Tag Archives: Hills

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

The Southern XC Champs

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

 Photo courtesy of Claudia (@claudi8s)

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

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


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

 

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

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

See a lot of you soon 

Steve

Tough 10: Epping Forest, London

On Sunday the 23rd of October I took part in the Tough 10 race in Epping Forest. Tough 10 is a new series of races from Cancer Research UK. The events have been organised so runners can challenge themselves and take on some of the UK’s toughest terrain. At the same time participants would be raising money for a great cause and helping to beat cancer sooner. I decided to sign up to the Epping Forest event because I’d run there a couple of times and knew how nice the trails are. I also signed up because it was relatively easy to get to and some of the Advent Running guys were going to be there as James and Claudia are ambassadors for the series.

I woke up around 7:30ish on Sunday morning to get organised and travel across London to the forest. I was really looking forward to the event as I was wondering just how tough the race would be and I knew the route would be nice and scenic and a good change from running on the road. Due to the race not being a main focus for me I had run 20k on the Saturday along the river. I got to Epping Forest at 9:15am so I had plenty of time to pick up my race number and drop my bag off.

Inov-8 X-Talon 225 & Stance Speed Crew

Being a new event I wasn’t sure how many runners would be taking part but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hundred or so people around the start area. As I previously mentioned some of the Advent Running group were racing, this included: James, Claudia, Ben, Alice, Alan, Emma, Jason and Laura. As there wasn’t long to go before the start we had a quick catch up and got in a short jog to warm up. It was needed, it was absolutely freezing! Racing vest and split shorts seemed like a bad idea.

Photo courtesy of Claudia (@claudi8s, @ar_collective, @adventrunning)

Rubbing my hands to keep warm/praying the route wouldn’t be too tough!

We made our way to the start line and some of us got into the first group of fifty runners. The organisers let us know that we would be set off in waves as parts of the course were narrow. It was recommended that those of us aiming for below 45 minutes should get near the front. On the start line I bumped into Alex, a friend who I met racing in a couple of the Run Through events (we had an epic sprint finish back in 2014 I think it was). We had a quick catch up but before long we were off.

To begin with there was a group of five or six of us at the front, however after a kilometre or so Alex and another runner had opened up a gap from myself, James and another couple runners. The first kilometre or so was relatively flat and there was a nice short downhill section through the trees. The first steep hill came at around the 2k point. We followed the edge of a field whilst heading up, having started along a flat trail this was a shock to the system and the longer grass killed the initial pace at which we started. The route then took us most of the way down the hill to the middle of the field for us to then climb back up, how cruel! One plus point of being on higher ground was the great views.

After about 3/4k I was thinking “I hope this whole 10k isn’t as up and down as the last few kilometres!” and “Why did I decide to run 20k yesterday”. My legs were feeling heavy on the uphill sections but I loved the downhills. Once I got over the hills and caught my breath back I was feeling good. I got to 6k and was holding a decent pace, luckily I had a couple of runners just in front of me to focus on and try to chase down. At around the 6k point one of the marshals said “last hill!” I immediately thought “this is going to be a big climb”. However, I was also looking forward to getting over the hill and then enjoying the flat last few kilometres. The hill seemed to go on forever; I just focused on keeping a consistent gap between myself and the two runners just in front.

At the top of the hill I was in familiar settings. I had run on some of the trails as part of the Orion Fell Race last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t make that event this year but I’ll definitely be trying to squeeze it in the race calendar for 2017. From kilometre 7 the rest of the route was nice and flat with a few slight downhills. At 8k we had to cross over Bury Road, there was a marshal positioned there and she told us to cross straight over and take the immediate right. The three of us had picked up our pace knowing we were so close to the finish. We headed through the trees along trails used for the Orion Forest Five, another great race. With a kilometre to go I upped my pace and managed to pass the two runners I was tailing for the majority of the event. My legs felt strong on the flat after tackling some tough hills around the course. I crossed the line in just over 40 minutes which I’m happy with considering the elevation and terrain and the amount of racing I’ve done over the last four weeks.

Having crossed the finish line I was surprised not to see Alex and the other runner that were flying from the start. Apparently they had got a little lost, they still finished 6th/7th or so which is impressive. James finished shortly after me; I can’t imagine how his legs must feel just three weeks after Spartathlon and having paced Nicolas for part of Autumn 100. Alan was next across the line and looked really strong before Claudia took the win in the women’s race. She maintains she hates 10ks but still tears it up despite preferring the longer distances, well done! The whole Advent Running group ran strong and really enjoyed the event.

 I’m not sure whether I am able to make any of the other Tough 10 races but I definitely recommend them to anyone that’s up for a challenge. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to see how everyone gets on; Box Hill is going to be an epic one for sure! If you want any more info on the Tough 10 series head to the website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/find-an-event/charity-runs/tough-10

I hope everyone that took part enjoyed it. Tough 10 was the last event of four races on back to back weekends for me. I’ve loved racing regularly over the last month taking on distances from 10k to a marathon. I’m looking forward to getting in a few good weeks of decent mileage including track and then taking on the Kingston 10k at the end of November.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

 

Running in Colchester 

Last weekend Lorna and I headed to Colchester to spend time with her family. We got the train out of London early on Friday evening. We were picked up from Colchester station by Alex, Lorna’s older brother, to go and do some hill training. Robbie Smith and Frosty joined us; it was good to catch up with Robbie who I’d met at the Winterton training weekend with the Colchester running club last year. He is taking part in the City of London Mile on 19/06/16 and it’ll be interesting to see what time he posts as he is a short distance track runner. Frosty had done the Manchester Marathon the same year as me so we talked about how annoying it was that the course was short and how they’d altered everyone’s finishing times. Having not done any hill sessions recently and with the Zagori Marathon around the corner it was good to do a few reps. From running a decent mileage and a couple of marathons in the last few months I’m feeling quite strong at the moment.
The hill we ran up was Balkerne Hill, it was a relatively short sharp incline (approximately 35m) but it felt pretty steep as we were hitting it at pace. We then jogged down North Hill for recovery. We did 6 loops, well most of us did but Robbie snuck off, those short distance runners ey!! Ha Post hill session Al cooked us and Rob (Lorna’s younger brother) a feast, we had Chicken and Halloumi etc, good for recovery and fuelling parkrun which me and Rob were to run on the Saturday morning. After food Rob headed back to get an early night, he was on the Soda water; we knew he was going to be attempting a parkrun PB in the morning.

Like a flick of the switch Saturday morning arrived. I was looking forward to running parkrun a) because I hadn’t run one in a while b) because I like doing a bit of parkrun tourism c) because I’d heard Colchester parkrun got a good number of runners and d) because I was excited to see how Rob would get on knowing he’d been running and going to the gym lots. Rob drove us into town and then we jogged to the park. Colchester parkrun has a pretty cool setting; the park is really nice with a castle situated in it. Having run through there before with Lorna I had a good idea of the route and knew it would be a bit twisty turny and uppy downy (technical terms!).  

Photo courtesy of Neil Wray

Rob and I discussed pacing strategies just before the start and then we were ready to race (umm I mean run; I must remember parkrun is NOT a race!).

When making our way to the start line I was expecting to see just a handful of runners but what I actually saw was around 400 people. It always amazes me how many people get up early on a Saturday morning to do parkrun; I guess Colchester is a relatively big one in comparison to some in London because there are so many different parkruns in pretty close proximity. On the start line I was a couple of rows back, I didn’t know what the standard of runners was going to be like.  

After about half a kilometre two guys and I were running together at the front. One of them was breathing pretty heavy at this stage and so after another 500m or so it was just me and one other runner setting the pace. Turns out the other runner was called Paul. I found this out a couple kilometres down the path because you double back on yourself and run passed the other runners; a lot of them were cheering Paul on and wanted him to beat me. You do a U-turn around one of the marshals which is funny. On the way back towards the castle it was good to see Rob, he was looking strong and I was pretty confident he’d be close to his PB if not better it. Lorna had decided not to run because she picked up a niggle in the Hackney Half Marathon on the previous Sunday. It was really nice to have her around the course cheering me on and tell me which way to run haha. Despite the well marshalled route there were a couple of occasions where I almost went the wrong way. Because I hadn’t done one lap yet and was in the lead I had to shout back to Paul and ask whether it was straight on or a left turn, it was good of him to shout “straight on” which turned out to be true. Someone more competitive could well have sent me off track ha. The other occasion I nearly went off piste was just before the castle, I thought you went through the start/finish area as opposed to taking a left up round the castle again. With one lap done I was feeling good, despite the hills I was holding a pace around 3:20min/km. I quite enjoy routes that are a bit up and down and where there are quite a few turns to break the run up into chunks.  


 

I held a decent pace to the end and finished in 17:47. Lorna and I then cheered on Rob as he came storming through the finish.  

He smashed his PB by over a minute finishing in 22:24, well done if you’re reading this Rob. It was a great start to our Saturday. We are back in Colchester next weekend and are planning to do the parkrun again, I’m looking forward to it already especially because Phil (Lorna’s older brother) is also going to run and race Rob. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On the Sunday Lorna, Rob and I wanted to make the most of the nice weather so we made a trip to Alton Water to do a spot of trail running. I always enjoy getting out of the city every now and then and being able to run in some countryside.  

We ran at a steady (some might call it sexy) pace and the route totalled 12 kilometres.  

  

It took us a little longer than normal due to the obligatory selfie stops. When we are back next Lorna and I are planning to run a couple of laps in training for the Zagori Marathon. We are also scheming a group trip to do some paddle boarding which should be fun and hilarious in equal measure. Post trail run we treated ourselves to ice creams and flapjack, of which drew interest from two massive swans. We made it out of Alton Water alive and then in the afternoon Rob, Lorna’s Dad and I hit the golf driving range.

Overall it was a really nice weekend; we got a good balance of running, chilling, baking and eating great food. Post London Marathon I’m really enjoying my running again, mainly due to mixing it up with things like hill training, track, and long runs along the river. This weekend I’m doing the “Escape to Trail” run that Dean has organised for charity before heading to the Night of the 10,000 PBs. They should both be great events.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you then.

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

Trailscape Marathon – Cuxton, East

Over the last three weeks or so I have been taking it relatively easy. It took me a while to recover from the Bristol + Bath and North trailscape marathons. On Saturday I travelled with the Advent Running lot to Cuxton in Kent to run the second marathon in the rail to trail series. Being a trail race I hadn’t really given it much thought and knew not to worry about pace or finishing time. Knowing the course was 27+ miles and included 3,000+ft of elevation gain I knew it was going to take a while to get round. The winning time from last year was 4 hours and 51 minutes which says it all.

In the week leading up to my second trailscape marathon I increased my mileage a little. I ran two 14 milers the previous weekend, this was because I wanted to run one of my favourite routes along the canal, up Primrose Hill, up Haverstock Hill, up Swains Lane and up Parliament Hill. The weather was awesome: 
 The next day I ran another 14 miles along the river with Lorna, Freya, Jonny, Bart, Emily and Caroline. The weather wasn’t great that day but as Bart said “It’s cold, windy and pissing it down with rain but look how happy we are because we are running!” He had a good point; the miles went so quickly because we were all having fun despite the weather. The key to keeping motivated through December is to give yourself a strong enough reason to get out there and run. I’m lucky to have great sights to run around and great people to run with in London, I want to be running pretty much all the time. A big reason I will be doing high mileage in December is Advent Running. I run almost every day normally but this month is going to be particularly special as James and Claudia have loads of great events lined up. It all kicked off on Tuesday, we ran from Redchurch Brewery to the Olympic Park and that big RUN sign. 

  The group was massive; it was a great get together. Lots of different people from various running clubs showed up to start their month of running in style. Fast forward to Wednesday, I went to the “Fall in love with running seminar”. We got to hear from Holly Rush (ultrarunner @rushbynature), Vicky Gill (triathlete @vickster_tri), Simon Freeman (Freestak & Like The Wind mag @simonbfreeman) and Alan Murchison (triathlete @performance.chef). 

It was great to hear about their racing, experiences and achievements. I always leave Like The Wind and Advent running events really inspired. On Thursday I got my 30 minutes of running in with The Running Works Run Club: 

 On Friday I had the day off to go to the London Illustration Fair and chill with Lorna. I could’ve had a nice lie in but knowing there was a crazy gang of runners meeting up at Beigel bake on Brick Lane with amazing Christmas jumpers on I had to get involved.  

 Ok so this is supposed to be a race recap, my bad I got side-tracked with all the fun events/running last week. So, Saturday morning I woke up at 6am to get my stuff together and get to James and Claudia’s to travel to Cuxton in Kent. Having not done many trail races I was a little apprehensive knowing the distance and elevation gain. I was confident I would finish but knew it would be a long slog. Being competitive it was hard to hold back at the start but I knew that I would never be able to keep up with a lot of the runners in front. It was good to be running through some beautiful countryside and not having to worry about pace. After a few miles I ended up running alongside a guy called Nick Butcher. We had a good chat about our running; he has completed 94 marathons and is looking to join the 100 marathon club soon. He had taken part in Race to the Stones and finished 30 minutes or so ahead of me in that. He recently did the Druids Challenge which was a race I was thinking of doing. We chatted for a good 10 miles or so about various races, training etc. Just after we started the second loop of the marathon I started to feel good so I picked up my pace a little to get the miles done. I paid the price in the latter stages of the race and in hindsight probably would’ve been better running with Nick the whole way. 

 I quite like two lap courses because you can break it up into chunks and I like to know what to expect. I was enjoying the run but then hit a bit of a rough patch around mile 23. To be fair it was all a bit of a rough patch with how muddy and windy it was but anyway (such a fair weather, road runner!). Around mile 23 my left quad start playing up, this wasn’t ideal with lots of stiles to negotiate but I took my time and waddled my way round the last four miles or so. My legs were battered and the hills were horrible near the end. I definitely need to do more trail miles and hill sessions to keep doing more races like this. Once I got to mile 26 I was so relieved as I knew the ordeal was nearly over. What I didn’t know was how long that last mile or so would take; the answer is a long time.

I was within half a mile from the finish running down a nice trail towards a gate. I was starting to feel pleased with myself knowing I was about to finish the race and then a massive gust of wind blew my Advent Running trucker cap off my head. A few girls doing the 10k flew passed and straight through the gate with no problems. I on the other hand turned so quickly to chase after my cap that I tripped over some long grass and aggravated my right hamstring. I then hobbled down the hill, that my cap had just rolled down, to collect it whilst trying to stretch my hammy. I turned back round to head up the hill, I initially didn’t have to climb, where two runners glided through the gate; they were both looking strong and had clearly paced their runs well. One of the runners was Nick. I went through the gate and shuffled down the hill to the finish. I was a little annoyed I had slipped (pun intended) from 9th to 11th within the matter of seconds but it was one of those things. I crossed the line and was relieved to complete the race. I feel lucky to have got through it and not get injured. I learnt a lot! 

 The trucker cap made for adventure 

Well done to everyone that raced at the weekend whether it was the trailscape race, endurancelife, a various santa run or parkrun etc (oh yeh parkrun isn’t a race, my bad!). Next up for me is the Mo Santa Olympic Park thingy next Sunday. That will be my last race of 2015, should be fun. I hope everyone else’s Advent Running is going well too.

See a lot of you soon 

Steve

P.s. I’m now stocked up for Advent Running and training for Paris, London & Edinburgh marathons 

 

Energized Sports Wimbledon Half Marathon 2015

Having not raced for three weeks I was keen to get back on it. In the middle of the week a couple friends (Freya & Alan) let me know that they were doing the Wimbledon half marathon. After a few days of contemplation I decided to commit to the race and signed up on Saturday. I love living in London and being able to sign up to races at the last minute. Due to not running much over the last three weeks I was starting to feel back to normal after the Bristol + Bath and Trailscape North Marathons six days apart.
Due to the race being in Wimbledon I woke up around 6am to begin my journey across London. Stepping out my front door and into the freezing cold I was starting to regret my decision to race. I got the bus, tube and train and walked to the race start.  

  

 I was there in plenty of time to collect my race number and drop off my bag. Freya was unfortunately feeling under the weather so couldn’t make it but I met up with Alan near the number pick up. We dropped off our bags and did a short run to warm up; it was ridiculously cold especially in the wind. It’s not very often I resort to wearing a bobble hat and gloves but I’m glad I had them on me. I just wish I’d have worn one of my buffs too. Having warmed up slightly we waited around for our start time of 9:15. At 8:45 the 10k race started and just after two guys were chatting and casually walked passed me and Alan:

Runner no.1: “How’re you feeling, ready to race?”

Runner no.2 “Yeh I’m feeling… (looks over to see hundreds of runners sprinting off the start line) Oh Shit!” (Both peg it to the start!)

Lesson: Know what time your race starts. (Alan and I were in hysterics!)

After this slapstick comedy we headed to the start line, we chatted about goal times for the race and both decided we would run together and aim for 1:30 then adjust our pace depending on how we felt. We ticked off the first couple miles around 6:52 pace so on target for 1:30; we then gradually pushed the pace and made the most of a nice downhill section. As we all know when you run down on a looped course you’re going to have to run back up. Luckily the hill wasn’t that long or steep so we could maintain sub 7 min/mile pace. It was a bit bizarre to be in a race running along chatting with a mate but it was good as the miles flew by. Once we’d run up the hill around mile 5 the route was pretty flat. It was good to get the first half of the race done and know where to push and hold back for the second lap. We went through half way in around 43 minutes so knew we would be closer to 1:25 than 1:30 if we kept pushing on.

As we went into the second lap we caught up with a large pack of runners (they were taking a little detour as didn’t know which road one of the marshals was pointing down) it was good to be moving forward throughout the race chasing down runner after runner. When we got to the downhill section the pack closed the gap and applied some pressure but we stepped it up a bit and moved away. As the run went on the weather was picking up and because there wasn’t much wind it was almost ideal running conditions. We broke the race into chunks mentally and were saying “the quicker we’re up the hill the stronger we’ll feel and it’ll be 5k or so to the finish”. We were going through the gears and using our competitiveness to aim to overtake the person in front. Something Nick Anderson said at the Brighton Marathon Expo was that “the marathon doesn’t start until 20 miles, and then you shouldn’t stare at your watch but focus on the runner in front and try to overtake as many people as possible.” This turns the race into a bit of a game and mentally it’s much better to pace it and feel good passing runners rather than being overtaken. Having done a fair few races now I much prefer to race this way, when I did my first few events I would go out fast and then try and hold onto the pace and suffer in the last few miles. Every now and then I still take this approach for instance over 5k and 10k particularly you have to suffer to get those personal bests. Had I been aiming for a time and personal best for this half marathon I would’ve pushed it more and wouldn’t have been at conversational pace for the majority of the race. Yesterday the Wimbledon Half was more about enjoying it and getting in a long run at pace so I can still do big mileage this week and get ready for the Trailscape Marathon on the 5th of December.

As the race continued Alan and I upped the pace we managed to do the last four miles in: 6:49 (up the hill), 6:25, 6:16 & 6:16.  

 We crossed the line in 1:25:26 (on the chip) in 33rd and 34th. Considering we were talking about doing 1:30 we smashed it. Had the route of been a little less hilly I’m sure Alan would’ve got a new PB, I think it stands at around 1:25. I’m sure he will get his half time more in line with his 2:58 marathon soon with the track work he’s doing and the long runs we’re planning. Next year it’ll be good to see what he can do, we’re doing a lot of the same races like Essex 20, Cardiff Half, Paris Marathon, London Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon and maybe Race to the King.

The race was well organised, I arrived early so picked up my number and dropped off my bag with now waiting or issues. The bag drop was well managed so collection was smooth. The goodie bag was decent, ironically we p.. p.. p.. p.. picked up a couple Penguin bars in the cold. We also got water, bananas and a Capri-sun so can’t complain with that. The medal wasn’t really anything to shout about unfortunately but for a relatively cheap half you can’t expect the biggest and best bling.

Well done to everyone that raced or trained in the cold over the weekend. Well done to Lorna and Sasha in particular doing the Norwich Half Marathon. They finished in 2:14 in what was Sasha’s first half marathon. Apparently listening to terrible music like Taylor Swift and Bieber makes you run faster ha I suppose the quicker you run the sooner the music stops.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

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