Tag Archives: goals

Fuelled by Science in Sport

In 2014 I ran my first marathon, the Manchester Marathon, with next to no nutrition strategy. It’s safe to say I hit the “WALL”. I decided to use the Science in Sport (SIS) Isotonic Gels in training and for the Brighton Marathon in 2015. Thanks to more specific training, a better taper and good nutrition I knocked 25 minutes off my time. I took a gel at kilometres: 10, 20, 30 and 37. As it was a hot day I sipped water at most aid stations, I felt good and avoided going to the pain cave.

A few months ago on the Freestak platform I saw that SIS wanted runners to test and review their new products: the Cookies & Cream Overnight Protein and GO Caffeine Shots. I decided to apply because I had a good experience with their gels and electrolyte tablets. I also thought the protein powder and caffeine shots would help with my racing and training for OCC (55k) at the end of August.

I have used the caffeine shots on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. I take them half an hour before hard track sessions and races. They have definitely helped me to be more alert and focussed. One of the first times I used a shot was before a big 1km rep session. I ran at 3:25min/km pace for 8 reps which I was happy with just two days after another hard track session.

Finishing the Westminster Mile in 4:48 (20th position in Wave 1) after taking a Tropical SIS Caffeine Shot.

I would definitely recommend the GO caffeine shots, I thought they would taste medicinal but actually the Coca Cola and Tropical flavours are great. They have definitely helped my performances; I’m excited to see what I can achieve in the races I’ve got lined up. If you want to find out why you should use caffeine here is a link to the SIS website and a piece on “The Performance Benefits of Caffeine”: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/performance-benefits-caffeine/

In training for OCC, the 55k race in the UTMB series, I have been increasing my mileage and taking part in some tough track sessions. At the end of May I ran the Bideford 10k, a 10,000m track race and did three hard track sessions within the space of 10 days. 

I thought it would be a great time to try the Cookies and Cream Overnight Protein to recover quickly and be able to run commute the next morning. I was wondering if the protein shake would actually taste like cookies and cream and was pleasantly surprised. It is hard to quantify how much the drink helped but my legs definitely felt better the next day. If you want to know which protein to take and when, there is another great piece on the SIS website: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/which-protein-when/

Overall the new Science in Sport products have been great. They’ve helped me a lot with my training and racing over the last couple of months. Good nutrition is something that I neglected in the past, it is great to have supplements so I can train hard day in day out.

Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill, London

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.

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

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.

Iffley Road Cambrian River T-Shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Shorts, Stance Run OTC, Salomon S-Lab X-Series

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.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1052324835/overview

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

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

Steve

The Strava Mile – London

A month or so ago I received an email from James Poole (Advent Running co-founder & Adidas Running Captain) inviting me to an event he was collaborating with Strava on – the Strava Mile. I’m good friends with JP, use Strava and really enjoy mile races, I was in!

Before I knew it race day arrived. After a big weekend of mileage at Endure 24 and a tough 10 x 1k track session on Tuesday night my legs were feeling a bit sorry for themselves. I opted to run the 4k or so from work to Mile End track to try and loosen the legs up. Struggling to hold a few 4 minute kilometres I wasn’t expecting to be breaking any records on #MyMile.

I was greeted at the track by Claire, Bill and Johnny from Iffley Road. They were supporting the event and providing tees to runners. As I’m a Team Iffley ambassador Claire gave me some of their lovely Thompson shorts in a new blue colourway to race in.

The event was a lot of fun; it was great to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while due to training predominantly on my own for the last few months. As the start time of 7pm neared James hit the mic to let us know the schedule, there was to be 4 mile races: Sub 9, 8, 7 & 6 and below. With my legs beaten up I was glad the final mile was sub 6 and not 5. I thought I would be left suffering at the back in a sub 5 race. It was great to watch friends flying round the track, many of them achieving personal bests. For some it was their first mile race, I suppose there aren’t that many around so it’s great for events like this to be organised.

I ran a few strides to try and get the legs ready for action. There was a large group in the sub 6 race. I positioned myself near the front but decided I would try and crank the pace up in the final two laps if the legs would allow me. With my mile PB at 4:44 I knew I wouldn’t be able to get near that but thought 5 would be a good target. In hindsight I should’ve tried to get the inside lane like James Brewster (pro!) or started a bit further up as I was forced to take a wider lane on a couple of occasions costing valuable seconds. I got into my stride and was on the right pace for sub 5, 3:06min/km.

It was great to have people to chase down, surprisingly my legs felt good after completing the first lap and going under the Strava gantry to cheers from friends.

Going through halfway I was still on pace and another sub 5 was within reach, I started to pick it up to try and bank a few more seconds and make sure I would achieve the time.

The last few laps went by in a blur; I gained ground on some of the runners in front and crossed the line in 4:55.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1036670638/overview

I was really happy and surprised with the result. It always makes me wonder what time I could achieve if I trained and tapered specifically for a mile race.

After everyone had run their miles we grabbed some tacos and beer. The event was a lot of fun, thank you James, Strava, Iffley Road, Eddie (Camden Town Brewery) etc for putting it on. I really hope there will be many more events like this in the future.

I hope everyone else that was there had as much fun as I did. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Endure 24 2017

Over the weekend of the 10th & 11th of June I took part in Endure 24 for the second year running (pun intended). In stark contrast to getting a late place in 2016, Lorna, some friends and I signed up as soon as possible because we knew it would be a fun weekend and a great way to get lots of miles in. Initially we were in a team of 7: Me, Lorna, Alex, Robbie, Frosty, Michalis and Jess. Unfortunately in the couple of weeks leading up to the event Michalis and Jess could no longer take part but Jess decided to make the trip to cheer us on and look after us. With the team being reduced to 5 we all knew we’d be banking some big mileage, this was good for me as I have OCC at the end of August. This was not so good for the likes of Robbie who is predominantly a track runner.

Road trip!!

Learning from 2016, Lorna and I packed up all our kit on the Thursday night to meet Alex for a lift to Wasing Park early on Friday morning. As Endure is “Glastonbury for runners” it’s a good idea to get there on the Friday to get a convenient area to set up camp. We opted for the same location as last year as it was right next to the handover point, food and retail tents, the registration marquee and showers/toilets.

Alex chilling in the comfiest chair in the world!

Once we were let into the race village we pitched up all of our tents and then drove to the nearest Sainsbury’s to do a BIG food shop. Barbeques, snacks, ice, football (all the essentials) were on the shopping list. There wasn’t a list, but we probably should have made one to stick to. We spent quite a lot but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much split between the group and it definitely worked out cheaper than buying all of our meals on site. When we got back to camp we had lunch before picking up race numbers and timing chips from the registration tent.

We spent the afternoon chilling, playing games and walking the course to show Alex what to expect. To be honest he didn’t really need to see the course as he would get VERY familiar with it over the next couple of days but then again it was good for us to look at the course and think about our pacing especially for the first few laps.

Once back at camp again it was time to fuel up. Alex got the BBQ going; we had burgers, chicken, sausages and halloumi skewers, all the good stuff.

Food = Fuel

We had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for Jess to arrive; she was cycling from London (bonkers)!

With a big 24 hours ahead of us we all got an early night foregoing the party in the marquee. I slept quite well on the Friday night; I was pretty tired because of the early start and having run decent mileage in the week. Robbie and Frosty were due to arrive at 10:30am so we got some sausages and bacon going on the BBQ. I tend not to eat much before races but with events like this you definitely need to fuel up. Also I knew my first lap wouldn’t be until 12:40ish with the team order sorted: Robbie, Me, Frosty, Lorna, Alex. Dropping down to a team of 5 meant we would get around two and a half hours of rest between laps.

The start of 24 hour events is a little bizarre, everyone is excited but you can tell they are trying to keep calm and remember there’s a long way to go. Well, apart from the one person that always sprints off the start line like a bat out of hell.

Luckily for our team Robbie started a bit further back than he probably would’ve liked and got boxed in. The start is also strange because it’s the only time (apart from the finish) that everyone is together, the race village generally seems quite subdued and quiet the rest of the time and you almost forget how many runners are taking part. As Robbie was handing over to me I headed back to the tent to sort my kit, I was really looking forward to getting out there. Robbie came into the handover area clocking 34 minutes for the lap. With OCC in mind and knowing I would probably be looking at doing 7 or 8 laps over the 24 hours I went out at a steady pace.

The route was just as I remembered it (I did walk it only the day before). The “Hill of No Return” felt relatively easy having completed a couple of hill sessions over the last few weeks but I knew it would just get steeper and steeper as the hours passed by. The few kilometres after the hill are nice, the course is undulating but you can get into a good stride. “Little steep” just before 3k is short and sharp, it was muddy but in my Inov-8 X-Talon 212 I moved through this section well and was back onto a good pace quickly. From 3k to 5k there are long straights which include some small rolling hills; this section is one of my favourites on the course. You go through “Far Away Forest” and pass the “VDUB Cocktail Bar” around halfway (4k). Approaching the 5k point you know you are coming up to the hardest part “Heartbreak Hill”. Luckily the Clif Bar Café is positioned just before so you have the chance to grab a drink etc. For the first few laps I “enjoyed” the climb, I was happy to shorten my stride and shuffle my way up it. The best thing about Heartbreak Hill is once you’re over it you feel quite strong and the following few kilometres are fun as they include some slight downhills and twists and turns through the trees.

On the homestretch I high fived Alex (and a few randoms) before crossing the line after 34 minutes and 47 seconds of running, first lap – done. I handed over to Frosty before catching up with Lorna and chatting to some of the AR (Advent Running), Adidas Running & Pro-Direct Running lot. I made sure to grab some food quickly after finishing my lap; I decided this was best because of only having two and a half hours before going out again. Frosty clocked a time of 35:09 before Lorna ran 36:32 and Alex 36:22 (not a competitive brother at all). Robbie put in another solid lap in 34:17 and then I was up and running again. As the first lap had loosened my legs up I decided to go with the flow and put in a slightly quicker lap. On every lap I tried to make the effort to say well done to the Solo runners, it must be such a long 24 hours for them and I thought a shout may pick them up a little. I was on the lookout for my friend Matt Fowler; he was one of the crazy “Solos”. I completed my second lap in 33:44, a minute quicker than my first lap and inside Robbie’s fastest time, not that I was trying to beat it ;).

The team was doing really well, after a couple of laps we were in 3rd place in our category and 21st out of all the teams. The trick to doing well in 24 hour events is having a team that is consistent and for everyone to run times close to each other. It is also key to take it steady over the first few laps and to be able to hold a good pace through the night on the laps using a head torch. I was the first runner in our team to do a double; it was around 10pm so it was still light for most of the first lap. I was kindly given a Silva Trailrunner 2X to test; it was really comfortable, lightweight and most importantly really bright. As I had taken the first few laps steady I could still hold a decent pace, I was planning to finish the double lap in 1:20 but found myself crossing the line nearer to 1:15. I think I could hold a quicker pace because it was nice and cool and the adrenaline was pumping. I was happy to put in more effort over the double lap because I planned to eat lots and get some sleep ready for my next lap in the morning. Everyone ran well over the double lap, on average we were only a couple of minutes slower than a normal lap. I got quite lucky in that I didn’t have to run through the rain, I felt sorry for Lorna and Alex.

After completing his double lap Robbie messaged the team to let us know that he was struggling, his left groin had gone and “that was 1hr42min of absolute agony, hurts on the uphill, hurts on the flat and hurts most of all going downhill on uneven ground so pretty much everywhere on the course”. Being a track runner Robbie did well to bank as many laps as he did (6). We were down to four which meant we’d have to take it steady on the rest of the laps. Everyone was knackered, we were all thinking about sleeping more and not worrying about having someone out on the course. My first lap in the morning was a struggle as my legs had seized up after having a couple of hours sleep. A few kilometres in they loosened up a little but I took it steady to make sure I could get round and I knew I’d still have one or two more laps to complete. I bumped into Matt around 6k; he was only 10 miles or so away from clocking 100 miles.

As we weren’t racing I decided to keep him company for the rest of the lap, he was moving really well and seemed in good spirits. We chatted about his 24 hour strategy, nutrition and future race plans etc. Once through the “finish” line again I handed over to Frosty and Matt went off to grab a coffee.  I headed back to the tents to let Lorna know she was up next. Her legs had seized up as well and she wanted a little longer before heading out on another lap, as my legs felt ok and I wanted to get the miles in I took the yellow wristband off Frosty and was on my way again.

The morning laps were really tough but we were ticking the hours off. Frosty, Lorna and Alex did well to complete 7 laps each; we were still in third position in our category. At 11:22 I was heading off on the final lap, I was relieved knowing we’d got through the weekend but also sad that it was almost over. Surprisingly my legs were feeling ok; I decided to pace the lap so I could cross the line with the team just after 12 o’clock. We didn’t want or need to get another 8k in. Over the final few kilometres I found myself running at the same pace as another runner, we chatted about our training, upcoming races and how we’d found the weekend. I enjoyed the twisty turny section for the last time and was then joined by the team for the final few hundred metres.

We crossed the line to the sound of the klaxon. 24 hours, done!


We had a celebratory ice cream, caught up with friends and then packed up our tents. The weekend went by in a blur; it was a lot of fun. If you haven’t done a 24 hour team relay before I definitely recommend it. It’s such a great challenge and it’s an excellent way to get lots of miles in if you have a long distance race coming up.

I hope those of you that took part in Endure 24 enjoyed it as much I did.

See a lot of you soon,

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

Essex 20 2017 

On Sunday the 5th of March I took part in the Essex 20 miler for the second year running. As it was one of my favourite races in 2016 I was really looking forward to it. Similarly to last year Lorna invited a group of our friends to stay with us at her family’s house, this included Michalis, Alan, Dean and Tom. Lorna and I travelled to Colchester on the Friday evening to catch up with her family and to tidy the house for the lad’s arrival. On the Saturday morning we had a bit of a lie in and went food shopping before going for a nice walk with Rob (one of Lorna’s brothers).

Late Saturday afternoon the guys arrived, we had a catch up over dinner, chilled and watched some Jackass (forgot how crazy they are!) and then got an early night ahead of the race.I woke up at 7:29am to narrowly beat the alarm. The race didn’t start until 10am so we had plenty of time to have a good breakfast and get our kit ready. Unsurprisingly when I got to the kitchen Dean was already up chilling and chatting with Rob. We were soon joined by the other boys and Lorna, we tucked into some toast and cereal. Suitably fuelled up we all donned are race kit and filled bags with warm clothes for after the run. Dean was struggling to find his SIS electrolyte tabs…

One of the dogs was well hydrated!

Around 9:15am Alex arrived to pick some of the boys up to take them to the race start near Langham Community Hall. He was taking part in the Essex 20 for the first time as he has got the Manchester Marathon soon. Once at the hall we picked up our race numbers and limbered up. As we had a little time I had a quick catch up with Mark Boulton and Billy Rayner, they’re both gearing up for the London Marathon.

Tom, Alan, Dean, me, Michalis, Alex, Faye and Lorna

As it neared 10am we took off our warm layers and handed them to Rob. He was our one man crew for the day, looking after our stuff, driving around the course to take photos and handing gels (sometimes empty!) to some of us. Just as we were about to make our way to the start line it tipped it down. It was so annoying because when we woke up the sun was shining and we thought we’d got lucky. Everyone stayed in the hall for as long as possible, you don’t want to get too wet and cold before tackling a hilly 20 miler. We all made our way to the start line, having rested a lot during the week my legs were feeling pretty good so Tom and I positioned ourselves a couple of rows from the front.

Last year I finished the race in 2:03 in 31st position. I wanted to get as close to this time as possible despite running the Brighton Half Marathon the previous weekend in 1:14:22. I knew this would be a tough ask especially in wet and windy conditions. My average pace was 3:50min/km in 2016 so I decided to start the race at 4min/km and go from there. Despite running the Tokyo Marathon the previous weekend Tom ran with me. Our first kilometre was a little slow as the road was narrow and everyone was settling into their paces. Over the next few kilometres we made the most of the downhill sections and picked up the lost time. My legs had seemed to recover well from Brighton Half with track on Tuesday being my only tough session of the week; I felt strong on 4min/km pace but knew it may not last. We were getting through the first lap and soon saw Rob; he’d positioned himself just before the big climb in the 5th kilometre.

Tom and I pushed on up the hill maintaining pace. We both said how we enjoyed tackling hills and often tend to overtake people going up them. Once over the brow of the hill it’s important to get back into a good rhythm, we did this well but knew it would be harder and harder as the laps went by.

Along the main roads Tom and I were just inside 4min/km pace. It was good to be banking time that we could use on the hills. As the first lap was coming to an end (11k) I took my first gel and drank some water. I thought it would be a good race to test my nutrition strategy before Boston; I opt for the SIS gels because they are isotonic. I quite like the Essex 20 route; the variety of flat sections and hills breaks it up into chunks. As we weren’t boxed in by other runners we picked up the pace, especially on the downhills. Before we knew it we saw Rob and tackled the big hill again. My legs were feeling stronger as the race went on; I decided to up my pace to nearer 3:50. This meant leaving Tom but I thought it would be good to suffer on my own as come Boston Marathon/other “A” race days I’m going to have to put in the hard yards alone.

One of the best things about the Essex 20 miler is the competitive field. It is the Essex Championships and an inter county match between 8 counties meaning a lot of quick club runners take part. Throughout the whole race I had runners to chase down, even more so than in the Brighton Half Marathon.

Testing out my Iffley Road X Vivobarefoot Cambrian Chevron t-shirt & Iffley Road Thompson shorts

On the final lap my legs were tiring but I managed to hold 3:50min/km pace. I crossed the line in 2:06:10 in 43rd.

Overall a decent result and a great race to have under the belt before Boston. Tom crossed the line a couple of minutes later, great running mate especially the week after Tokyo. Everyone ran well and most importantly got through it unscathed.

Over the next few weeks Lorna and I have the Colchester Half and the Hampton Court Palace Half. I’m looking forward to seeing what the legs are capable of.

See a lot of you soon

Steve