February 24, 2014
I haven’t actually participated in a race as such since October so I was looking forward to running in race conditions today, and what with yesterday’s welcome return of Sunshine to London I was optimistic that the conditions would be good.
I awoke at 7am to a very grey and damp morning…and also a swollen lip. I have been feeling a little run down the last few days and fighting a cold. The lip got better as the day went by which was a relief.
The race was being held at Ford’s (the motor car company) technical testing site near Basildon. I was travelling there with a member of my running club and his lovely wife, so no worries about getting lost or being late.
The event was very well organised, we even got to wait for the start of the race inside which was a welcome relief as it was pretty chilly and the wind was starting to pick up a bit too.
After an energetic aerobic style warm up and a group picture of my other East London Runner team mates we were assembling for the start of the race. Now it is very rare that I go into a race with a game plan. Well it is normally to finish without keeling over, and sometimes I might have a time I would like to do it in, but very rarely do I achieve a time goal. But today I wanted to take advantage of what I thought would be a flat course and the fact it was two laps, I figured I should be able to test my marathon pace.
So my aim was to run as consistently as possible at my goal marathon pace of 11 and a half minute miles. I wear a Garmin sports watch, but I am guilty of not really looking at the thing while I run and simply using it to look at how I did after the event, so I was adamant that today I would utilise this training tool to assist me in my pacing during the race.
The wheelchair athletes went off first and then the rest of the field. It didn’t take long to realise that the course did indeed have some hills, well more inclines than anything…think test track…think going round bends at an angle…think leaning to one side and making a veeeeeruuuuuummmmm, scrreeeeeaaaachhhh kinda sound.
It was a relatively small field of just over 300 runners, so it didn’t take long for me to settle into my position towards the back. My first mile was a little faster than my desired pace but thats me all over, as I tried to keep up with two ladies I know (Laura & Nikki) taking part in todays #onebigfatrun they too had wanted to stick to about the same pace as me and finish under 2 hours, but I couldn’t stick with them and slowed down a bit.
The course was fine, not a lot to look at but a great training course consisting of two connected loops with great stewards cheering us along our way, and a basic water station that we passed four times.
As I entered the second loop I came across a man on the side of the road who had fallen over, he had a group of runners around him assisting him and it wasn’t long until I heard a siren which put my mind at ease knowing that at least some medical care was on its way. It later transpired that he had a seizure of some kind, his wife put a message on the race event facebook page this evening saying he was recovering well in hospital.
With such a small field like this, it really felt like everyone was looking out for each other. It also meant we got to see the faster runners a few times too. Patrick (or as I like to refer to him….Mr Superman Speedy Proper Runner Patrick) from my running club was sitting in 2nd place at one point and still managed a thumbs up of encouragement for me.
I noticed one man as I looped back who was quite clearly the back runner. He was a largish kinda guy, probably about the same weight as me but carrying it on a shorter frame than mine. He was running a very steady (and slow) pace, but he wasn’t giving up and must have been lapped by the fast runners quite early on…which I know from experience can be quite soul destroying. Having been in that position many times I know all kind of things can go through your mind. Am I keeping the stewards all out in the cold longer than they want to, is the finish line even gonna be there when I finish, am I even going to finish at all?
He kept pushing on though. And on the last double back loop I couldn’t help but shout out “Keep going mate” I hope he didn’t think I was being patronising, he was doing a great job in awful conditions.
By now the wind was really picking up. I had just gone past the halfway mark, and had done it in under an hour, well 54 minutes 8 seconds to be exact. I worried that I perhaps had gone out to fast though, and the wind was really blowing now. Would I pay for it later in the race?
I don’t think I have ever run 5 miles in under an hour…even when I ran in the Olympic Stadium last year it took me 1 hour 3. Anyway, I kept looking at my watch, and when the wind got really tough blowing full gust into my face I still fought against it and tried to maintain a decent pace, anytime it crept over the 12 minute mile pace I stepped up my efforts until it slipped between 11 and 11.30, even when the wind was trying its hardest to blow me away.
The last loop was quite tough, I actually slowed to a walk on an uphill bend so that I could take a couple of ibroprofen to help with the pain I was feeling in my hips. But my eye was on the time and I realised if I didn’t start running again the sub 2 hour time would be long gone. So i stepped it up again.
I was almost home, with just a long stretch past the finish line, and then a small loop (with hill) back again to cross the line. But the wind had other ideas and was so strong I struggled to even breathe, another short period of walking enabled me to catch my breath and then one final push and I was owing down the final straight. Somehow I managed to make the last mile my fastest…it might have something to do with the wind on my back and the sun trying to make a break in the crowds.
I crossed the line in 1 hour 53 minutes and 35 seconds…an average of 11.17 minute miles, now if I can maintain that pace for an additional 16.2 miles then my dream of a sub 5 hour marathon is doable. Just need to pray for no wind, and no hills, and no hip pain, and…and…and….!!
Anyway, all in all it was a great event which I thoroughly enjoyed, so a huge thank you to the organisers St Luke’s Hospice, Ford Motor Cars and all of the other sponsors and supporters. I would definitely do this one again, so hopefully see you all again next year.
A race is not a race unless there is cake at the finish line!!
Here are the 3 first males, including Superman Patrick (on the right), who finished I would hazard a guess in about an hour!! (Official times not in yet!!!)
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