On Sunday the 24th of September, I took part in the Great East Run (Ipswich Half Marathon). I decided to do this race because Lorna and the rest of Team Elliot (Alex, Rob, Phil & Rachel) wanted to do it and renew their sibling rivalries. Fortunately, I was contacted a few months ago by Duracell, one of the headline sponsors, and they offered me free entry. Winning!
As Ipswich is relatively local to Lorna’s family we stayed with them in Colchester for the weekend. We arrived just in time for dinner, Rob had cooked chicken and sweet potato fries and Sheilagh (Lorna’s Mum) had made her amazing sticky toffee pudding. Similarly, to before Colchester Half earlier this year on Saturday morning I ran 5k with Rob to shake the legs out. We had both tapered well during the week but wanted to keep the legs ticking over ahead of the big day.
In the afternoon, I played golf with Alex, and Lorna’s Dad Bob. As I don’t play golf regularly anymore it was great to get out on the course, it was a closely fought contest but I just managed to win as Alex found the pond near the 18th green (sorry Al I had to mention it). Lorna, Alex, Rob, Ray and I headed to Nando’s (#NandosAthletes) to fuel up on Saturday night before getting an early night.
The race started and finished just outside Portman Road, Ipswich Town FC’s Stadium. The race village was positioned on the AstroTurf just outside the stadium and conveniently there were lots of large car parks nearby.
Representing #TeamIffley. Photo courtesy of Rob (@rob_elliott_1991)
As with most large running races our numbers were sent to us in the post. I am glad that races now share their race programmes online and that they keep what they send out to a minimum. Attached to the race number was a bag drop label and a few promotional offers.
After fuelling up on bagels for breakfast we arrived at the Race Village around 9am, roughly an hour before kick-off, so we only had to spend a short period of time in the queues for toilets. There seemed to be plenty of toilets available between the car parks and start area and on the AstroTurf near the baggage tent. The bag drop was efficient as the tent was large and each coloured start (orange, green, white) had a designated section. There were lots of volunteers on hand and they all seemed eager to help which is the most important thing.
Having not visited Ipswich before I didn’t know what to expect of the route. It is becoming increasingly popular that running events start and finish at football stadiums; Colchester Half, Reading Half, Manchester Marathon to name a few. I guess it makes sense as the infrastructure is in place to cater for thousands of participants and supporters. The race started on Russell Road, it was relatively wide and there was room to do a few strides along the pavement before making my way onto the start line. As the weather was nice the crowds were out in force and the adrenaline was pumping.
The first few miles are nice and flat so you can get into a good rhythm and figure out who you’re going to be racing. Around the 5k point near Holywell Park there are some short sharp inclines to contend with but you are soon back on the flat alongside Ipswich Wet Dock. This was one of my favourite parts of the course as supporters cheered energetically from the pavements. The runner in first position was off into the distance but as I was in the chase group we had a cyclist escorting us, geeing the crowd up.
Once we had made it onto the South side of the River Orwell gaps were opening and I knew I would be in a group of three for a while. The other two runners seemed to be holding the pace relatively comfortably, I felt good and decided as there was a long way to go I would tuck in behind to try and shelter from the headwind which was quite strong.
At around the 10km point, passing under the Orwell Bridge, I knew a PB or sub 75 was out of the question but I wanted to give it everything and see if I could finish on the podium. Running into the wind and up a long hill that lasted roughly a mile from 12k my pace dropped considerably. However, I knew that the wind would be at our backs once through Freston and heading towards Ipswich city centre.
After 14km one of the runners pushed on and was looking strong, I guess he was aiming for sub 75 and a championship entry time in London next year. I too had picked up the pace a little and so pulled away from 4th place. From 15k I was in no man’s land. Luckily as I was making my way along The Strand and then the A137 I got so many cheers and words of support from runners heading in the opposite direction. It was cool that I got to see Lorna and her brothers and sister and shout at each other, encouragement not abuse ha.
I was starting to hurt with 5k to the finish line. I had no-one to chase, I knew I wasn’t far in front of 4th, my legs were heavy from completing OCC three weeks prior, it was a long straight road but I had to hold it together. Whenever I am in a race and struggling I just keep thinking “I haven’t run this far at that pace to ease up or stop now” or “throughout this race I’ve had a few ups and downs, I’ll feel good again soon”. I held my pace between 3:30min/km and 3:40min/km and refused to turn my head to see how much of a gap I had on 4th.
After crossing the river, there was 2km to go. As I neared the finish line the crowds were growing, the man on the bike accompanying me pointed at the KFC to the right of us and said, “there’s no time for KFC now, you’re almost there”. I turned the corners around Portman Road, I couldn’t hear footsteps or a runner breathing heavily behind me. I upped my pace, I didn’t have a sprint finish in me but I had made it to the line in 3rd position, 1:16:07.
Left to right: Me, Lorna, Alex, Rachel, Rob, Phil & Robbie Smith.
Everyone ran well and achieved great times; Alex finished in 1:31:27 in 99th position, Lorna crossed the line in 1:32:55, 7th lady and 4th in her age category, Rachel ran a 20 second PB in 1:42:24, Rob did 1:42:51 which is even more impressive given he suffered cramp at 20k, and Phil clocked 1:47:40 despite not training much since his wedding and honeymoon. Overall, I really enjoyed the course and it was a great race. For some reason, I envisaged the route would be pancake flat and so was surprised by the hills but I would still recommend the event for someone looking to do a well-supported, scenic, fast race.
The Great East Run (Ipswich Half) medal is nice; good size, weighty, smart design. Bling geek!
The goodie bag was substantial. It included; a protein bar, oat breakfast drink, water, promotional leaflets etc.
If it fits in the race calendar next year I will definitely return to try and beat my time and position. It was a lot of fun this year!
Next up for me is the Lisbon Marathon in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to get one decent long run in and then it’s taper time again.
See a lot of you soon,