On Sunday 9th September I took part in the inaugural Colchester Stampede Half Marathon. Lorna and I had been meaning to take a trip to Colchester Zoo for a while and with her brother Rob racing we thought it would be a good opportunity to visit. Having fully recovered from SVP100 and Clacton Half I wanted to see what sort of shape I was in ahead of Munich Half on 14th October. I’ve done several Run Through races in the past so knew it would be well organised and that a few friends would be there.
In the lead up to the race I banked a couple of solid weeks training including tough track sessions running at quicker than half marathon pace. I also added a few longer runs around 16-20k into my week to improve my speed endurance. On the Friday before the race I ran 20k along the river in London with the first 10k easy and the second 10k around marathon pace. I didn’t run on the Saturday but Lorna, Rob, Sheilagh and I walked 8 miles around Alton Water with the dogs. In the evening Rob cooked chicken and sweet potato frittas to fuel us up and we got an early night as the race started at 9am.
Ahead of the race I was feeling really relaxed, I was looking forward to the challenge and seeing how my body would cope with pushing the pace. As I struggled to hold a decent pace in the Clacton Half I was wondering if I’d have to take it easy and settle for getting around at near marathon pace. However, I decided “there’s nothing to lose, I may as well set out around half marathon PB pace and see how it goes”. I figured the worst-case scenario was that I would have to ease up. This would still mean I’d put in a good effort and feel stronger after the race building towards Munich.
Speaking to race organiser Matt Wood before the start he let me know that the course was quick but undulating with a sharp hill near the end. Taking the start line I had a good catch up with Ken Hoye, then some elephants were brought into their enclosures before we started. The race began promptly at 9am and we weaved through the zoo for the first 300m or so. Sticking to my plan of pushing the pace I clocked an opening kilometre of 3:18, chasing two runners in front. A little further down the road the leader dropped out, my chances of competing for the win increased. I settled into a pace closer to my half marathon PB and got around the first (small) loop clocking 17:05 for the first 5k. Despite this being only 45 seconds slower than my 5k PB the legs felt good and I was enjoying the route. Having grown up in Devon I used to love running around the hilly country lanes.
Heading into the first of two longer loops I was closing the gap on the leader. As I was aiming to run as close to 75 minutes as possible I kept an eye on my watch to check I was around 3:30min/km pace. Some kilometres were a little quicker when running downhill. I let the legs do the work, it felt like I was getting a little rest before working harder into the wind or on the gradual inclines.
Thumbs up for the Iffley Road Lancaster Striped Track White Vest
I moved to the front of the race part way through the loop and ran through 10k in 34:26, again only a few seconds over my PB for that distance but I was feeling strong. I think the combination of doing regular track sessions and finishing SVP100k has improved both my speed and endurance.
Over the last lap I slowed a little as my legs began to tire. However, I knew I’d banked time in the first half of the race, so I could ease up and still finish around 75 minutes. Running passed people on their first long loop I received lots of shouts of encouragement which was great. It really helped distract me from the fact my legs were tightening. I made it into the final kilometre and tackled the hill before entering the zoo. Weaving by the animal enclosures I lost a few more seconds but crossed the line in 75:20.
I cheered Lorna and Rob through the finish then we spent the day looking around the zoo. All in all, it was a great day in Colchester. I will be back to try and improve my course record (disclaimer: this was the inaugural event) if it fits in the race calendar next year. The Run Through team organised another great event.
On Sunday the 25th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. It was the third time I have ran the race; mainly because it is Lorna’s home half marathon. Having only raced in a RunThrough 5k in January and the Cancer Research Winter 10k I wanted to push myself and see what shape I was in ahead of the London Marathon. I lowered my mileage in the week leading up to the race, pacing The Running Works Run Club and run commuting at a steady pace.
Last year Lorna’s brother Rob and I opted for an easy 5k on the Saturday to shake our legs out. As it worked well we decided to do the same again. I was really looking forward to race day but for some reason I doubted whether I could run a good time or be able to work hard when it got tough in the final few kilometres (which it always does).
With the race starting at 9am we woke up around 7 o’clock to have breakfast and get our race kit ready. I slept well and my legs felt good. Before the Colchester Half last year I’d ran Essex 20 the previous weekend and raced a lot so my legs were tired. Therefore I was aiming to beat my time of 1:14:58. We all headed to Colchester Community Stadium to drop our bags and get on the start line.
Photo courtesy of gazette news, Essex County Standard.
Having finished 2nd in 2017 I positioned myself near the front. Remembering the first 4k or so is slightly downhill I decided to push the pace early on and get into a good rhythm.
Two runners flew off the start and were into the distance but I had a couple of club runners for company in the opening kilometres. Running up the hill and onto the high street the crowds were out in force.
Approaching Ipswich Road, which is a gradual uphill, I settled into a good pace. I calculated I needed to hold around 3:30min/km to finish in under 75 minutes. Despite running on my own the kilometres went quickly and I was soon winding my way through the industrial estate. It was a shame not having anyone to race but I was focused on holding my pace and bagging a time to qualify for a championship start in the London Marathon for the next few years.
Running along Langham Lane and Dedham Road it was really quiet. It felt strange running in a race and for there to be no one around. I turned onto Straight Road which lasts for a good 4 to 5 kilometres. I knew this was where I needed to “dig deep” / “go to the well”. The long straight road is quite demoralising but luckily for me Lornas parents live a mile or so from the finish so I always look forward to cheers from her family and know I haven’t got long left from there.
Photo courtesy of Liam Winters Photography.
Nearing the football stadium I was keeping a close eye on my watch, as I was still holding 3:30min/km on average I knew I was going to make it in under 75 minutes. I mustered a sprint finish to cross the line in 74:05 in 3rd place.
I congratulated the winner and runner up before grabbing my bag to watch Lorna, Alex, Rob and Smithy finish. They all ran really well; Lorna clocked her second fastest half marathon time in 1:31 and Rob got a personal best.
Overall it was another great race. No doubt I will be back in 2019 to try and go quicker again.
I have been part of Team Iffley for over a year now and think it is about time I explained how and why I partner with Iffley Road as well as letting you know about my favourite pieces of kit.
I first became aware of Iffley Road back in 2015, I was attending an event celebrating the first birthday of Like the Wind Magazine and got talking to founders Claire & Bill. As I was in the middle of training for my first marathon I asked them for advice on balancing speed sessions and long runs. They were both really helpful and I could tell how passionate they were about running straight away. Subsequently Claire emailed me a few book recommendations that have been great. Following the event I started following Iffley Road on social media and kept a close eye on what kit they were releasing. I was really impressed with the brand image and the functionality of the apparel.
I love their “Icons” video: https://youtu.be/Z5Tuats6HtU
My opportunity to work with the brand arose when they were looking for ambassadors through the Freestak platform. I applied straight away and was lucky that Claire and Bill liked my ideas and thought I would work well in the team. Since then I have written a number of pieces, sketched some of my favourite London landscapes and worn their kit for hundreds of miles in training and racing.
I am really excited to work with Iffley Road in 2018. Team Iffley includes Ben Fogle, James Beckinsale, Tom Wheatley & Sam Pearce.
My favourite Iffley Road kit
Marlow Running Jacket Night Sky Orange
I practically live in my Marlow jacket. It is really lightweight for a water proof jacket and the sizeable back pocket is perfect for cards, keys and phone. The elasticated cuffs and hem ensure it fits nicely, there is a good amount of room for swinging your arms and there isn’t too much excess material which can be typical of other waterproof jackets.
Hove Running Top Night Sky
I have been wearing the Hove long sleeve top for the last few months and it fast became one of my favourite pieces of Iffley apparel. It is the perfect top for cooler weather and is incredibly functional thanks to the tri-stripe hanging loop and in-seam pocket for a card and keys.
Cambrian Chevron Running T-Shirt Vivo Red
Last year Iffley Road designed kit for the Vivo elite race team. As it was popular the two brands have created a limited edition range perfect for chasing PBs. I have raced a lot in my Cambrian Chevron T-Shirt; it is really lightweight, soft and breathable. As with the Hove Running Top it features an in-seam pocket so it is ideal for long training runs.
Lancaster Striped Running Vest Track White Blue
The Lancaster Vest is great in hot weather. I wore mine on holiday in Barcelona last year when it was 30 degrees and it wicked well and dried quickly. I have found that all my Iffley tops dry really quickly which is excellent.
Thompson 6” Running Shorts
Whenever I’m running and just need a card and keys I always opt for my Thompson Shorts. They are really comfortable and feature side pockets as well as a zipped inner pocket. As they are relatively short I often wear them to race in.
Admittedly Iffley Road running wear is often a little more expensive than other brands. However, having ran in most of their range I think it is good value as it is durable, functional and more often than not becomes a favourite that you will wear on a regular basis. Personally I see running kit as a good investment, the more you can run in comfort the better.
I hope you have found this piece insightful. If you would like any specific information about any of the Iffley kit please don’t hesitate to comment or write to me on Twitter or Instagram (@SteveSkinner_).
It’s been almost two months since I last wrote a blog post so I thought I’d document what I’ve been up to since the Lisbon Marathon in October. With my championship entry for the London Marathon confirmed I have been focusing on building a good base so that I can train more specifically in the New Year and get a lot of really long runs in.
Looking back at my Strava training log in 2015 and 2016 I realised that despite taking part in Advent Running (the festive running streak) my mileage has been too low in November/December going into marathon training. With this in mind I have made more of an effort to run commute regularly, even if it has been freezing cold and dark. I have realised that generally no matter how tired my legs feel I can complete an easy 8k and they normally loosen up.
Despite December being busy in terms of Christmas shopping and drinks etc I have managed to get into a good routine and regularly attend the Run-Fast track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday evenings. At the time of writing I have been to track for 8 weeks in a row and after the last 5 sessions I have run an extra 20 minutes at around marathon pace (this is something I found beneficial before the Boston Marathon in April, thank you Simon Freeman for the recommendation).
I definitely don’t want to overcook it and peak too early but I am enjoying my running and my recovery rate is improving which should allow me to do more training of a higher quality in the New Year. On my Strava post “#AllAboutTheBase” Andy Waterman made a good point of dialling the pace back at track sessions slightly so I can run a good weekly mileage and not need too many full rest days.
Another reason I’ve been able to bank a few weeks of consistent mileage is I haven’t taken part in many races. Photo courtesy of Sam Pearce (@thefootpathlesstravelled)
I did the London XC Champs on the 18th of November which was great fun but apart from that I have just done the odd parkrun. Racing the shorter distances has allowed me to recover and still do a good long run the next day.
Over the last few weeks I’ve added a tempo run on Thursday nights. They have been tough as my legs have been tired from track but I think it is good training both mentally and physically to push the pace when fatigued. I am really excited to see what sort of shape I can get into in 2018 and for the first time in a while I have set myself some challenging targets across various distances.
In the New Year I am planning to start a weekly training log on here so you can all follow my journey to the London Marathon start line, I hope some of you will find it entertaining and/or informative. I’d be really interested to hear how everyone else’s training is going and what you’ve got lined up for 2018, drop me a message on Twitter or Instagram @SteveSkinner_
See a lot of you soon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,