Brooklands Half Marathon – The race I didn’t want to run

I entered this HM on a last minute whim as it coincided with needing to do a 13 mile taper run. Unfortunately I had overlooked a few major points. Firstly, it was an 8am start, secondly it was about an hour away from me. The third factor I had forgotten was that I was working on the Saturday night in London and wouldn’t get home until about 1am. The final nail in the coffin was that the clocks went forward that morning so I was going to get a maximum of 5 hours sleep: and I love my sleep.

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I decided to see how I felt driving back for work on Saturday night and judge whether I could be bothered to haul myself out of bed.

On the plus side an 8am start did mean that I could race and be back home before any of the family noticed and we could crack on with Mother’s Day without losing Brownie points. Another huge consideration was the ridiculous expensive cost of the race. £40 for a half marathon did seem, on the face of it, pretty pricey (more on that later) so, having spent it, I felt I should give it a go. .

Anyway race day came and I was up and away by 6.30. Got there in good time though just got through the roads before they were  closed. The whole race (other than start and finish) were run on roads completely closed to traffic – first clue to where the money was going)

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The race was held at the remarkable Mercedes Benz world at Brooklands (probably another reason for high cost). Many years ago I did some site photography when they were doing the ground works and I have taken both children there to learn to drive so I know the area well. (I even spent a few weeks as a volunteer at the wonderful Brooklands Motor Museum next door one winter).

Facilities were good though it never fail to amaze me that people are queuing 100 odd deep for the toilets 10 minutes before the start of a race. I don’t know if organisers constantly under-estimate the need or runners always get to races too late but I couldn’t see how the majority of them would get the the start of the race in a comfortable state. Testimony to this was the amount of people dashing into bushes 2 miles in to the race.

I was surprised how many people were as stupid as me to turn up and run. I don’t know the official figures but there must have been over 1000. Despite this once we got going (the first 2 miles were on the winding Merc test track) I didn’t feel there was too much bunching and you could set your own pace pretty easily.

Marshalling throughout the race was of a professional standard, i.e. they were obviously hired in to enforce the road closures rather than volunteers. As a result you didn’t get the cheering you would expect from marshals, after all they had a job to do, at a ridiculously early hour. Making up for this, however, were the residents of Weybridge. I honestly wasn’t expecting any spectators but they seemed out in force and were a great source of encouragement.

The course was varied. The first and last two miles were, as I said, on the Mercedes test track and then headed out into Weybridge. A couple of undulations to start (and to end as the course came back on itself) and then a pretty nice run through streets with VERY nice houses. The only stretch I wasn’t keen on was a dead straight track from I think 8-9 miles but that could have been me feeling a bit fatigued.

The first five miles were spent running at the same pace as a Scottish chap who, at every mile marker would ask the nearest runner what the time was, would curse that he was running too quickly and should slow down immediately, and continue running at the same pace to the next mile marker and so on. He eventually surged ahead of me and I didn’t see him again – until mile 11 when I passed him walking on the verge.

The final 2 miles are pretty tough though as, due to the switch-back nature of the Merc track you can see the finishing arch even though you are 2 miles out. However, its a good surface and flat so not a major stress.

I had decided, as it was basically taper run, not to take a watch or gps and just run it on feel. I was more than happy to get my timing  (print out immediately after the race) of 1.41:43 my second best HM time.

All in all a great race, fantastic weather, well organised and a nice tech t-shirt and medal. Still a bit steep but you can definitely see where the money goes. Will be back.

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Nearly there.

As I’ve finally finished my series of long runs and tapering is starting I thought it was a good time to reflect over the last three months. An amazing amount of running related things have happened. January was for me, like I imagine everyone, a damp slog, just a time to get the head down and the miles in. I was going to attempt the Stonehenge Stomp, a 20, 30 or 40k off roader that I have walked in past years but was going to run this time. Torrential rain in the days leading up to it made me rethink. There are a lot of ploughed fields to run round and I didn’t fancy a fracture just yet; or at all.

Watford Half Marathon

My first half marathon of the year was in Watford on 2nd February, made more appealing by knowing that the Runners World pacers would be there. I’d not run with a pacer before and found it a fantastic experience. Having the ability to switch off and just keep the man with a flag in my eyeline allowed me to concentrate on just doing the miles and not worrying about pace. I overtook him with about 3 miles to go and came in with a PB at 1.42:53.

Marathon Talk Spring Run Camp

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The following weekend was the inaugural Marathon Talk Spring Run Camp (this one time, at Run Camp…) at the exquisitely named Sandy Balls Holiday Park. I was pretty nervous going into the camp as a pretty inexperienced runner and expected to be left behind pretty quickly. However, Martin and Tom had thought it all through and everyone, of any level, was well catered for. The weekend started off with a parkrun and interval session (6 x 3min) in the afternoon. The next day was the long run, either 11,16 or 19 miles of trail running on soaking ground and in parts, massive headwinds. My jantastic goal was 15 miles so I did the 11 mile circuit then a 2 mile out and back. Luckily I didn’t attempt the 16 miler as the extra 5 mile loop apparently was nearer 7 miles! I was a great weekend with some good talks by Liz Yelling, Steve Way and Louise Damen and great to talk running with people whose eyes don’t glaze over or snigger at the mention of a fartlek.

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Liz Yelling and Louise Damen

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Martin Yelling and Steve Way

Hampton Court Half Marathon

This was notable only for two things. Firstly it was an 18 mile run day for me so I planned a route 2.5 miles from the start of the race so I could run there, do the race and run back giving me a total of 18.1 miles.

Secondly, the organisers either mucked up the distance or a marshal directed us the wrong way but the HM actually came in at 12.8 miles. I was taking it fairly steady around the course as I was treating it as a long run, sorting gels and drinks etc but still nearly PB’d! I knew something wasn’t quite right.

Luckily for me my in and out distance to the car was 2.6 miles so the total was a perfect 18 miles.

Silverstone Half Marathon

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A great race. Freezing and windy (Silverstone is and old airfield after all)  weren’t the ideal conditions especially as I’d done my usual trick of getting there ridiculously early. Also the start time was a real pain. 12pm for me is a tricky time having been used to fuelling for a 9-10am race. By 11 I was pretty hungry and hadn’t prepared for that. Took a gel and hoped it would be OK. I positioned myself between the 1.30 and 1.45 pacers and hoped I’d stay there for the race. My only aim was to PB so needed to keep well ahead of the 1.45. The race went well though with the constant turns on the track you were facing a headwind at some point. Why does a headwind slow you down more than a tail wind speed you up!. At 9 miles I did a bit of fatigued mental maths and thought I was on for a sub 1.30 HM. For some reason I figured at 9 miles there were only 3 to go. It wasn’t until the 10 mile marker I realised I STILL had 3 left.

Finished the last mile strong and ended up with a PB of 1.38.59

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Could have had a shave.

And now

Since them it has really just been a matter of getting the long runs in, checking fluid and carb intake during the runs and trying to stay in one piece. Weather has turned better, finally, and we’ve had some great dawns and dusks.

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Adidas26rs

I did my final long run with the newly created adidas26rs running club in London last Sunday (23rd March). I really nice 22 mile run from their base (in the basement of Sweatshop, Bishopsgate) over London Bridge along the Southbank to Putney Bridge then back to Tower Bridge on the North side and up to the shop again. There were about 15 of us though pretty quickly we spread out over various paces. I was lucky to run with a fantastic chap, Ollie, and we chatted the whole way round keeping easily to our 9 min mile marathon pace. It’s given me massive confidence that I will sub-4 my first marathon.

Bring it on.

 

2013 Roundup

Firstly a new years resolution – to try to keep this blog updated a bit more than once every 2 months.

Since the beginning of November I have on a bit of a medal hunt, running the Henley 10k, Chorleywood 10 mile, Marlow Half Marathon, Rugged Radnage 10k, Movember MK 10k and Milton Keynes Half Marathon. Happily I have been beating previous times (except for Radnage which was a proper bitch) and have managed to stay injury free. Along with that I have succumbed to the sweet temptations of Parkrun though times have fluctuated wildly.

Of the two half marathons Marlow was, due to the quantity and height of the hills, the hardest but also the most fun. Starting with a gradual climb for the first mile or so it became a roller coaster of ups and downs with the infamous Rotten Row climb at about 8 miles. It was a great feeling to overtake people who were walking up the hills, not so nice to see them easily pass me as soon as the going was flatter.

The most annoying part from a performance view was the final mile run in. It was the same mile out but reversed so was a nice gentle downhill to the finish. I really wish I had pushed myself on that last mile as I could have achieved a much better time for my first half marathon in 25 years. As it was I came in at 1.50:28

Milton Keynes was a month later on 15th December and I was hoping to smash my previous best – especially as it is pretty much a flat course. As seems to happen, progression isn’t a straight line and I had a terrible run. Set off too quickly in a bid to beat my previous time and by 5 miles I was knackered. By mile 10 I could cheerfully have given up. Eventually came in at 1.45.21 but have learned a valuable lesson in pacing.

2014 will start with  bit of Parkrun tourism, a lot of Jantastic and longer runs in a build up to the London Marathon in April. Be back soon

The Start

There are probably thousands of blogs from runners far more experienced and definitely more competent than me, so why add to it? I guess it started with my first run. I’d been making excuses not to run for days, weeks even. I would get as far as putting all the gear on and sitting in the kitchen lacing up my shoes. A couple of spots of rain on the conservatory roof and the trainers would be off quicker than Usain Bolt off the starting line. Finally, I ran out of excuses, the weather was fair and I tentatively set off for my first run. Living on an estate, though, meant there was no possibility of starting out running confidently from my front door through the streets. Too many people to point and laugh on the way through. No, luckily I had my dog with me so I could pretend I just happened to go for a walk dressed like this until I got away from anyone I might know.  Final hurdle over I hacked up a nonchalant cough and started my first stumbling steps toward becoming a runner. Down barely used footpaths I fumbled my way lungs burning and shin splints starting until I saw a lady of a certain age crouching, perfectly still, staring intently into the opposite bush. Thinking she might have spotted some rare type of fauna I approached quietly and stealthily trying not to disturb whatever magic of nature she had spied. At exactly the moment she noticed me and turned to look over, I realised that here was a woman with trousers round her ankles and that the look of concentration of her face was far removed from one trying to recall the genus of some rarely sighted willow warbler.  In a typically British scene we both apologised profusely and I ran on. This, I decided, was the sport for me