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Paris Marathon 2016

On Sunday the 3rd of April I took part in my first marathon abroad: the Marathon de Paris 2016. I’d signed up ages ago; a lot of running
friends had entered and I thought it would be a great way to see Paris and do some sightseeing! And with Cardiff Half Marathon the weekend before and London Marathon three weeks later (both of which are A races for me!), I’d already decided that I was going to take Paris steady and use it as a last long run before a decent taper.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been doing decent mileage including track, the odd tempo run with James Poole (Advent Running) and long weekend runs with my girlfriend Lorna and friends (River Runners, if you want to get involved have a look on their Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook page).

A few months ago Lorna asked if I would run the marathon with her and having done a lot of the long runs together we both thought it would be more fun to experience it together! Her mum coined me the “donkey” as I’d said I’d carry water, gels, buffs and the GoPro for her in my Salomon bag! I think she was joking!

Lorna’s training had been going well; completing both the Essex 20 and Colchester Half Marathon in PB times so we set an aim of 3:20 which would be a 6-minute PB!

As race day dawned, I started to get more excited; I knew the atmosphere would be great as it’s the biggest road marathon in Europe with over 40,000 runners taking part. I was also excited for my friends Mark, Emily and Toni as Paris would be their first marathon! Jonny, Alan, Dean and Michalis had also been training hard and had set goal times.

We arrived into Paris Saturday lunchtime; we dropped our bags at the hotel (which had an epic view of the Eiffel Tower) and headed for the running expo to pick up our numbers etc. The expo was massive, the organisation was really good, we picked up our numbers and pacing bands and bought souvenir tees with no problems. Whilst walking around the expo we bumped into a few of the other Nike run club runners; Kyrstie, Dan and Ryan who were also there to take on the Marathon.

After the expo we headed to the Arc de Triomphe, which would be the start and end point the following day!  

We wanted to check how long the walk from the hotel to there would take us in the morning but got slightly side tracked taking selfies! After a quick ten minute walk back to the hotel we went to the restaurant downstairs to carb-load on chicken and chips (& a cheeky pint!). We laid out our kit, stuffed the Salomon bag with our gels and all the other marathon necessities and then got an early night.

We woke up early, around 6.30am, had a quick shower, ate breakfast (wheetabix!) and then headed to meet the rest of the crew in the lobby & find Lorna a coffee! Everyone was feeling differently about the challenge ahead; some were quiet, getting in the race zone and others were running around going crazy after a coffee (Emily! Ha). 

 Coffee found, we headed to the bag drop in what we thought was plenty of time, however because of the attacks last year, security had been ramped up meaning huge queues to drop bags! Lorna, Jonny, Alan & myself were starting in the earlier (Paris marathon is a staggered start) so we had to run to the start to get to our pens in time! Just what you need; a couple of extra kilometres before a marathon! Luckily when I signed up I’d put a finishing time of sub 3:15, so we were let in the pen ahead of Lorna’s (3.30). Most of the runners in this pen had already started so we were basically in a pen on our own! We took a few more selfies, caught our breath and stripped off our extra layers whilst waiting for the 3.30 runners to come forward.  

It wasn’t long before we were on our way! Knowing that 4:44min/km would mean a 3:20 marathon we started at this pace. The conditions were good to start with as it was still cool at 9 o’clock, however with the sun blazing down we knew it was going to get a lot hotter.

A few hundred metres into the race I turned around to look back and take in the shear volume of runners coming down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe when we heard someone shout “Steve!!!” It was Michael Koball who I’d met whilst working at the London Marathon Store last year; he also races a lot and I’d been following his training on Instagram. Lorna just started laughing “we come all the way to Paris and you still bump into runners you know!” It is funny when you see a familiar face in a race; especially when you’re abroad; running is a small world/community!

 Lorna and I were ticking off the miles comfortably; we’d had our first gel at 5/6 miles and were taking in a good amount of water, the bottles on my race vest meant we didn’t have to wait for water stations which was great with the weather being so hot. We knew our cheer crew would be somewhere near Bastile, around the 6 mile point so it wasn’t long before we saw Freya, Emily (Deans girlfriend) and Korina (Michalis wife) with the #BartPack/British/KenYan flag. There’s a story behind this flag but I’m not going to go into that now! It was great to see them and gave us both a life. We knew the next time we’d see them would be just after the half way point so this gave us another goal to focus on.

We went through half way in 1:40ish, Lorna was feeling good, holding pace at 4:44min/km. I was keeping her entertained by trying to capture all the sights with the GoPro, handing her water, gels etc (I may have taken a couple selfies too!) and the next few miles flew by. We were soon coming back past our cheer crew and heading out on to the long straight along the River Seine towards the Eiffel tower. After 14 miles or so Lorna could feel a slight niggle in her right leg, we continued at our goal pace and thankfully it subsided after a couple of miles.

Running along the river from miles 14 to 19 was beautiful but hot; the sun was now on our backs and the temperature had hit over 20! There were also a lot of slopes as we went up, under and other various bridges and tunnels. We ran past the Eiffel Tower around mile 18 and I couldn’t resist another selfie and GoPro video; it was the first time I’d ever seen it and gave us both a boost! We got to the 20 mile marker on pace but Lorna knew she couldn’t hold it any longer; it was just too hot so we started to slow to 4:50 – 5:00min/km pace. Surrounding runners seemed to be struggling more than us as we were still passing a lot of people. This was good but at the same time it meant we had to weave and stray from the green racing line a fair bit. 

 Going into the last 5k we knew it would be a tough slog; Lorna had run it previously in 2013 and warned me about the ‘park of doom’; the beautiful sites and cheering crowds were gone and we were left with a very quiet and run down park! Not the most motivational surroundings to get us through!

With a mile or two to go we knew we weren’t going to run sub 3:20 but with Lorna’s PB standing at 3:26 we made an aim to better that and enjoy the finish together! Focus adjusted, we set our sites on the finish! We passed Jonny who’d unfortunately suffered with blister/feet issues in the last half and gave each other a cheer (I think I remember something about beer at the finish!). We turned a corner out of the park and before we knew it there were crowds and cheering again; we hit the 200m to go sign and sprinted to the finish line, crossing the line hand in hand in 3:25:33. 

 Considering the hot conditions we are both really happy with the result. Being well inside the GFA time means Lorna can do pretty much whichever races she wants to do in the next couple years; whether that’s London again or Boston etc.

I’m certain we would’ve gone close to sub 3:20 if it had been a cooler day so I’m excited to see how quickly Lorna can get. I’m so proud of her for getting a PB and pushing herself when it was hard work. But most of all we had a great day together and have so many memories and selfies recorded on the GoPro!

 
 Overall the group were happy; some had to settle for times slower than they’d originally wanted but I think everyone did really well considering the tough conditions. It’s always annoying when you train for a race for so long and don’t get the time you want but it goes to show we can’t control conditions on race day so sometimes goals and expectations have to change.

 Post-marathon we re-grouped and chilled on the grass near the finish line and enjoyed some champagne (once we could get into it!) We then demolished a couple of baguettes on our way back to the hotel. Myself, Lorna, Michalis and Korina decided a shakeout walk was a good idea so we took a trip to the Eiffel Tower.  

On the Monday and Tuesday we did a lot of sightseeing and a lot of eating (Raclette!!). It was such a great trip!

Holiday over; my attention is now on the London Marathon next Sunday. I’ll be enjoying the taper until then. I hope that those of you that are going to be with me on the start line are feeling ready! And remember to enjoy it; you’ve done all the training so don’t forget to take the day in!

I also can’t finish this post without saying a big well done to Ash Tehrani who smashed out a 3 hour marathon in Paris, the SDW 50 the week after and has Boston Monday; what a legend!

 See a lot of you soon

 Steve 

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Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships 2016

On Saturday the 26th of March I took part in the Cardiff World Half Marathon. This was my first big race of 2016, one that I had marked as an A race and wanted to finish in a certain time. I wanted to run sub 1:15. The main reason being this gets you championship entry for the London Marathon (and other races). Having completed the Old Deer Park Half Marathon and the Colchester Half Marathon in the 1:16s I was feeling confident going in to the race.
The Saturday before the Cardiff Half Lorna and I did our last long run in training for Paris Marathon. We ran 20 miles at around 5 min/km pace along the river to Greenwich and back. Having done the Colchester Half marathon the previous weekend and with track on Tuesday I was feeling pretty knackered but it was good to get another long run under the race belt. Due to feeling tired after the long run I took it easy for the rest of the weekend and it made me realise my week long taper needed to include more rest days (no running at all) than running days. However, I found it good to run with The Running Works Run Club a couple of days to keep the legs ticking over. I also ran with the Nike lot on Wednesday night.

After getting through the taper without going crazy I travelled to Keynsham (between Bristol and Bath, where my sister lives). With it being a bank holiday weekend and having the race in Cardiff we thought it would be a good chance to catch up and splitting the journey into smaller chunks would be better for me. On Friday night Sarah cooked us an awesome meal, we had a chicken carbonara concoction with Rice. It was a perfect pre-race meal. I got an early night as we had to be up relatively early on the Saturday morning to get the train to Cardiff. We arrived in plenty of time, the expo hadn’t even opened and there weren’t many other people around. Dean and his crew were there though, just chilling in the short queue to get in. I collected my race number with no fuss, had a little look round the expo area, caught up with a few of the Adidas tech reps and chatted with Dean and Alan.

Due to the race not starting until 2 o’clock we had a fair bit of time to kill. I’ve never been that great with hanging around before races but it’s much better when you have someone there with you so you’re not just thinking about the race constantly. It can be tiring thinking about all of the various outcomes and things that can go right or wrong. We found a nice little coffee shop and just chilled in there for a couple of hours. Normally before races I don’t eat a lot, maybe just some cereal, but due to the late start I had a tuna baguette. In an interview last year, around the London Marathon time when Jo Pavey joined Adidas, she said she wakes up really early the morning of a race and has a tuna sandwich. I thought if it works for her I’ll give that a go ha. Suitably fuelled up my sister and I wandered around Cardiff for a bit before heading to the bag drop. 

I carried out the normal pre-race procedure of warm clothes off, race kit on, race number pinned on. With the weather taking a turn for the worse (typical as the weather was ok all morning when we would normally be racing) I poncho’d up and headed for the start line. 

 I ran up and down the start pen a couple of times; my legs were feeling good due to the week-long taper. The elite women sped off and then it was just a short wait until start time. It was cool to see the elite runners coming out of the castle and onto the line. After the contenders had been introduced we were off. I was approximately 100 metres back from Mo and co on the start, therefore there was a bit of a delay crossing the line due to the slight pile up caused by Kamworor tripping on the line. Once across the line the pack spread out pretty quickly, it was always going to be a competitive field being the World Half Championships. I quickly settled into the pace I needed to run to achieve the sub 1:15 half. There was a large group of runners on this pace to begin with.

I knew that I had to run on average 3:33 min/km. I went out a little quicker than required but wanted to bank a decent amount of time so that I wouldn’t be sprinting for the line to finish in the 74s. I’d done a little bit of course research and knew that there were a couple small hills; this is another reason I wanted to do a few kilometres at quicker than 3:33 min/km. The first hill was around the 5k point, still feeling good and on pace I overtook a fair few runners. I carried on at closer to 3:25 min/km for a few kilometres and went through 10k in 35 something. The first 10k was good, the weather was cold (probably not used to racing in a vest and split shorts! Ha) and the wind wasn’t too noticeable. It had rained briefly when we were on the start line but up until about 11k it was relatively dry. This soon changed dramatically, it started tipping it down. Despite the rain the crowds were out in force and the atmosphere was awesome.  

With 10k or so to go I started thinking about the runner in front and was aiming to chase down as many people as I could. I also started thinking about the amount of time I had left a) to suffer and b) to go sub 75 minutes.

I was racing the clock. Over the last 5k the wind had picked up, or at least it felt like it had. At points throughout the race I could feel that the wind was strong but it varied a lot. At certain points it was right behind me pushing me along but the last 2k it was horrendous, holding me back. With 2k to go I had 10 minutes or so to make sub 1:15. I knew I had it in the bag; I maintained my pace and crossed the line in 1:13:22. I’d managed a pretty big new PB and most importantly London Marathon championship entry. I was relieved that the race went to plan. After crossing the line I bumped into Emily, she wasn’t running because she has been suffering with a niggle/injury and has the Paris Marathon coming up. She was carrying bags for Jonny and Andy (Jonnys boss) and therefore was waiting for them to fly through the line. Due to the woeful weather I shuffled my way straight to the bag drop to collect my stuff and then meet up with my sister again. It was great to have her there, I saw her out on the course around midway and it gave me a big lift. I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere at the London Marathon and have a good amount of family there cheering me on. 

 We went back to the coffee shop that we were chilling in in the morning and had a coffee to warm up. Then we met up with Jonny, Dean, Emily and Andy in Slug and Lettuce for a drink to celebrate before heading to L&R for food. As is pretty standard after finishing a race I went with the high protein option of buttermilk fried chicken burger and sweet potato fries, it tasted like the best thing ever after being out in the cold and rain all afternoon. L&R was that nice we got a bit too comfortable meaning we had to run to catch our train back to London. A shakeout run was just what I needed after pushing myself in the race ha. We had to change trains a couple times meaning we didn’t get back in to London until around 11, it was a long day. Luckily I could lie in on Sunday morning before heading to Colchester for housewarming drinks at Alex’s (Lorna’s brother) new pad. Before that we went for pub grub with Rob where I had a massive chicken and leek pie, recovery food done the right way. On the Monday we had Sheila’s awesome roast and Lorna and I made an awesome (If I do say so myself) Easter cheesecake.

Overall it was a great Easter weekend. Well done to everyone that raced over the weekend. I’m travelling to Paris tomorrow ahead of the marathon on Sunday. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend. 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