Tag Archives: pacing

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

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The London Marathon 2016

It’s been 8 days now since the big event; I think this has been long enough to reflect on what was an incredible day. I always wanted the London Marathon to be my first marathon, mainly because of seeing how great the atmosphere was on TV when I was younger. However, due to being unlucky (like millions of others) in the ballot I decided to take on the Manchester Marathon. It was 2014 when I ran my first marathon; those two years have absolutely flown by. Since then I’ve run 8 marathons, a couple on road and a few on trails.
My preparation for the race went well, last year I ran and raced consistently and over the first three months of the year I managed a decent mileage and went to track pretty much every week. As some of you may have read Cardiff Half Marathon went well, I was really happy to knock 3 minutes off my PB and qualify for Championship entry for London (and other races) next year. That was one of my A races, as such, and London was always going to be my marathon A race. The week after Cardiff I travelled to take part in the Paris Marathon with my girlfriend Lorna and friends. I was treating this as a B race and was there to support Lorna and try to help her get a PB, which we achieved in hot conditions.

With three weeks between Paris and London I needed to rest a lot so I barely ran. It was a combined rest post marathon and taper pre marathon. Over the last four or five weeks I feel like I’ve barely run at all despite doing three big races, I’m looking forward to being fully rested and being able to get bigger mileage and track in again. I felt like I tapered well, I only did the work run club and a couple of short runs the week leading up to the London Marathon. This included a shakeout run with Paula Radcliffe on the Saturday morning that was pretty cool.  

Photo courtesy of Alan Yan (@nikeengineer)

After the event Lorna and I headed across the city to meet my Mum, Stepdad, Sister, Auntie, Uncle and little (not so little anymore) cousin who were in the concrete jungle to support me in the marathon. We did a bit of sightseeing including taking a tour around the Tower of London, it was nice to catch up with the family and do something, it distracted me from the fact I was going to be running one of the biggest races/marathons in the world the following day. We had some really nice food and then I headed home to get an early night.

I woke up at 4:09am on Sunday morning, not ideal. With the race starting at 10 I was hoping to sleep until 6 or 7 at least but I just couldn’t get back to sleep. It was really frustrating but I just put on some music and tried to relax. Being such a big race with huge crowds and having family and friends around the course must’ve made me a bit stressed. I had some breakfast and then headed to Blackheath. On the way to my start area I gave Lorna a call, she was already near Tower Bridge helping set up KenYan Corner. She put friends on loudspeaker and it sounded like they were already having a blast (not literally, although we did wonder with the speaker set up! ha). 

 
I got to my start pen in plenty of time and dropped my bag off with ease; the organisation of the London Marathon is great. With a bit of time to kill I wandered around the green start area; it was the pen where the celebs and Guinness World Record attempt participants were situated. It’s insane what some people do to raise money for charity. Whilst waiting for the start I watched the big screen showing the wheelchair race and the elite women’s race. At the same time I tried to position myself in a sunny patch to keep warm.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and we were off! Being in the GFA start I was really close to the line. Having done 1:13 at the Cardiff Half I had set my target time for London at 2:45, I was hoping this would be achievable despite being 4 weeks after Cardiff and 3 weeks after Paris. I set off at around 4 min/km pace, but due to it being downhill for a fair bit of the first 5k or so I was running a bit quicker than target pace. I thought I would go with it and bank a few seconds each kilometre. I was ticking off the kilometres and was thinking about which points I would see family and friends and take gels. The crowds were amazing, I knew it was going to be busy and loud but to be running through London with crowds three deep was nuts.

At regular intervals I sipped on water and after 11k I took my first gel as planned. Things were going well, I’d gone through 10k in around 39 minutes that was a little quicker than planned but not too fast. I carried on at that pace and then at mile 9 I saw my family, it was great to have them out supporting me. Due to me living in London and them living in Devon I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. It was special to have them there to cheer me on, especially because it was with my Uncle Andrew that I ran my first race, the Ruby Run Half Marathon, with. They did really well to get to three points to see me, good work Sar (with the help of Lorna who’s done the London Marathon twice). Seeing my family gave me a real lift, I then knew within the next 4 miles I would get to see Lorna and friends at KenYan Corner. 

 Cheering looked fun! I’m hoping to do Boston Marathon next year and cheer at London. 

The approach to Tower Bridge is amazing, the crowds get bigger and bigger. Living in London and running over Tower Bridge regularly I had been imagining the experience of running over it in the middle of the road with thousands of people cheering me on for a long time. My expectations were surpassed; it was such a great moment. Just after crossing Tower Bridge I headed to the corner, not just any corner, KenYan Corner! It was great to see lots of friends out around the course, this was the best moment of the marathon for me. I was running by and they let off a confetti cannon. Due to it being KenYan corner I shouted Jambo Jambo!  

    Photos courtesy of Emily Hallett (@jemima_runs) & Michalis Vin Koutsoukos (@michalis_vin)

I had gone through halfway in 1:22, a little quicker than I had planned but I was hoping to hold on to this pace and finish in 2:45. Just after KenYan Corner (and Tower Bridge) James Poole came zooming up to run alongside me for a bit. He too was targeting 2:45 to get championship entry for London and entry to Berlin Marathon etc. After a short while I could tell he was feeling really good so he carried on whilst I settled into a pace closer to 4 minutes per kilometre. At this point I knew the second half was going to be a slog. My legs were already starting to feel tired and were seizing up slightly. When you are heading to Canary Wharf it is a little demoralising as you are A) heading in the opposite direction as the finish line and B) the crowds aren’t anywhere near as big as they have been around the rest of the course. I kept getting the kilometres done. I saw my family for the second time, this gave me another big lift and I was digging deep.

I had taken a gel at the 14-mile marker and was planning to take my 3rd and 4th gels at 20 and 23 miles. Due to feeling tired I decided to take my 3rd gel earlier, I took it at around the 18-mile point, leaving my 4th for 23 miles. I could feel my legs getting tighter and tighter, my stride getting shorter and shorter but I tried to keep going at 4 min/km pace. I passed KenYan Corner for the second time, it was great to see Lorna again, I was struggling but just wanted to get it done and still in a PB time. Along embankment the noise from the crowds was amazing. Due to being knackered I couldn’t really appreciate it fully, I just had to concentrate on putting one foot in front the other. I saw the Advent Running cheer crew, which was awesome. Whilst running along I heard “Steve Skinner!” It was Ciaran Saunders who I’d met through previously working in the London Marathon Store and because I work at The Running Works now. He caught up with me so we both ran together to the finish. As we approached Westminster my left hamstring tightened a lot. This was really frustrating as there was only 3k or so left to run but I had to stop briefly and stretch. I obviously knew at this point 2:45 was out the window but I still thought I could creep in under my PB of 2:54.

With my hamstring stretched quickly, Ciaran and I shuffled our way towards the finish on the Mall. At this point we were doing between 5 and 5:30 min/km, it was a bit of a sufferfest! We got to the finishing straight and could see the clock showing 2:53:.. We upped our pace ever so slightly to make sure we got in under our PBs. I finished in 2:54:08 shaving 48 seconds off my PB from the Thames Meander Marathon last year. I was so pleased to finish the race in a time under my PB and Sub 3 in my first marathon major. Overall I am a little disappointed to have not gone quicker but I’m really happy to have finished my first London Marathon and experience the incredible crowds. 

 Pretty decent haul in 4 weeks!

Thanks to all my family and friends for the support, you all made it such an amazing day for me!! 


Lorna (@lorns_runs) and I , thanks for the support!! 

Uncle Andrew, Auntie Hannah, my sister Sarah, me, cousin Tilly, Mum and Stepdad Steve 

I hope everyone else enjoyed the London Marathon and that you’re recovering well.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Colchester Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday 13th March I took part in the Colchester Half. I signed up because Lorna and her brothers, Alex and Rob, were taking part. Before heading to Essex I decided to do a “shakeout” parkrun on the Saturday morning. I’ve now learnt that I’m too competitive to do a parkrun as a shakeout. I went to my local parkrun, Mile End. I was planning to run it in around 20 minutes or so but that plan soon went out the window. Having done decent mileage in the week and the Essex 20 miler the previous weekend my legs were feeling pretty heavy but I set out at a quick pace and just decided to try and hold it. I managed to finish in a course PB time of 16:59 in second place (parkrun is NOT a race though!). Immediately after the parkrun I was feeling happy with myself as I’d achieved a good time but at the same time I was thinking “I’m going to pay for this in the half marathon tomorrow”.

After the parkrun I packed my stuff and headed for the train to Colchester. Once I arrived, Lorna, Rob and I went straight to Nandos, perfect for post run and carb-loading for the race ha. We then did a spot of shopping before heading back to Lorna’s parents’ house to chill before the big day. On Sunday we woke up at about 7 o’clock. The race started at 9am so we had a good amount of time to have breakfast and get to Colchester Community Stadium where the race would start and finish. Being their local half marathon Lorna, Alex and Rob knew the route and gave me an in depth description of what the course was like. When we did a shakeout run post Essex 20 on Tuesday Lorna showed me where the hills were so I knew what I was going to have to tackle. At breakfast Alex walked into the kitchen at about 7:30 in full race kit with his number pinned on. Lorna and I knew he was well and truly up for the race. Alex and Lorna have done lots of races together and finished pretty close together, this was another chance to renew their rivalry. Having been following Alex on Strava we knew he was in good shape and had been training hard, having done a casual 1:32 half marathon a couple of weeks ago and doing hill sprints with Robbie Smith etc.

With race numbers pinned on and timing chips on our trainers we headed to the stadium. We dropped off our bags and were ready to run. On the start line my legs were feeling a little heavy, probably due to running the hilly Essex 20 at close to marathon pace the previous Sunday, doing pretty big mileage in the week and pushing it a bit at parkrun. The weather was perfect, nice and cool and the sun was shining so the crowds were out in force. I headed to the start line and after a short wait we were off. Knowing that the first 4k or so was slightly downhill I set off at close to 3:30min/km pace. This was to counterbalance the pace I would be running up the hills. The first 3k went to plan clocking: 3:30, 3:31, 3:23.

After this there were a few hills to contend with so my pace dropped to between 3:40 and 3:50 for a few kilometres. Around 7k into the race whilst running up hill I struggled with a stitch but managed to hold a decent pace.

With 10k or so to go I caught up with a man running in a green club vest. He matched my pace so we had a quick chat about marathons we were training for. He said how he’d done London in 2:50 last year and he asked what races I had lined up. It was good to have someone to run with as the last 5k or so was down a really long straight road. We kept pushing each other on. Luckily Lorna’s parents’ house is on the long home stretch so I was cheered on by Bob (Lorna’s dad), Phil (her brother) and Lidia (Phils fiancée).

It was nice to have people around the course cheering, earlier on in the race I had ran passed Ray (Lorna’s sister, who works for the main sponsor of the race so was marshalling) and Robbie Smith, who I met when I went on the Colchester running club Winterton training weekend. With 2k to go myself and the club runner picked up our pace, he surged and went in front for a while then I did the same. With 1k to go I started to up the pace a little more and could tell he was tiring as he was breathing a bit heavier. I decided to try and open up a little gap and try and hold on. With 400m or so to go I thought I’d moved in front too early but I managed a small sprint finish to beat him by about 10 seconds. I finished in 7th place in 1:16:28. Considering I’d run the Essex 20 miler in 2:03 the previous Sunday, done decent mileage in the week and finished Mile End parkrun in 16:59 on Saturday I was really happy with that result. I nipped straight to the bag drop to pick up my stuff before cheering Team Elliott through the finish line. When I went to pick up my bag the volunteers all clapped me in. There wasn’t anyone else around so they probably thought I’d finished first ha. That was a nice moment; it’s amazing how much time volunteers give up to make events like Colchester Half happen. With my big puffer jacket on to keep warm I made my way to the finishing straight. I was faffing around with my bags etc not expecting to see anyone for a few minutes but then I looked up and there was Alex flying through the finish. I knew he wanted to beat Lorna and run about 1:30 but I didn’t know he was going to do 1:27. He smashed it.

A couple of minutes later and Lorna came through the finish. She finished in a new PB time of 1:31 and again having done the Essex 20 miler (5 minutes quicker than before) she tore it up. Really proud of her and looking forward to running the Paris Marathon together. We then cheered Rob on. He was aiming to run sub 1:50 but similarly to Al and Lorna he beat his goal time by a few minutes, he finished in 1:46 knocking a good couple minutes off his PB. On a pretty hilly course Team Elliott destroyed it.

 Alex was really humble about beating Lorna and smashing his PB haha


The bling

7th man and 7th lady!

After the race we cheered other runners in before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. It’s fair to say I treated myself:

The rest of the day we chilled out and then made our way back to London. This week I’m aiming to do decent mileage before having a week long taper for Cardiff Half, can’t wait for that race. Well done to everyone that ran and raced over the weekend, I’ve seen lots of great times posted on social media over the last few days.

See a lot of you soon

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

Old Deer Park Half Marathon 2016

It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote a blog post, mainly because I haven’t raced since the Trailscape Marathon in Ashurst on the 25th of January. Since then I’ve been running pretty high mileage weeks (for me) including long runs each weekend. I’ve also been going to track consistently and over the last few weeks James (co-founder of Advent Running) and I have done a few tempo runs on Thursdays. Overall I have felt like training has been going well. However, it is always hard to know what that training equates to in terms of race performances. Having done the Old Deer Park Half Marathon last year I decided to sign up again as it was a quick route and I thought it would be a good race to do to see what time I was capable of and build towards Cardiff Half and the London Marathon.
Another reason I signed up was that my girlfriend Lorna and a lot of friends would also be racing. We all pretty much had the same idea, some friends wanted to gauge fitness and others were gunning for PBs. Having not pushed it in a race recently I was really looking forward to getting out there and testing myself. After running 110k in the week leading up to the event I was unsure how much I could push and how my legs would feel but luckily they were good after a 10k shakeout run with Lorna on the Saturday.

I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning to head across London. I made it to Richmond in plenty of time and met Lorna, Jonny & Alan off the train. Everyone was feeling a little worse for wear. It seems like prime time for colds at the moment. We headed towards the race start and met up with Michalis in the car park opposite to drop bags and pin on race numbers etc, the usual pre-race stuff. We were all questioning ourselves as to why we run and why we don’t take up hobbies that can be done indoors in the warm. We even contemplated going for a little Sunday drive rather than running the half marathon! After a few made-up motivational quotes: “The quicker we run the quicker we’re done!” and “The wind is only as strong as it is in your mind!” we were all pumped up for the race.

We walked down to the start line where we met Dean who was just chilling. He seemed incredibly laid back considering we were about to race a half marathon. Near the start I also bumped into Spencer (part of the AR collective) and we had a quick catch up before the race began. Due to feeling good after the shakeout run on Saturday I looked up what pace I would need to run to do 1:20 or 1:17. It roughly works out to be 3:43min/km for 1:20, 3:38min/km for 1:17. Off the start line we were sent around a field, it was a little bit frustrating to just be running around through the long grass but luckily within a few hundred metres we were on solid ground and could settle into a good pace. After the lap around the field I was in fourth place just behind Jamal who runs at track with run fast. The two in front of us stormed off into the distance, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing either of them again in the race. I started running at close to 3:38min/km pace and decided I wanted to see if I could go close to 1:17 or beat my PB of 1:17:01 as I was feeling good. Considering the muddy and windy conditions I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to hold on to that pace but I knew I would get a good time even if I blew up a little and had to really suffer for the last few miles. It’s been a while since I’ve suffered in the latter part of a race and pushed it to that extent.

The first 10km or so went by pretty quickly because I was running with Jamal. However, after completing the first loop of the course he upped the pace and disappeared into the distance, I was still holding the pace around 3:38min/km but he was looking really strong and pushed on. With 10kms done I felt good knowing I just had to suffer for 11 more kilometres. I think going to track consistently and running around 3:30mins/km or quicker for the longer reps and doing 16k tempo runs at 4min/km with James has really helped. On the second loop I ended up passing a lot of runners on their first loop. This was good because for a lot of the first loop I was on my own and when you are pushing the pace it’s harder to be racing the clock rather than another runner. On the second loop I found the miles passed quicker, I think this was due to weaving passed runners and puddles along the river. However the last two kilometres of the race were hard. You turn right, back along the river, to head to the finish and I was on my own again. Thankfully it was just 2k to do and I started counting down the minutes, I kept telling myself “2k to go, that’s just over 7 minutes or so to suffer”. This is something that I have been doing when James and I have been doing our tempo runs; I find time is much easier to think about rather than distance. The minutes soon go by. I crossed the little bridge onto the grass, and was heading for the finish line. A few hundred metres to go and I could see the clock showed 1:15 something, this meant I’d run a PB. I finished in 1:16:10 knocking 51 seconds off my PB from Reading Half last year.  

Considering the windy and muddy conditions and not really tapering I’m chuffed with that result. Also considering I ran the same race last year in better conditions in 1:21 it bodes well for my A races coming up. 

 Massive well done to everyone else that took on the Old Deer Park Half, the conditions weren’t great out there but there were some great times posted. Also well done to everyone taking on races elsewhere like Hampton Court half, Wokingham half, the Run Through Olympic Park 5k/10k and Seville Marathon etc. I’ve seen so many awesome results posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Strava over the last few days.

I hope you had a good weekend whether you were racing or not. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Trailscape Marathon – Ashurst, South

On Saturday 23rd January I took part in the trailscape South marathon in Ashurst. Having done the previous two marathons in the series I was looking forward to getting back out on the trails. However, I was a little apprehensive because the first 3 weeks of the year I’ve been doing pretty big mileage (for me) as well as going to track and pushing the pace. I definitely approached the marathon as a training run and it was quite good to go into it relaxed not worrying about finishing time or positon.
With the race starting at 8:45 I woke up at 6am to head to James and Claudia’s. I was lucky enough to be asked to run as part of the AR (Advent Running/ar collective) trail team for the trailscape series and they’ve been kind enough to give me lifts to the races. After putting up the marquee and AR banner we had time to catch up with other members of the AR team and familiar trailscape faces from previous races.   

 The AR Trail Team (photo courtesy of Emma Sherwood @emmash32)

Jonny, Freya & me (Photo courtesy of Freya @fhotson)

Jonny & Freya, who run with a couple Nike run clubs and do long runs with me and a group of friends, were signed up to the marathon too which was good. We didn’t talk about goal times or anything but due to the fact we were all treating the race as a training run we ran together. Having done the last two trailscape races I learnt that the event is much more fun if you’ve got people to share the miles with. In the first event I ran a lot of the course with James and in the second race I made friends with an experienced marathoner. We settled into a good pace in the first few kilometres, the only problem was we ended up heading off course. I’m not 100% sure what happened but a small group of us missed a sign somewhere. All I know is James and Andy two fellow ARers were near the front! Haha After the slight detour we found ourselves back on course but behind a lot of other runners that went the right way. When doing tiring muddy trail marathons (that are generally longer than a marathon anyway) the last thing you need is to add distance.

The good thing about going the wrong way is that when moving through the field (pun intended) you get to see lots of other runners and have a quick chat. The miles went by really quickly, I’m not sure what me, Jonny & Freya were talking about half the time but we had lots of laughs.   

 Photo taken by Lucy @ljhoare

One thing we discussed was motivational/inspiring quotes. There was a hill to climb, only was it a hill!? We came up with the motivational saying “The hill is only as big as it is in your mind”. The marathon was a two lap route. This was good because we got to see other runners and high five; I have really enjoyed the trailscape races because all of the participants and organisers are so friendly. One of my favourite parts of the race were the aid stations, I described the event to Jonny and Freya as a long distance picnic. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Soreen, Hula Hoops, Jaffa Cakes and coke. 

 Why would you place a photographer just after an aid station!

We kept a pretty steady pace all the way round, we didn’t stop at the aid stations for long and only really walked the seriously muddy climb near the end of the route. We finished in around 4 hours and 10 minutes, Freya was 2nd female and me and Jonny finished in the top 15 or so.  

 

The medals are definitely worth the effort!

Once I finished I caught up with James, he finished 3rd. He was disappointed but he still achieved a great time especially considering the big mileage he has been doing and the tough conditions. Andy finished first in 3 hours and 20 minutes which is amazing on a course so muddy and undulating. I peeled off my muddy compression socks and got into clean warm clothes and then we cheered in a few runners and watched the presentations. It was great to see a lot of the AR trail team crossing the finish line, some of them were doing their first marathons and Hannah finished her first of twelve this year. After Freya collected her Buff for finishing second we headed back to London, we carried on the picnic in the car with pork pies (recommended by ultra-runner Holly Rush ha) crisps, and brownies/rocky roads. Overall a productive Saturday. My weekly mileage totalled 130k+ and therefore I rested on Sunday. My recovery rate is improving and I’m aiming to do a few more weeks of around 120k including track and do more speed work in February and March. I hope everyone had a great weekend and that your training is going well.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Follow me on Twitter &/or Instagram: @StephenSkinner6

Also follow: @adventrunning @ar_collective @trailscape

The Run Through Battersea Park 10k January 16th 2016

On Saturday I took part in my first race of the year. I signed up with a group of friends, mainly because we enjoyed the Run Through Battersea Park 5k near the end of 2015. Being in marathon training I’ve been doing relatively high mileage weeks and therefore I didn’t set a goal time and was definitely not aiming for a PB. In December I ran a lot, mainly because I was doing Advent Running and I wanted to get in good mileage which would equate to base fitness to start marathon training. On Saturday morning I woke up quite early to head across the city, I was really excited to be racing again. I got to Battersea Park in plenty of time so I collected my number with ease, the Run Through races are always well organised in regards to number collection, bag drop etc. I met with friends and went through the normal “How are you feeling? Are you aiming for a time?” pre-race chat. We did a little bit of a jog to warm up and headed to the start line.
Once we got to the start we all positioned ourselves according to our expected finish times. Myself and Jonny went near the front knowing we’d run about 37-38 minutes or so and that we’d finish quite near the front. I bumped into George Lloyd on the start line; he’d been in The Running Works on a couple of occasions. He was a speaker at our Beyond 26.2 (ultramarathon) running event with OMM and for a triathlon seminar. We had a quick catch up before the start but then we were off. A few runners went out in front and opened up a gap quickly. Myself and Jonny set off around 3:45 min/km pace. We held this pace for the majority of the race and this meant we overtook a few people on the third lap.
Having already run 90k+ throughout the week my legs were starting to feel a bit cranky on the third lap. Just after going through the finish area for the third time I could see George through the trees around a corner. He was probably about 400-500 metres in front of me and Jonny. I was in two minds as to whether to go for it and try and catch him or just hold the 3:45 min/km pace I was around. I took the corner where I’d seen George and decided to start upping it, even if I couldn’t catch him it would mean the race would be done quicker. Also I’m pretty competitive and like a challenge. As I kept pushing the pace I was closing the gap, I got onto the long home straight about 50-100m behind him and went up another gear to catch him. With 50m or so to go I was on his shoulder, he must’ve heard my footsteps as he turned around and said “Shit, Steve!” It was a funny moment. He upped his pace but because I was already sprinting I went passed and finished just a few seconds before him. 

After the race we had a chat and George let me know he got a 10k PB, I love it when people race each other and then that results in someone getting a personal best. If you’re reading this George, well done, especially considering the cold.

I really enjoy the Run Through Battersea Park races, they are perfect for getting PBs and testing your speed. Shortly after crossing the line Jonny came storming through, he smashed his 10k PB finishing in around 36:30. A lot of the group achieved personal bests; I think Mark knocked a bit of time off, being paced by Bart. Hanif, Michalis & Alice all finished strongly and in great times too. Lorna and Liv also did really well. Liv has recently started running due to living with Lorna, she took part in Advent Running and then Lorna signed her up for the 10k, her first race. They were aiming for around 46 minutes; Lorna’s chip time was 46:01 I think, pretty impressive pacing. They both looked as though they enjoyed the run as they flew over the finish line. It was cool to be there to cheer them in. 

 Another great Run Through medal added to the collection

Overall it was a great first race in 2016. Next up is the South trailscape marathon on Saturday; I’m looking forward to hitting the trails and racing with the Advent Running trail team again. I hope everyone had a good weekend whether you were racing or training.

See a lot of you soon