Tag Archives: training

Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon 

On Sunday the 15th of October I took part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon. Over the last few years Lorna and some of our friends have raced in various European cities in the second half of the year. Last year Cologne was the destination of choice with it offering a marathon (which I took part in) and a half. The group decided Lisbon would be good fun as it is becoming an increasingly popular city to visit and because it hosts races of varying distances. I decided to opt for the marathon again thinking I would be in good shape a few weeks after finishing OCC.

We flew to Lisbon early (the security gates weren’t even open) on Saturday morning so we would have some time to sightsee. As we knew the expo would get busy later on in the day we went straight there to collect our race numbers. The expo was relatively small so we had to queue for 20 minutes or so to get in. 

After picking up our race numbers and t-shirts we got the metro to the city centre to grab some food and find our bearings. Following lunch we thought it would be a good idea to check out the finish area and arrange a meeting point for after the races. The lamppost with lanterns worked well!

In the afternoon we killed some time by queuing to go up a viewing platform and enjoyed ice creams, custard tarts and custard doughnuts to fuel up. Wanting to feel fresh for our races we decided to check in at our hotel near the expo and have a nap before dinner. We found a good restaurant just around the corner from Casino Lisboa, I chose to go for Lasagne and garlic bread whilst most of the group fuelled up on chicken and chips or pizzas. As the marathon started at 8am I got back to the hotel, laid out my race kit, filled my bag for dropping at the start and got an early night.

Obligitaroy race kit pic; Iffley Road vest, Adidas split shorts, Stance socks & Adidas Adios

On Sunday morning despite my alarm being set for 5am I woke up at 4. I think having been up at 2am the previous day and taking a nap on Saturday afternoon my body clock was a bit all over the place. At 5am I started to get organised and by 6 I was in the hotel reception asking a group of runners from Normandy if they would like to share a taxi to Cais de Sodre where we could then get the train to Cascais for free. The runners from Normandy were really friendly, they asked about my goal time and as I said “hopefully just under 3 hours” they let me go in the first taxi.

Once I arrived at Cais de Sodre station I was lucky to squeeze on the train, it was rammed. Despite not being able to get a seat the 40 minute trip went quite quickly, perhaps because I was still half asleep. 

The sunrise from Cascais was worth the early wake up call

After a 15 minute walk to the race village there was about 30 minutes to go until the start. I quickly dropped my bag on one of the lorries and then got in the queue for the toilets. Frustratingly there were only 10 or so toilets which didn’t seem like a lot when you consider 4,500 runners were taking part in the marathon. As 8am neared I had a decision to make; a) wait in the queue, miss the start and play catch up or b) start on time and stop part way through the race. I opted for the latter as the last thing I wanted was to have to weave through hundreds of people to try and hit a decent pace.

Leaving it late to join the start line I was lucky that I could enter the funnel near the front because I was number 347. I bumped into a guy that I had met on the plane on the way out, he said he wanted to finish around 3:00-3:05 and so he joined me for the first few kilometres. With it being around 25 degrees I decided to aim for another sub 3, I locked onto 4:15min/km pace for the first few kilometres and then nipped into the roadside portaloo at 4km. To make up some time for my toilet break I started running between 4:05 and 4:10 and felt good. Running along the coast and back through Cascais was beautiful, it didn’t feel too hot at this point but I knew there was still a long way to go.

As I struggled in the last 10k or so in the Boston Marathon earlier this year I decided to take an SIS gel every 7km. This didn’t just help me keep fuelled but it broke the race up into smaller chunks and I just kept thinking “keep working hard, get through the next few kilometres then down a gel”. With the route being relatively flat I felt comfortable at around 4:05-4:10min/km pace. This meant I soon caught up with my friend from the plane and went straight passed on one of the small hills.

At 35km I was on track to go sub 3 again. However the temperature was rising and running along the main road there wasn’t any shade and there were only one or two runners to chase down. I was starting to suffer so I took my caffeine gel to try and perk myself up. I got to 39k but then I got cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop and stretch for 30 seconds which I thought cost me any chance of getting over the finish line under 3. Luckily it loosened up and I got back on pace. I was doing the maths in my head and trying to work out what pace I needed to hit. As I was running over the distance I knew I needed to up it. Thankfully my legs cooperated with me and allowed me to push on; I got through the 41st kilometre in 4:02, 42nd in 3:53 and then was at 3:33min/km pace for the final 500m to finish in 2:59:37.

Bling

It was such a relief to cross the line and I was chuffed to get another sub 3 marathon in the bag. It was definitely a lot harder than it needed to be but I guess that’s running. After collecting my medal and goodie bag I got roadside to cheer the squad round the half marathon. 

Stance Off

@fayebfit storming to a Half Marathon PB

@lorns_elliott zooming towards the finish line having just overtaken Alex to earn the bragging rights

@alexcvx looking strong. Great Stance combo & colour coordination

@bench53 heading for the beach! #LongDistanceCatwalk

Smithy, Lorna, Faye, Al, Rob, Chivers, Me, Becky & Robbie

In contrast to last year in Cologne Robbie didn’t run really really well because it was really really hot. However, everyone did well considering it was close to 30 degrees and there was a steep hill around 17k. 

Overall it was a great weekend in Lisbon. I’m now incredibly motivated to get into good shape ahead of the London Marathon next year. I’m planning to do a few shorter races including cross-country in the next couple of months.

Well done to everyone else that raced at the weekend, I’ve seen some awesome results posted.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Advertisements

Great East Run 2017

Registration

On Sunday the 24th of September, I took part in the Great East Run (Ipswich Half Marathon). I decided to do this race because Lorna and the rest of Team Elliot (Alex, Rob, Phil & Rachel) wanted to do it and renew their sibling rivalries. Fortunately, I was contacted a few months ago by Duracell, one of the headline sponsors, and they offered me free entry. Winning!

As Ipswich is relatively local to Lorna’s family we stayed with them in Colchester for the weekend. We arrived just in time for dinner, Rob had cooked chicken and sweet potato fries and Sheilagh (Lorna’s Mum) had made her amazing sticky toffee pudding. Similarly, to before Colchester Half earlier this year on Saturday morning I ran 5k with Rob to shake the legs out. We had both tapered well during the week but wanted to keep the legs ticking over ahead of the big day.

In the afternoon, I played golf with Alex, and Lorna’s Dad Bob. As I don’t play golf regularly anymore it was great to get out on the course, it was a closely fought contest but I just managed to win as Alex found the pond near the 18th green (sorry Al I had to mention it). Lorna, Alex, Rob, Ray and I headed to Nando’s (#NandosAthletes) to fuel up on Saturday night before getting an early night.

Location

The race started and finished just outside Portman Road, Ipswich Town FC’s Stadium. The race village was positioned on the AstroTurf just outside the stadium and conveniently there were lots of large car parks nearby.

Representing #TeamIffley. Photo courtesy of Rob (@rob_elliott_1991)

Number Collection

As with most large running races our numbers were sent to us in the post. I am glad that races now share their race programmes online and that they keep what they send out to a minimum. Attached to the race number was a bag drop label and a few promotional offers.

Facilities

After fuelling up on bagels for breakfast we arrived at the Race Village around 9am, roughly an hour before kick-off, so we only had to spend a short period of time in the queues for toilets. There seemed to be plenty of toilets available between the car parks and start area and on the AstroTurf near the baggage tent. The bag drop was efficient as the tent was large and each coloured start (orange, green, white) had a designated section. There were lots of volunteers on hand and they all seemed eager to help which is the most important thing.

The Race

Having not visited Ipswich before I didn’t know what to expect of the route. It is becoming increasingly popular that running events start and finish at football stadiums; Colchester Half, Reading Half, Manchester Marathon to name a few. I guess it makes sense as the infrastructure is in place to cater for thousands of participants and supporters. The race started on Russell Road, it was relatively wide and there was room to do a few strides along the pavement before making my way onto the start line. As the weather was nice the crowds were out in force and the adrenaline was pumping.

The first few miles are nice and flat so you can get into a good rhythm and figure out who you’re going to be racing. Around the 5k point near Holywell Park there are some short sharp inclines to contend with but you are soon back on the flat alongside Ipswich Wet Dock. This was one of my favourite parts of the course as supporters cheered energetically from the pavements. The runner in first position was off into the distance but as I was in the chase group we had a cyclist escorting us, geeing the crowd up.

Once we had made it onto the South side of the River Orwell gaps were opening and I knew I would be in a group of three for a while. The other two runners seemed to be holding the pace relatively comfortably, I felt good and decided as there was a long way to go I would tuck in behind to try and shelter from the headwind which was quite strong.

Photo courtesy of Andy Abbott.

At around the 10km point, passing under the Orwell Bridge, I knew a PB or sub 75 was out of the question but I wanted to give it everything and see if I could finish on the podium. Running into the wind and up a long hill that lasted roughly a mile from 12k my pace dropped considerably. However, I knew that the wind would be at our backs once through Freston and heading towards Ipswich city centre.

After 14km one of the runners pushed on and was looking strong, I guess he was aiming for sub 75 and a championship entry time in London next year. I too had picked up the pace a little and so pulled away from 4th place. From 15k I was in no man’s land. Luckily as I was making my way along The Strand and then the A137 I got so many cheers and words of support from runners heading in the opposite direction. It was cool that I got to see Lorna and her brothers and sister and shout at each other, encouragement not abuse ha.

I was starting to hurt with 5k to the finish line. I had no-one to chase, I knew I wasn’t far in front of 4th, my legs were heavy from completing OCC three weeks prior, it was a long straight road but I had to hold it together. Whenever I am in a race and struggling I just keep thinking “I haven’t run this far at that pace to ease up or stop now” or “throughout this race I’ve had a few ups and downs, I’ll feel good again soon”. I held my pace between 3:30min/km and 3:40min/km and refused to turn my head to see how much of a gap I had on 4th.

After crossing the river, there was 2km to go. As I neared the finish line the crowds were growing, the man on the bike accompanying me pointed at the KFC to the right of us and said, “there’s no time for KFC now, you’re almost there”. I turned the corners around Portman Road, I couldn’t hear footsteps or a runner breathing heavily behind me. I upped my pace, I didn’t have a sprint finish in me but I had made it to the line in 3rd position, 1:16:07.


The volunteers at the baggage tent cheered my arrival, I caught up with Lorna’s Dad and did a quick interview (Hi mum!) before cheering Team Elliott and Robbie Smith through the finish.

Left to right: Me, Lorna, Alex, Rachel, Rob, Phil & Robbie Smith.

Everyone ran well and achieved great times; Alex finished in 1:31:27 in 99th position, Lorna crossed the line in 1:32:55, 7th lady and 4th in her age category, Rachel ran a 20 second PB in 1:42:24, Rob did 1:42:51 which is even more impressive given he suffered cramp at 20k, and Phil clocked 1:47:40 despite not training much since his wedding and honeymoon. Overall, I really enjoyed the course and it was a great race. For some reason, I envisaged the route would be pancake flat and so was surprised by the hills but I would still recommend the event for someone looking to do a well-supported, scenic, fast race.

Post-race

The Great East Run (Ipswich Half) medal is nice; good size, weighty, smart design. Bling geek!

The goodie bag was substantial. It included; a protein bar, oat breakfast drink, water, promotional leaflets etc.

If it fits in the race calendar next year I will definitely return to try and beat my time and position. It was a lot of fun this year!

Next up for me is the Lisbon Marathon in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to get one decent long run in and then it’s taper time again.

See a lot of you soon,

Steve

Endure 24 2017

Over the weekend of the 10th & 11th of June I took part in Endure 24 for the second year running (pun intended). In stark contrast to getting a late place in 2016, Lorna, some friends and I signed up as soon as possible because we knew it would be a fun weekend and a great way to get lots of miles in. Initially we were in a team of 7: Me, Lorna, Alex, Robbie, Frosty, Michalis and Jess. Unfortunately in the couple of weeks leading up to the event Michalis and Jess could no longer take part but Jess decided to make the trip to cheer us on and look after us. With the team being reduced to 5 we all knew we’d be banking some big mileage, this was good for me as I have OCC at the end of August. This was not so good for the likes of Robbie who is predominantly a track runner.

Road trip!!

Learning from 2016, Lorna and I packed up all our kit on the Thursday night to meet Alex for a lift to Wasing Park early on Friday morning. As Endure is “Glastonbury for runners” it’s a good idea to get there on the Friday to get a convenient area to set up camp. We opted for the same location as last year as it was right next to the handover point, food and retail tents, the registration marquee and showers/toilets.

Alex chilling in the comfiest chair in the world!

Once we were let into the race village we pitched up all of our tents and then drove to the nearest Sainsbury’s to do a BIG food shop. Barbeques, snacks, ice, football (all the essentials) were on the shopping list. There wasn’t a list, but we probably should have made one to stick to. We spent quite a lot but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much split between the group and it definitely worked out cheaper than buying all of our meals on site. When we got back to camp we had lunch before picking up race numbers and timing chips from the registration tent.

We spent the afternoon chilling, playing games and walking the course to show Alex what to expect. To be honest he didn’t really need to see the course as he would get VERY familiar with it over the next couple of days but then again it was good for us to look at the course and think about our pacing especially for the first few laps.

Once back at camp again it was time to fuel up. Alex got the BBQ going; we had burgers, chicken, sausages and halloumi skewers, all the good stuff.

Food = Fuel

We had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for Jess to arrive; she was cycling from London (bonkers)!

With a big 24 hours ahead of us we all got an early night foregoing the party in the marquee. I slept quite well on the Friday night; I was pretty tired because of the early start and having run decent mileage in the week. Robbie and Frosty were due to arrive at 10:30am so we got some sausages and bacon going on the BBQ. I tend not to eat much before races but with events like this you definitely need to fuel up. Also I knew my first lap wouldn’t be until 12:40ish with the team order sorted: Robbie, Me, Frosty, Lorna, Alex. Dropping down to a team of 5 meant we would get around two and a half hours of rest between laps.

The start of 24 hour events is a little bizarre, everyone is excited but you can tell they are trying to keep calm and remember there’s a long way to go. Well, apart from the one person that always sprints off the start line like a bat out of hell.

Luckily for our team Robbie started a bit further back than he probably would’ve liked and got boxed in. The start is also strange because it’s the only time (apart from the finish) that everyone is together, the race village generally seems quite subdued and quiet the rest of the time and you almost forget how many runners are taking part. As Robbie was handing over to me I headed back to the tent to sort my kit, I was really looking forward to getting out there. Robbie came into the handover area clocking 34 minutes for the lap. With OCC in mind and knowing I would probably be looking at doing 7 or 8 laps over the 24 hours I went out at a steady pace.

The route was just as I remembered it (I did walk it only the day before). The “Hill of No Return” felt relatively easy having completed a couple of hill sessions over the last few weeks but I knew it would just get steeper and steeper as the hours passed by. The few kilometres after the hill are nice, the course is undulating but you can get into a good stride. “Little steep” just before 3k is short and sharp, it was muddy but in my Inov-8 X-Talon 212 I moved through this section well and was back onto a good pace quickly. From 3k to 5k there are long straights which include some small rolling hills; this section is one of my favourites on the course. You go through “Far Away Forest” and pass the “VDUB Cocktail Bar” around halfway (4k). Approaching the 5k point you know you are coming up to the hardest part “Heartbreak Hill”. Luckily the Clif Bar Café is positioned just before so you have the chance to grab a drink etc. For the first few laps I “enjoyed” the climb, I was happy to shorten my stride and shuffle my way up it. The best thing about Heartbreak Hill is once you’re over it you feel quite strong and the following few kilometres are fun as they include some slight downhills and twists and turns through the trees.

On the homestretch I high fived Alex (and a few randoms) before crossing the line after 34 minutes and 47 seconds of running, first lap – done. I handed over to Frosty before catching up with Lorna and chatting to some of the AR (Advent Running), Adidas Running & Pro-Direct Running lot. I made sure to grab some food quickly after finishing my lap; I decided this was best because of only having two and a half hours before going out again. Frosty clocked a time of 35:09 before Lorna ran 36:32 and Alex 36:22 (not a competitive brother at all). Robbie put in another solid lap in 34:17 and then I was up and running again. As the first lap had loosened my legs up I decided to go with the flow and put in a slightly quicker lap. On every lap I tried to make the effort to say well done to the Solo runners, it must be such a long 24 hours for them and I thought a shout may pick them up a little. I was on the lookout for my friend Matt Fowler; he was one of the crazy “Solos”. I completed my second lap in 33:44, a minute quicker than my first lap and inside Robbie’s fastest time, not that I was trying to beat it ;).

The team was doing really well, after a couple of laps we were in 3rd place in our category and 21st out of all the teams. The trick to doing well in 24 hour events is having a team that is consistent and for everyone to run times close to each other. It is also key to take it steady over the first few laps and to be able to hold a good pace through the night on the laps using a head torch. I was the first runner in our team to do a double; it was around 10pm so it was still light for most of the first lap. I was kindly given a Silva Trailrunner 2X to test; it was really comfortable, lightweight and most importantly really bright. As I had taken the first few laps steady I could still hold a decent pace, I was planning to finish the double lap in 1:20 but found myself crossing the line nearer to 1:15. I think I could hold a quicker pace because it was nice and cool and the adrenaline was pumping. I was happy to put in more effort over the double lap because I planned to eat lots and get some sleep ready for my next lap in the morning. Everyone ran well over the double lap, on average we were only a couple of minutes slower than a normal lap. I got quite lucky in that I didn’t have to run through the rain, I felt sorry for Lorna and Alex.

After completing his double lap Robbie messaged the team to let us know that he was struggling, his left groin had gone and “that was 1hr42min of absolute agony, hurts on the uphill, hurts on the flat and hurts most of all going downhill on uneven ground so pretty much everywhere on the course”. Being a track runner Robbie did well to bank as many laps as he did (6). We were down to four which meant we’d have to take it steady on the rest of the laps. Everyone was knackered, we were all thinking about sleeping more and not worrying about having someone out on the course. My first lap in the morning was a struggle as my legs had seized up after having a couple of hours sleep. A few kilometres in they loosened up a little but I took it steady to make sure I could get round and I knew I’d still have one or two more laps to complete. I bumped into Matt around 6k; he was only 10 miles or so away from clocking 100 miles.

As we weren’t racing I decided to keep him company for the rest of the lap, he was moving really well and seemed in good spirits. We chatted about his 24 hour strategy, nutrition and future race plans etc. Once through the “finish” line again I handed over to Frosty and Matt went off to grab a coffee.  I headed back to the tents to let Lorna know she was up next. Her legs had seized up as well and she wanted a little longer before heading out on another lap, as my legs felt ok and I wanted to get the miles in I took the yellow wristband off Frosty and was on my way again.

The morning laps were really tough but we were ticking the hours off. Frosty, Lorna and Alex did well to complete 7 laps each; we were still in third position in our category. At 11:22 I was heading off on the final lap, I was relieved knowing we’d got through the weekend but also sad that it was almost over. Surprisingly my legs were feeling ok; I decided to pace the lap so I could cross the line with the team just after 12 o’clock. We didn’t want or need to get another 8k in. Over the final few kilometres I found myself running at the same pace as another runner, we chatted about our training, upcoming races and how we’d found the weekend. I enjoyed the twisty turny section for the last time and was then joined by the team for the final few hundred metres.

We crossed the line to the sound of the klaxon. 24 hours, done!


We had a celebratory ice cream, caught up with friends and then packed up our tents. The weekend went by in a blur; it was a lot of fun. If you haven’t done a 24 hour team relay before I definitely recommend it. It’s such a great challenge and it’s an excellent way to get lots of miles in if you have a long distance race coming up.

I hope those of you that took part in Endure 24 enjoyed it as much I did.

See a lot of you soon,

Steve

Westminster Mile 2017

On Sunday the 28th of May I took part in the Westminster Mile. Having done it in 2015 I was looking forward to running up the Mall and crossing the finish line near Buckingham Palace again. The first time I took part in the event I didn’t know what time I would be capable of so ended up in the B race. I was in good shape and ran 5:05 which meant I lead the race from start to finish and took the tape. It was fun being at the sharp end of a race but on reflection had there been someone to chase I could well have dug a little deeper and scraped sub 5. With that lesson learnt signing up for this year I predicted I would run nearer my PB of 4:44 (achieved in the City of London Mile last year, thanks to some “pacing” from Ken Hoye) to get in the A race and have people to compete with.

With the sufferfest of Night of the 10,000m PBs still vividly in my mind I decided to take it easier in the couple of days leading up to the mile. 

I did a steady 8k run commute on Friday and swam with Lorna on Saturday morning to loosen the legs up. The A race started at 9:30am so we took the bus to get there around 9am, this gave me time to sort race kit and take an SIS GO Caffeine shot. I opted to try the Cola flavour; it tasted good and perked me up.

 

I did a few strides and then made my way to the start pen. Hugh Brasher gave a speech and there was a minute silence before the start to commemorate the victims of the Manchester attack on Monday. Something I was annoyed about was the fact that one runner had turned up late and was shuffling his way through the start pen while everyone else was observing the minutes silence. There are more important things than running, show some respect!

Hugh Brasher set us on our way. I was a couple of rows back from the start line so I was a little boxed in but was thinking “get up to speed, find some space and then push in the second 800m”. To overtake a few runners I went wider around the bend than I would’ve liked getting on to Horse Guards Road. Once I’d found some space I was feeling good, I glanced at my watch to check I was running sub 3min/km pace to finish in under 5 minutes. I passed the 800m to go sign and upped the pace; I had a few runners to chase which was good. 400m to go: my legs were burning and I was breathing HEAVY but I was on target. 

I turned the corner onto the home straight, I saw the clock showing “4:30 something”, I knew I’d gone sub 5 again. I sprinted through the finish, crossing the line in 4:48 in 20th position.


I was really happy with how the race went, especially off the back of increasing my mileage during the week. However, almost immediately after crossing the line I always wonder “how quick could I run a mile if I trained specifically for it?” and “could I have gone a few seconds quicker (PB’d) if I’d rested just that little bit more”. Maybe in the next couple of years I will set aside 6 months to a year to see how quick I can get over the mile, 5k and 10k distances. We’ll see…

After finishing the mile Lorna and I headed to Richmond Park for a steady 15k run. 

Lorna is using a coach at the moment, focusing on her form and doing easy trail runs before the mileage cranks up ahead of the Great East Run in September, I’m excited to see how much quicker she gets. It’s been really nice to run around Richmond Park the last couple of weekends, there’s no stress about the pace and it’s good to get off the roads especially with OCC coming up at the end of August.

June is going to be a pretty busy month for me. I have: Orion Forest Five, Endure 24, Strava Mile, LBH relays, Orion Fell Race, and the Orion Fast Friday (10,000m).

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Night of the 10,000m PBs 2017

On Saturday the 20th of May I headed up to Parliament Hill Athletics track to take part in Night of the 10,000m PBs. In 2015 and 2016 The Running Works retailed at the event so over the last couple of years I have seen how the event has developed and grown. The atmosphere was electric, I wanted to take part and experience the race from lane 1. Last year I ran 34:50 in the Orion Harriers Fast Friday 10,000m at Walthamstow Track allowing me to register for the Highgate 10k. I was initially put on the waitlist as the standard had risen but in the week or so leading up to the races I found out there was space for me. On seeing the start lists I realized I was the slowest, by quite a margin, in the E race. I knew this meant I would be left behind and lapped but I was still really excited to take part, spend the rest of the day cheering on friends in other races and watch the World Championship qualifiers.

I arrived at the track in plenty of time to register, pick up a race day programme from Left Spike Fanzine and sort my race kit. 

#fuelledbyscience

Having tested the Science in Sport Go Caffeine shots on Thursday morning before a track session with Hannah Walker I opted to take one at 2:45pm (30 minutes before the start of the race as recommended). It definitely perked me up; I was feeling ready to race and hoped that my legs would loosen up after a few laps. On the start line I had a quick catch up with my friend Dom, chatted to some of the other racers about goal times and then we were led to the start line. Knowing the majority of the guys in the race were aiming for 31-32 minutes I positioned myself at the back as I didn’t want to get caught up, go out too fast and blow up as there is nowhere to hide on track. I stuck to my plan of starting at around PB pace (3:30min/km). The first few laps passed and I was on pace, however it was feeling tough as my legs were heavy and I was already a good few hundred metres behind the rest of the group. I was immediately thinking “Ah man, I probably shouldn’t have pushed it at track on Tuesday or done so many kilometre reps on Thursday morning.” On the other hand I was thinking “Ease up a little and get it done, it’s good training to try and push the pace on tired legs and it’s been a good week mileage wise in training for OCC.”

Photo courtesy of @jamesbrewster 

My race “Afternoon of the 10,000m sufferfest” had begun, luckily though I was ticking off the laps quickly (mentally) thanks to friends and supporters shouting “Go on Skinner!!” every hundred metres or so. It was frustrating not to have any speed in the legs as I was breathing so easily, if someone was running alongside (unfortunately not the case) I could’ve had a nice good chat with them. I was lapped a few times which was demoralising but at the end of the day I couldn’t be too disheartened as I had put myself in that position, the pain was self-inflicted. Every kilometre was becoming slower and slower, I had gone from 3:28min/km to 3:49min/km throughout the race, there were so many times when I thought “I could walk off the side of the track and not many people would notice” but on the other hand I was thinking I would be letting Ben Pochee and the people supporting me down. I finally crossed the line in 36:21, a minute and a half slower than my PB. It was a humbling experience and I learnt if I want to race or do a decent time I definitely need to taper.

Photo courtesy of Steve O’Sullivan Sports Photography 

After finishing the race I walked past two guys lying on the floor exhausted. I felt guilty that maybe I hadn’t put in as much effort as them but once a PB was out of my reach self-preservation was my main priority. I did a quick cool down with Dom, he too struggled on the day but we both know why and what we need to do. I then met up with the Advent Running crew trackside; the first thing I said to them was “don’t ever do 10,000m on track”. The second thing I said was “there’s a 5,000m/10,000m event at Walthamstow Track in a couple of weeks” ha. I grabbed some pizza and we got a good position to watch the rest of the races unfold. In the men’s C race Ben Johnson (Run-Fast) had a great run beating his PB by 15 seconds or so. He’s in great form at the moment having finished the London Marathon in 2:21 earning an England vest in the Toronto Marathon later this year. It’s great to run at track on Tuesdays with the likes of him and Pete Huck (sub 30 minute 10k runner) and see what it takes to get to that level.

I felt relieved to have finished my race; I could relax and enjoy watching the rest of the races with Lorna and friends.

 I was looking forward to seeing who would win out of Dewie Griffiths, Andy Vernon and Ben Connor and the women’s start list was stellar. Andy Vernon opened up a large gap with 10 or so laps to go, the pace wasn’t quick enough to go sub 27:45 (World Champs qualifying time) as it was a little windy, but Andy finished first in 28:16.

 In the women’s race the favourites were Steph Twell, Jo Pavey, Beth Potter, Katrina Wootton and last year’s winner Jessica Martin.

 In the end Beth Potter ran away from Steph Well to win in 32:04. Steph finished just one second outside of the 32:15 qualifying time for the World Champs in August and Katrina Wootton took third after a good battle with Jo Pavey.

 The atmosphere was awesome for the A races, it makes me want to get quicker so I can one day take part in one of the later races.

For a more in depth recap of the day read this great article by sixth counter: http://www.sixthcounter.com/from-highgate-to-stratford

Overall it was an awesome day of running to take part in and observe, I can’t wait for next year already. Thanks to everyone that cheered me on in my race.

I am racing in the Westminster Mile on Sunday so if you’re going to be there give me a shout.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 19th of March I took part in the Hampton Court Palace Half. I signed up because Lorna, her sister Rachel, Marie (Lorna’s manager) and her husband Quentin had decided to run. As the race was organised by Run Through I knew it would be good, I was looking forward to running along the river and finishing just outside Hampton Court Palace. I didn’t really have a race plan as I knew my legs would be tired from the Escape to trail run, organised by Dean, on Saturday.

Despite the trail run I thought it would be good training to see how quickly I could get round. At the end of the day in Boston I will no doubt get to a point where my legs are feeling heavy and need to try and hold on to a decent pace.
We woke up at around 6am on Sunday morning so we could enjoy breakfast and get organised. Furthermore, we wanted to leave ours at 7am to make it to the palace in good time to park the car and walk to the race village. Lorna and Rachel were excited to see what time they could achieve. Rachel hadn’t raced since the London Marathon 14 years ago but had increased her mileage well over the few months before the race so we were all pretty confident she would run well. Ideally she wanted to beat Phil’s time of 1:43 from Colchester Half the previous weekend. We bumped into Tom (@tom.runs) and had a catch up before dropping our bags off. I headed to the start line and had a quick chat with Joe while we positioned ourselves near the front.

Off the start I went out pretty quickly, I was through the first kilometre in around 3:35 (75 minute pace) alongside Joe and a handful of others. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for long but decided to go with it and see what happened. I stayed with the group for a couple of kilometres but then I started to open up a little gap, first place was no longer visible but I could still just about see second place. I decided I was going to try and stay in third place and keep him in view for as long as possible. My legs were already feeling pretty heavy and tight from around 5k but I could still hold a decent pace, I was around 3:40-3:45 pace at this point. I knew it was going to be a long 16k but I wanted to have to dig deep and test the legs.

As I was on my own it was tough going especially running into the wind along the river. I didn’t turn around at all to see if I was being caught but when running past big crowds I could hear how close the runners were behind me. The support along the river was great.

Going from running on concrete to running on the towpath my legs were not happy especially having been on my feet for 4 hours, running 27k the previous day. I was relieved to make it to within 5k from the finish line and knew I could suffer for just less than 20 minutes to get it done. The final few kilometres were into the wind, which wasn’t great, but I just couldn’t wait to see the finish line and the palace. With 800m or so to go someone let me know there was a runner about 30m or so behind me, I upped my pace a bit to make sure no one was going to overtake me and then I was on the home straight. I crossed the line in 1:18:55 in 3rd, job done.


I cheered Tom, Hanif, Lorna, Rachel, Marie & Quentin through the finish. Lorna and Rachel smashed it finishing in 1:42 to beat Phil’s time. We went for a nice roast and then chilled for the rest of the day.

Overall it was a great day, if you’re looking for a quick scenic half next year I’d definitely recommend considering the Palace Half. The route was scenic and relatively flat, the crowds were good and the medal was cool (as to be expected from a Run Through event).

After racing the last four weekends in a row I’m looking forward to doing a steady long run at the weekend before tapering ahead of the Boston Marathon. I hope those of you that raced or had long training runs at the weekend enjoyed it and got the results/times you wanted. I love this time of year when everyone is racing and training hard. It’s inspiring to see so many great performances every weekend.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Colchester Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 12th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. I signed up because Lorna, her brothers and some friends were racing and I enjoyed the event in 2016 finishing 7th in 1:16:30. Lorna and I travelled back to Colchester on the Friday evening; it was deja vu as we had made the same trip the previous Friday for the Essex 20. Having raced Brighton Half Marathon and Essex 20 over the two weekends in the lead up to Colchester Half I took it easy during the week, no hard track sessions or tempo runs. My legs were feeling good going into the weekend and I thought a short shakeout run would be good on the Saturday morning so Rob and I did a nice 5k.

Rob was really excited to be racing, he was aiming to smash his PB and beat Phil. On our 5k run we talked about training and thought about how he should pace it. Having trained more specifically this year he knew roughly what paces he should be hitting when going down or uphill so was confident he would get a good result. As I have been doing more long runs recently the 5k went really quickly; it seemed to do the job of loosening my legs up and it was a good way to start the day. To fuel up for the race Rob and I met up with Alex and Smithy for Nandos whilst Lorna went for lunch with Holly. We then had a look around the shops before going back to Lorna’s mum and dads to chill, eat and get an early night.

We woke up at 7am on Sunday morning to give us time to have breakfast and get our kit ready. It had been while since I’d raced so frequently but I was looking forward to the challenge. Toast and coffee consumed we went to Alex’s place before walking to Colchester Football stadium where the race started and finished. We met Robbie Smith near the start line, it was great to have a catch up with him. He said he wasn’t in great shape due to injuries etc but I knew he’d still run really well! Having dropped a bag full of warm clothes for after the race we got ourselves on the start line. Normally I prefer to position myself a few rows back but having finished 7th in 2016 I decided to get to the front with a couple of friends: Ciaran Saunders and Sam Cornforth. We talked about training, recent races and what times we were aiming for and then we were sent on our way.

Quick off the start line with Ciaran (left) & Sam (right).

As my legs were feeling relatively fresh I decided to aim for 75 minute pace (3:35ish min/km). Knowing the first couple of kilometres of the race were flat then downhill I went out quickly with a view to bank a few seconds for the hills later on. There was a group of 5 or 6 of us to begin with; it was nice to be in a group for the first few kilometres. As we tackled the first hill in the 4th kilometre Ciaran and I pushed on, we passed the two runners who had taken the initial lead and settled into a good pace.

Once at the top of the hill I found myself at the front with one other runner for company (see runner on the right in the pic above). We both got back onto a good pace straight off the top of the hill to open up a bit of a gap to the rest of the field. Down the high street the crowds were in good voice. I was really surprised to be at the front of the race with the car and bike; I kept pushing the pace on the downhills. I knew that I was approaching the long pull up Ipswich Road that lasts for a good couple of kilometres. Finally we turned onto Severalls Lane to get back on the flat road and go through an industrial estate. The hardest parts of the course were done and I could focus on holding around 3:35min/km again. I didn’t look around to see where the other runners were but I still had the one runner alongside.

The kilometres went by quickly; I really enjoy the Colchester Half Marathon route because of the variety. The hills and corners break it up nicely. With 5k to go my competition started to up the pace, my legs were tiring but I tried to hold onto him for as long as possible. It was good to be pushing it on tired legs. I stuck with him for another 3 kilometres but then a gap opened up quickly. I was still on my goal pace but he was finishing strongly. It was disappointing to see my hopes of winning the race run off into the distance but I kept digging deep to get to the finish line inside 75 minutes. I passed Lorna’s parents’ house with just over one mile to go, Bob (Lorna’s dad) and Lidia (Phil’s fiancée) were outside trying to take photos and cheering.

There was a short incline just before the finishing straight, my legs were not happy. I just about held it together to finish in 2nd place in 1:14:58.

I congratulated the winner on a great run and then grabbed my bag before cheering Robbie, Frosty, Alex, Lorna, Rob and Phil through the finish. A big shout has to go to Rob for smashing his PB by 5 minutes and beating Phil by 2 in finishing in 1:41.

 Robbie, Alex, Lorna, Rob and me

We all freshened up before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. Overall a great weekend and another race completed.

Next up: Escape to Trail run (Saturday 18th) & Hampton Court Palace Half (Sunday 19th)

See a lot of you soon

Steve