This week’s running – 2nd to 15th July 2018

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In attendance for Alex’s 100th parkrun – photo by Lisa Conner

Gah. Another two weeks rolled into one.

5k recovery

The oppressive heat took its toll, even in the early evening. My average heart rate came out at 135bpm, compared to 130bpm for the same pace back in May.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6x 400m at 5k pace

This particular week was slightly experimental because I wanted to rediscover what my body’s threshold is for tapering.

The previous week’s 10x 400m session went down a treat, in spite of leaving me feeling quite nauseous upon finishing. Chopping the rep count down to 6x would inject just the right amount of intensity without overdoing things.

As per the previous week, the first two reps were a write-off where my legs were just getting into their stride:

  1. 1:27
  2. 1:27
  3. 1:21
  4. 1:22
  5. 1:22
  6. 1:22

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5 miles run-commute

I took a day off from running on Wednesday due to work team-building activities. Whilst I declined the go-karting element, I happily partook in the steak dinner afterwards! Some of you will remember the injury I received from go-karting back in March, resulting in me abandoning a run at 4 miles to catch an Uber for home. With the Wythall Hollywood 10k just days away on the horizon at the time, I didn’t want to risk anything, though I did look longingly at the go-kart circuit as I’d have easily been a contender for first place that afternoon with my power to weight ratio advantage – the fastest guy of the day was still a stone heavier than me!

With the above factored in, I shifted my week to run-commute on Thursday instead. I’ve written before about how challenging running with a bag on your back in elevated summer temperatures is. I become more easily dehydrated as my back continues to leach out sweat as my body desperately tries to cool itself down, to no avail. In the winter, the bag is a welcome addition as it’s an extra layer to fight off the cold!

The conclusion so far was one day off from running did nothing to harm my form, as my glutes were still active.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

2 mile shakeout

Whilst I had ambitions of running easy Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the final day never materialised as I was that damn tired that I treated myself to a lie-in.

Running on Friday felt really weird. I can probably count on a single hand how often I’ve done it and I suspect many may be in a similar position, especially if they’re parkrun fiends like me.

Temperatures continued to soar and take their toll on me. Whilst I originally set out for 5km, 2 miles was quite enough for me to keep my legs turning over and to stop my glutes from slumbering.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wythall Hollywood 10k 2018 review

Please click here for the full write-up.

5k recovery

Much like the last couple of Mondays following heat-compromised races, my body felt pretty good from the capped efforts of the races beforehand. My form also felt on point from the prolonged exposure of faster running only a day prior.

So, what conclusion did I reach regarding tapering? My body loves running and taking more than a day off from it is counter-productive due to a temporary loss of finesse; I’m sure we’ve all had the Bambi on ice feeling after a longer than intended layoff, no? Running an easy 5km or so on the Friday before a race seems to keep everything ticking over and in check for me.

I’m still unlikely to cover a parkrun at an easy pace the day before an important race, though I will now consider it before a tune-up event.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10x 400m at 5k pace

The temperature dropped slightly, making this session feel a tad easier than it had in the past.

With 60 seconds rest in between, they turned out to be a pretty satisfactory bunch of splits:

  1. 1:26
  2. 1:27
  3. 1:24
  4. 1:26
  5. 1:25
  6. 1:25
  7. 1:25
  8. 1:25
  9. 1:24
  10. 1:22

I enjoy these 400m sessions far more than their 800m counterpart, though I’m getting a niggling feeling that I need to return to 800m to re-bridge the gap between speed and my strength of endurance. Few things in running happen in isolation…

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5 mile run-commute

Also known as Andy’s quest for a new stick of Body Glide…

Sod’s law would of course dictate that I somehow lose a brand new stick of Body Glide before it had even really had any use? The stuff’s not cheap either at £12 a stick on the high street! I’d searched high and low at home and at work with no joy. However, I keep stumbling upon the empty stick that I threw away – I wouldn’t have minded if I’d have lost that one whilst it was on its way out! Naturally, after having bought a replacement, I’m going to stumble upon the missing offender, aren’t I? At least they don’t have an expiry date…

My form continued to feel super-charged from the 400m session, even at what was only recovery pace as I ran for home with a bag on my back.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

The humidity got the better of me as I battled my way from the office for home along the canal towpaths. It’s so energy zapping! My breathing and heart rate were largely fine, though each step felt like a real struggle. The climb on Fordhouse Lane nearly finished me off!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Normality ensued at Cannon Hill as the whole gang came together to celebrate Alex’s 100th run – even Nigel, who’s been nursing an Achilles injury.

After Thursday’s medium-long run, I was dog-tired. The warm-up jog to Cannon Hill Park triggered a -6.0 condition score on my Garmin; for reference, I’m normally a -5.0 if things are bad…

Whilst I didn’t intend to end up racing, the red mist was too powerful to decline. After 1km on my own, I ended up tailing Dave, as he was wont to do to me once upon a time. I stuck to him like glue in spite of his best efforts to lose me.

We remained in sequence until making contact with Andy Young, who prompted me to take the lead and overtake a large group of runners ahead of us. I took his challenge on and surged clear of him and Dave, gaining what felt close to 10 seconds in the process. Little did I know that Dave had anticipated when I might make a move; by his own admission, 3km would have been the ideal point to secure victory, owing to his endurance deficiency over longer distances.

He caught me with perhaps only 300m remaining. I had no response on that particular morning, already elbow deep into a 50+ mile week with a race every fortnight behind me since early May… I had just enough inside me to sneak back in for 18:59, when just a 19:30 would have been satisfactory.

Next week will see me touristing to the fast Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun, where the previous route had the dubious honour of regularly netting a negative SSS course condition score on runbritain…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

I get a huge kick out of long runs; there’s something masochistic about a training run that lasts for hours, especially when conditions are less than ideal. There’s a real sense of satisfaction derived upon completion that I don’t seem to receive from other staple runs in my week.

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McGuyvering the hell out of staying cool on the run!

Anticipating a warm one, I tried a new hydration trick that came to me like Thomas Edison imagining the light bulb. I part-filled my runner’s bottle the night before and threw it in the freezer to set. Just before heading out the door, I filled the remaining empty space with cold water and added an electrolyte tablet. And voila, I had a makeshift hydration tool that kept my hands cool for the first 30 minutes or so whilst the ice melted, turning into cold electrolyte liquid for the remainder of my run. Starting off cool is one thing and hanging onto being cool is another thing entirely. Try it for yourself!

Heading out a few hours earlier than usual, I was surprised to see so many who also had the same idea. Passing through a tunnel, I could hear somebody closing in on me very quickly; were they running an interval session (unlikely on a Sunday), or were they trying to catch-up to me? To my surprise and delight, it was Ashley Fawke – fellow Cannon Hill Crusader – out on his long run. We chatted for a little over a mile, where you can clearly see his pace nosediving, via Strava. Whilst only brief, it’s always fascinating to speak to a significantly faster runner than me, where Ashley confirmed my own thoughts on several topics.

Once through halfway, I still felt good from the ample shade and lower temperatures, and decided to progress the pace. It’s a strange day when you can run up a hill faster than you can run down it; I inadvertently ran a PB on the Fordhouse Lane climb segment!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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Wythall Hollywood 10k 2018 review

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Would 888 bring me luck?

For previous years’ races, please click below:

This was my sixth outing at this race, making it the most attended event from my personal running history.

Pre-race

A common trend in 2018 will be remembered for weather conditions wreaking havoc on race plans. In March, it was snow and freezing temperatures. In June and July, it’s record-breaking warmth. Here’s a little fun-fact for you readers: only 20% of the energy we use in running goes towards motion; the remaining 80% is expended as waste heat. This is obviously welcome in cooler conditions as it’s free central heating, but in warmer conditions, it’s a double-whammy energy cost as we use precious calories to also shift the unwanted heat that we generate from running.

The recent warm Wilmslow Half Marathon left me feeling well conditioned to the heat and I was pretty confident a fresh 10k PB was mine for the taking; after all, this was my PB course from 2016 until only a few months ago! Rather than get greedy and potentially blow-up, I had my sights set on a very modest finish of only 38:30, with a slower first 5k and a faster second 5k to better suit my racing style.

Arriving at race HQ with Lis, Dave and Simon in tow, it was good to see the race in rude health. This was the first iteration with chip timing and by the organisers’ own admission, they’d also outgrown the previous registration room to spread out more widely across the venue. I collected bib number “888”. Ahead of time, the organisers invited people to pick bib numbers of their choice from a certain range; 171 was unavailable to 10k runners, so I went with “888”, which is considered very auspicious in Chinese culture. The logic is the Mandarin or Cantonese pronunciation of “8” sounds like the word to strike it rich. By contrast, “4” is considered very unlucky because it sounds like death. Would the bib bring me luck or only misfortune?

There were many familiar faces dotted around the place as is typical for a race that borders upon several local running club stomping grounds.

Simon and I split from Dave to complete our own warm-up. Whereas I normally like to cover 2 miles before a 5k up to the half marathon, the heat was incredibly noticeable at only 08:30, prompting me to chop it down to just a mile. Staying cool became the new goal!

With chip timing in place, there was no need to pitch up on the start line like in years’ past, but I guess old habits die hard. Huddled together, the air was thick with anticipation or perhaps it was just the humidity?

The race

Even at 09:15, the mercury had already reached 22°C and with nary a cloud in the sky. Off the line, I could already tell I was working harder than I wanted to be. One could almost cut through the air with a knife as it entered my lungs, and my legs were heavy despite a lighter second half to the taper week. Most of my peers hared off into the distance, but as tempting as it was to go with them, self-preservation for the first half was the aim of the game; an average of 3:50 per km was the target to allow for the above said modest 38:30 PB.

Shortly after turning the first corner, everybody almost came to a standstill when a flatbed truck, with what looked like a cement mixer on the back, partially blocked the route and prevented the lead vehicle from going any further! Cries of, “Keep right,” filled the air as we tried our best to nimbly pass the blockade. I spoke with the 5k winner after the event, who ended up making a wrong-turn with no lead vehicle and fewer marshals on hand, many having relocated temporarily to get the flatbed truck cleared off.

The first km came in as expected at 3:51, though it still didn’t feel as easy it should have for the opening split of a 10km, especially when I purposely held back…

The dreaded second km signalled the first of two not-insignificant climbs on the course. This was my opportunity to draw a little closer to the groups that had formed ahead of me, especially as I hugged the racing line of the course, though by consequence ended up running clear of any shade on offer. 4:14 popped out, whereas I’d targeted closer to 4:05; it was at this point that I decided chasing a firm time was no longer sensible in such conditions and I withdrew to largely running by feel.

Over the brow of the hill came the instant relief of the fast downhill stretch all the way to the Phoenix complex. It took a little while, but my legs began turning over more quickly to capitalise on the descent. Even with gravity on my side, I could still only manage to push out a 3:55 split, confirming my thoughts that a scaled back effort would pay dividends in the second half. Average pace hovered at 3:59 per km, so it was still uncertain if I could even break 40 minutes on such a warm morning!

A number of years ago, I was interviewed for runABC Midlands and I waxed lyrical about this particular race. One stand out feature is the gentleman with a hosepipe to cool runners as they pass the Rose Bank Stores & Saddlery premises. “Full blast, please,” were my words as I neared him, to which he kindly obliged to give me a thorough drenching. Ah, bliss! A momentary lapse in concentration from the relief meant I only had enough time to target the final cup of water from the nearby volunteers. Guess what… We both fumbled it! “Shit,” I cursed. Thankfully, a chap behind had grabbed a spare in time and handed it over – my saviour! Down the hatch it all went until the next scheduled water stop within the Phoenix complex.

As I entered the Phoenix premises, exiting was Damian Cartland, giving me a cheer in the process. 4km came in at 3:52, so the pace was finally starting to come to me.

On the approach to halfway, I finally caught Barry Fallon. Without even looking back, he knew it was me. Like a Bond villain, he mused, “I was wondering when I would encounter you, Andy.” It must’ve been my cadence, because Barry wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to recognise me from my pitter-patter footstrike. I told him to focus on reeling the lead woman in (she turned out to be a 5k runner), who remained just 10m or so ahead of us.

A little further on was Lis waiting for me with a par-frozen bottle of water. Whilst in years past, such a bit of assistance was a welcome nice-to-have, this year it became an essential. Cracking the bottle open, I glugged some of the refreshingly cool water down for immediate relief. I offered it to Barry and the others in the vicinity, though there were no takers, so I poured the remnants over myself. Right away, I felt super-charged from the cold water and I was able to power on to halfway, netting a 3:57 km and a 19:51 5k split.

As several runners made their way towards the finish for the end of the 5k race, I veered left for another lap. This was the first time in all the years I’d run this race where I looked longingly at those finishing the 5k in envy – the warmth changed everything. I also found myself running solo, with Barry’s group behind me and Andy Piddington way off into the distance.

Unexpectedly, a sudden rush of strength enveloped me. The effort, in spite of running alone felt manageable. I would even go as far as saying the fifth and sixth km were the most comfortable of the entire race! 6km clocked in for 3:57, remaining steady.

Turning for the climb once more, I steeled myself to graft. Andy Piddington was still ahead, but his margin on me had decreased slightly from before. I repeatedly told myself that each step I could close on him was additional time chipped away to get under 40 minutes, which was still not a guarantee at this point with only 3:58 average pace on my Garmin and the knowledge that the course measured slightly long from past experience. Slowly, I worked my way up to Andy; neither of us had ever met before, but we both knew of each other and shared some pleasantries. 7km came in at 4:06 to be, annoyingly, just a second outside of my 4:05 best. One year, I will get under 4:00 for the exclusively uphill km…

I continued to stick with Andy for some company, hoping that he’d take advantage of the descent and push the pace on. Ahead of us was a pair, clearly working together to drive onwards. Whilst our pace did rise, I wasn’t satisfied it was fast enough so I went it alone and broke off from Andy partway through the split for 3:50.

Passing the man with the hosepipe once again, I made the same request for a full blast once more. Grabbing a cup of water was faultless on the second occasion.

Gradually, I drew closer to the two runners in front of me. Bad timing struck as I wasn’t fast enough to get clear of them before the switchback in the Phoenix complex, and nor did I want to purposely slow to avoid clattering into them. With mere metres remaining and without a single word from me, they both parted for me to run through and be first at the switchback! I thanked them both as I tried my best to navigate around the cone with my Titanic-esque turning circle. There really isn’t an elegant method on this part of the course, due to the narrow path and the lack of anything physical to swing around. 9km came in at 3:45.

wythall_hollywood_10k_2018_02

Hot, hot, hot at the 2018 Wythall Hollywood 10k – photo by Lis Yu

Exiting Phoenix, I knew I had fewer than 4 minutes to tolerate before I could stop. Barry and Dave were on the other side of the road, both receiving cheers from me to keep plugging away. I began encountering lapped runners and a bicycle paramedic who insisted on incessantly getting in my way, just as I wanted to up my tempo. In the distance by no more than 100m was somebody in a white t-shirt, who became my final target to try and pull in; I was reasonably confident I had enough gears to shift up to in my pursuit before running out of road. Lis continued to lend her support, providing a few brief moments of welcome distraction as the effort notched upwards. As I closed in on the finish, I came to the realisation that the guy I tried to chase down had also increased his pace for the gap between us to be frustratingly maintained.

With fewer than 200m remaining, I kicked in the hope he had no response. Whereas he took the wider line around a straggling 5k runner, a small enough gap on the race line remained for me to creep past her in a bid to close the precious few metres. I received a few cheers from the Kings Heath Running club volunteers on hand for a welcome boost. Sadly, this also alerted the runner to how close I was to keep the pressure applied in his kick for the line, beating me to it by just one or two steps!

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

Despite this being easily in my top 3 warmest races, I finished feeling not too shabby at all – I guess that’s the result of me capping the first half’s effort. I finished in 17th place with chip time coming to 39:21, which I was pretty pleased with in light of the conditions and how my peers fared. runbritain rewarded me with a handy -0.7 performance based on the 2.2 condition score (1.0 would be considered average conditions for those of you unfamiliar with runbritain’s handicap system).

wythall_hollywood_10k_2018_03

Thankful for no hosepipe ban! Photo by Neil Croxford

I caught up with Damian afterwards, sharing my revised race strategy of basic survival before I sat down in a makeshift shower to cool down.

I’m confident I would have achieved a PB that morning under cooler temperatures, though I’m serene about the outcome. The heat easily cost me by about a minute, so here’s hoping the upcoming flat Magor 10k is much cooler, otherwise that’s it for my spring-summer season.

Depending on how things go, I may be a no-show at the 2019 10th anniversary race due to potentially racing at the Swansea Half Marathon. Without the clash, I’d be there in a heartbeat – it’s such a good event!

This week’s running – 18th June to 1st July 2018

heatwave

Feeling hot, hot, hot!

Life has been very busy, so two weeks rolled into one again.

7 miles with 1 at marathon pace and 1 at half marathon pace

Tapering into the then upcoming Wilmslow Half Marathon, I wanted to reduce volume whilst hanging on to some intensity. I cheated once more by catching the Metro after work to the my old stomping ground of the Jewellery Quarter, allowing for around 7 miles with me easing myself in for a single mile at marathon pace and then a mile at half marathon pace.

I felt like I was in great shape from all the recent racing, surprising myself with a 6:13 mile whilst running into the wind on a warm evening. I’d have been satisfied with 6:18-6:20 from previous experience! At this point in the week, I was almost certain I would at least score a new half marathon best by the end of the week…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles with strides

In hindsight, I tapered too much going into the Wilmslow Half Marathon. Aside from the race, this particular run was just one of two for the week from a norm of six out of seven days. I wrote about my glutes feeling like they were distinctly missing during the race and this hard taper was part of the reason. My body likes to run frequently, so I’m going to adopt more a little-but-often approach ahead of the Wythall Hollywood 10k.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wilmslow Half Marathon 2018 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

5k recovery

The warmth of the previous day’s race had two effects on me. The first, it conditioned me to run at effort in warm conditions. The second, it prevented me from going all out; whilst I was tired and felt like I’d worked, I didn’t feel nearly as battered or bruised like I’ve done in previous eyeballs out races.

Trotting easily for this recovery run, my heart rate was a good 2-3% lower than what I would have expected normally, let alone the day after a race. Even whilst recovering, my lungs felt supercharged from the Wilmslow Half Marathon. Oh, and guess who’s glutes finally decided to show up?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

With the heat sticking around, I upped my hydration game throughout the day and even took a bottle of electrolytes out with me. Slow and steady was the order of the evening, so as not to overly tax my body. I continuously searched inside for feedback, namely for an idea of how far to run. The last couple of weeks of racing and tapering for some events more than others had left me wanting for an injection of training normalcy. 9 miles became 10, then ultimately 11 feeling really good.

I have just two more 10k races coming up before a long 6 week block of training ahead of the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Speaking of which, if any of you listen to the Running Commentary podcast, it was my suggestion of Lake Vyrnwy that convinced Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering to seek the race out. As performing comedians, they found the prospect of a 13:00 start incredibly inviting!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

Leaving the city centre, I was puzzled initially at why the congestion was so awful and how I was able to overtake so much stationary traffic. It wasn’t until I neared the Belgrave Interchange that I realised Edgbaston Cricket Ground was hosting a match. Spectators heading to the venue increasingly lined the pavement, forcing me to frequently run wide or sometimes run on the road. Thankfully, traffic was gridlocked, so I only had to glance behind me on occasion for cyclists, with none appearing.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10x 400m at 5k pace

To run faster, you must run faster.

Whereas my marathon and half marathon performances have come on leaps and bounds in the past two years, my 5k has remained stagnant. My 10k ability is now closer aligned with my half marathon, so I think it’s about to turn a corner for something sizeable at the Wythall Hollywood 10k or Magor 10k.

But what to do with my 5k? 800m reps just don’t feel like they’re cutting the mustard like they used to, so I decided to give 400m reps a shot. The purpose of interval training is to allow exposure to a challenging pace in smaller bursts, which otherwise would be difficult if not impossible to sustain as one continuously paced run.

Discussions with Dave Burton indicated I target a pace of 3:35 per km for 10x reps, with 60 seconds in-between as a rest. The first two were a little shaky, but otherwise I was very pleased with the outcome:

  1. 1:30/3:44 per km
  2. 1:28/3:38 per km
  3. 1:25/3:32 per km
  4. 1:23/3:27 per km
  5. 1:25/3:32 per km
  6. 1:22/3:25 per km
  7. 1:24/3:30 per km
  8. 1:25/3:32 per km
  9. 1:27/3:37 per km
  10. 1:25/3:32 per km

Rep 9 was hampered by thick tree cover overhead upon finishing, falsely slowing it down – it was bang on target until then.

I surprisingly found 400m intervals to be more beneficial for my needs than my former go-to of 800m intervals. In spite of finding my feet for the early reps, I locked in on target pace and I was able to hold it for the remainder of the session. I also identified my form adjusting to eke out every last ounce of speed from available resources, which should trickle down to slower paces becoming more efficient over time. A few more of these sessions and maybe, just maybe, I can reverse the 5k stagnation trend.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Due to racing, being away from home and various other reasons, it’d been more than six weeks since I last ran at Cannon Hill. I looked forward to covering the route, only to find lorries on-site for the In The Night Garden live show installation, forcing Cannon Hill parkrun’s hands into utilising the 3x lap course. The last time I ran this particular course, I found it incredibly challenging as lapped runners splayed out all over the course in an unpredictable manner. Adding to the numbers that morning was a Sikh group completing their Couch to 5k programme. The guys and I all envisioned a messy event…

Ironically and if not for the numbers at Cannon Hill, the 3x lap course is actually pretty fast due to the clockwise direction it follows. Runners gain more on the short descent and they lose less on the long and gradual climb up to the bandstand.

Whereas my lungs continued to feel strong, my legs had clearly not recovered from the session two days prior. Whilst I had the strength to hold steady, I struggled to move into a higher gear, and nor did I want to bury myself in the pursuit. I spent much of the first two laps with Dave, with him creeping away at some point after 4km, thanks to his recent 5k focus giving him an edge; he finished in 19:03 and me in 19:08.

It’s likely there’ll be further disruption at Cannon Hill due to various events over the summer, so expect some tourism from me in the not too distant future.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

Whilst I had plans to get up early and avoid the heat, I ended up turning my alarm off and sleeping through… Whilst it was indeed warm outside, I was cruising on the training effects of the Wilmslow Half Marathon and recent runs in the warmth.

Early on into the run, I happened upon a £5 note on the floor to perk me up nicely!

I was amazed at the number of runners I saw out there without anything for hydration; it wasn’t even a gender thing because both sexes were as bad as each other. I purposely held back from drinking from my electrolyte bottle until the second half. I’d already overdone pre-hydration and ended up peeing twice in the 10 minutes before leaving home, only to then need to pee again 20 minutes into the run…

Just in case you’re not warm enough already, I witnessed a pair of runners – could have been father and daughter, or coach and student – running in long sleeves and tights. Yes, you read that right. I felt delirious just watching them!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

 

 

Wilmslow Half Marathon 2018 review

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Warmest half marathon I’ve ever run

The pattern of a race every fortnight continued. Read on to find out how things went on this particularly warm outing…

Pre-race

First of all, I can already see many of you asking the following:

Where is Wilmslow?

According to Wikipedia, it’s a town south of Manchester and happens to be one of the “most sought-after places to live in the UK, after central London”. Apparently, many footballers live in the locale.

Some of you may recall this as one of the races cancelled by snow back in March. Rather than issue refunds, the organisers went down the route of postponing the race and inviting people to resell entries if they could no longer make the new date. Having bought a place from somebody else before the snow fell, I was determined to make use of it rather than write the race off, especially after I felt a wee bit short changed at the Shakespeare Half Marathon.

Also wishing to prove his mettle was Darryll Thomas. Over the past several years, we’ve both proven to be close in ability and even went into this race sharing the same 83:39 PB, albeit set at different events. The goal was to break 83 minutes, with either of us accepting a new PB as satisfactory.

Lis and I bundled this together into yet another weekend away to make the most of our pre-baby time, spending the previous day in Chester (lovely city – well worth a visit as a day out). Staying very close to race HQ, we arrived with plenty of time to beat the crowds. Upon registration, I was surprised to be given a brand new bib number when I had originally been designated 683 from the cancelled March race. There was no proof required that I had legitimately entered the race, so chancers looking to enter that morning could have very easily bagged a free place with nobody any wiser.

Once Darryll arrived, we embarked on a gentle 2 mile warm-up to scope out the start and finish. Also confirmed was the worst outcome we could have hoped for – clear blue skies overhead and still conditions… We agreed to continue onwards with plan A in a bid to seek out a sub-83 finish.

Due to the relatively compact nature of the race HQ and immediate start area, the 2,200 or so runners easily felt more like double that number. I had been warned beforehand of a need to get into a desirable start position early; due to last minute toilet visits, we ended up having to fight our way through hordes of runners, starting with the 2 hour pace group, then the 1:45, pace group 1:30 pace group and so on. Surprisingly, the race provided pacers for 85 minutes, 80 minutes and even 75 minutes – such is the depth and strength of the field attracted. We positioned ourselves in between the 80 and 85 minute groups, identifying those around us to try and stay with for the duration of the race. Darryll decided to get a few glute activation exercises in, attracting some odd stares from runners and spectators. My own felt dormant, likely from the sharp taper I employed, and I hoped a set of strides would wake them up from their slumber.

We waited for the countdown, and after a test shot of the starting gun, the race started proper at bang-on 10:30.

The race

For a few hundred metres, we got caught up in the group swell like it was the beginning of a 10k. It didn’t help that it was such a densely populated field, flush with strong club runners from the immediate and wider region.

At 10:30, it was already warm and would only grow warmer as we drew closer to midday. How do you manage heat whilst also going for a new PB? I’ll give you a clue: you can’t…

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Darryll and I, almost perfectly in sync – Photo by Mick Hall

Going into the race, Darryll and I devised a crude plan of him pacemaking for the first half, playing to his strength of downhill running, and then switching over to me for the climb back to the finish for the second half. On paper, this sounded reasonable enough, but how hard do you push so early on? I historically fare much better with an ascending first half, followed by descents, so this course tested my abilities.

The strides I completed before starting did nothing to activate my glutes, adding to my general feeling of missing power, even on the descent. Darryll had the last laugh, with his start line glute activation workout clearly worth the strange looks he may have received!

Not long after starting, a female Wilmslow Running Club member – one of the fastest women of the day – joined us. We all began to use her for pacing, such was her strength, but she wouldn’t even make it on to the podium due to the deep field that morning. Browsing through past results, this particular race attracts a lot of talent, irrespective of gender. All of the local and slightly further afield clubs were in attendance, even on this scorching day.

The first 3 miles clocked in at 6:16, 6:22 and 6:17 to be not far off from where we wanted to be. A sub-83 finish was no longer likely, though a new PB for both of us was still possible. Whether it was the added stressor of the heat or lack of ability, or both, I never really felt at ease due to the aggressive approach. Adding to the unease was the deceptive course profile. Conducting some research beforehand, all of the elevation charts I studied suggested a gentle descent all the way to halfway; the reality was an undulating route that gently rises and falls, never really allowing for a rhythm to develop or feeling particularly advantageous.

Anticipating a tough morning and reviewing my Shakespeare Half Marathon experience, I decided to carry 4x High5 Isogels on my person. 3x have usually sufficed in tough half marathons previously, but I was left wanting another sugar hit in the closing stages of the Shakespeare race. No problem if I didn’t need the extra gel as I could have just left it holstered, though I ultimately did consume all of them.

The first of three official water stations arrived just before 4 miles and never before had it been more welcome! We were lucky enough for bottled water to be provided rather than trying to drink from cups and risk potential waterboarding in the process. Despite a slight slowdown through the water station, the water reinvigorated everybody and the pace began to rise, with miles 4, 5 and 6 coming out at 6:11, 6:12 and 6:18. The effort to maintain such a pace, even on a gentle descent, ratcheted upwards – how long could it last?

Whereas timing mats at regular intervals are very much the norm in marathons, they’re less common in shorter races. Whether they’re for the athletes or for spectators, I’ll let you decide. Quite unusual, to me at least, was the provision of timing mats at 10k and 10 miles. Darryll and I went through 10k in 38:52, which was just 13 seconds shy of 10k PB territory for me – that’s just how soft my best is over the distance. Not long after, I declared to Darryll for him to push on as I concluded the effort was no longer sustainable. He tried briefly talking me out of it, which kept me going temporarily, but it was to no avail. Darryll was in much better form than I was, with more recent warm race experience than me to boot. He slowly edged away into the distance though would still glance backwards from time to time, just in case I was still in range.

Disappointingly, subsequent water stations after the first were cups. I needed water and somehow managed to up my game, pouring it in my mouth without fuss before grabbing another cup from the next nearby volunteer. Maybe I’ve cracked this drinking from cups malarkey?

Thankfully, for a race with such a deep field, I was able to drift in and out of contact with various runners – many of which I started out with. Everybody was suffering, though some simply suffered less. And those that suffered more? Well, I lost count of how many people had dropped out with a few requiring medical assistance. Looking on Strava at other runners that finished in a similar time to me, there was one poor soul who collapsed at 10 miles to receive an ambulance ride back to the finish. Whilst he was delirious, he had enough about him still to ask the paramedics to stop his Garmin for him! They declined, so he ended up with some bizarre looking splits and a complete GPS trace following the actual race route, even whilst in the ambulance.

Mile 7 was the last of the downhill miles before the work really began… In cool March, the change in elevation is probably a minor-to-moderate inconvenience. In warm June and approaching midday? Yikes! 20 seconds minimum was added to each uphill mile for me! I had no C-goal after both A and B-goals had expired, so motivation also dried up. I was able to reclaim a few places from people that had gone out harder than I had and blown, but all I was capable of was steadying the ship and not doing anything to delay my return to the finish. Miles 7, 8 and 9 came in at 6:13, 6:33 and 6:40, respectively.

As the race and my body wore on, each subsequent mile seemed to stretch and drift further and further away. Around the mile 10 checkpoint, a sole volunteer stood with a couple of bottles of water to hand out. One cack-handed runner ahead of me went for one, and whilst he successfully grabbed a bottle, he also went and caused the volunteer to fumble and drop the rest! As I edged closer to the volunteer with his back turned whilst he picked up the remaining bottles, I tried to get his attention for one, but it was no use – he turned around and got back on his feet just as I passed by and missed out.

More and more runners were dropping like flies, having overcooked their races earlier. I, too, felt gassed and my only objective was to make it to the finish in one piece. The field became more strung out and I increasingly found myself in isolation. Darryll had disappeared entirely from view on his quest of a fresh PB. Occasionally, I was able to overtake runners who, on paper, had half marathon and marathon PBs faster than my best by minutes. The results table with its 10k and 10 mile checkpoints makes for eye watering viewing, with some runners going through 10k almost 2 minutes faster than me, 10 miles at a similar pace to me, and crossing the finish line some 3 to 4 minutes after me!

I wanted the race to end, as I’m sure many of my peers did. I was treading water and continued willing each mile marker to appear sooner. Miles 10, 11 and 12 came in at 6:49, 6:39 and 6:53 respectively. It was positive to see me reverting to (sub-3) marathon pace when I was hurting!

I’m told the race is incredibly well supported in March, with many of the locals coming out to spectate and cheer runners on. Even in the 2017 washout event with pouring rain and howling wind, the route was supposedly still lined with well-wishers. With the splendid spectator-friendly weather on offer, the crowds didn’t disappoint and helped to keep me chugging along. As I neared the finish line, the crowds swelled to cheer everybody in. I got to that point of desperation in most races where I frantically searched the horizon for any glimpse of the finish line. Darryll and I had encountered the finish area on our warm-up, though I couldn’t visualise how the course would play out. What didn’t help was much of the final mile being made up of one very long straight, followed by a right turn into another long straight…

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The other guy was almost 2 mins ahead of me at 10k… Ouch – Photo by Lis Yu

Turning the corner, my grimace lightened up as I realised I was still in with a chance of a sub-85 minute finish and a shot at my third fastest half marathon. There were a few guys ahead of me in the closing few hundred metres, giving me some targets to chase down. One of the guys I overtook on the finishing straight was an example of somebody that had gone through 10k almost 2 minutes faster than me in the pursuit of a sub-80 finish; he had no response to my kick and his face says it all as to how broken he was. Finally, I crossed the line and I could stop running on such a torturous morning!

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

Eugh. I felt incredibly ill upon finishing and borrowed a seat from a volunteer for a few minutes to sit down and recompose myself. Those first few steps when I got back up were a doozy!

Checking my Garmin, I’d recorded 85:04, later confirmed as 85:01 via chip time to become my fourth fastest half marathon, and only seconds away from being my third fastest, originally recorded under perfect conditions on a pancake flat course.

Regrouping with Darryll and Lis, I began gulping down provided water and energy drinks like there had been a drought. Darryll went on to run a superb 84:04, only losing sight of a PB in the closing 2 miles due to succumbing to the warm conditions whilst climbing. Both of us ended up with sizable runbritain handicap performances from the race, with it now ranking as my strongest performance relative to all others.

My feelings are confirmed that the course profile in itself isn’t fast and the downhill first half just isn’t conducive to fast times when you need to traverse much of it, uphill, back to the finish. What does make the race fast is the stellar field it attracts. I finished 91stout of almost 2,200 runners that morning, and in cooler conditions I would have likely ended up outside of the top 100 with faster runners better able to tolerate the demands of the race.

As ever, would I compete in the race again? Probably not. I entered originally out of desperation when several target half marathons and back-up races were snowed out. Even in March, I’m not sure it would be worth the trip when there are several closer alternatives available. The exception to this applies to faster runners, where having other athletes to work with would more than compensate for races with more optimal course profiles, but more shallow fields.

This week’s running – 11th to 17th June 2018

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All aboard the pain train at Walsall Arboretum parkrun! Photo by Ron Reynolds

An unconventional week, though no worse off for it.

5k recovery

It’s normally expected that I feel worse the following day after a race. When I feel about the same, if not better, then I know that I there was something more that I could have given. This held true here, where the Aldridge 10k barely felt like it touched my sides! Frustratingly, my glutes began firing correctly, whereas they were noticeably dormant during the race…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

7 miles from the Jewellery Quarter

It’s not very often that I find myself in the Jewellery Quarter these days, despite it being home for four years.

This particular route allows me to chop about 2 miles out from my normal 9.5 mile route from the office, whilst still keeping it at a reasonable distance. The reason for this was two-fold: I wanted to softly begin tapering ahead of the upcoming Wilmslow Half Marathon by reducing volume, and I had a track session pencilled in for the following day and needed to be relatively spritely to capitalise on it.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

800m, 1600m x4, 800m

Ah! A rare outing to visit the University of Birmingham running track! Can you believe it was before Christmas that I was last there?

As anticipated, I was on my own and used the official entrance to get in rather than skulking through bushes and in-between fences. Some gardeners were tending to the grounds in preparation for upcoming school sports days – every time I’ve visited, there have been gardeners present!

The plan was to cover 4x 1600m reps at half marathon pace, with a lead in and lead out of 800m at 5k pace for variety.

Despite being pretty well sheltered by surrounding trees and buildings, a breeze persisted to be felt on the final bend, home-straight and first bend! The sun came and went overhead, resulting in me opting to run bare-chested and work on my tan whilst I was at it.

Factoring in that GPS and 400m running tracks don’t gel well together, here are the splits:

  1. 800m: 2:53/5:48 per mile
  2. 75 seconds rest
  3. 1600m: 5:58/6:00 per mile
  4. 60 seconds rest
  5. 1600m: 6:02/6:04 per mile
  6. 60 seconds rest
  7. 1600m: 5:56/5:58 per mile
  8. 60 seconds rest
  9. 1600m: 6:03/6:05 per mile
  10. 60 seconds rest
  11. 800m: 2:48/5:38 per mile

The session, though challenging, was incredibly satisfying to complete. The track surface is beautiful to run on with plenty of traction, feedback and propulsion from its surface. I was able to lose myself in the running and not require keep an eye out for others as I often need to on the canal towpath. I couldn’t stop sweating at the end of it and was thankful I had a bottle of water with electrolytes for between reps and afterwards.

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

7 miles from the Jewellery Quarter

Very much a repeat of Tuesday’s run, though I felt dramatically worse due to ill and poor preparation beforehand from the office.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Walsall Arboretum parkrun

It’s traditional the week before a target race that I seek out a fast effort from a parkrun. A bout of focused pace, that’s not too taxing in terms of recovery, does wonders to sharpen up.

In need of a return visit to Ikea, Walsall Arboretum parkrun made a lot of sense, especially after Dave Burton’s fresh PB from last week on the fast and flat course. Dave was game for another bash on the course, so came along. Sadly, conditions weren’t quite as optimal as a week ago, with noticeably more wind blowing, and drizzle leaving the ground underfoot slightly slick. Saying that, though, my 18:14 PB from the course in 2016 was run in wet conditions, so who’s to say what’s possible anymore?

Lis and Dave’s brother, Paul, were present for spectator duties with the course affording six opportunities to spot runners from a couple of vantage points.

A decent warm-up in the bag and we assembled on the start line. I was genuinely nervous and could feel my heart racing away; I knew what would unfold would be painful, no matter the outcome!

The start was fast as anticipated with me falling into place outside of the top 10. My target pace for the morning was 3:38 to 3:40 per km; hanging on to 3:40 for the opening split felt harder than it should have – most likely due to the Aldridge 10k and Wednesday’s track session still remaining in my system.

I found myself occasionally flanked by a couple of guys, though I seemed to be doing the lion’s share of the work in pacing terms. I would have joined the group ahead, but over 5k pace, they were too far off in the distance to reel to leave me reluctantly in place.

Whereas I’d started off on target pace, I just couldn’t sustain it and ended up falling back to around 3:50 per km.

Walsall Arbortum parkrun is a compact, three lap course. Entering the second lap, I began encountering slower runners and occasionally had to bellow out, “Keep left,” just as the marshals did. People seemed to take it well enough, with one lapped lady cheering me on as I passed her sounding like a steam train. I was in a hell of my own making!

GPS seems to struggle on the Walsall Arboretum course, with measured distance all over the place. Historically, I’ve felt the course is potentially short, though this would make little sense as the start and end positions are not dictated by necessity and could easily be moved further apart if the distance is indeed short. With a supposed km remaining, I was unsure how near or far away I was from my secondary goal of a new PB that morning. It wasn’t until I had some 500m remaining that I realised I was in with a shot of breaking new ground if I could lay down a big kick…

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Please forgive my tan lines – photo by Lis Yu

Rounding the penultimate bend, I tried with all my might to put rubber down to the ground for something substantial, but it just wasn’t happening. Even with the gentle descent all the way to the finish, I simply couldn’t generate the necessary power to keep up with the several guys that rapidly passed me. The look on my face in the photo at the top of this post says it all!

Crossing the line drenched in sweat from the effort, it was bitter-sweet to learn I’d run my fastest 5k in 2 years for 18:22, also my third fastest 5k of all time, but still needed 9 seconds to challenge my 18:14 PB. Working my way through the funnel, I was surprised to discover one of the guys that stuck to me like glue was the same chap that narrowly beat me to the line at the Aldridge 10k! Tom joked that I had become his personal “tormentor”, though I reassured him that I would not be in the vicinity any time soon to put him at ease.

Frustratingly, my official plastic barcode failed to register in the system for me to end up with an unknown result. The barcode scanned because I heard the audible beep, so I’ve binned it rather than allow it to wreak any more havoc. Kindly and swiftly, the Walsall Arboretum team amended the issue for me within a few hours with no fuss – thank you!

A little more to come with some focused pace work, though I’m struggling to think of where I can find another 23 seconds to break 18 minutes!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

12 miles – to Brindley Place and back

Whereas I would have normally gotten out for my run in the morning, I ended up sleeping in and completing a few errands before needing to be somewhere for lunch time. Before I knew it, 3pm had rolled around!

Conditions were deceptive; on the surface, the afternoon appeared to be cool with overcast skies. The reality was noticeable humidity to leave my t-shirt drenched – I really should have worn a vest.

People say you should leave around 3 hours after eating a meal before attempting to run. Personally, I stick with 2 hours for carbohydrate-rich meals with low protein, and nearer 4 hours for protein-rich meals. Well, I had a protein-rich meal comprised of dim sum to leave me pretty uncomfortable!

To make matters worse, I enjoyed a tailwind on the out leg, only to be faced with a headwind on the return to add to the discomfort!

I definitely prefer running long in the morning on Sundays, where I feel like it has far less of an impact on the rest of the day.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 4th to 10th June 2018

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Simon Bull and me (sans vest) at the Aldridge 10k – photo by Lis Yu

A soft taper week ahead of the Aldridge 10k.

5k recovery

I think after last week’s sweat-fest runs, adaptations began taking hold inside me. Contrary to my expectations of feeling beaten up, I ended up feeling not too shabby with my legs and heart rate able to comfortably keep up.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5x 800m at 5k pace

What a difference a couple of days can make! Dramatically lower humidity and a little more recovery meant I was better able to handle the demands of this session.

Erring on the side of caution after last week’s miss, I boosted the rest period to 75 seconds, which turned out to be unnecessary if the following splits are anything to go by:

  1. 2:57
  2. 2:57
  3. 2:54
  4. 2:53
  5. 2:53

Pretty near as damn it in terms of precision!

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5 mile-run commute

Due to staying late at the office to prepare for work’s 200thanniversary (how many businesses can boast such longevity?), I was in two minds about skipping this run and heading straight home having been on my feet all day. My OCD kicked in and a committed run is a non-negotiable run; besides, work paid for some Domino’s pizzas that were waiting for me at home – calories that hadn’t been factored in for the day!

Much like on Monday, I expected the worst from my legs but was pleasantly surprised to discover they were really quite spritely. Clearly still retaining much of the good form from the previous day’s 800m reps, my glutes fired correctly and my stride trailed correctly behind me despite the recovery pace.

Oh, and for clarity because people have been asking, I personally categorise my runs as run-commutes if I carry a bag on my back. Whilst I run from the office three times a week, two of those runs see me carry the absolute minimum (phone, wallet, keys) via a Flip Belt around my waist.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

4 miles into this run, I regretted not whimping out and dropping the run entirely. I’d once again been on my feet all day preparing, celebrating and then cleaning up after work’s 200thanniversary. If I didn’t run on Thursday, it meant the next time I would be running would be during Sunday’s race; this particular week wasn’t to be too low in mileage terms, so you can see my initial reluctance to sack it off.

My legs were tight, especially my IT Bands that were in need of foam rolling. At least I only had 9 miles and not 11 to run!

Running up the incline on Fordhouse Lane, I noticed a woman around 100m away from me making the hill look incredibly easy. Once on flat ground again, I overtook her. She wore earphones and uttered, “Whoa. Fast,” not realising how audible she was! She beat me to it and I was left dumbfounded, just as I was about to share similar words with her attack on the hill.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Aldridge 10k the following day, Lis and I volunteered once more at Cannon Hill parkrun. It’s been weeks since I last ran at Cannon Hill!

Nothing of particular excitement, however I did meet Tom Charles – a chap that’s launching the Running Stories Podcast. I agreed to become an interviewee and there’ll be more on this next week.

Aldridge 10k 2018 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

Aldridge 10k 2018 review

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Yes… I forgot my yellow vest… Photo by Lis Yu

Fourth outing over the years at this hilly 10k. Read on to find out how things went.

For the 2013, 2016 and 2017 races, please click below:

Pre-race

The fairly recent DK10K surprised me with its very minor PB; had I have taken the race more seriously and dug in a little deeper earlier on, I’d have likely gone sub-38:30. I did achieve a PB back in 2013 at the Aldridge 10k, and 2016 saw me narrowly miss a PB by only several seconds because my heart wasn’t in it. It all depended on how soft I felt my 38:40 had become post-Shakespeare Half Marathon and Cotswold Hilly 100.

Rocking up with Lis in tow, horror struck as I realised I had somehow left my signature yellow race vest at home! Due to some carelessness, I didn’t pack it into my bag; I warm-up before races in a t-shirt, so it was too late by the time I came to notice. Coincidentally, I was wearing the 2013 Aldridge 10k race t-shirt, so I was at least not out of place… You could argue it’s just a vest and would make little difference, and perhaps there’s some truth to that, but I may as well have been running without racing flats in my mind. Pre-race rituals and familiarity are so important for that mental edge; I simply couldn’t focus, especially as the conditions began hotting up overhead…

There were plenty of familiar faces about, including Simon Rhodes, and Nathan Warren & Ashley Fawke – 20% of the Cannon Hill Crusaders. Simon Bull was also in attendance, taking great pleasure in mocking my temporary lapse in race preparation finesse!

Warmed up, it was now my mind that wasn’t in it. I felt I was at a disadvantage, especially as the warmth continued to escalate and I wasn’t dressed for such conditions. I wear a vest when training in warm conditions, so what would racing in a t-shirt with the sun overhead do to me?

Simon and I assembled on the start line. “Blind” Dave Healey was the morning’s starter, who chose to joke about with the countdown and reminded me of the time Tony Audenshaw pretended to fire a starting hooter, only for all the race participants to expectedly dash off ahead of time…

The race

PB pace equated to 3:51 per km; not impossible if everything worked in my favour, which the morning certainly wasn’t shaping up to be! Whilst the pace came initially due to the start line scramble, it very quickly dissipated within a few hundred metres and I found myself hovering at around 4:00 per km. The pace wasn’t coming to me and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s only on post-race reflection that I realised the route climbed for much of the opening 3km!

Just slightly ahead of me was the lead woman along with a couple of packs that had formed, no doubt in pursuit of a sub-40 finish. In the distance and creeping ever further away from me were Nathan and Ashley, both working together to crush the testing reputation of the race. Oddly, I couldn’t hear anybody immediately behind me to conclude that I brought up the rear of those looking to finish in fewer than 40 minutes… Really not my morning!

Arriving at the first of two significant descents, I was conscious of the need to increase the effort down the hill to make up for damage from elsewhere on the undulating course. I ended up in a small group consisting of a Boldmere Bullets runner and a guy in an aquamarine coloured t-shirt, both remaining close to my pace.

Reaching halfway, I was warm and couldn’t stop looking enviously at those around me running in vests! In fairness, the humidity was reasonable and I could have been a lot worse off whilst racing in a t-shirt. Nonetheless, I had Lis waiting at The Croft with a bottle of cold water for me to throw over myself and to take a few sips from. For the second time in as many weeks after the Shakespeare Half Marathon, this race also provided sponges for runners to cool themselves down with, though I declined once more to take one.

The second downhill section of the course followed, with everybody kicking it up a notch to capitalise on the free speed on offer. The Boldmere Bullets runner took serious advantage of the situation to put around 5m between me and the chap in the green t-shirt. Slowly being reeled in on the horizon was the tall figure of Simon Rhodes – would I be able to catch him, or would I run out of road?

The aggressive downhill running irritated my left foot to result in some tightening of my arch. What else could the race mock me for?

Turning the corner, I very quickly caught up to Simon through a combination of me surging slightly to make contact and him losing pace. I gave him some encouragement to keep plugging away, also recalling that it was the exact same spot where I overtook him a year ago. It appeared neither of us had changed our approaches to the race!

Time-wise, I had around 30 – 40 seconds in the bank to go under 40 minutes, largely dependent on how I tackled the monstrous final climb that lasts for almost a mile. Fortuitously, a runner drifted backwards towards me to sit just inside my slipstream to keep the pressure applied. I tried to break free from him, only for him to creep up behind me each time.

In spite of having run the course several times over the years, my memory of the route is spotty and vague at best. Reaching the brow of the hill, I’d convinced myself that the turning for the field was just around the corner… A number of corners came and went! Finally, we were ushered into the field, marked out with snaking tape taking us all over the place – all that was missing was Benny Hill music to complement the situation!

I could sense the other runner was no more than a few steps behind me; I took advantage of my lead to claim the race line around the numerous turns, forcing him to go around me if he wanted to overtake. I spotted Lis on the final corner, taking a few snapshots to add to the collection. With only 50m remaining, I thought I had the other guy beat, but he surged for the line to narrowly take me by the finest of margins!

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

I finished feeling not too shabby, confirming my own feelings that my body was quite happy cruising at the pace it did for the race. Checking my Garmin, I finished in 39:25 to be only 2 seconds slower than 2016, which benefitted from the wet and cool conditions to dissipate any heat I generated. Oh, and the wearing of a vest would have been advantageous, too!

Following behind me some 30 seconds later was Simon Rhodes – the final runner to go under 40 minutes that morning. My own estimations earlier on when I found myself at the rear of the sub-40 group weren’t so far off, after all.

Meandering through the finish funnel, I was stopped by a volunteer – a member of Aldridge Running Club – who informed me that I’d won a spot prize for wearing the 2013 race t-shirt! Every cloud has a silver lining and all that. The prize turned out to be a 1 day pass to use the gym and spa facilities at the Village Hotel for two.

Not a spectacular day for me, but as people keep telling me, it’s a blessing that I had a poor start to the day at what can largely be considered a training run with faster 10k races coming up later in July.