Tag Archives: marathon training

Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon 

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.

Obligitaroy race kit pic; Iffley Road vest, Adidas split shorts, Stance socks & Adidas Adios

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. 

The sunrise from Cascais was worth the early wake up call

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.

Bling

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. 

Stance Off

@fayebfit storming to a Half Marathon PB

@lorns_elliott zooming towards the finish line having just overtaken Alex to earn the bragging rights

@alexcvx looking strong. Great Stance combo & colour coordination

@bench53 heading for the beach! #LongDistanceCatwalk

Smithy, Lorna, Faye, Al, Rob, Chivers, Me, Becky & Robbie

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.

Steve

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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

Brighton Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 26th of February I took part in the Brighton Half Marathon. It was my first ‘A’ race of the year and a good opportunity to see where my fitness levels are leading up to the Boston Marathon in 7 weeks’ time. In February last year I ran the Old Deer Park Half Marathon (1:16) before the Cardiff Half (1:13:27) in March. I decided to aim for sub 1:15 in Brighton mainly because I wanted to achieve Championship entry for the London Marathon next year. It felt like it had been ages since I’d raced a half marathon properly. I was excited to see what I was capable of but nervous at the same time as in training for the marathon I’ve either been doing track and tempo sessions (much quicker than HM pace) or long steady runs (much slower than HM pace). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace required to go sub 75 (3:33min/km), however I tried to remind myself that I didn’t train specifically for Cardiff Half last year but felt good then.

My girlfriend Lorna, and Alex (one of Lorna’s brothers), had also signed up. We travelled down to Brighton on the Saturday morning so we could relax and do some sightseeing.

Once we arrived Lorna and I headed in to town for some food and a look around the shops whilst Alex had a nap. Having only been to Brighton once before, for the marathon, it was nice to explore and go in some of the quirky independent shops. Alex then joined us, despite the cold and windy conditions we walked to the pier to try and win some prizes. We had a bit of a shocker, Alex and I couldn’t throw for toffee and we weren’t much better with the football.

Being competitive I was really annoyed and we decided we’d go back for another attempt after the race. As the weather was rubbish we went for dinner at Bills earlier than planned. Suitably fuelled up we got back to the hotel to prepare our race kit before watching some Saturday night tele and getting an early night.

My race kit

Alex’s race kit & nutrition

As is often the case on race morning I beat the alarm clock. We were up around 6:30 so we could get ready for breakfast. I opted for toast and a coffee despite being tempted by croissants and all of the nice food on offer. Alex had brought his own slab of Soreen (see pic above), like he’d said the previous day “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Having woken up nice and early we had plenty of time to don our race kit and make our way down the road to the race village. As we were heading to the hotel door we had our fingers crossed for calm weather, we knew we’d be in for a tough run if the wind was up. It was a bit gusty which was a shame but I guess that was to be expected post Storm Doris and being on the seafront. Having not really looked at where the bag drop was situated on the map, none of us realised we had to walk through the start/finish line and through loo queues. Fortunately we’d given ourselves enough time to get there and negotiate our way back through to the right start pens.

I wished Lorna and Al good luck and headed to the sub 1:20 (grey) pen. My legs were feeling fresh after a couple of easy days and the coffee had kicked in, I was ready for the challenge.

I caught up with a couple of friends on the start line (Enrique, Dominic and George) and then we were sent on our way. It took a little while for everyone to spread out so the first kilometre was marginally slow. I worked my way past a few runners and was soon tucked in behind George and a couple of others for a few kilometres. It was good to be shielded from the wind for a while and ticking the kilometres off comfortably. As I previously mentioned I’d run the Brighton Marathon in 2015 so I knew where the inclines and turning points were. We made the turn at mile 4 to start heading back West towards the city centre, unfortunately the wind was against us and we had 5 miles or so to make the next turn. I was still amongst four or five other runners but as we had completed 8k or so they seemed to be dropping pace slightly so I had a decision to make: a) stick with the group for a while and then try to pick up enough time in the final 5k or b) go it alone and try to hold around 3:33min/km pace. I opted for the latter as my legs were still feeling good and there was another group ahead which I thought I could close up on and tuck in behind after a while.

Around the 10k point I saw Alex and then Lorna; we gave each other a shout knowing we wouldn’t see each other until the finish. When I’m in the same race as Lorna I always worry about how she is getting on so it was nice to see her looking good and with a decent group around her. I knew she’d run well as her training has been great over the last month or two. I went through 10k in 35:25, not far off my current 10k PB (34:50). It felt quick but my legs were ok, my breathing was a little heavy but that was always going to be the case running into the wind. I kept ticking the kilometres off counting down until the turning point where I’d finally have the wind pushing me to the finish. I had gained on a group of four or five runners and was alongside them between mile 8 and 9. They were slowing up so I went straight past, unfortunately meaning no rest from the wind. The crowds were starting to build, my legs were tiring but I knew I’d soon be on the long home straight.

I took the turn at Hove Lagoon, immediately breathing was easier, the wind was at my back and the crowds were making more and more noise. After 10 miles/16k I looked at my watch to start working out how much time I had left to go sub 75 minutes. I figured I had 18 minutes to make it, so if I could maintain my pace or pick it up to closer to 3:30min/km I’d be home and dry. I was soon passing the beach huts along the seafront, my legs were tired and I was just about holding it together.

It felt like deja vu as this was exactly how I felt running the same section in the Brighton Marathon. That day I managed to run 3:03 and qualify for the London Marathon through GFA (Good for Age), this time round I was closing in on qualifying for a championship entry. The final few kilometres seemed to last forever; I tried not to look at my watch too much and tried to focus on racing a couple of the runners nearby.

The final kilometre arrived. The support was awesome and then with 400m left I could see the clock, it had just ticked into the 1:14s. I sprinted through the line knowing I’d achieved my goal: London Marathon Championship entry. Job done!

I caught up with George (finished in just over 75 minutes, as part of a long run) and Dominic (71 minutes, well done mate!) and then went to the bag drop to get some warm clothes on. I met up with Alex who’d just crept under 1:30 and Lorna finished in 1:33:55, well inside her target of 1:35. Overall it was a great race for all of us.


We made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before going to Harry Ramsdens for fish and chips.

When you’ve been out in the cold for a couple of hours the hot shower and nice food is so rewarding. As we failed to win anything on Saturday we went to the pier to try our luck again. With the advice of the man running the tin can place, I threw my first bean bag like a dart knocking the bottom right can and subsequently flooring the rest of them, winner! I was handed minion Stevie which I rightfully (unwillingly) handed to Lorna.

After attempting to eat a couple of scoops of ice cream (so full from fish and chips) we picked up our bags from the hotel and made our way back to London.

It was a great little weekend in Brighton, over the next few weekends Lorna and I are in Colchester for the Essex 20 miler and Colchester Half. We then have Hampton Court Palace Half before winding down for Boston. I hope those of you that raced over the weekend got your times and enjoyed it. A massive shout has to go to James Poole for smashing Transgrancanaria 360 in 72 hours placing 8th. Well done to the Advent Running collective for finishing various transgrancanaria races as well as everyone completing the Tokyo Marathon. I’ve seen some great results posted!

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Fourth cross-country fixture: maracas & mud 

On Saturday the 11th of February I took part in the fourth and final Surrey XC League fixture of the season with the Advent Running team. Before heading to Lloyd Park to run our 8k race some of us joined the girls at Happy Valley Park to encourage them around what was a tough course, not helped by the snow. Lorna and I met up with most of the girls at London Bridge to get the train to Coulsdon South or as Ben Rajan aptly named it Coldsdon South. We arrived in plenty of time which was good as we still had a bit of a trek to get to the start area and then to the nearest car park/toilets. As I normally run in the same races as Lorna it’s not very often I get to support her, however when I have cheered it’s been great fun. It was nice for some of us to be able to repay the favour as lots of the girls cheered us on at Clapham Common, Epsom Downs and Cranford Park.

I always find cross-country days funny; the first few hours seem to drag on but once you’ve started travelling to the race and met up with the group/team time disappears. The girls sorted their race vests & numbers before doing a quick warm up. With just a couple of minutes to go they shed their warm layers and headed for the start line.

Before we knew it they were charging off at what I would describe as “It’s so bloody cold, let’s get this done” pace. Normally when I’m watching races/supporting I feel left out and want to be taking part, not this time. I was more than happy to be in warm clothes, shouting useless words of support and shaking some maracas.

Photo courtesy of Abi Williams @afloralcrown

We positioned ourselves near a slippery chicane in a bid to get good photos and give the girls a lift before they zoomed down the hill into the second lap.

The girls ran really well in what were horrible conditions, I don’t think they could believe their luck with the bad weather. After their third fixture they all said the conditions were “brutal” and “really muddy and hilly” but apparently this course was a lot tougher due to the long hills and ploughed fields.

As the men’s race started at 2pm we had to depart after cheering the girls around one lap. We opted to jog to the train station to loosen our legs up. With the large snowflakes falling on our faces it felt like we were on some sort of arctic expedition, far from it really. We jumped on the tram from East Croydon to Lloyd Park before sorting our race numbers and vests, using a couple of cars for a bag drop (thanks Matt and Sarah). Claudia and some of the other girls arrived before the start so they showed us where the hilliest and muddiest parts of the course were. It’s always good to do a bit of a recce so you can roughly work out how to pace yourself. With 5 minutes until the start I stripped down to race vest and split shorts and did a few strides to try and keep warm. Luckily the weather was much clearer in Lloyd Park than in “Happy” Valley Park, there was no snow to be seen. As we walked to the start line I was really excited to get going but at the same time I was a little sad as it was the last fixture of the season. Similarly to the third fixture I positioned myself near the front alongside Martin Harris with the rest of the AR team just behind us. After a short announcement from the organisers we were on our way.

The first kilometre was relatively flat resulting in a split of 3:33. Over the four fixtures I’ve found it interesting learning how to pace the races, trying to take the mud and hills into consideration. The pace felt fast for the first couple of kilometres but I was feeling good and I’d decided I would get the first lap done then either ease off if need be or push on. Unfortunately after about a kilometre and a half one of my shoe laces came undone, rookie. I mustn’t have tied it tight enough due to having freezing cold hands. I was in two minds whether to stop and attempt to tie it back up or chance it and hope my shoe wouldn’t come off in the mud. I opted for the latter having weighed up the pros and cons, I figured I’d probably struggle to tie it up again giving my hands felt like icicles and the laces were covered in mud. It would’ve been like taking on a challenge in the cube. Luckily the next few kilometres went by quickly a) because I was thinking about my laces and b) I was chasing Martin down.

Photos courtesy of Claudi @claudi8s & Lorna @lorns_runs

The first lap went by pretty quickly; it definitely helped having the AR lot making a racket (I mean playing their musical instruments to an incredible standard) and cheering the team on. I closed the gap on Martin as we entered the second lap; we were side by side for a kilometre or so. Then came the short sharp muddy climb that we had recced, I think we both knew if one of us could push on after the climb that would be it as the rest of the course was relatively flat.

We both dug deep to get to the top of the hill, my legs were surprisingly feeling ok so I got back onto a quick pace to open up a gap and push on. There was no looking back; I started to think about catching two of the other runners to put myself in with the chance of finishing top of the individual standings in the league. They were a couple of hundred metres ahead of me so they were a good target to chase for the remainder of the race. For a kilometre or so I maintained the gap knowing that within the last 1,000m or so there was a downhill stretch into the finish. Having some energy left in the tank I started upping my pace, I opened up my stride.

After getting through muddy sections and up sharp hills it was great to be on the home straight and to let fly. I closed the gap on the two runners but unfortunately couldn’t quite catch them.

I crossed the finish line in 5th place (2nd in Division 4) in 29:41.


Martin finished in 7th (3rd in Division 4) claiming the top spot in the individual standings. If you’re reading this well done mate you were so strong and super consistent throughout the season, it’s been great fun racing with you. The whole team smashed it again!

Division 4 champions!

Team results


Our 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

7th: James Poole

11th: Ben Rajan

14th: Adam Lennox

15th James Brewster

22nd: Rory Campbell

30th: Matt Hanson

32nd: Robin Davies

Here’s how the girls got on:

Team results


Our 10 scorers

12th: Claudia Schroegel (ADV A)

19th: Svenja Espenhahn (ADV A)

21st: Melanie McKay (ADV A)

23rd: Alice Milne (ADV A)

28th: Lorna Elliott (ADV A)

36th: Sarah McCarthy (ADV B)

62nd: Julia Mitchelmore (ADV B)

71st: Emma Finch (ADV B)

78th: Nikki Rees (ADV B)

80th: Claire Weustenraed (ADV B)

I’ve really enjoyed the cross-country races with the Advent Running team; I can’t wait for next season. A massive thank you has to go to James and Claudia for organising everything. It has been great to see everyone enjoying themselves racing around on the mud.

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