Tag Archives: race report

Great Bentley Half Marathon 2020

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.

Steve

Lucerne Swiss City Marathon 2019

Over the last few years Lorna and I have travelled with friends to various European cities to take part in races. This year we opted for Lucerne in Switzerland because it offered a half and full marathon, the course looked scenic on the flyers and we were guaranteed great food and chocolate after the race. I signed up to the marathon while Lorna, Alex, Rob, Ray and Robbie decided to go for the half.

We flew into Zurich early on Saturday morning before catching a train to Lucerne. Lorna had found a lovely apartment not far from the train station, race expo and start. Having dropped our bags we headed to the expo at Hotel Schweizerhof.

Collecting our numbers was easy as there weren’t any queues, so we could head straight to the pasta party to continue the carb loading.

As the sun was shining we picked up an ice cream before taking some photos and heading out on the lake on a pedalo. Lorna and I sensibly saved our legs and let Emma and Ray do the hard work. For dinner we decided to play it safe and have some pasta and pizza from the local supermarket. Without a TV in the apartment we played cards in the evening to relax before getting an early night.

The race started at 9am so we woke up at 7am to shower, have breakfast and sort our race kit. I was feeling really relaxed about the race. Since the London Marathon in April I hadn’t ran/trained much so I planned to run the first half with Lorna aiming for around 1:35 and then see how I felt for the second lap. The conditions were perfect, the sun was shining again and it was cool as we walked towards the start. As the apartment wasn’t far from the finish we didn’t have to drop bags so we could get straight to the start line. We wished everyone good luck and positioned ourselves near the 1:35 pacer. Alex was hoping to finish in a similar time so we started together.

One thing I love about smaller marathons (in comparison to London & Boston etc) is that you don’t have to stress about bag drop and waiting around for ages. We got to the start line just 10 minutes before the gun and then we were off.

As the road was nice and wide we had lots of room to run in and settle on goal pace. We knew 4:30min/km pace was what we needed to hold to finish in 1:35. I let Lorna and Al run slightly ahead of me to dictate the pace they felt comfortable at. This was slightly inside goal pace but not too fast to be worried about. It’s pretty normal with fresh tapered legs and the adrenaline of starting a race to bank a few seconds through the first 5k or so. There were a couple of hills towards the end of the opening 10k which levelled out our average pace to be pretty much spot on.

Running alongside the lake the views of the surrounding mountains were incredible. Alex joked that he was glad he only had to run the hills once but I was thinking “I don’t mind two laps with views like this”. Of course I knew it would be a tough second half having not trained much and running it on my own but I was feeling good and looking forward to the challenge. After 11k or so Lorna was feeling good so we picked up the pace while Al eased off a bit.

The second half of the loop weaving through the city was fun and we kept pushing. The kilometres passed really quickly and we were on the long home stretch before we knew it, Lorna said “it feels like we were only just walking down here to the start”. I could tell she was digging deep as we neared the marathon turnaround point but I was so proud of her for working hard throughout the whole race and crossing the line in 1:34. I really wanted to carry on running with her through the finish line but with 800m to go I took the u-turn to start my second lap.

It felt really strange to have been running with Lorna to help with her race to then be focused on seeing what time I could achieve. Surprisingly my legs felt good so I decided to see if I could get as close to 3 hours as possible. I knew I’d have to average around 4min/km pace through the second half so picked it up and got into a rhythm. The roads were really quiet so I could focus and stick to the racing line. Despite wanting to regularly check I was on the correct pace I kept my head up to enjoy the mountain views again.

I felt relieved to get through the hilly part of the course with the legs still feeling ok. As it was getting hotter I took on water at every aid station and stuck to my nutrition plan, taking a Maurten gel every 7k. This worked well in both the Seville & London Marathons earlier in the year. Making my way back through the city centre I was still holding around 4min/km pace. The crowd support was awesome and there were lots of bands dotted along the course playing great music.

I knew the last couple of kilometres along the lake would be tough but I kept pushing as I was going to clock over the marathon distance on my watch and had to account for this. As I neared the finish Alex, Robbie, Ray and Rob cheered me on as they were walking back towards the apartment. Rob shouted “run faster!” but I was thinking “if I try to run any faster my hamstrings will go”. I held it together and eventually the finish gantry came into view. The clock was ticking ever closer to 3:00:00. I broke into one of those sort of sprint shuffles and crossed the line with the clock reading 3:00:04. Luckily we hadn’t crossed the start line bang on 9am so my official time was 2:59:25… phew! Another sub 3 marathon in the bag. Considering the lack of training throughout the summer I thought I would have to settle for nearer 3:10-3:15 so I was really happy.

Everyone else enjoyed the scenic route and ran well. Robbie clocked another sub 1:30 half, Al finished in 1:38, Rob finished under 1:45 and Ray crossed the line in 1:48. Overall an excellent and very successful race.

Now the legs are recovering we’ve all been thinking about future races. Lorna, Al, Robbie and I are all taking part in the Barcelona Marathon in March so after a couple of easy weeks the mileage will creep back up in a bid to go into 2020 in good shape.

Now that I am back in London, working for adidas in the flagship store on Oxford Street, I hope to catch up and run with a lot of you soon.

Steve

Ruby Run Half Marathon 2019

On Sunday 9th June I took part in the Ruby Run Half Marathon for the fourth time. I first raced between Holsworthy and Hatherleigh in 2011, running it alongside my uncle. That year we crossed the finish line in 46th and 47th positions in a time of 1:45:29. I travelled down to Devon with my sister Sarah and her boyfriend Joe to spend time with family. As I had ran the Stour Valley Marathon the previous weekend, I wasn’t too sure if my legs would be up for racing but after a few shakeout runs during the week they seemed to have recovered well from the hilly, trail route. My uncle was taking part again, cousin Tilly was racing in a relay team and my mum and sister opted to walk it (starting earlier at 8am) in training for a marathon walk later in the year. 

After catching up with family throughout Saturday I nipped out for an easy 5k to keep the legs ticking over. I ran an out and back route; on the way out my legs felt good, then when I turned around, I realised the wind was behind me and it was gradually downhill. I had my fingers crossed for nice weather for the race. We carb loaded up on pasta and bread before watching a film to chill out and getting an early night.

Iffley Road vest, Suunto watch, adidas split shorts, Stance socks, Runderwear & adidas adios

With the race not starting until 10:30 I had a decent lie in. I woke up around 8am to have some breakfast and get kit ready. As my sister’s boyfriend Joe dropped her and my mum in town for the walk, he picked up my number, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

I met up with my Uncle Andrew, Auntie Hannah, Eliza & Tilly outside the memorial hall before we all walked down the road to the start point. As there were some road works the route had been changed slightly so we started halfway up Whimble Hill. We were very relieved we weren’t starting at the bottom, it’s steep! I was wondering if I would bump into any old football teammates or school friends. Through Strava I had seen that George Butler was running a fair amount, it was good to catch up with him before the race. I also saw friend Paul Piper on the start line and knew he’d be flying off into the distance having ran sub 2:30 for the marathon.

The pre-race briefing was done, we jumped off the verge onto the road and we were sent on our way. As I remembered the route being relatively hilly, I started at between half marathon and marathon pace. I figured I could either pick up the pace a little if the legs felt strong or ease back if they started tightening up. Having seen the previous years results I knew there wouldn’t be too many runners around the pace I wanted to hold but luckily there was a runner called Jim to run with/race. As I expected Paul opened a big gap early on and I knew we wouldn’t see him again.

My goal became sticking with Jim for as long as possible and seeing if I could finish second. I wasn’t too worried about the finishing time as I knew I wouldn’t finish anywhere near my personal best. It was good fun/refreshing to not worry about the clock but stick to Jim’s heels. I felt bad because he was pulling me along, but I didn’t really have it in the legs to get in front of him and push it anymore than we were. 

Throughout the race I was cheered on by my Auntie Hannah, cousin Eliza, stepsisters Nic and Kelly and their children Caleb and Kensa. The route change at the start also meant I got to run past my gran and grandads house and they came out to wave at me. This was nice because they’d never seen me in a race before. It was also great to be cheered on by old colleagues and people from Holsworthy Football Club etc. I felt relatively comfortable throughout most of the run. However, there is one long steep hill around 8 miles and that cost Jim and me a minute or so. After that climb I knew it was relatively flat, so I got back into a good rhythm. As we neared the final 5km I was starting to think about when I was going to make a move past Jim. I tried to recall the route from previous years and then remembered that the last kilometre is quick downhill into Hatherleigh. I could tell Jim was tiring so when my watch showed 20k I made a burst and opened the legs up down the road to the hall.

It was great to be cheered on by my family at the roundabout just before the finish. I mustered a sprint to cross the line in second place in 1:18:53. 

I congratulated Paul (1st in 1:13) and Jim (3rd in 1:19:13) on their runs before joining my family to cheer George (1:29), Uncle Andrew (1:45) and Tilly to the finish.

My mum and sister had fun and completed the walk in around three and half hours, they are going to smash the marathon and I’m sure they will be running the Ruby Run Half next year. Overall the event was so much fun! Fingers crossed I can get back for it again next year. 

It seems like there were plenty of epic races at the weekend. Well done if you completed one of them, hope the recovery is going well. 

Steve