Category Archives: Race reports

Poppy 10k – the best run so far

As you may have read before, for our last race of the year, we decided we would return to Bexhill-on-Sea – the venue of what was until earlier this year my best ever half marathon. But having not had a solo run under UKA rules at the 10k distance this year, I thought I’d step down a distance and take it on today.

I came into the run wanting a sub-50 minute run, hoping for a PB and imaging what a sub-49 might be like.

Preparation has been mixed over the past month or two in truth. A back injury a few weeks ago had affected training and then holidays came up too which made running harder to arrange. All that said though I had had some excellent training runs since getting back from Grenada a couple of weeks ago.

The trip to first Eastbourne then on to Bexhill went well enough. However we discovered pretty early on that the weather was not brilliant. Rain was definitely in the air and there was a fair bit of wind before the start too, although in fairness that did fade before the race start.

With the way training runs have gone I decided I’d run the race in much the same way I attacked the Jayson Lee 10k a few months ago – aiming for 5-minute-kilos and try and hang on enough so that a final kilometre surge would bring me in under 50 minutes.

It being the 11th of November we had a two minutes silence before the start. Well it was actually longer because most people misheard the PA announcer when they said they’d start the two minutes silence shortly. Everyone fell silent anyway, leaving the PA guy to sheepishly say “right now we’ll have the two minutes silence”.

The course was two laps of an out and back route along the seafront and the first run out to the far end of the course was fine and steady. The first four kilometres were all timed within a second of each other around 4:54 each.

Around the 5k mark I was overtaken, possibly for the only time in the race by a lady who eventually was the second fastest woman in the race. Shortly afterwards I noticed some soreness in my hip and I was increasingly finding breathing to be hard work. I wasn’t feeling optimistic at the time but my watch still indicated I was heading for a low 49s time, but I did resolve to allow myself to ease the speed a fraction.

At around the 3km and 8km mark there was a steep hill, followed by a right turn and then a demoralising longer steadier climb. On the second lap I found this particularly tough and my predicted time dropped to over 50 minutes.

When I reached the top of the hill I felt like I accelerated very nicely, without really even noticing it because at one stage in the last kilometre I glanced down at my watch and saw I was running an excellent 13km/h and my predicted time was down in the 49s again.

I just put my head down ignored the time and speed after that, ignored the pain in my legs and ignored my wheezy breathing and just got on with running. The finish seemed to take ages but it probably didn’t. A bit of a fast finish coming in towards the De La Warren Pavilion brought me over the line in a gun timed 49:14 and chip timed 49:06, setting a new PB for the distance plus beating those also for 5 and 6 miles.

I was delighted. The time so was much better than I’d expected, especially given the bad the patch I had experienced around 7k. I picked up my unofficial time print and was amazed to discover that I was 26th overall out of 218. Just a brilliant effort and something I’ve never really done before. We’ll certainly be back.

These two ran the race in about 56 minutes. Nice

After the race I felt quite tired and sore. I’d definitely taken a lot out of my legs, and I had a sore right foot too. So the two hours on trains to come up here to Reading weren’t really wanted, but the trip was worth it.

Tonight we met up with our daughter and enjoyed celebrating the weekend via cocktails and steak and very nice they were too. We go home tomorrow and at the moment I’m expecting to have a lighter training schedule for a few weeks before Reading Half Marathon training builds again.

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Jayson Lee Memorial 10k Run

I’m not ashamed to admit that I found Sunday’s race a little bit emotional. Not teary emotional, just an event I came away from having very strong feelings about.

I came into the 10k race interrupting my marathon training to have a break from the distance work and have a go at getting some serious speed work in, and maybe see what kind of dent I could make on my 10km PB of a little under 51 minutes done at Regent’s Park in December 2015.

The Jayson Lee Memorial 10k Run was to be possibly my only proper 10k of the year, and my parkruns of late – being all consistent low 24-minute runs – told me that the fabled sub 50-minute 10k was a possibility.

The build up to the race was not unusual, other than the fact we were at home rather than traveling for a change. And traveling to the race didn’t involve trains. We just walked there. That never happens. Except in Stratford maybe…

Before the start I heard some chatter in the crowd about there being 450 runners but that felt a little on the high side and that 250 was more likely. Then again I’m fairly rubbish at guessing the numbers of attendees at our local parkrun. It actually turned out to be about 230. Still a great turnout though for a local charity run.

The course was a good one, if a bit undulating. The start was busy but with plenty of space to run in. It just took a few minutes to find people about my pace to run with. I had come into the run with a game plan of running fairly steady 5-minute kilometres and a faster tenth to come in under a 50 minute 10k. I set out more or less on track, maybe a fraction fast, with 4:51, 4:54 and 4:53. I thought it might have been a tad quick but I also considered that I had some time in the bank that I could use later. The 4th kilometre had the first hills, one of which I’d forgotten was there, so I allowed myself a fraction slower at 5:03 then it was back on plan for the run to the turn back towards the inner road and a gentle climb – 4:57, 4:59 and 4:58.

When we hit the inner road it should have been a good feeling knowing I was into the last third of the race but it really wasn’t. The 8th kilometre was essentially all uphill – very gently uphill but uphill all the same. I think we also had some wind in our faces on that run back. It just felt hard and even the short downhill sections didn’t result in any particular improvement in speed. The 8th km was a 5:12. I wasn’t really happy with that but at least I did know I had time in hand and my target was still in reach but I couldn’t run that pace all the way to the finish.

On this return run where I’d allowed myself a lesser pace, I’d found myself following someone who was clearly on a similar target so I allowed myself to sit in behind her until about a mile to go.

Knowing the rest of the course very well I knew it was pretty much gentle downhill all the way to the finish at FB Fields and I got my pace back. The 9th km was a perfectly acceptable 5:01 and then I just kept on going. I lost my running partner, although she did try to come back at me entering the lap of the FB running track but she didn’t come past. Before that I’d seen someone in the distance who I used to work with. They’d clearly accelerated too though so I wasn’t really aiming on catching them. I was able to accelerate but I didn’t have a kick in me for a proper sprint finish.

But I did finish well and most importantly inside my target at 49:16 as per GPS timing (49:33 semi-officially although there was a results mix up so I may never have an actual finish time).

After the race I realised why I didn’t have a finish kick in me. My final kilo was a 4:26 which was my 4th fastest kilometre on record. I never realised I could sustain that sort of pace in the finish of a long run so that was a fantastic achievement. I don’t really know how I did it because I felt I had nothing left to give, but it was a good sign for future long runs for sure.

A day after the run I’m still feeling great about the run and grateful for the support I had at the finish. It was a great event and I’d certainly look forward to doing it again.

Guernsey, Newham and a lull in the running

It’s been about seven weeks or so since my last post here but I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of races in that time.

Training went ok. After Liverpool I did a couple of gentle runs then a ten miler on the Sunday after the half marathon. Then a few more little runs including an aborted effort at trying to beat #mymile record and the following Sunday another great long 8 mile run.

A couple of days on from that I had another go at my mile record and achieved it getting a 6:49 – a brilliant effort. Which pretty much takes me up to the Guernsey Milk Run.

In the build up to the run, my wife and I had decided that we’d try and run this one together, ideally in order to get her a best for the half marathon, but probably just to enjoy ourselves. While we were in Guernsey, we stayed at this lovely pub with rooms, the Longfrie Inn. The staff there were just brilliant and I really hope we find a reason to go back next year, although if I do the same run next year I probably wouldn’t stay at that hotel.

The first couple of miles in Guernsey were great. We both had lot of fun.

But as the race got on the heat took its toll on Jean so we didn’t do as well as we wanted too but the 2:54 time was perfectly ok in what were actually horrible, hot conditions.

After Guernsey I had only a couple of runs before running the Great Newham London Run two weeks later. Work had got really busy so training ended up taking a lower priority.

I think my wife and I had differing views about Newham. I thought it was an amazing event and I hope to be able to return one day, but again it was very hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade out there on the course.

Again we didn’t really meet any speed objectives but we had a good run. I really enjoyed finishing in the Olympic Stadium and while yes there could have been bigger crowds it still had a great atmosphere.

Then since Newham I’ve done very little running at all. Work has still been stupidly busy so running time hasn’t been available. But the Jersey Marathon is still a fair while away yet.

Before that though we have the pleasure of an all inclusive week in Greece and after the past couple of weeks I can’t wait.

The​ ​Rock ‘n’​ ​Roll​ ​Liverpool​ ​weekend

I’m writing this at about 9.35pm on Sunday night, the evening of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon. My legs still hurt a little, I’m a bit tired but I can look back at today with a tremendous sense of complete satisfaction. We’ve still got bank holiday Monday here in Liverpool but whatever we get up to tomorrow will surely pale in comparison to the past couple of days events.

Let’s start with Friday.  The weekend started fairly inauspiciously with huge queues greeting us at Jersey airport, however we were extremely surprised when we still found ourselves through to the departure lounge in maybe 15 minutes.  That being said we still only barely had time for a drink before our flight.  We arrived in Liverpool in good time and ready for the  bus that I was hoping to catch.  And then Friday went downhill as the 82A bus failed to show despite another driver swearing blind it had – it hadn’t. By the time we had a bite to eat and reached our hotel it was well past 9pm and a bit late given the runs to come.

The weather throughout the build up to the weekend first said it was going to be hot then it was going to be very wet.  The Saturday weather was hot in the end so not ideal but better than the practical issues we’d have had if it had have rained instead. This was all not before  I popped outside before the race to check on the weather – it was barely raining but in the end that was about the only rain we’ve seen so far this weekend.

The first race of the weekend then was the 5k run.  Over 3,000 runners lined up for the start next to the BT Convention Centre by the Mersey. We all lined up in our pens and waited. A hush began to work back down the runners as everyone eventually realised there was a moment’s silence in remembrance of the Manchester attack – a silence that was impeccably observed and was quite eerie in itself.

As the waves of runners started we actually got to the start line before we expected to but our rhythm wasn’t particularly affected by it. What we didn’t know was that up ahead of us there was a huge problem as the first three waves of runners (or possibly two or four waves depending who you ask) followed a lead bike which had turned right in front of the Echo Arena rather than around the back of it meaning they cut about half a kilometre off the route. I don’t really know how, or if, it got resolved.

As expected there were a couple of bands on the course adding to the atmosphere 

but it was over much too soon really in 32:47.  The finish in the Echo Arena itself was a bit of a novelty but because it was really dark it was also really hard to see anything – that was a pain really.  That evening we observed what is now our normal pre-race steak dinner – Miller and Carter really does come very highly recommended.

Today’s pre-race build up went well. The weather was about as good as possible with the exception of a pretty blustery wind coming in off the riverside.  There was a delay to the start apparently caused by huge queues at the baggage drop area but we got going before long.

Sort of.  The opening mile or so was very crowded so I started losing time on my two-hour target right away. The first 3k had me about half a minute down on schedule still with the hills to come. But I improved quickly and even on the hills themselves I kept up a good pace.  About this time I saw a guy in a monkey suit and we seemed to trade places with each other for most of the first half of the run before he pulled clear with his running club group.

The second half of the race was just hard work. From about the 7k mark I saw I was on track for a time in the region of 1:57 but knowing I had time in hand didn’t seem to be a positive. My heart rate was under control but still higher than I’d have liked it to be.  Heading for the halfway point I saw the two-hour pacer heading in the opposite direction. I knew from the course route there was a turnaround point but I had no idea exactly where so I initially had no idea how far I was behind the pacer.  I think it must have been 7-10 minutes which, considering my finishing time, is a pretty poor effort I think. I’m glad I couldn’t find the pacer at the start else my race might have been very different.

The final stretch running north alongside the Mersey was long and a little dull, although the dodgy pavements certainly kept everyone alert and interested! I saw one guy nearly fall over with just a mile to go but luckily he didn’t. As is now normal for me, my final km was my fastest at only a touch over five minutes and it brought me a finishing time of 1:56:35 – taking something like over six minutes off my personal best and of course running under two hours for the half marathon for the first time.

I’m really hugely proud of that time which will put me in the top half of all half marathon runners this year. I paid for it though. As I said I’m really tired and a little sore but ultimately I think it was worth it! What a brilliant event though. Certainly hope to return sometime.

Outrunning Superman

The Durrell Challenge 2017

Sunday’s race was one I think I’ll always look back fondly on. It was hot, tiring and very very hilly and of course I absolutely loved it. Eventually.

The build up to the race really couldn’t have gone better as I’ve said previously. Injury free and probably in the form of my running life to date – Jean had been running brilliantly too so we’d really both been looking forward to what was actually Jean’s first race of the year.

The race morning build up went to plan. I had my strategy in mind of keeping my pace under control so as to aim not to blow up like last year. There was clearly a big field, as was shown by the eventual results showing 502 finishers, but it didn’t seem particularly crowded at all. I’d seen a couple of familiar faces before the start and then got chatting to someone who was visiting from California having just come for the race. The race began a little late but we got going and I found it to be slightly heavy going. I’m not sure it was crowded or whether there were just a lot of people who had lined up too far forward for their likely pace. There was certainly someone in the first kilometre or so getting in everyone’s way by walking and causing chaos, but otherwise getting to the foot of Vallee de Vaux was uneventful.

This graph was quite revealing when I’d seen it after the race. I felt like the first long climb of Vallee de Vaux was steady and fairly unremarkable. My heart rate was under control and my pace was fine. The pink trace in the graph is my time before or ahead of last year’s run, which is the black trace. That told me I’d lost a little over 30 secs in the opening of the race but had managed my energy loads better.

About halfway up Vallee de Vaux I’d caught the group around Henry Cavill. Last year he beat me by a couple of minutes but in 2017 I overtook him quite early. To be fair I think he was having fun with his family rather than actually racing. Fair enough really.

My strength this time was primarily on the big hills. There were 4 steeper hills and I probably gained most of my time on these – they are the sharp upticks on the graph where I walked last year.

But the hills wasn’t the whole story. I ran the final 5k in 27 minutes which was four minutes faster than the 2016 running. I’d kept plenty of energy back – my 13th kilometre was run in under 5 minutes which I’d find fairly quick for Parkrun, let alone the 13th kilometre of a hilly race.

In the end I finished in 1:13:17 – about five and a half minutes up on last year. Either the second or third most improved on last year’s times out of all those who’ve done both runs. A brilliant effort really and I loved it.

There was a really good atmosphere up at the Zoo at the finish and I enjoyed chatting with a few people I knew who were running or were waiting for someone else. I was tired and had worked hard but was very happy. I really hope they keep running this in 2018.

The next challenge now is Liverpool in a little under a couple of weeks and once again I can’t wait!

Greenwich, Southend and a new Parkrun best

My last sort of catch up post was reasonably thorough about the number of runs I’d done in the past few weeks since Reading – and boy doesn’t that feel like a long time ago now. But what it did omit was a rather lovely trip to Greenwich and Southend.

We went over on the back of one of my fairly regular trips to London so met up on a Friday evening in our favourite Premier Inn hotel around Gatwick. We headed over to Greenwich in the late morning and aimed to get out pretty quickly for a run. Having been to Greenwich Park last in December we knew it would make a pretty fair site for a hill interval session 

but it was loads tougher but better than we thought. With the hills of the Durrell Challenge in mind we knew it was important but we did well. A nice pint or two was consumed in a sun-trap garden of a pub just down the road but we feel pretty spent at that stage.

We went back to the park the next day to have a look around the Royal Observatory, a really lovely walk around the park and a wonder down to the Cutty Sark to get the river bus across to North Greenwich by the O2. From there we took a ride on the cable cars which was something we’ve wanted to do for a little while. I was quite surprised how close City Airport is to them really.

On Sunday afternoon we went down to Southend and discovered a pretty fantastic Chinese on that first night which I’d seen good reviews for but which if I’m honest didn’t look up to much from outside. It was really well worth it though.

Monday morning saw us go out for our long runs. Mine was 8 miles and I enjoyed it. The fog was pretty thick so the views weren’t what they could be but it was fun – and even better it was followed by a great breakfast. We had a great relaxing break, had some fun and did a bit of running too.

So bang up to date then and today saw us going up to Parkrun. We weren’t definitely planning to but this morning we felt good so got on with it. On the first lap I went out strong but felt fresh. I faded a little over the second half of the run but still came in in a PB time of 23:55 – my first sub-24 race ever, although my Strava time had me down as low as 23:37. I set three other records on the way round so it’s fair to say it was a great run.

Tomorrow morning brings us another 10 mile run, with the Boat Show in the way of where we’d normally run to but I’m sure it will still be fun.

Reading Half Marathon 2017… and ’18?

The story of my Reading Half Marathon 2017 on Sunday is one of both great success and achievement but also missed opportunity and a little disappointment.

Let’s deal with the last of those first. Disappointment because I really could have probably achieved so much more had it not been for my poxy irritating illness from a few weeks ago. Training had been going pretty well, apart from going over on an ankle one time, and I’d felt confident. Being ill knocked much of that confidence out of me but I’d certainly felt ready as I could have been.

The trip to Reading had been a good one. The flight to London was fine. Our meal in London was lovely. The train to Reading dragged on a bit but it all ran to time. Meeting up with our daughter was fab and we shared a nice meal at our hotel in the Madejski Stadium – it was a fairly good hotel but quite expensive really.

The morning of the race was as full of anxiousness and anticipation as ever. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race village although from my very quick visit back there after the race there probably wasn’t very much there other than retail stalls. The racing started with an earlier 5k event and then a bit before our event with a wheelchair event – sort of. I believe there was one self-propelled chair plus another being pushed by someone else. The self-propelled one didn’t finish as she came off on a bend after around 4 miles. Maybe I’d expected too much from the wheelchair event. Last year’s one had one finisher – only a slight fall then. Maybe that’s the wrong phrase actually…

Anyway, my race started well, stopped again about 20 metres short of the actual start line then started again – don’t know why. There wasn’t a narrowing of the road anywhere near there. The initial phase around the Green Park area was good aside from speed bumps every so often to navigate.

Before long we’d reached the first hills. A steady one up Hartland Road then the nasty one up Whitley Wood Road. I’d decided to set out with the 2-hour pacer group despite my poor recent training and see how I got on. I’d more or less kept up through the big hills but used the downhills on the other side to recover and actually pull slightly clear of the pacer again, although I made sure I didn’t go too far ahead.

My cheering section of Lauren and Jean saw me around the 4 or 5 mile mark as we turned off the road back to the town centre to have a couple of loop sections around the university. I enjoyed seeing them but otherwise didn’t enjoy the university section very much. Lots of short straights and corners and all breaking the running rhythm up a bit.

The run down to town was enjoyable and the run around town was excellent with some fantastic crowds and brilliant drumming, music and DJs. Special mention to the DJ around the halfway point on Friar Street who put on the most Excellent “Sandstorm” as I ran past. Nice choice.

I am told that on the corner before the hill coming out of town that a group were offering beers to runners. I seemed to miss all of that. How disappointing really. It might have made the rest of the run more pleasant. You see that was about 8 miles and from around 10 miles I thought my heart rate indicated that I wasn’t reacting well to the speed / distance so I dropped a little off the 2-hour group. Then a little later still I had stomach cramps which made me stop running a couple of times. 

For the final section running into the stadium proper I found the energy to finish off strong. The welcome from the crowd was brilliant, although one of my lasting memories of the stadium was how small it was – I wonder what running into the London Stadium will be like in July.

So after it all I finished in my second fastest half marathon time ever of 2:06:57. Yes it was a good seven minutes slower than what I wanted but at the end of the day I can look back at my training and conclude that I ran so much better than my training really justified. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to Liverpool when I’ll be going for two hours again.

Oh and along with my wife, I’ve signed up – on the day that 2018 entries opened – to do it again next year. The university bit aside it was a fantastic, largely flat course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. It just so happens we love Reading too which definitely helps.