because it was really really hot. However, everyone did well considering it was close to 30 degrees and there was a steep hill around 17k.
Overall it was a great weekend in Lisbon. I’m now incredibly motivated to get into good shape ahead of the London Marathon next year. I’m planning to do a few shorter races including cross-country in the next couple of months.
Well done to everyone else that raced at the weekend, I’ve seen some awesome results posted.
See a lot of you soon.
On Saturday the 24th of June I took part in the Salomon Sunset Series London 10k. I always keep an eye on Salomon Running on social media because their kit is great, they create some awesome videos and sponsor many of the best trail/ultra-runners. When they announced they were organising the Sunset Series a few months back I was really keen to get involved because I’d never ran around Box Hill, I knew some friends would be taking part and with OCC coming up I need to get some hills in. I was lucky enough to be offered a free place as I have reviewed some Salomon shoes in the past and I’ve recently been selected to take part in the Suunto Training Squad.
I was really looking forward to the event but knew that it would be a big challenge as I took part in the Orion Fell Race in Epping Forest on Friday night. The 5k included 900+ft elevation gain. I finished 7th in 22:20 knocking 48 seconds off the time I ran in 2015, my legs were not happy. During the day Lorna and I travelled east to have lunch with friends. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Maz and meet Will, Hayley and baby Jackson. Late afternoon I started my journey across London to Box Hill. I bumped into Mollie and Frankie on the train, it was good to have a catch up and speculate how tough the event would be.
We arrived at Box Hill an hour or so before the start meaning we could have a good chat with some of the Advent Running/Adidas Running lot, sort our race kit and drop bags. Throughout the afternoon Salomon had been putting on trail workshops and Q&As, it was cool to hear from Max Nicholls about his training, racing and goals. To loosen my legs up a bit I did a few strides before listening to the briefing and positioning myself near the front in the start pen. Knowing the 10k course included 250m+ of elevation gain I took it relatively steady off the line; I wanted to keep the lead pack in view but was confident that I would be able to move through the field once we got to the hills.
Having not taken part in many trail races recently I was excited to tackle the challenging course and I enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to look at my watch as I wasn’t aiming for a time.
After 2k of running on the flat I arrived at the first hill, we gained 60m in 500m then from 3k to 3.7k we ran up another 100m. Thanks to the OH Fell Race my legs were tired but strong at the same time; I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the first couple of hills and was feeling good and enjoying the descents. From 7k to 8.5k there was a really nice smooth downhill section where I let my legs go. With more than a kilometre to go though I knew there would be another sizeable climb. There was a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to pretty much go straight back up again.
The final big hill was really demoralising as it was open, you could see the brow of the hill from the bottom and couldn’t help but long to be at the top with the click of your fingers. I could see two runners up in front and used them as motivation; with some words of encouragement from JP who was descending parallel to me I got my head down and refused to slow to a walk.
Once at the top of the climb the last 500m or so was pretty flat. I crossed the line in 45:04, surprisingly in 3rd position.
Overall the race was a lot of fun; I definitely need to run more trail races. After grabbing my wooden coaster, bottle of water and clif bar we cheered in the rest of the runners.
In the next few months I am going to try and make it a priority to run more trails and venture further out of London.
If you haven’t given trail running a try I would definitely recommend one of the Salomon Sunset events, fingers crossed they’ll be around next year and more people will get involved.
See a lot of you soon
Those of you that follow me on Instagram or Twitter will be aware that throughout December I have been taking part in Advent Running.
Advent Running is the brainchild of James Poole & Claudia Schroegel; it’s a free and simple challenge that aims to keep people active throughout the busy month of December. The aim is to do 30 minutes of exercise each day whether that is running, swimming, cycling, yoga etc – it doesn’t matter. As I’m predominantly a runner I chose to run for 30 minutes every day, this is my second year taking part as I really enjoyed the run streak in 2015.
Running isn’t just for Christmas, James and Claudia lead runs and coach sessions throughout the whole year. They take a track session on Tuesday nights at Mile End Stadium, starting at 7pm. If running around in circles isn’t necessarily your thing you could join the group on a Thursday morning bright and early to run for bagels. They meet outside Beigel Bake on Brick Lane at 6.45am for a 10kish run around London, taking in the sunrise and city sights. If that wasn’t enough, you can get your long run in with AR, generally a lot of the group train for marathons and so they share the miles together on a Sunday. They meet at 10:30 in the London Marathon Store.
Claudia leading the group over Millenium bridge on the Christmas jumper bagel run
As well as continuing their normal running schedule/structure James, Claudia & the AR elves put on some extra special events in December.
DJ JP (photo courtesy of Michael Koball)
There is always a big launch party, escape the city trail runs, run for pizza events and they put a festive spin on the track sessions (#TrackCheeseday) and the bagel run (run in Christmas jumpers, run for trees etc).
These events definitely help me get in the festive spirit, normally I only really feel like it’s Christmas on the day and that’s it. The run streak gets me into a good routine and makes me realise how you can get miles in around work etc.
This year’s Advent Running has been a little different to 2015 due to the formation of Adidas Runners. They put on sessions on Monday evenings (normally 6:30pm at London Bridge with James, Noel & Olivia) and Friday mornings (normally 7am at Workshop Coffee with JP & Claudi). Due to it being the off season and there being lots of promotional activities in London, Adidas have been able to invite special guests along to many of the sessions. This has included the likes of Tom Daley, Jo Pavey, The Brownlee Brothers and Jessica Ennis-Hill. I have been incredibly fortunate to get places for a few of the events; this has meant I’ve been able to chase Jonny Brownlee in a Friday morning Fartlek session and learn some drills from Jessica Ennis-Hill at Battersea Track.
Due to working for Run-Fast/at The Running Works I was also really lucky to have a great chat with Jo Pavey over brunch in The Secret Frog Coffee Shop. She’s incredibly inspiring and ridiculously humble.
Those of us taking part in the Advent Running streak are on the home stretch, it’s these last couple of days that are the most challenging but I hope everyone can get their 30 minutes in. Advent Running is one of the biggest reasons I decide to run on Christmas Day. I recently wrote a blog for Iffley Road about “the virtues of the Christmas Day run” you can read it here: https://www.iffleyroad.com/blogs/journal/the-virtues-of-the-christmas-day-run. I apologise for writing this blog now if you’re only just finding out about Advent Running, there’s always next year I guess and I’m sure it’ll be even bigger and better (if that’s possible) than ever. If you’re reading this James & Claudi, thank you for thinking of and organising such a great initiative. I’m glad you’re sharing your passion for running with everyone and it’s great to see so many people getting involved.
Good luck for the rest of the run streak everyone and I hope more people will get involved next year.
Now that I have run my last serious race of 2016 it’s time to start looking forward to 2017, set some goals and plan races and adventures. This year I managed to achieve some big goals, for example going sub 1:15 in the Cardiff Half Marathon and getting to run the London Marathon. Similarly to 2015 once I had achieved certain goals I failed to set new targets for the second half of the year. Despite that I ran some great races and was happy with my times.
My PBs I will be looking to better in 2017 are:
1 mile: 4:43 (City of London Mile 2016)
5k: 16:31 (Run Through Battersea Park 5k 2015)
I always find it hard to set new goals but I think the big one for me in 2017 has to be the Marathon. I was hoping to go closer to 2:45 in the London Marathon this year but I couldn’t quite hold the pace in the last few kilometres. Due to Boston including heartbreak hill I may have to look for a flatter quicker Marathon in the second half of the year to improve my time considerably. However I’m going to be prioritising track, tempos, hills and the long run in training for Boston and I will see how it goes. Here’s a list of the races I’ve got lined up so far and my aims:
Brighton Half Marathon – 26/02/17 – 1:13
Essex 20 – 05/03/17 – improve on 2:03 from 2016
Colchester Half – 12/03/17 – beat 1:16 from 2016
Boston Marathon – 17/04/17 – 2:45-2:50
Night of the 10,000m PBs – 20/05/17 – sub 34 minutes
City of London Mile – ? – 4:35
I’m really looking forward to the races I have lined up. As well as the ones mentioned above I am going to take part in a couple of XC races in January to build some strength. I’m always on the look out for more races so if there are any you’d recommend drop me a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram etc. Also let me know what races and adventures you have planned.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be carrying on with the Advent Running run streak and may take part in the odd parkrun/Santa run to keep me entertained until the new year.
See a lot of you soon