Marathon training had not been going brilliantly – in each of my races since the London Marathon I had walked at some point during it, despite knowing I’d been able to get up to 22 miles without walking during training for that. My goal this time was to make sure I would not walk. It was only 5 miles after all and managing to run this race without walking would hopefully set me back on track for training.
The weekend before this race I had done a short 3 mile progression run followed by a 14 miles of mostly running. It didn’t feel like great preparation for the marathon, but at least it seemed like good preparation for this race. The runs leading up to the race day included a slow 3 miles that finished with 1 mile at a much faster pace, and then the following day 5.5 miles at 6:59min/mile pace. The day before the race was then a slow 3 miles to keep my legs going, but to not push them too much. I was surprised at how much better running was feeling this week.
On race day I got to the start far too early for the size of the race and spent the next 90 minutes waiting. Fortunately a couple of friends turned up after a while so I was able to pester them for a while. We weren’t totally sure where the start was, but as the time grew near we saw people were making their way to the car park entrance so we parted ways and joined the crowd at the start. For once my Garmin got a signal within seconds, something I often find waiting a minute or two at race starts for.
As the race started I quickly realised I’d position myself wrong and had to overtake almost on the grass embankments as we took the left turn out of the car park. I check my watch at this point and noticed I was doing 6:20min/mile so quickly dropped the pace down to a more comfortable 07:00min/mile as I knew I’d still need to get some more running in after this race so didn’t want to run any faster than the plan asked for. Between mile 1 and 2 we went into Ullesthorpe and passed out the other side. I wasn’t looking at my watch though, I thought I was going slow as my legs weren’t feeling too bad but when I reached two miles I took another look and realised I’d completed the second mile in 6:24 – far faster than I intended.
I slowed down for a while and tried to enjoy the countryside a little more – I’d fallen into a steady pace and was sticking alongside the same few runners as I edged closer to 3 miles. Around the 3 mile point though we had some oncoming farm vehicles – one of which was wide enough to cause us a bottleneck that I had to slow down for. The other was spewing pieces of dried hay into the air, some of which went in my eyes.
Over the next mile it became a bit of a struggle – the hay was still irritating my eyes and to make matters worse I was starting to have sweat drip into them as well making them sting. Just as I crossed the 4 mile marker in Bitteswell I had no choice but to stop for a couple of seconds to clear my eyes. Although it was only a few seconds I didn’t count it as another failure from my legs, but as a necessary pause. From there I carried on realising every step was taking me closer to the finish. I didn’t want to walk, but as I got to 4.5 miles it really felt like I needed to – for the first time in ages though I was able to keep them going.
Eventually I could see the finish, though I wasn’t sure at that point if we’d be going in through the near entrance, or the far one. As I got to the entrance it was obvious, but a little late for sprinting – I tried anyway but found it incredibly difficult to do so on the gravel surface of the carpark. Not the most ideal surface at the finish, but I tried my best to get up some speed anyway.
Looking at my watch I finished in 33:47, around 3 minutes faster than planned – this put me in position 21 out of 264 finishers (top 8%). It was a pleasing result and one of my better races since the London Marathon – it also helped that it was a fairly scenic route without too many hills. As I walked through the finish funnel they removed my timing chip and handed me a bespoke medal, banana and a bottle of water.
The organisation was pretty good, so between that and the route I was pretty glad I’d done it. There were a few cheering points in the two villages and at the finish so there was some support too, even if there wasn’t for the country roads. The only negative I can think of is that the roads weren’t closed which did mean we had to stay alert, and be careful about choosing times to overtake.
Following this race I then went straight home, not very supportive of me – I should really have stayed and cheered at least my friends into the finish, but I had to be a terrible friend today. Immediately after getting home I set back out to do a 12 mile training run – one which was quite disastrous. I was really suffering in the heat, but I’ll redo 17 miles next weekend however and hopefully that will go much better. If I’d left out any earlier the heat would have been worse earlier into the run and I may not have finished – it really was a struggle to make it home.