On Sunday 9th September I took part in the inaugural Colchester Stampede Half Marathon. Lorna and I had been meaning to take a trip to Colchester Zoo for a while and with her brother Rob racing we thought it would be a good opportunity to visit. Having fully recovered from SVP100 and Clacton Half I wanted to see what sort of shape I was in ahead of Munich Half on 14th October. I’ve done several Run Through races in the past so knew it would be well organised and that a few friends would be there.
In the lead up to the race I banked a couple of solid weeks training including tough track sessions running at quicker than half marathon pace. I also added a few longer runs around 16-20k into my week to improve my speed endurance. On the Friday before the race I ran 20k along the river in London with the first 10k easy and the second 10k around marathon pace. I didn’t run on the Saturday but Lorna, Rob, Sheilagh and I walked 8 miles around Alton Water with the dogs. In the evening Rob cooked chicken and sweet potato frittas to fuel us up and we got an early night as the race started at 9am.
Ahead of the race I was feeling really relaxed, I was looking forward to the challenge and seeing how my body would cope with pushing the pace. As I struggled to hold a decent pace in the Clacton Half I was wondering if I’d have to take it easy and settle for getting around at near marathon pace. However, I decided “there’s nothing to lose, I may as well set out around half marathon PB pace and see how it goes”. I figured the worst-case scenario was that I would have to ease up. This would still mean I’d put in a good effort and feel stronger after the race building towards Munich.
Speaking to race organiser Matt Wood before the start he let me know that the course was quick but undulating with a sharp hill near the end. Taking the start line I had a good catch up with Ken Hoye, then some elephants were brought into their enclosures before we started. The race began promptly at 9am and we weaved through the zoo for the first 300m or so. Sticking to my plan of pushing the pace I clocked an opening kilometre of 3:18, chasing two runners in front. A little further down the road the leader dropped out, my chances of competing for the win increased. I settled into a pace closer to my half marathon PB and got around the first (small) loop clocking 17:05 for the first 5k. Despite this being only 45 seconds slower than my 5k PB the legs felt good and I was enjoying the route. Having grown up in Devon I used to love running around the hilly country lanes.
Heading into the first of two longer loops I was closing the gap on the leader. As I was aiming to run as close to 75 minutes as possible I kept an eye on my watch to check I was around 3:30min/km pace. Some kilometres were a little quicker when running downhill. I let the legs do the work, it felt like I was getting a little rest before working harder into the wind or on the gradual inclines.
Thumbs up for the Iffley Road Lancaster Striped Track White Vest
I moved to the front of the race part way through the loop and ran through 10k in 34:26, again only a few seconds over my PB for that distance but I was feeling strong. I think the combination of doing regular track sessions and finishing SVP100k has improved both my speed and endurance.
Over the last lap I slowed a little as my legs began to tire. However, I knew I’d banked time in the first half of the race, so I could ease up and still finish around 75 minutes. Running passed people on their first long loop I received lots of shouts of encouragement which was great. It really helped distract me from the fact my legs were tightening. I made it into the final kilometre and tackled the hill before entering the zoo. Weaving by the animal enclosures I lost a few more seconds but crossed the line in 75:20.
I cheered Lorna and Rob through the finish then we spent the day looking around the zoo. All in all, it was a great day in Colchester. I will be back to try and improve my course record (disclaimer: this was the inaugural event) if it fits in the race calendar next year. The Run Through team organised another great event.
On Saturday 11th August I took part in the Stour Valley Path 100k. I signed up to the race for a number of reasons: a few friends had taken part in previous years and recommended it, the finish isn’t far from my girlfriend Lorna’s parent’s house and I wanted to get some strength/endurance in the legs ahead of training for Munich Half Marathon. I know it’s a little different to run 100k in the build up to a quick half but I thought it would be a fun challenge to tackle.
In the lead up to race day I was excited but equally nervous. I questioned my decision to sign up on numerous occasions; I knew I wasn’t going into the race in great shape and was worried I may not be able to cross the finish line. On the other hand my motivation was to run as far as possible and enjoy a long day on the trails. I gathered my kit on the Thursday evening to give myself the chance of picking something up on the Friday had I forgotten anything.
Bag/vest: Salomon S/Lab Adv Skin 3 12L with two 500ml soft flasks. Perfect size for kit and super comfortable.
T-shirt: Iffley Road Cambrian Striped T-Shirt. I often wear Iffley Road tees on long runs because they are really soft, breathable and lightweight.
Shorts: Iffley Road Pembroke 5″ Shorts.
Socks: I opted for a pair of Stance Crew socks in the end as the route took us through long grass.
Running Cap: Iffley Road Putney Running Cap. Generous peak, really lightweight and very breathable.
Watch: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Good battery life and easy to use for navigation.
Shoes: Salomon S/Lab Ultra. Great amount of cushioning and good grip on dry hard packed trails. Running 100k you would expect blisters and/or black toe nails but I had no issues.
The majority of the kit I took were favourites that I use on a regular basis. Initially I was concerned about wearing the Salomon S/Lab Ultra shoes as I had only ran in them a couple of times. I chose to wear them over the S/Lab Sense 6 because I lacked cushioning when I completed Race to The Stones in 2015. The other main change from RTTS was taking a variety of food and asking Lorna to bring me various sweet and savoury options at aid stations. I learnt that crisps and granola bars are only good for so long.
The night before the race Lorna and I stayed at her parents. On arrival we were greeted with pasta bake and steamed syrup pudding for dessert, Sheilagh knows my favourites. I double checked my bag, laid kit out ready for the morning and got an early night. The alarm clock going off at 4am was a rude awakening but I slept well. As Lorna’s brother Alex was going out on his bike he arrived early allowing plenty of time to get to the bus pick up near the finish point. It was good to speak to a number of runners waiting for the bus, one of them was aiming to compete for the win/course record and others were hoping to beat the cut off time. Arriving in Newmarket around 6am the conditions were looking good. I showed the volunteers I had the correct mandatory kit and was given my number; this was all very straight forward with less than 200 runners taking part. I caught up with James Poole, Mark Parry and Matthew Hanson before the race briefing and we all made our way up the road to the start.
As the start line was a little walk up the road only a handful of participants had made it for 7am but the organisers were happy for it to be a rolling start. It took most of us by surprise but I don’t think anybody minded, we all knew we’d be running for a fair few hours so what difference would a matter of seconds make. It’s a strange feeling starting an ultra, there’s still that adrenaline rush but everyone knows to take it easy and settle into a comfortable pace. Running up the road I was joined by Mel and Matt, having not seen them for a while it was great to have a proper catch up. Mel completed the 100k in 2017 whilst Matt was taking part in his first 100k. We settled into a good pace of around 7min/km and went through checkpoint one quickly only topping up soft flasks. Over the first 20k or so we were bunched up with quite a few runners, it was good to have a chat with some of them to hear about their racing/training. Unfortunately between the first two checkpoints Mel wasn’t feeling it so decided to join the cheer crew. At this point it was quite hot and my legs were already starting to ache a little due to the uneven terrain.
Matt and I ran into the second aid station together and grabbed some food. It was great to see Lorna, her brother Rob and friend Sasha, they all helped me fill up my flasks and I took some jam sandwiches to eat whilst walking out onto the course.
Just after the second aid station Matt decided to ease off the pace a little. As I was feeling good at this point I carried on, hoping at some point later in the race we’d be able to run a few more miles together. There was 10 miles between Clare and Long Melford, as I was on my own I checked my watch frequently to make sure I was following the blue line but also took the time to look around. Having lived in London for the last few years I really enjoy getting out onto trails and exploring somewhere new. When I ran RTTS in 2015 my right hamstring tightened just 18 miles in and I shuffled my way to the finish. I made sure to top up my soft flasks with water and SIS electrolyte tabs at every aid station.
The aid stations were excellent, they always had sweet and savoury options so I could mix it up depending on what I was craving. As there was roughly 10 miles between each of them it broke the challenge down into manageable chunks. I always felt energised leaving each aid station having eaten and seen my cheer crew. Lorna’s mum and dad walked the dogs to support me at Long Melford (at 33 miles) which was nice as I was struggling in the heat. As James Poole had ran the North Downs Way 100 miler the week before he decided to call it a day at checkpoint 3. With many Advent Runners taking part in the 100 or 50k he popped up at every aid station offering support and checking everyone was ok.
The 50k started in the afternoon and took runners along the second half of the 100k route. It was great to see friendly faces on the trail having fun, I was worried that in the latter stages of the race I would really struggle running on my own and the fatigue would take it’s toll. After my RTTS experience I was glad to still be running, albeit it slowly, 75k into the race. However, due to the undulating course my hamstrings tightened and I had to stop and stretch briefly. I knew from this point it would be a tough 25k to the finish but kept plodding away.
The food on offer at the last few aid stations was excellent and they were a lot busier with 50k and 100k runners passing through. I enjoyed salty potatoes, watermelon and flat coke to fuel the final stretch. Over the last 10k I was incredibly tired, every kilometre dragged and I couldn’t wait to reach the finish. It was frustrating wanting to run faster and get it done but my legs were so tight I could only manage a shuffle. I focused on ticking off each kilometre. Lorna, Rob, Sheilagh and Rita walked the dogs to cheer me on in the latter stages and this really picked me up.
Photo courtesy of Lenny Martin (@lennygoesoutside)
Luckily over the last few kilometres I had two runners alongside to work together. We were all so tired we didn’t speak much but just having company distracted me from how exhausted my legs were. It was a great feeling passing the 100k point and knowing I just had 2k to go. After nearly 12 and a half hours of running I finally made it to the finish at Brantham Leisure Centre
Photo courtesy of Rob Elliott (@rob_elliott_1991)
I shuffled over the line to be given my medal by Lorna, it was great to see her and friends. I was so relieved to finish the race in one piece.
Overall it was a great day out on the trails. I was really impressed with the organisation and volunteers, so much so that I will probably return next year to race either the 100k or 50k. Straight after finishing I thought about what I would do differently and how I could improve my performance, I learnt a lot taking part in my second 100k. As there is only two months to go until the Munich Half Marathon I will now focus on sharpening up with track and tempo sessions. It will be interesting to see what sort of shape I can get into off the back of the ultra.
A massive thank you to race organiser Matthew Hearne and his team/volunteers that made the day so enjoyable and congratulations to those of you that took part. I hope the recovery is going well. See some of you again next year!
On Sunday the 25th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. It was the third time I have ran the race; mainly because it is Lorna’s home half marathon. Having only raced in a RunThrough 5k in January and the Cancer Research Winter 10k I wanted to push myself and see what shape I was in ahead of the London Marathon. I lowered my mileage in the week leading up to the race, pacing The Running Works Run Club and run commuting at a steady pace.
Last year Lorna’s brother Rob and I opted for an easy 5k on the Saturday to shake our legs out. As it worked well we decided to do the same again. I was really looking forward to race day but for some reason I doubted whether I could run a good time or be able to work hard when it got tough in the final few kilometres (which it always does).
With the race starting at 9am we woke up around 7 o’clock to have breakfast and get our race kit ready. I slept well and my legs felt good. Before the Colchester Half last year I’d ran Essex 20 the previous weekend and raced a lot so my legs were tired. Therefore I was aiming to beat my time of 1:14:58. We all headed to Colchester Community Stadium to drop our bags and get on the start line.
Photo courtesy of gazette news, Essex County Standard.
Having finished 2nd in 2017 I positioned myself near the front. Remembering the first 4k or so is slightly downhill I decided to push the pace early on and get into a good rhythm.
Two runners flew off the start and were into the distance but I had a couple of club runners for company in the opening kilometres. Running up the hill and onto the high street the crowds were out in force.
Approaching Ipswich Road, which is a gradual uphill, I settled into a good pace. I calculated I needed to hold around 3:30min/km to finish in under 75 minutes. Despite running on my own the kilometres went quickly and I was soon winding my way through the industrial estate. It was a shame not having anyone to race but I was focused on holding my pace and bagging a time to qualify for a championship start in the London Marathon for the next few years.
Running along Langham Lane and Dedham Road it was really quiet. It felt strange running in a race and for there to be no one around. I turned onto Straight Road which lasts for a good 4 to 5 kilometres. I knew this was where I needed to “dig deep” / “go to the well”. The long straight road is quite demoralising but luckily for me Lornas parents live a mile or so from the finish so I always look forward to cheers from her family and know I haven’t got long left from there.
Photo courtesy of Liam Winters Photography.
Nearing the football stadium I was keeping a close eye on my watch, as I was still holding 3:30min/km on average I knew I was going to make it in under 75 minutes. I mustered a sprint finish to cross the line in 74:05 in 3rd place.
I congratulated the winner and runner up before grabbing my bag to watch Lorna, Alex, Rob and Smithy finish. They all ran really well; Lorna clocked her second fastest half marathon time in 1:31 and Rob got a personal best.
Overall it was another great race. No doubt I will be back in 2019 to try and go quicker again.
I have been part of Team Iffley for over a year now and think it is about time I explained how and why I partner with Iffley Road as well as letting you know about my favourite pieces of kit.
I first became aware of Iffley Road back in 2015, I was attending an event celebrating the first birthday of Like the Wind Magazine and got talking to founders Claire & Bill. As I was in the middle of training for my first marathon I asked them for advice on balancing speed sessions and long runs. They were both really helpful and I could tell how passionate they were about running straight away. Subsequently Claire emailed me a few book recommendations that have been great. Following the event I started following Iffley Road on social media and kept a close eye on what kit they were releasing. I was really impressed with the brand image and the functionality of the apparel.
I love their “Icons” video: https://youtu.be/Z5Tuats6HtU
My opportunity to work with the brand arose when they were looking for ambassadors through the Freestak platform. I applied straight away and was lucky that Claire and Bill liked my ideas and thought I would work well in the team. Since then I have written a number of pieces, sketched some of my favourite London landscapes and worn their kit for hundreds of miles in training and racing.
I am really excited to work with Iffley Road in 2018. Team Iffley includes Ben Fogle, James Beckinsale, Tom Wheatley & Sam Pearce.
My favourite Iffley Road kit
Marlow Running Jacket Night Sky Orange
I practically live in my Marlow jacket. It is really lightweight for a water proof jacket and the sizeable back pocket is perfect for cards, keys and phone. The elasticated cuffs and hem ensure it fits nicely, there is a good amount of room for swinging your arms and there isn’t too much excess material which can be typical of other waterproof jackets.
Hove Running Top Night Sky
I have been wearing the Hove long sleeve top for the last few months and it fast became one of my favourite pieces of Iffley apparel. It is the perfect top for cooler weather and is incredibly functional thanks to the tri-stripe hanging loop and in-seam pocket for a card and keys.
Cambrian Chevron Running T-Shirt Vivo Red
Last year Iffley Road designed kit for the Vivo elite race team. As it was popular the two brands have created a limited edition range perfect for chasing PBs. I have raced a lot in my Cambrian Chevron T-Shirt; it is really lightweight, soft and breathable. As with the Hove Running Top it features an in-seam pocket so it is ideal for long training runs.
Lancaster Striped Running Vest Track White Blue
The Lancaster Vest is great in hot weather. I wore mine on holiday in Barcelona last year when it was 30 degrees and it wicked well and dried quickly. I have found that all my Iffley tops dry really quickly which is excellent.
Thompson 6” Running Shorts
Whenever I’m running and just need a card and keys I always opt for my Thompson Shorts. They are really comfortable and feature side pockets as well as a zipped inner pocket. As they are relatively short I often wear them to race in.
Admittedly Iffley Road running wear is often a little more expensive than other brands. However, having ran in most of their range I think it is good value as it is durable, functional and more often than not becomes a favourite that you will wear on a regular basis. Personally I see running kit as a good investment, the more you can run in comfort the better.
I hope you have found this piece insightful. If you would like any specific information about any of the Iffley kit please don’t hesitate to comment or write to me on Twitter or Instagram (@SteveSkinner_).
On Saturday 6th January I took part in the Run Through Battersea Park 5k. I signed up in December because I knew it would be a good opportunity to see what sort of shape I was in ahead of marathon training. Having banked some consistent mileage over the 5-6 weeks leading up to Christmas I was confident of clocking a time close to my PB of 16:30. During the week I completed a few tough sessions so I knew I would be racing on tired legs. However, in December I took part in a few parkruns and managed to clock times below 17 minutes on courses with hills and sharp corners.
I woke up on the Saturday morning really excited to race. Having not raced much over the last few months I couldn’t wait to push the pace and see what I could do. In recent weeks I have definitely started to enjoy racing 5ks more. This is probably thanks to some tough but great track sessions. I also feel as though I’m starting to embrace suffering more than I have over the past couple of years.
I decided to jog the 4km from home to Battersea Park to “warm up”. It was absolutely freezing! Arriving in plenty of time I picked up my race number without having to queue at all. With it pinned to my Iffley Road vest and having attached the timing chip to my trainers, I was ready to go. I jogged around the park for a short while to keep warm and then headed to the start line for the 9:30am start.
The Run Through races are great because you can choose which distance you want to do on the day. I opted for the 5k in this instance because a) it was cold and I wanted to get it done quickly and b) I wasn’t feeling 100% after a long tiring Friday moving offices. Two others and myself bolted off the start line. A runner in a Belgrave Harriers vest took to the front and opened up a gap pretty quickly, I was alongside the other runner for the first kilometre or so and then he dropped back. For the first lap I was in no-mans land but worked hard to hold around 3:20min/km pace. At first I struggled to get into my stride, in hindsight before the start I should have done some strides to wake the legs up.
Mentally it was tough to see the first runner heading off into the distance and not have anyone to chase but over the last few months I have done quite a few tempos and been getting used to pushing the pace and embracing the struggle on my own. I kept thinking “don’t ease up, you can hold this pace”. Going into the second lap I knew I had a lot of work to do to get closer to my PB. With 2km left I knew I could afford to go for it. I upped my pace and found it motivational running passed the runners taking part in the 10k; it was great to hear a few shouts from friends. I got my head down and made the most of the final kilometre being slightly downhill.
I crossed the line in second place in 16:45. It would have been great to claim a new PB but in the circumstances I am really happy with the result. Overall it was a great event, Run Through always do a stellar job. I cannot recommend the Battersea Park race enough if you are looking to better your 5k or 10k PBs. Thanks to finishing second I have been given a free race entry to another of the Run Through races so I will probably be at the Lee Valley Park 5k/10k/half marathon on the 27th of January. I’m not sure which distance I’m going to do yet but it should be fun either way. Let me know if you’re going to be there or if you have any other Run Through races lined up. I hope those of you that took part in the Battersea race enjoyed it as much as I did and got the times you wanted.
This week has been a bit of a write off training wise due to the office move and struggling with a bug but I’m hoping to be back training hard soon. The London Marathon isn’t going to run itself and it is less than one hundred days away now!
See a lot of you soon.
It’s been almost two months since I last wrote a blog post so I thought I’d document what I’ve been up to since the Lisbon Marathon in October. With my championship entry for the London Marathon confirmed I have been focusing on building a good base so that I can train more specifically in the New Year and get a lot of really long runs in.
Looking back at my Strava training log in 2015 and 2016 I realised that despite taking part in Advent Running (the festive running streak) my mileage has been too low in November/December going into marathon training. With this in mind I have made more of an effort to run commute regularly, even if it has been freezing cold and dark. I have realised that generally no matter how tired my legs feel I can complete an easy 8k and they normally loosen up.
Despite December being busy in terms of Christmas shopping and drinks etc I have managed to get into a good routine and regularly attend the Run-Fast track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday evenings. At the time of writing I have been to track for 8 weeks in a row and after the last 5 sessions I have run an extra 20 minutes at around marathon pace (this is something I found beneficial before the Boston Marathon in April, thank you Simon Freeman for the recommendation).
I definitely don’t want to overcook it and peak too early but I am enjoying my running and my recovery rate is improving which should allow me to do more training of a higher quality in the New Year. On my Strava post “#AllAboutTheBase” Andy Waterman made a good point of dialling the pace back at track sessions slightly so I can run a good weekly mileage and not need too many full rest days.
Another reason I’ve been able to bank a few weeks of consistent mileage is I haven’t taken part in many races. Photo courtesy of Sam Pearce (@thefootpathlesstravelled)
I did the London XC Champs on the 18th of November which was great fun but apart from that I have just done the odd parkrun. Racing the shorter distances has allowed me to recover and still do a good long run the next day.
Over the last few weeks I’ve added a tempo run on Thursday nights. They have been tough as my legs have been tired from track but I think it is good training both mentally and physically to push the pace when fatigued. I am really excited to see what sort of shape I can get into in 2018 and for the first time in a while I have set myself some challenging targets across various distances.
In the New Year I am planning to start a weekly training log on here so you can all follow my journey to the London Marathon start line, I hope some of you will find it entertaining and/or informative. I’d be really interested to hear how everyone else’s training is going and what you’ve got lined up for 2018, drop me a message on Twitter or Instagram @SteveSkinner_
See a lot of you soon