Tag Archives: Trail Running

SVP100 2018

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!

Steve

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Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill, London

On Saturday the 24th of June I took part in the Salomon Sunset Series London 10k. I always keep an eye on Salomon Running on social media because their kit is great, they create some awesome videos and sponsor many of the best trail/ultra-runners. When they announced they were organising the Sunset Series a few months back I was really keen to get involved because I’d never ran around Box Hill, I knew some friends would be taking part and with OCC coming up I need to get some hills in. I was lucky enough to be offered a free place as I have reviewed some Salomon shoes in the past and I’ve recently been selected to take part in the Suunto Training Squad.

I was really looking forward to the event but knew that it would be a big challenge as I took part in the Orion Fell Race in Epping Forest on Friday night. The 5k included 900+ft elevation gain. I finished 7th in 22:20 knocking 48 seconds off the time I ran in 2015, my legs were not happy. During the day Lorna and I travelled east to have lunch with friends. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Maz and meet Will, Hayley and baby Jackson. Late afternoon I started my journey across London to Box Hill. I bumped into Mollie and Frankie on the train, it was good to have a catch up and speculate how tough the event would be.

We arrived at Box Hill an hour or so before the start meaning we could have a good chat with some of the Advent Running/Adidas Running lot, sort our race kit and drop bags. Throughout the afternoon Salomon had been putting on trail workshops and Q&As, it was cool to hear from Max Nicholls about his training, racing and goals. To loosen my legs up a bit I did a few strides before listening to the briefing and positioning myself near the front in the start pen. Knowing the 10k course included 250m+ of elevation gain I took it relatively steady off the line; I wanted to keep the lead pack in view but was confident that I would be able to move through the field once we got to the hills.

Having not taken part in many trail races recently I was excited to tackle the challenging course and I enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to look at my watch as I wasn’t aiming for a time.

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

After 2k of running on the flat I arrived at the first hill, we gained 60m in 500m then from 3k to 3.7k we ran up another 100m. Thanks to the OH Fell Race my legs were tired but strong at the same time; I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the first couple of hills and was feeling good and enjoying the descents. From 7k to 8.5k there was a really nice smooth downhill section where I let my legs go. With more than a kilometre to go though I knew there would be another sizeable climb. There was a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to pretty much go straight back up again.

The final big hill was really demoralising as it was open, you could see the brow of the hill from the bottom and couldn’t help but long to be at the top with the click of your fingers. I could see two runners up in front and used them as motivation; with some words of encouragement from JP who was descending parallel to me I got my head down and refused to slow to a walk.

Iffley Road Cambrian River T-Shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Shorts, Stance Run OTC, Salomon S-Lab X-Series

Once at the top of the climb the last 500m or so was pretty flat. I crossed the line in 45:04, surprisingly in 3rd position.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1052324835/overview

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

Overall the race was a lot of fun; I definitely need to run more trail races. After grabbing my wooden coaster, bottle of water and clif bar we cheered in the rest of the runners.

In the next few months I am going to try and make it a priority to run more trails and venture further out of London.

If you haven’t given trail running a try I would definitely recommend one of the Salomon Sunset events, fingers crossed they’ll be around next year and more people will get involved.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Tough 10: Epping Forest, London

On Sunday the 23rd of October I took part in the Tough 10 race in Epping Forest. Tough 10 is a new series of races from Cancer Research UK. The events have been organised so runners can challenge themselves and take on some of the UK’s toughest terrain. At the same time participants would be raising money for a great cause and helping to beat cancer sooner. I decided to sign up to the Epping Forest event because I’d run there a couple of times and knew how nice the trails are. I also signed up because it was relatively easy to get to and some of the Advent Running guys were going to be there as James and Claudia are ambassadors for the series.

I woke up around 7:30ish on Sunday morning to get organised and travel across London to the forest. I was really looking forward to the event as I was wondering just how tough the race would be and I knew the route would be nice and scenic and a good change from running on the road. Due to the race not being a main focus for me I had run 20k on the Saturday along the river. I got to Epping Forest at 9:15am so I had plenty of time to pick up my race number and drop my bag off.

Inov-8 X-Talon 225 & Stance Speed Crew

Being a new event I wasn’t sure how many runners would be taking part but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hundred or so people around the start area. As I previously mentioned some of the Advent Running group were racing, this included: James, Claudia, Ben, Alice, Alan, Emma, Jason and Laura. As there wasn’t long to go before the start we had a quick catch up and got in a short jog to warm up. It was needed, it was absolutely freezing! Racing vest and split shorts seemed like a bad idea.

Photo courtesy of Claudia (@claudi8s, @ar_collective, @adventrunning)

Rubbing my hands to keep warm/praying the route wouldn’t be too tough!

We made our way to the start line and some of us got into the first group of fifty runners. The organisers let us know that we would be set off in waves as parts of the course were narrow. It was recommended that those of us aiming for below 45 minutes should get near the front. On the start line I bumped into Alex, a friend who I met racing in a couple of the Run Through events (we had an epic sprint finish back in 2014 I think it was). We had a quick catch up but before long we were off.

To begin with there was a group of five or six of us at the front, however after a kilometre or so Alex and another runner had opened up a gap from myself, James and another couple runners. The first kilometre or so was relatively flat and there was a nice short downhill section through the trees. The first steep hill came at around the 2k point. We followed the edge of a field whilst heading up, having started along a flat trail this was a shock to the system and the longer grass killed the initial pace at which we started. The route then took us most of the way down the hill to the middle of the field for us to then climb back up, how cruel! One plus point of being on higher ground was the great views.

After about 3/4k I was thinking “I hope this whole 10k isn’t as up and down as the last few kilometres!” and “Why did I decide to run 20k yesterday”. My legs were feeling heavy on the uphill sections but I loved the downhills. Once I got over the hills and caught my breath back I was feeling good. I got to 6k and was holding a decent pace, luckily I had a couple of runners just in front of me to focus on and try to chase down. At around the 6k point one of the marshals said “last hill!” I immediately thought “this is going to be a big climb”. However, I was also looking forward to getting over the hill and then enjoying the flat last few kilometres. The hill seemed to go on forever; I just focused on keeping a consistent gap between myself and the two runners just in front.

At the top of the hill I was in familiar settings. I had run on some of the trails as part of the Orion Fell Race last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t make that event this year but I’ll definitely be trying to squeeze it in the race calendar for 2017. From kilometre 7 the rest of the route was nice and flat with a few slight downhills. At 8k we had to cross over Bury Road, there was a marshal positioned there and she told us to cross straight over and take the immediate right. The three of us had picked up our pace knowing we were so close to the finish. We headed through the trees along trails used for the Orion Forest Five, another great race. With a kilometre to go I upped my pace and managed to pass the two runners I was tailing for the majority of the event. My legs felt strong on the flat after tackling some tough hills around the course. I crossed the line in just over 40 minutes which I’m happy with considering the elevation and terrain and the amount of racing I’ve done over the last four weeks.

Having crossed the finish line I was surprised not to see Alex and the other runner that were flying from the start. Apparently they had got a little lost, they still finished 6th/7th or so which is impressive. James finished shortly after me; I can’t imagine how his legs must feel just three weeks after Spartathlon and having paced Nicolas for part of Autumn 100. Alan was next across the line and looked really strong before Claudia took the win in the women’s race. She maintains she hates 10ks but still tears it up despite preferring the longer distances, well done! The whole Advent Running group ran strong and really enjoyed the event.

 I’m not sure whether I am able to make any of the other Tough 10 races but I definitely recommend them to anyone that’s up for a challenge. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to see how everyone gets on; Box Hill is going to be an epic one for sure! If you want any more info on the Tough 10 series head to the website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/find-an-event/charity-runs/tough-10

I hope everyone that took part enjoyed it. Tough 10 was the last event of four races on back to back weekends for me. I’ve loved racing regularly over the last month taking on distances from 10k to a marathon. I’m looking forward to getting in a few good weeks of decent mileage including track and then taking on the Kingston 10k at the end of November.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

 

Trail running in the Black Forest

This post is a little overdue but I’ve wanted to write about my trip to the Black Forest for a while. Bart was chief organiser having done the trip for a few years with friends. Prior to Lorna, Emily and my arrival they took part in the champagne half marathon dressed as Bogans and had done a few big mileage days through the forest, it sounded like a great laugh and the pics are hilarious.
Lorna, Emily and I flew out on Wednesday the 1st of June. With trail marathons/ultras lined up we were all looking forward to some long days trail running. On the Thursday we ran from Vohrenbach to Titisee, it totalled 21km roughly and didn’t include much climbing so it was a nice steady first day.  

  

  

Once we arrived in Titisee Lorna, Emily and I had a bit of spare time so we grabbed a coffee and then decided to round the run up to 25km by running around the lake. 

In the evening we had a few beers and some great food, I had to have Black Forest Gateaux at the first opportunity! 
 The route we were following was the Westweg trail. Bart had given us maps and a description of the route broken up into sections. On the second day we ran from Titisee to Wiedener Eck via Feldsee and Feldberg (the highest point in the Black Forest at 1,493 metres).  

Unfortunately for us the weather was pretty rubbish so the views were very similar to staring at a white piece of paper. Luckily though Bart showed us pictures on his phone from the year before when the weather was perfect, it would’ve been amazing! Oh yeh I almost forgot, we stopped for lunch in a really cosy cabin on the Friday. Because it had been cold and wet on the top of Feldberg most of us had a hot chocolate with cream to warm up, it was the best thing ever. Actually maybe the sauna and pool at the hotel was the best thing ever! Ha I really enjoyed the second day despite the poor weather. We covered 35k and had done a fair amount of climbing and some of the views were awesome.  

  


 Also in the afternoon there was a lot of running downhill and there were times when Bart and I could speed on.

On Saturday we travelled another 35k. We went from Wiedener Eck to Kandern. The whole trip was really well organised and it’s so good that the German Tourist Board take your luggage from hotel to hotel so all you have to worry about is your running bag. There was a fair amount of uphill in the first half of the day and after covering a decent amount of mileage the previous two days it took us a fair while to get to 10k or so. 

It was good that the distances between hotels weren’t too big and we could take our time and not worry about it. If we had wanted to increase our mileage it would’ve been really easy to do. On our way to Kandern we passed through a start/finish gantry for a race. It was a race 11k in distance with 1,000m of elevation gain, sounded “fun”!

The food we had all week was amazing; for the most part it was locally sourced. It’s one of the main reasons I want to go back in the next couple of years and run a larger section if not the entire Westweg trail (285km). One of the standout meals was in a really nice restaurant in Kandern. I opted for the duck with an orange sauce; it was probably one of the best meals I’ve eaten (good suggestion Bart).

On our final day in the Black Forest Lorna, Emily, Bart and I opted for a 5k walk to a little village near Kandern. We thought it would be a good way to shake our legs out and we stopped off for a drink. The whole trip flew by, ideally we would’ve been there longer and spent more time out on the trails each day. There’s always next year I guess.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Running in Colchester 

Last weekend Lorna and I headed to Colchester to spend time with her family. We got the train out of London early on Friday evening. We were picked up from Colchester station by Alex, Lorna’s older brother, to go and do some hill training. Robbie Smith and Frosty joined us; it was good to catch up with Robbie who I’d met at the Winterton training weekend with the Colchester running club last year. He is taking part in the City of London Mile on 19/06/16 and it’ll be interesting to see what time he posts as he is a short distance track runner. Frosty had done the Manchester Marathon the same year as me so we talked about how annoying it was that the course was short and how they’d altered everyone’s finishing times. Having not done any hill sessions recently and with the Zagori Marathon around the corner it was good to do a few reps. From running a decent mileage and a couple of marathons in the last few months I’m feeling quite strong at the moment.
The hill we ran up was Balkerne Hill, it was a relatively short sharp incline (approximately 35m) but it felt pretty steep as we were hitting it at pace. We then jogged down North Hill for recovery. We did 6 loops, well most of us did but Robbie snuck off, those short distance runners ey!! Ha Post hill session Al cooked us and Rob (Lorna’s younger brother) a feast, we had Chicken and Halloumi etc, good for recovery and fuelling parkrun which me and Rob were to run on the Saturday morning. After food Rob headed back to get an early night, he was on the Soda water; we knew he was going to be attempting a parkrun PB in the morning.

Like a flick of the switch Saturday morning arrived. I was looking forward to running parkrun a) because I hadn’t run one in a while b) because I like doing a bit of parkrun tourism c) because I’d heard Colchester parkrun got a good number of runners and d) because I was excited to see how Rob would get on knowing he’d been running and going to the gym lots. Rob drove us into town and then we jogged to the park. Colchester parkrun has a pretty cool setting; the park is really nice with a castle situated in it. Having run through there before with Lorna I had a good idea of the route and knew it would be a bit twisty turny and uppy downy (technical terms!).  

Photo courtesy of Neil Wray

Rob and I discussed pacing strategies just before the start and then we were ready to race (umm I mean run; I must remember parkrun is NOT a race!).

When making our way to the start line I was expecting to see just a handful of runners but what I actually saw was around 400 people. It always amazes me how many people get up early on a Saturday morning to do parkrun; I guess Colchester is a relatively big one in comparison to some in London because there are so many different parkruns in pretty close proximity. On the start line I was a couple of rows back, I didn’t know what the standard of runners was going to be like.  

After about half a kilometre two guys and I were running together at the front. One of them was breathing pretty heavy at this stage and so after another 500m or so it was just me and one other runner setting the pace. Turns out the other runner was called Paul. I found this out a couple kilometres down the path because you double back on yourself and run passed the other runners; a lot of them were cheering Paul on and wanted him to beat me. You do a U-turn around one of the marshals which is funny. On the way back towards the castle it was good to see Rob, he was looking strong and I was pretty confident he’d be close to his PB if not better it. Lorna had decided not to run because she picked up a niggle in the Hackney Half Marathon on the previous Sunday. It was really nice to have her around the course cheering me on and tell me which way to run haha. Despite the well marshalled route there were a couple of occasions where I almost went the wrong way. Because I hadn’t done one lap yet and was in the lead I had to shout back to Paul and ask whether it was straight on or a left turn, it was good of him to shout “straight on” which turned out to be true. Someone more competitive could well have sent me off track ha. The other occasion I nearly went off piste was just before the castle, I thought you went through the start/finish area as opposed to taking a left up round the castle again. With one lap done I was feeling good, despite the hills I was holding a pace around 3:20min/km. I quite enjoy routes that are a bit up and down and where there are quite a few turns to break the run up into chunks.  


 

I held a decent pace to the end and finished in 17:47. Lorna and I then cheered on Rob as he came storming through the finish.  

He smashed his PB by over a minute finishing in 22:24, well done if you’re reading this Rob. It was a great start to our Saturday. We are back in Colchester next weekend and are planning to do the parkrun again, I’m looking forward to it already especially because Phil (Lorna’s older brother) is also going to run and race Rob. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On the Sunday Lorna, Rob and I wanted to make the most of the nice weather so we made a trip to Alton Water to do a spot of trail running. I always enjoy getting out of the city every now and then and being able to run in some countryside.  

We ran at a steady (some might call it sexy) pace and the route totalled 12 kilometres.  

  

It took us a little longer than normal due to the obligatory selfie stops. When we are back next Lorna and I are planning to run a couple of laps in training for the Zagori Marathon. We are also scheming a group trip to do some paddle boarding which should be fun and hilarious in equal measure. Post trail run we treated ourselves to ice creams and flapjack, of which drew interest from two massive swans. We made it out of Alton Water alive and then in the afternoon Rob, Lorna’s Dad and I hit the golf driving range.

Overall it was a really nice weekend; we got a good balance of running, chilling, baking and eating great food. Post London Marathon I’m really enjoying my running again, mainly due to mixing it up with things like hill training, track, and long runs along the river. This weekend I’m doing the “Escape to Trail” run that Dean has organised for charity before heading to the Night of the 10,000 PBs. They should both be great events.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you then.

Steve

Ealing Mile, SDW & Hackney Half Marathon

On Friday my work colleagues Nikki, James, David and I headed across London to take part in the Ealing Mile. I’d raced the mile distance three times before and knew that it was going to be a bit of a suffer fest, especially due to it being hot weather. My first mile race was the City of London Mile in 2014, I ran in the post Hackney Half Marathon wave and managed to get round in 5:40 something. I know I’m biased as I now work for Run-Fast but it was a great event, I made it in time to watch the elite and family waves, it was great seeing so many people running whether pushing themselves to their limit or having fun (or both!). Last year I ran the Westminster and City of London Miles finishing in 5:03 and 5:02 respectively, both of which were the day after doing long runs in training for Race to the Stones 100k. As I wrote in a previous blog about goals, I wanted to do sub 5 minutes in 2016 and therefore I thought this would be a good opportunity to go for it. Still recovering from the London Marathon etc I didn’t know whether I would have it in my legs but with a mile you may as well go out fast and hold on as it’s such a short distance you’ll only have to suffer for a little while.

Myself and James jogged around the route to warm up, “This seems much further than a mile” we said. It’s really deceiving how long a mile is, after doing half marathons, marathons and ultras I guess you’re always going to think of it as a really really short distance, it’s still a fair way. Legs loosened up and numbers pinned to our tops we were ready to go. The race started at 12:30, we toed the start line drawn in chalk on the path. “3,2,1, GO!” We were off! Having researched what pace I needed to run to break 5 minutes I set off around 3:05 minutes per kilometre pace. I glanced down at my watch a couple of times to check I was staying around that pace. The first section of the course was flat; you then take a left round a corner to a nice slight downhill section. After a few hundred metres I was breathing heavy but my legs were feeling good, due to the downhill probably ha. As the organisers knew the “Run City Milers” were attending the mile, they had written a couple of motivational messages on the ground; “Go Nikki!” and “#RunFast” to name a couple. 

Note: this pic wasn’t taken mid-race.

The course was marked in chalk which was good. You run passed a little playground and down into the corner of Lammas Park. As the path wasn’t closed off to public there were a few pedestrians to negotiate round. After taking the corner at the bottom there’s a tree which splits the path, I opted to go right around the tree as off the bend I was on that side of the path (not sure this was quite the racing line ha). From here you head up a slight incline. It lasts for a few hundred metres but given that the first part of the course was slightly downhill it feels like you’re climbing Everest and its taking forever. Finally there’s a left turn and a short flat section to keep pace. There was one more turn to take; I could hear another runner breathing down my neck so kept pushing. On the corner there was a couple pushing a buggy, there was a small gap to go on the inside of them but I quickly made the decision to just run around the outside. This allowed the runner behind me to close the gap, with 200 metres he edged passed me. This was the first time in the race someone had been in front of me, luckily my legs had a little kick in them, and I managed a little sprint to finish first in 4:58. Now that I’ve done sub 5 I don’t have to worry so much about my time in the City of London Mile, therefore I might do the Orion Harriers Fell Race on the 17th of June (great fun last year!) and a long run the Saturday before the event due to training for the Zagori Marathon.

  

Team Run-Fast (Run City Milers) and the Ealing team

On Saturday Lorna, Emily, Michele, David, Todor and I headed to Seaford. Post road marathons we all have a couple of trail races/events coming up so thought it would be a good idea to run on the South Downs Way (over Seven Sisters) to Eastbourne. Late last year I went on a training weekend with Run-Fast to the same location and therefore knew how steep the climbs were over Seven Sisters, I also knew just how beautiful the views were along the coast and couldn’t wait to run there again.   

   
We all ran steady and walked a few of the climbs; we were just after time on feet and some hill training. It was really nice weather, not too hot because of the breeze off the sea. It was a great 19k or so route from Seaford to Eastbourne, one which I hope to do again soon. Once we arrived in Eastbourne we found Harry Ramsdens Fish and Chip shop, it was so good. The girls then had a little dip in the sea before we got a MASSIVE ice cream and headed for the train to get back to the concrete jungle.

To end the weekend of running I took part in the Hackney Half Marathon. Initially I wasn’t going to enter, mainly due to racing the London Marathon a couple of weeks ago. However, Jon who runs with The Running Works Run Club had signed up, using it as a training run/race heading towards his Ironman later in the year. He said he wanted to run around 1:40 and I thought this would be a good pace to run post London and in the heat. It’s always boiling hot on Hackney Half race day, I’d raced it in 2014 and 2015. Another friend, Michalis, was aiming for 1:40 too and Lorna was going to pace him. 
Unfortunately before the start we got split up, I was with Lorna, Jon and Ash who ran with us. Michalis must’ve got into the start pen earlier. We were due to start at 9am but for some unknown reason we were stood waiting for about 15 minutes, not ideal in the heat, I just wanted to get running. Once over the start line we weaved are way through a few runners, we had to do this because we got in the start pen a little late and were nearer the back of the 1:30-1:45 group. To go sub 1:40 we needed to average 4:44 min/km pace, wanting to find some space and run with Ash with the tunes, we averaged closer to 4:30 through the first 5k. With it being really hot I knew we’d pay the price for going out fast in the end but as we were having fun and everyone was feeling good at this point we carried on at a quicker pace.   

After a couple of miles Lorna caught up with Michalis and went on to pace him. We were banking quite a lot of time in the first half of the race; we went through halfway in around 46 minutes, that’s a couple of minutes quicker than we wanted really. 

 It was great fun running with Ash, he supplied the tunes and at every water station he’d run ahead quickly to grab me and Jon water bottles. 

He was also taking lots of pics and selfies; screw spending £50 on finisher’s photos!! Ha As we were running we passed quite a few runners, it was funny when people heard the music, turned around and were like “Hey Ash, how’s it going!” We saw so many Advent Running, Run Dem, Nike, Victoria Park Harriers etc people and the crowds were great. We were still holding closer to 4:30min/km pace throughout most of the second half of the race.   

We got to around 19k on this pace but then the fast pace at the start and heat took its toll. When you’re running around the Olympic Park there’s very little shade and as you are nearing the end of the race it’s getting hotter and hotter. We were putting in a lot more effort to try and hold a decent pace, long gone were the moments of enjoying the music and high fiving kids. 

We got to 20k, Jon was suffering quite a lot. We had to reduced are speed drastically and just get it done, we knew we weren’t going to go sub 1:40 but could still PB. After a short walk to steady himself he got running again. We finished in 1:41:49, a shiny new PB and a good race in prep for Jons ironman. I was happy with the run, obviously it would’ve been better if we’d have gone sub 1:40 but there were a couple of reasons why we didn’t. Overall it was a fun race and I’d made it a Hackney hat-trick.  

 I hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed the sun.

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