On Sunday 2nd February I took part in the Great Bentley Half Marathon for the first time. Lorna and I signed up to the race because her brother Alex had enjoyed it in 2019 achieving a personal best. As the race is local to Colchester, where Lorna’s parents live, it was easy to get to and we thought it would be good timing ahead of the Barcelona Marathon on the 15th of March.
I travelled back to Colchester on Saturday evening after work. We carb loaded on pizza and chips and put our feet up watching a film before getting an early night. Having not raced for a while I was really looking forward to it. Over the last few months I have been following a training plan as part of the Fast Running “Performance Project Spring 2020”. The plan is put together by Tom Craggs and Robbie Britton and so far has included quite a lot of fartlek, lactate threshold/tempo and easy long runs. I have definitely started to realise the benefits of running at closer to 5k/10k pace more regularly and subsequently the easier slower runs are feeling more comfortable week on week.
Leading into the race I was looking forward to seeing what sort of shape I was in. However I was also aware that the following weeks training included some tough sessions that would be a struggle if I emptied the tank in the race. I decided I was going to run at around goal marathon pace and practice my nutrition strategy.
Obligatory kit pic
Arriving at the Village Hall I felt good, I’d slept well and my legs were feeling relatively fresh having rested on Saturday. Number pick up and bag drop was straightforward and then I ran an easy 2k with Alex to get the legs moving. It felt like the race start came around really quickly. I think I was quite relaxed because I wasn’t aiming for a PB. We listened to the quick race briefing while positioning ourselves on the start line and then we were off as the clock struck 10:30am.
Everyone bolted from the line but I tried to hold myself back and settle into a rhythm around goal marathon pace. I was aiming for around 4 min/km pace but my first few kilometres were closer to 3:50. The course was really flat so I felt comfortable holding that pace for the first 6k or so. I tried to resist the temptation to race but with my legs feeling good I decided to push on and see what time I could do. In the car on the way to the race Lorna predicted this would happen!
At the half waypoint I picked up the pace nearer to 3:25 min/km for the next 5k. I thought if I could hold that pace for a while I could get closer to a finishing time around 75 minutes. As I reached 10 miles a lot of the course was taking us into a headwind. Due to my “alternative” pacing I was moving through the field but was running a lot of the race on my own.
I caught up with a little group and decided to ease up and tuck in with them for a couple of kilometres. As I was tiring, before every corner I was thinking, “please let the wind be behind us when we get round there” but unfortunately the majority of the last 5/10k was into the wind.
Having battled the wind I knew early on I wasn’t going to get that close to 75 minutes but in the conditions I was happy to cross the line in 1:16:19 in 12th position. On one hand I was thinking “these sessions in the week are going to be brutal” but on the other hand I thought, “I guess I’m in decent shape at this point in marathon training and once I recover I’ll feel stronger”. I was excited to see how Lorna, Alex, Rob, Smithy and Frosty had got on. Lorna’s dad and sister made it to the finish to cheer everyone on; we stood on the village green along the finishing straight which was uphill, on grass and into wind… just what you need at the end of a gruelling half marathon. Despite the tough conditions everyone ran really well and were pleased with their times.
Overall the Great Bentley Half was an excellent race. It was really well organised and is a quick course, I guess that’s why it’s so popular with all the local clubs. If you want to take part you’ll have to sign up as soon as registration opens, it fills up quick! I hope to take part again next year.
As marathon training ramps up over the next few weeks the key will be staying consistent and prioritising the sessions and long runs. Some of us are taking part in the Cancer Research London Winter Run on Sunday, which should be fun. Fingers crossed it wont be too windy!
Hope your training and racing is going well.