As is fairly typical I was one of the first to arrive at East Carlton Country Park, venue of the Two Counties Half Marathon, two hours or so before the start. I had a relaxed build up to what appeared to be a fairly relaxed, low key kind of race. Around an hour before the start I went on a one and a half mile warm up which doubled up as a recce of the infamous hill that we would face at the end of the race. It’s the same hill that many a runner has moaned about in the Corby 5 Mile Race. To be honest I didn’t think that much of it – it was certainly no Casthorpe nor Minnett’s Hill, but I could see that in the final mile of a half marathon it would be a great deal harder to climb than during an easy paced warm up.
The warm up itself felt okay, if a little concerning in the sense that the head cold I had caught was definitely just knocking that 1-2% off my peak capacity. I still felt I could run a good race, I just had to be careful I didn’t push too hard. A final trip or two to the toilet and I was good to go, making my way back to the base of the steepest part of the hill where we would start. A couple more trips to a bush to lose some of the fluid I had taken on board (it was around 19C – so reasonably cool, but warm enough to require good hydration) and I was finally ready to take my place near the front of the field on the start line.
At just before 10am we were sent on our way. A fairly young runner (the bearded one on the video above) who had lined up just behind me, wearing the oversized Oakley Jawbreaker style sunglasses that have come back into vogue, shot past me and hurtled into the lead. We were running slightly downhill but I sensed immediately he had no hope of maintaining his pace, which I estimated to be well under five minute miles given that my watch suggested I was running at around 5:20 pace for the opening few hundred meters.
Sitting in fourth I deliberately held off the pace off the runners in front of me for the opening mile, slowing enough to go through mile 1 in 5:49. Shortly after the opening mile came the first challenging climb of the race – I was pleased to see that I could close on those in front of me without having to go full gas, although they did then pull away again on the following downhill section. At a mile and a half we reached the end of Wire Lane and headed into Ashley Road to begin a near 10 mile clockwise loop, shaped rather like a bow tie.
We had a headwind for the near two mile long stretch to the village of Ashley. Mile two was a 5:51, mile three was 6:08, but worth 5:49 on Strava gap once the ascent was taken into account (and perhaps worth a little more given the headwind). By now the gap to third and second which had been around 10 seconds had begun to close down, so that by the time we went through 5K in 18:32 and headed north to Medbourne, I was hot on their heels.
Aided by a tailwind and the adrenaline of running on a road open to fast moving traffic while catching those ahead of me I caught and passed the third and second placed runners in quick succession, running the fourth mile in 5:36. The fifth mile saw us run through Medbourne and it was here where I caught the leader since the start of the race, who was quite dramatically paying the penalty for his over exuberant start.
I quickly put a gap on him but noted that I still had company. The runner who I passed when he was third had moved up the field just behind me and had now closed onto my shoulder, passing me as we went through mile 5 (5:39). The standard racing tactic would have been to sit on his shoulder and try and hold on but, given that I knew that the hardest sections of the race were still to come, I decided to stick to my own pace and let the gap grow to around 10 seconds as we passed through mile 6 (5:51), running the second 5K in 17:41. The runner at the front of the race was Luke Montgomery of local club. It was soon apparent that he was pretty well known to those supporting the race, cheering him on nearly all by name and clearly giving him that hometown adrenaline buzz.
Mile 7 was was another fairly swift one at 5:38 as we enjoyed flattish terrain and a rear crosswind. Not long after seven miles we began to climb. I’d had information from a club mate who had run the race in 2017 that this was a fairly testing climb. I was quite pleased to see that the Luke was coming back to me quite swiftly. Indeed as we turned off the main road to head south through Bringhurst and the road ramped up again, I caught and briefly passed him.
Feeling the legs start to get heavy from the effort of climbing I looked at my Garmin and noted that my HR had climbed over 175, which is getting towards the upper Z5 levels of my capacity. Knowing it would be unwise to go too long into the red I eased up and allowed Luke to overtake me once again and pull away as we went over the top of the climb and onto a fairly long descent. The gap pulled back out to around ten seconds before stabilising. I didn’t give up hope of a potential victory – I knew that the worst climb of the race was still to come and if I could leave something in the tank it could be expected that I could close the gap again and retake the lead.
Mile 8, which featured the long climb was a 5:57, mile 9 a little quicker at 5:53 but effectively saw a slight slowing as it was mostly flat. This was also the diciest section of the race as the narrow road, open to traffic, was busier than it should have been thanks to a local car boot sale that was just starting and attracting plenty of somewhat impatient visitors.
As we ran first through Cottingham and which led near seamlessly into Middleton, there was a sharp right hand bend which took us onto a pleasant tree covered road that would take us back to the opening road of the race and the finish. There was good crowd support here for a small rural race – all of it though was for the leader, who appeared to be coming back to me as I clocked the gradually uphill mile 10 in 5:58.
The road was now closed to traffic as it would be to the finish. Mile 11 was slightly downhill for the most part, the pace picked up up to 5:48. Without consciously picking up the pace I had all but caught the leader. Rather than sit with him and run at his pace, risking the possibility that he could rally in the final stages – especially with the local crowd support, I maintained my pace and pulled alongside and ahead of Luke. He tried to stay on my heels, but as we turned left into the long, mainly uphill finishing straight, the gap began to quickly grow as Luke appeared to crack.
Mile 12 was 5:49 and the biggest test of the race was about to commence. The first of two climbs, the first was a short, sharp test, which I managed without too much difficulty. I relaxed as I went over and down over the other side, encouraged by what appeared to be the race organisers roadside. Taking a breather as I knew the bigger climb lay ahead, I took a little look around and was relieved to see that there was no one in sight.
Knowing that, barring absolute disaster, victory was mine, I could have eased up the final climb and cruised to a win. However, this was a club GP Series race and times converted to age grade is the all important factor, so there was no letting up. My rather brilliant Peter’s (Race) Pacer data field on my newish Garmin had been telling me for some miles I was looking at a low 1:16, which began to drift a little as I began the final climb. Keen to keep it under 1:17 I kept the effort high, pushing all the way to the top of the hill and onto the finishing line inside the Country Park.
There was a little celebration at the finish, the raising of both hands and a big smile across the face. The finishing time was 1:16:52, which was apparently a new course record (The race is only in its second year). The final mile was the slowest of the race at 6:12 but the Strava GAP reckons it was worth 5:37, which makes it one of the quickest of the race.
As a result of this strong final mile the record books will show that I ended up winning by a fairly comfortable minute and fifty seconds. That won’t tell the full story of the race, how I sat off the pace at the start, took the lead only to lose it, then sat fairly patiently off the leader suspecting that he may not be able to sustain his pace.
It turned out to be a high risk strategy that paid off, especially when I looked up Luke’s Power of 10 profile at the end of the race which revealed he has a 10K PB nearly two minutes quicker than mine. The reason he cracked was that he specialises in the shorter distances (he runs a lot of 3000 and 5000 meter races on the track) and this was only his second foray over the half marathon distance (his other effort was in 2014) and he found his stamina on the day a little wanting.
With plenty of spectators wishing me a warm well done I moved back a few yards down the circuit to see in the small contingency of fellow Grantham Running Clubbers who were also taking part. We had to wait an eternity for the ultimately rather low key prize giving, but it was worth it for the generous cash prize that came my way. With the sense that I had won the race in the quickest possible time with the least possible effort and hadn’t strained myself too much – especially with the cold I was carrying, it was definitely a sense of mission accomplished as I made my way back home.
With the London Marathon done and dusted attention focused on the Sleaford Half Marathon. I had two weeks to try and recover and prepare for what would likely be my first full gas race of the year after the semi-training run effort of the Keyworth Turkey Trot and the London Marathon – which although an extremely hard race due to the heat, was ultimately less hard on the legs as it could have been if I’d run it at the pace I’d trained to run at.
Mindful of a calf injury sustained not long after the 2017 London Marathon which may well have been exacerbated by resuming running (at pace) too soon after London, I made a concerted effort to take things relatively easy. The day after London saw an easy hour on the elliptical trainer and a few minutes on my new bike smart trainer which I had treated myself to when it went on an offer that was too good to refuse. I rode the Witham Wheelers TT on the Tuesday, a moderate effort, not too hard on the legs, oddly a slight season’s best. Wednesday saw my first ride in anger on Zwift using the smart trainer and I’ve got to say I absolutely loved it. It brought a new sense of realism to the game – 8% climbs now felt like climbs rather than having to try and simulate it through gear selection, conversely, the 8% descents gave you a chance to try and recover – just as in real life.
Back to real life on the Thursday and the first run since London – eleven miles with GRC. I felt really good, averaged 7:12 but could have gone so much faster were there anyone willing to go with the pace. Friday saw more Zwift and my first training session, which brings in the erg mode element to turbo training, which makes things very interesting! Saturday saw Belton House parkrun and a 17:27 clocking (Which I’ve posted about separately). Loving the smart trainer so much I put in a catch up Tour Of Watopia stage after work in the evening, before putting in another 90 minutes on Zwift on Sunday morning, stopped only by work on the Azerbaijan GP. Monday saw a 10 mile run in the morning, no real effort and 6:37 average but tired quads gave an indication that I hadn’t fully recovered from London. My daughter’s cancelled swim session in the evening meant I got a bonus hour on Zwift. Everything was going great! Then Tuesday happened.
For reasons unknown I wasn’t feeling too fantastic Tuesday afternoon. I considered not heading to the time trial but, after a little rest on the sofa and a leftover slice of the kids’ pizza, I felt a bit better and so got myself ready to ride to the event. I can’t at the moment print exactly what happened, suffice to say that not long after leaving the house and riding to the cricket club, I was involved in an accident that left me on the floor with my bike significantly worse for wear.
After I picked myself up and went through the procedure of sorting out details for insurance reasons, I headed back home, bike unrideable and in a bit of pain with my left calf (I think I irritated the sciatic nerve with an over extension and felt nothing more after a night’s sleep) and a bruised right knee. I was full of adrenaline, so put in an hour or so easy riding on Zwift to try and calm myself down.
A restless night followed however as I mulled over and over the evening’s incident. I had planned to run with Stephen Hobday on Wednesday morning. I was able to run but the bruised right knee became progressively more sore as the run progressed, so I cut short a planned 10 mile run to 7.5 miles. Feeling no discomfort on the bike, I rode a Zwift race in the evening, memorable for it being very hilly and significantly longer than advertised, so much so that at the conclusion, nearly 90 minutes after beginning, the body was totally devoid of any energy whatsoever!
Thursday morning saw 55 minutes very easy on Zwift before a planned GRC run in the evening. Young talent Jake was a guest and it wasn’t long before he and I were off the front of the group running alone. The right knee, which had been a little sore from the off, became increasingly painful to the point where I called the run short at 9 miles in total. I knew that Sunday’s Half Marathon was in real jeopardy so it was a case of two days of nothing but rest and plenty of ice applied to the knee 3 or 4 times a day. This seemed to yield a positive result, by Saturday evening I felt nothing when walking up and down stairs, whereas before it had ached a fair amount. It was though still quite painful to touch.
With the race start at 9:45 am, I was up at 6:30 am to prepare and allow the cereal bar breakfast to digest. In scenes eerily reminiscent of the 2016 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon (where I went in injured, but finished second) I did a short half mile run from home before setting off for nearby Sleaford by means of a fitness test on the crash damaged knee. I could feel a little tenderness but nothing that caused undue concern nor a change in running gait. What was apparent though was the weather. In an almost near mirror image of March’s Beast from the East and it’s return a fortnight later, the very warm, sunny weather that compromised performance at the London Marathon had returned with vengeance for the Sleaford Half Marathon weekend, with the weekend in the middle frustratingly near perfect for distance racing.
I made it to Sleaford with over 90 minutes to spare, fearing a nightmare with parking that failed to transpire. Given that Sleaford is the nearest town to Grantham I should know my way around it better, but I had to rely on other runners’ knowledge to get me from the town car park to the start venue at the local football club. Pre-race preparation was a fairly standard affair but with the emphasis on trying to keep as cool as possible with temperatures already approaching 20C at 9 am. The warm up was just a mile around the football pitches with one acceleration. The knee felt fine.
I sought shade as much as possible, somewhat reluctantly taking part in the rather impressive GRC group photo, before heading back to join a queue for the indoor toilets which killed some time and was cooler than being outside. I deliberated long and hard about what kit to wear – the club vest was a given, then I opted to wear the cap that served me so well at London. Then, at the last minute, I opted to also wear the club coloured Buff (purchased just the day before for such an eventuality) around the neck to try and keep temperatures down on a course which was largely exposed to the sun with little chance of seeking shade. In the 10-15 minutes before the start of the race, I made a point of keeping the cap and buff soaked with cold water. It was pretty cold at the time but I was confident it would help during the race itself.
The pre-race briefing told us to enjoy the lovely conditions, which I think most took to be a little tongue in cheek given we were already all baking in the sun. I had half planned to take it easy with the hot weather, but I knew from prior experience that I could probably plan to run a fairly standard race with the acceptance that the going would get increasingly tough near the end of the race, more than you’d expect if conditions were fine.
We made the short walk from the club house to the start line. We were warned about the start mat covering the entirety of the road so I placed myself dead bang in the middle of the line of the carpet so as to minimise chances of not being detected by the timing chip. We were told that we would start on the whistle and literally two or three seconds later the whistle blew. Nearly all road races have a countdown of sorts, so at first I hesitated, wondering if the whistle was to bring us to attention but, no, that was the starting whistle, and so we were off on our way.
A flat start with a slight breeze at our backs meant the start was brisk. I found myself somewhere around the top ten, before making up a space or three as we turned into a housing estate and began to run into the breeze. Leaving the estate and returning in the opposite direction back towards the start line I closed slowly on the runner in third position.
Just by following him I liked his smart approach to racing. As the leaders (and many others), shown in the picture above, stuck to the left hand side of the road, the guy in front moved to the right hand side of the road, where there was a patch of around 200 meters which was in the shade. A marginal gain perhaps over the course of 13.1 miles seeking marginally lower temperatures, but I know from experience these little things can and do add up. I went through the first mile in 5:38, which was a couple of seconds up on the A Game plan, although not as fast as my PB HM opening mile, when I ran 5:28.
The second mile took us past the finish area and off on the long loop that would take us to and through Kirkby La Thorpe, Evedon, Ewerby, Boughton, Howell, Ewerby Thorpe, Ewerby (Again), and Kirky la Thorpe (Again) before returning to the finish at the football club. The wide main road running into Sleaford and towards the A17 was closed for the morning. The rest of the roads were open but were very quiet roads – I think I only saw three or four cars and a whole load of bicycles – but more of them later.
By the end of the second mile I had closed on the third placed runner, who I thought I recognised as someone I raced with at the Thoresby 10, but some detective work reveals I didn’t. It was only after the race that he came to be known to me as Martin Dawson of North Derbyshire Running Club. Clocking a more palatable 5:46 for the second mile. Martin pulled wide to the right side of the road as he let me through to take the pace. There was a headwind at the time – just noticeable enough to be a little effort to run in and also just enough to provide a bit of welcome cooling. Martin’s extravagant pull to the side amused me quite a bit. I kept the pace honest as we passed probably the biggest climb on the course as we climbed up and over the A17.
Any thoughts that Martin was just going to sit on my tail was put to bed as he came past me, clearly willing to help with the pace. Indeed as we went through the first water station, manned by one of my local running rivals Greg Southern of Sleaford/Royal Air Force at 2.5 miles, he kindly offered me his water bottle. As I had already discarded around 450ml over the top of my head and was feeling suitably refreshed, I declined his kind offer, but knew that this would be someone who would be a help in the race rather than a hindrance.
We went through the third mile together in 5:41 and 5K in 17:42. By now the two at the front of the race who had pulled clear for the opening couple of miles were now slowly, but surely, being reeled in by the slower starting duo of Martin and myself. Lincoln AC man, who had led the race, was now second behind the young man in black, who looked bouncy and strong but who, along with the bigger Lincoln runner, showed signs of beginning to struggle with the heat, which was warm and getting warmer all the time.
Through four miles with 5:43 on the Garmin, it had been was a typical Fens running affair – an unremarkable narrow country lane on flat lands surrounded by fields of crops. As we approached Everdon there was a rare change in elevation with a slight incline. It was here where Martin and I passed the Lincoln AC runner. The man in black was now just a few seconds up the road and it looked like a matter of when, not if, we would both pass him. This we did shortly after, sharing the lead of the race, continuing to take turns to pace one another. I was keeping an eye on my HR as it crept higher towards the maximum I’d like it to be during a HM. On a cooler day I may have let it past, but I knew with the warmth I couldn’t stretch too far into the red.
The road had now turned into a heavily potholed gravel track – a private road used with permission from a farmer. The Sleaford Half Marathon seems to enjoy these excursions into the unusual. At its former home at RAF Cranwell there was a half mile or so through a field which, during February when the race was held, was invariably very muddy and slippery. This pot hole ridden track was less of a hindrance, especially as the ground had been baked dry by days of sun, but it demanded full attention to avoid becoming a cropper in a crater.
Exiting the farmers path at the beginning of the fifth mile, the Garmin clocked 5:41. As we approached halfway at Ewerby and still sharing the lead of the race, I could just sense that the heat was beginning to take its toll. Speaking to others after the race many felt the same way – that is that it was bearable to halfway, then got progressively harder with a low point around ten miles as we came back into Ewerby.
The sixth mile was 5:46 and I went through 10K in 35:32. By now parched, both me and Martin were alarmed at the next water station when they appeared to be handing out cups of water. Spotting a crate of water bottles we both shouted ‘Bottles! Bottles!’ to the guys manning the water station. To their credit and perhaps hearing the desperation in our voices, bottles were hastily provided just in time. Thoughtfully once again Martin had taken two bottles in case I had been unable to grab one. Once again I declined his offer of a bottle, he handed it to a spectator to hopefully hand out to runners behind us.
Off now on a near four mile loop before returning to Ewerby, my time at the front of the race would come to an end. With the merest of a slow down, mile 7 being 5:48, it seemed Martin capitalised on this and picked up the pace, not by a huge amount, but enough to create a 20 second or so gap by the time we had run eight miles. Really feeling the heat by now as I clocked 5:48 for mile 8, all I could do was hope that Martin had risked it a little too much by increasing the pace when the body would surely be screaming to slow down. I noted that at around 8 miles, Martin took on a gel. I sensed that today that could have been a great move, especially one with added sodium and other electrolytes – the type I normally take. The possible advantage I had over him, I reckoned, was that the still soaking cap and buff around the neck would hopefully keep me cooler in the later stages, when the heat would likely really start to take its toll.
Turning left at the small village of Howell I was warned by marshals of cyclists approaching the junction. There was the King Edward Sportive taking place that day, which we had been warned about as there was a multitude of arrows at the next junction which would be confusing to a heat affected mind. With odds that must be in the 100s to 1, by pure coincidence the group that came past me was a bunch of Witham Wheelers’ riders, the same group I would have typically ridden with if I had failed the morning’s fitness test and chosen to cycle instead! With plenty of encouragement received I half jokingly instructed them to try and slow down the leader ahead. They did indeed ride up to Martin and perhaps told him to slow down. They didn’t though impede him and that was the last I saw of them as they took part in an activity far more enjoyable than running in the conditions.
That brief interlude of excitement out of the way it was back to the increasingly hard graft. Mile 9 was a 5:49 and mile 10 5:50. I remember little of this part of the race other than finding it increasingly hot and difficult to maintain pace.
At ten miles we rejoined the course already trodden at Ewerby and I was passing runners who would look to run around two and a bit hours for the marathon. I knew the water station would be ahead and was thankful to take a bottle. Once again I took only a small swig of water, making sure as much of the contents as possible went over the head and neck.
Miles 10 and 11 were the hardest yards of the race. At times I felt like my legs were beginning to buckle. Fearing an attack of the Callum Hawkins I made sure I could run a straight line. Thankfully, despite the suffering, I was not yet out of my mind, although I did question this when we passed a random guitarist and partnering vocalist singing Brown Eyed Girl by the side of the country road. Mile 11, despite being partially downhill, was the slowest of the race at 5:52. That I was suffering and tiring but more or less maintaining pace was pleasing. I just had to keep the concentration up. Not only was Martin in front seemingly slowing slightly (Probably an illusion), I had glanced behind on occasion and was sure a Lincoln Wellington runner was closing on me. Fear of losing second rather than the possibility of winning here drove me on.
Mile 12 saw the final water station, another cheer of encouragement from Greg Southern and the final incline of the race as we went back over the A17 and towards the finish. I was pleased to see I had increased the pace to run 5:47 for mile 12 and with less than eight minutes of running to go I put in as much effort as I could, focusing on the limited number of reference points ahead to break down the mile as much as possible and ignoring as best as possible the heat radiating off the asphalt below.
It was at 12.5 miles I looked at my elapsed time for the first time since halfway. It read under 1:12. For a few moments I thought a PB was possible, but the brain had enough processing power to realise that wasn’t possible. I did though recognise that it could be a pretty decent time and so, despite second place being assured, I put in one final effort to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.
Crossing the line I missed the finishing clock, my Garmin suggested I had run 1:16:04 but I knew it would be officially a few seconds quicker. I forgot all about that however as, once stopped, the inevitable heat soak took over my body and I could think of nothing but to seek shade, which I found next to the Muffin Top cake stall by the baggage collection. I spent a few minutes just sitting calmly, cooling slightly, before being joined by the one-time race leader Rusian who shook hands with me before collapsing in a heap!
After five minutes or so I felt sufficiently recovered and collected my bag to change into dry clothes. For the next 45 minutes or so I stood with club mates and spectated, cheering home the 35+ Grantham Running Club members who took part in the race. Initially it was believed we had won the Team Prize until Lincoln Wellington found a runner to mean that they took the honours. I did though have the opportunity to receive the second placed trophy and a voucher worth £125 for a pair of Mizuno trainers! This prize was given to the first three finishers, which made me wonder whether the effort of maintaining second had been worth it! I was also given my official chip time of 1:15:59, which cheered me up no end!
I also had the first opportunity to talk to the race winner, who revealed that it was only his second half marathon and a three minute PB, clocking 1:15:11. He admitted that he had taken a bit of a risk in breaking clear at 7 miles and just about held on, but it was touch and go in the final miles. His win was well judged and thoroughly well deserved.
Grabbing a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders from the Lincolnshire Runner stand, I basked in the heat of the day before heading to a rather lovely barbecue at friends, then GRC’s Beer & Bling evening, where I could add the Sleaford Half Marathon medal to my London Marathon prize. It was only when I awoke in the morning that I was reminded that I had run 13.1 miles on a bruised knee. Virtually pain free during the race, it felt very similar to how it had been soon after crashing the bike. Indeed a pain blighted run a couple of days later meant I was resigned to taking at least a week off running to let everything hopefully heal. I certainly hope so because I am in good shape and have some races coming up thick and fast!
The 2017 Keyworth Turkey Trot was meant to be a thrilling conclusion to the inaugural Grantham Running Club Grand Prix Championships. I had worked out that I needed 1:17:20 to secure an age grade sufficient to overhaul Series leader Rob Howbrook, assuming he wasn’t able to improve his age grade himself. After running a minute quicker than that at the Worksop Half Marathon, I was quietly confident, but after a month of injury post Rockingham Duathlon I was barely able to bring myself to attend the event let alone consider winning.
It therefore came of something of a relief when dire weather forecasts on the day before the December 10th race day forced the organisers to postpone the event. With no prospect of the race able to be rescheduled before the end of the year, it was Rob who took the club title and also the club champion title as a consequence. Although I could claim I had been denied the opportunity to win, the reality was that the hip and a recent bout of illness meant that I would have needed a miracle to win.
When it was announced just before Christmas that the Turkey Trot had been rescheduled to February 11th, I had mixed feelings. It did give me something to aim to get fit for, but on the other hand I’d not considered racing so early in the year. Once my physio’s exercises and all the other exercises I grabbed together and put into practice eased my hip woes, I planned on taking part in the Trot, albeit going in to it with the intention of it being a hard training run rather than a race to peak for. This was a different attitude to what I took for the 2017 Folksworth 15 in late January, which I used as a race to train for before beginning my marathon training.
As it was a training race I didn’t taper for it, the winding down of running coincided with a planned step back week after three weeks of increased running mileage. I worked hard on the bike in the days leading up to the race. I increasingly found myself bothered with a chest infection which, on the evening before the race, driving back from Yorkshire after visiting relatives, was threatening to explode into the full blown fever half the family was already suffering. I fully expected to wake on Sunday morning unable to move or breathe – as it was I was able move and breathe, albeit feeling just a little stiff and breathing through a slightly blocked nose and chest that did like to cough quite frequently.
I made it to Keyworth nice and early with over 90 minutes before the start of the race. With a bitter cold wind I minimised the time spent outside, just 1.5 miles for warm up before a quick trip to the toilets (not much of a queue with numbers down on usual thanks to some key fixture clashes) and more waiting inside, posing for photos and generally trying to keep composed.
I made my way to the start line with just five minutes or so to spend shivering away, despite being attired more appropriately for a cross country skier in PyeongChang than Keyworth in South Nottinghamshire. Not wanting to commit wholly to racing, I lined up a few rows back from the start, which I immediately regretted when the firing horn was sounded, as I was stuck behind some fairly slow runners for a few seconds. Up to speed I was alarmed to find myself running faster than anyone else in the field and heading towards the lead, so I eased up a touch on the downhill dash to the first uphill kick of the race.
On the kick up a small group of three or so just eased away and I found myself in the second group of four or five runners. Once at the top of the short climb we turned right and into the stiff, cold, headwind. I had two choices, either push on and commit to racing with the lead pack, or ease up and be a part of group two. I went with the latter and eased off, tucking in behind two taller runners and trying to get shelter. Whether this actually helped in the long run I’m not sure. I found myself constantly having to check my stride, possibly expounding more energy than had I just sucked up the wind and ran to my own pace.
Mile one was 5:42, as was mile two as the mostly favourable gently downhill road was tempered by the wind. I kept to the plan of tucking in as much as possible, feeling fairly comfortable, but feeling more as if I was racing than training hard. Approaching the amusingly named village of Bunny we turned sharp left and suddenly the headwind was more a cross tail wind. I took this as my call to push to the front of the group and just push the pace on a touch, knowing that this section has the first of two periods of climbing. As I went through mile three in 5:58, the road went upwards and the group fell apart. I found myself third up the first hill, with perhaps three behind me. I then caught the two ahead midway up the second climb before losing them again as the road continued upwards. 6:04 was mile 4, the Strava GAP of 5:24 feels about right as it was the hardest mile of the race.
Miles 5 and 6 I tried to relax and push on the with the plan of it being a training run. This kind of went out of the window when I caught the two runners ahead of me and was still within shouting distance of the lead group of (I think) four runners. 5:39 for mile 5 was heavily wind assisted, mile 6 was slower at 5:56, but featured another climb where I dropped one of the runners I was with but was dropped by the runner who I thought was suffering, but instead pushed on once at the top of the climb and was able to slowly but surely pull clear of me by some margin.
Miles 7 and 8 took us up to and through Willoughby on the Wolds. I didn’t feel great here and ran 5:52 and 5:57, although they were both predominantly uphill. Mile 9 is nearly all gradually downhill and normally where you can push on for a quick mile, but this year the crosswind made the going tough. At one point I was nearly blown off the road! I forced out a 5:55, but was caught by a V50 runner who was looking remarkably fresh. We chatted for much of the tenth mile, commenting on how we felt the mile markers were somewhat inaccurate. This 5:54 mile felt fairly comfortable as the wind was nearly on our backs.
This wasn’t to last as we turned sharp left to head towards Keyworth. This mile and half section is at the best of times tough with one long drag uphill, then a downhill swoosh that punishes tired quads before another steep climb before a welcome plateau. This year a block headwind made it almost unbearable. Despite this I managed to ease clear of my recently acquired running partner. It was clear I was stronger than him on the hills and he was a little quicker on the flat and downhill sections. No matter how hard it felt I needed to push on and maximise my gains on the uphill sections.
The first climb saw us battling wind and gradient, inching slowly towards welcome shelter in the form of a tall hedge roadside which, once I reached it, instantly gave me at least a one mph speed boost. I went down the hill as relaxed as possible, sensing just a little discomfort in the left hip, before pushing on again for the second hill. Mile 11 was the race’s slowest at 6:16; mile 12 as I thankfully hit the plateau was still slow at 6:13 – the wind still very much a factor, although there was now some protection from the houses as we returned into Keyworth itself.
This flat section seemed to drag on forever, far longer than it has in previous years. Finally I dropped downhill and knew the race was nearly done. There is however one last sting in the tail in the form of two final climbs in the final half mile. I felt like I was running on empty, yet Strava suggested I was second only to the winner (and only a couple of seconds slower than him) in this tough last part of the race.
The final hill done it is mercifully a short downhill dash to the finish back at the school. I clocked 1:18:06, my slowest of three Keyworth Turkey Trots but, given the wind, probably not too far off in terms of performance from the other two. I finished sixth, my best yet (I was seventh in 2016), and again I claimed the winner’s prize in the V40 category, thanks in part to the race having prizes for the top 5, of whom at least two were V40 runners as well. News broke that the traditional turkeys handed out as prizes hadn’t survived Christmas and so it was we received hampers, or more accurately, a Co-Op shopping bag with some random weird and wonderful food and hair care products. The kids liked the soup….
To summarise, I was pleased with the performance given that my training was delayed two or three weeks by injury and I went into the race with something of a chest infection. I do wonder what I could have done had I committed to going with the front group in the opening stages, which I felt I had the capacity to do, but opted in the interests of the long term goal of not doing. I think I may have been able to have gone a minute or so quicker, but ultimately didn’t have enough on the day to go much quicker. If I had done that and the race was in December I may have grabbed the club’s GP prize, but that is all conjecture and speculation!
I hadn’t planned on entering the Worksop Half Marathon, I even told several club members as such a week or so beforehand. I’d planned on doing a bike ride with Witham Wheelers to prepare myself for the Rockingham Duathlon, which was a week after Worksop. Somehow though a post on Facebook on the evening after I ran the North MIdlands Cross Country, saying there were less than 50 spaces left for Worksop, I decided for a dramatic change of heart, entering at 00:16 on Sunday 15th October. Thinking back this was after a considerable amount of alcohol had been consumed on a very pleasant evening with family, so the decision may not have been based on sound reasoning.
Because I was somewhat inebriated / tired after cross country, I had forgotten to think about the logistics of taking part in the race and some of the additional reasons why I had originally opted not to race on the Sunday. Fundamental problem number one was that it was the Mexican Grand Prix, one of the busiest weekends of the year for me, even if Lewis Hamilton isn’t winning the World Championship there (which he was) and filled with late nights running into the early morning. I’d already committed to a late night / early morning combo a week before with the Sleaford Duathlon which became a double bill with the Thoresby 10.
Another complication was that I’d booked a few days holiday after the United States GP with the family and had planned to do little other than eat crisps and drink wine. This was unlikely to be ideal preparation for a half marathon.
In the end the biggest challenge was going to be recovering sufficiently from the race efforts of the weekend before, especially as the Thoresby 10 turned into something far harder and faster than originally planned. The Monday after Thoresby I wrote off as a day off. I was working until 2:30 am and was up at 7am, towing a caravan at 10:30am and not finished setting up until nearly 4pm when it was nearly dark and there were crisps waiting to be opened and a bottle of wine already opened.
Tuesday morning and I was ready to join the world of runners once again. I couldn’t drag my ass out of bed at the crack of dawn like I was able to when last on holiday, so the run was limited to just over 10K. It was also the first, perhaps last time I attempted geocaching while running. The first cache was quite exciting, albeit a lot of toing and froing as I relied wholly on GPS in a forest to source the cache.
The next one took me up a hill which was good as it was kind of on the way which I was planning to go. The cache I didn’t find though as it appeared to be in a private garden. The next one I got around halfway to it before I realised that I shouldn’t really be climbing fences marked PRIVATE LAND, so turned back, abandoned Geocaching for the time being and headed back.
Wednesday I was up early and out running, exploring the town of Market Rasen, a town far smaller than I had expected, given I ran most of it in around two and a half minutes. Following Google Maps I got myself a little lost early doors but this actually made for a really enjoyable run across numerous bridlepaths, through woodland and very quite, pretty roads.
Eleven miles was run in total. I do remember early in the run some slight pains in my lower back, on the left hand side. Nothing came of it at the time, but in the days that followed this would lead to bigger issues.
That evening I spent too much time looking on Strava seeing I could nab some sections. This wasn’t particularly easy as Market Rasen appears to have one or two pretty handy runners who enjoy sprinting the segments in and around town. There were though a couple I thought I could have and I even mapped out a somewhat convoluted run. Alas a big meal of fish and chips washed down by lots of wine, crisps, and tortilla chips, meant that when the alarm ran at 7am, it was switched off and the body stayed laid in bed, under the covers, not moving, no matter how strong the lure of a segment may have been.
Feeling guilty for my laziness I ran once we returned from our mini break and before beginning my work for the weekend. I was almost relived that the legs felt dead and pained – Strava segments would have been an impossibility. Both hip flexors were ominously tight, and the back was aching too. Friday morning and I was making up for only running six miles on Thursday by running 10 miles. Probably not the most sensible thing to do two days before a half marathon, but psychologically the 6:40 average mile pace feeling really easy was a good boost indicating that I had perhaps recovered from the weekend before. The left hip flexor remained tight but less troublesome than Thursday; the good news was that the right Achilles remained pain free after the brutal massage a week earlier on the calf muscles – it appears that four months of pain may finally be at an end.
Friday night was a 3am effort working, so any thoughts of a parkrun in the morning were soon put to bed as I used the day as a recovery day. I was back behind the desk that afternoon. Thankfully the timetable in Mexico was kinder than the one in Austin and with the added benefit of the clocks going back that evening, I was tucked up in bed by 11:45, late by my normal standards, but positively early in recent terms.
I was up at just before 7am, making a very strong coffee and leaving the house not long thereafter, opting for a breakfast of cheap cereal based breakfast snacks like I had been doing a while ago before experimenting with porridge and breakfast cereal. For the record I think this worked very well in terms of lack of gastric distress during the race.
I left the house at around 7:30am making the relatively short journey to Worksop, not far from Thoresby Hall, not far from Clumber Park, a very easy journey on a near deserted A1 on a Sunday morning. The very detailed Worksop Half Marathon website lists around ten public car parks to pick from, I took a gamble and opted for one not on the list (the first one I stumbled upon), by my reckoning it was around the same distance as the ones listed which were in the town centre and perhaps already filling up given that it was now just 1 3/4 hours to the start. The tactic paid off, a 15 minute walk to race HQ loosened the legs nicely, the car park was free and sparsely populated.
Being early I was able to collect my race number relatively painlessly and use the toilet facilities without queuing too long. I could sense the HQ filling quite quickly though and, having a school canteen as a base I opted to change into my race gear and put my bag into the baggage hold, which was already showing signs of creaking under the strain of runners keen to deposit their bags. The weather was pretty kind for a late October morning, the sun was breaking through the clouds, temperatures were around 10C (Ideal for my prototype GRC long sleeved top!), the only hindrance was a keen, chilly breeze, which would blow us along at the start, but potentially hobble us in the closing stages.
I did my one and a half mile warm up around 45 minutes before the start of the race. I had been very concerned about my left hip, having ached loads on the Saturday and not helped by spending the evening sat behind a desk. Thankfully although it ached for around half the warm up, when I picked the pace up a touch, the discomfort appeared to subside. Warm up done I battled my way through the crowds to queue for the indoor toilets, which were strangely not that busy considering the outside portaloos were very busy indeed. The general scene at HQ was one of queues – queues for race number collection, queues for toilets, queues for baggage, queues for tea and coffee, queues to get in the building, queues to get out of the building. It was 9:45, fifteen minutes before the start of the race and very few of the 2500 odd runners looked like they were anywhere near ready to race.
To avoid a mad rush to get to the start and because the start had appeared to assign a ridiculously small space for sub 1:40 runners at the front of the race (And no space at all for any one quicker than 80 minutes) I headed to the start a little earlier than usual. Not long after I got there came the announcement that the race had been delayed by ten minutes due to queues at race number collection. A small audible groan came, but everyone appeared to remain in good spirits. Had it been cold, wet, and especially windy, it could have been a different matter, but it wasn’t too big a deal to keep oneself warm with some strides and the odd trip to some handily placed trees and bushes to ensure any unnecessary ballast was dispatched with.
Thankfully there were no further delays and at 10:10 someone official looking had us on our way. It turned out that when I first ran the Worksop Half back in 2015, it was the 34th and last time the original course had been used. The 2016, course, retained for 2017, was much the same as the old course, but began and ended a little further up Sparken Hill than before. The old first mile I remember being particularly tough, nearly all uphill with the steepest, hardest section, coming at the end almost into the second mile of the race. Now the start moving only a few hundred meters or so up the road made the start feel much easier – the steep part of the hill mostly tackled in those early euphoric moments in a race when everything feels much easier than anything that follows thereafter.
As is my wont, I went off at a steady pace, not exactly jogging, but appearing more comfortable than those around me. I made a point of trying to take it easy up the hill, knowing that an early trip deep into the red could lead to major ramifications further down the road. I clocked the opening mile in 5:56, which Strava GAP has optimistically called 5:31. A quick summary of the race positions had me around 12th, but only around 20 seconds down on the lead group, which weren’t pulling away as rapidly as a group of runner would were they running at 70 minute pace, for instance.
The next couple of miles are something of a means to an end. A mostly straight road over some rolling hills to take us to Clumber Park that set the theme for the rest of the race – a course with barely a stretch of flat to be found, but little of it particularly steep. I was in my Nike Frees for the race, they are probably the quickest trainers I currently own, the downside is you do tend to feel the indentations in a worn B-road such as this one. That though was the least of my worries, for not long after the opening mile passed I began to feel what felt like a side stitch on the right side of my stomach. Nothing too severe but a pain that was increasing in intensity to the point that, when we dropped down a hill not long after 3 miles, I did begin to question whether I’d be able to continue running.
Looking back and seeing how my body has reacted since, I think this may not have been stitch but a tight Psoas muscle – a legacy of the tight hip flexors and sore back I’d been suffering for much of the week. Once again I could be thankful, that although annoying and disconcerting it wasn’t really slowing me much. I ran the second mile in 5:45 and the third mile in 5:40, going through 5K in 18:06. I think in the meantime I had picked off a couple of runners to perhaps sit in around 10th position. The fourth mile was 5:39 as we initially dived downhill before turning left into a road I spotted as being the exit from Clumber Park when taking part in the bike leg of the Clumber Park duathlon.
Mile 5 was a real struggle, probably the hardest of the race. The stitch was bothering me, we had turned into a headwind, we were running uphill and one or two runners had begun to overtake me. The Garmin clocked 5:59; I feared a gradual slide in times and positions. I was going through what Brendon Foster would definitely call a bad patch.
Salvation came in the form of a tight right hand bend which took us off the road and onto the paths in the heart of Clumber Park. The head wind was forgotten and as we ran a fairly twisty section of the race, the pain in my side began to subside. With that I appeared rejuvenated. I swiftly passed the two runners who had just passed me and set about the runners ahead, two of whom I passed before I clocked through six miles (5:42), going through 10K in 35:57. The seventh mile took us back onto the road where I had struggled, but I remained strong, clocking 5:49, despite beginning to climb uphill.
That climb continued for much of mile 8, which I distinctly remembered from 2015 as a bit of a killer. We also had a headwind this year to make it doubly tough. I settled into a rhythm, put my head down, metaphorically speaking, and ploughed on, catching another two runners by the top of the climb, passing mile 8 in 6:06 (the slowest mile of the race). Turning right into a tree lined road I recognised this as my favourite part of the race when I ran in 2015. Slightly downhill for around half a mile before a drinks station there is a succession of around 12 signs stuck roadside, nearly all of them humorous, such as Sheffield AC recommend this race as a fast flat PB course, and birthday wishes to all those who celebrated their birthday on the day of the race. Like many of the race touches it makes the event stand out as one which clearly has a lot of time and effort put into it – I noted that the signs were definitely all different from those that were erected in 2015.
It was a combination of the signs humouring me, the slight downhill, the urge to pull clear of the runners I had just passed and the remote prospect of catching the two runners in front of me, I found myself really putting the hammer down, clocking a 5:35 for mile 9. Mile 10 was another long drag before a left hand turn, where I clocked six minutes dead. This led into another long straight, gently rolling, tree lined road. I remembered this road as the last real test of the race, so pushed on as best I could. I overtook one runner at the start of Old Coach Road, I caught and passed the other at the end of it, this runner being dressed in Halloween inspired garb – an impressive effort to be running at that pace in ill equipped attire.
This is a long road – mile 11 (5:47) only took us half way along it. The twelfth mile saw up peel off the road and into Worksop College. I had been wondering where the race was going to make up the distance that it lost with the new beginning and end. It turned out that a good chunk of it was here. In 2015 we ran in front of the college and straight out. This year we doubled back on ourselves and ran around the back of, and then around the front of the rather grand looking college before rejoining the straight road out of the school and on to the last leg towards the finish. The headwind was much in evidence here as was the rather pleasant autumnal sunshine which made for a pleasant pleasant official photograph. He was in the exact same spot two years ago. I purchased one then, and I purchased another after the race.
MIle 12 was a 5:46. The gap to the ghouish looking runner behind me was safe; the runner in front was nowhere to be seen. With finishing position all but ensured, I left the college grounds fairly relaxed, made the sharp left and immediate right back onto the road we began the race on. The long uphill reversed would, of course, be a long downhill. Usually this would be the source of much joy, but I was mindful that at this race I cramped up badly on the downhill stretch, and did something similar at the Turkey Trot last year. So it was with a little trepidation I made my way down the steepest part of the hill, before relaxing, taking in the applause of the generous crowd, turning into the finish straight and towards the finish.
The last mile was the quickest of the race – 5:30. Strava GAP reckons it was worth 5:31. I reckon the new Strava GAP is broken… I made a sprint of sorts to the finish, crossing the line in a season’s best 1:16:24. I was well pleased with that, considering the lack of sleep, the volume of racing, and the niggles I carried into the event. I immediately made my way back along the course to cheer the next few GRC runners home. By the time I’d gone down to collect my t-shirt from Paul Davidson and Nettie, the results had already been published. I was fifth and second V40! This was a really good result on a course that tends to have a fairly strong field. I was also just over three minutes behind the winner, Harvey Speed of Coventry Godiva Harriers, not a bad effort!
This success meant I had to hang around for over an hour and a half for the awards presentation. I spent some time chatting with club colleagues, fellow Duathletes, and anyone else milling around. Most were trying to get their bags from the baggage hold that was sadly proving woefully inadequate for the volume of runners in the race. This is a really good race but it needs to urgently do two things – 1. Post out its race numbers beforehand rather than insist on collection on the day. This works in smaller races, but they took on the best part of 3000 entries and had over 2400 finishers. This is too much to handle on the morning, as is having baggage reserved to a very small space near the main entrance and exit, manned by a small number of well meaning, but inexperienced volunteers. If race numbers were posted they could use the entire sports hall for baggage and have it much better, more efficiently laid out.
The presentation was an odd affair on the back of an empty Wilkinsons truck, with two who I assumed to be the Mayor and Mayoress of Worksop – but may not have been. First I collected my prize of £40 vouchers for finishing fifth. I thought that would be it but the race decided you could collect more than one prize, so I collected another £30 vouchers for finishing second vet. A good return on a very last minute entry, and better still when I cut a deal with the second placed finisher for his Hoka Hoka One voucher, allowing me to get a pair of brand new Clifton 4s at a very good price.
With that it was straight home, straight to work, finishing work on the Mexico GP at around 3am. Another very long, but successful day!
This report comes over a month after the event. This is because I only recently found out where I finished…. More of that later. The reality too is that the race was less interesting than the training that preceded it, so forgive me if this is a little heavy on preparation and a little light on race action.
Mentally enthused after success at Thorney in August, I visioned a good month of training before the end of September race in Nottingham. I had no races planned, other than the club handicap 10K which, on a lumpy course, I ran at marathon heart rate in 36 and a half minutes. Although there were the odd exceptions, the training focused on big efforts over the weekend with easier paced running and cycling during the week. The Saturday in particular became the focal point of the week – the first two of them of them I competed a ten mile ‘straight outta bed’ run which averaged something pretty close to sub six minute miles. The following week I ran Melton Mowbray parkrun in a slightly disappointing 17:28, but the following Saturday, straight out of bed once again, I kicked off with some Stravalek intense effort before running around six minute miles until seven miles, when I ran Belton House parkrun in 17:30, closing the run with five K in something close to 18 minutes again. It all felt very easy as I ran a half marathon with minimal interruption and effort in 1 hour 19 minutes.
What made me even more enthused is that for all the straight outta bed runs on the Saturday I backed that up with a run of at least 13 miles at 6:40 pace or quicker. I felt like I was running into the sort of form I had when I bagged the 1:14 at the Grunty Fen Half Marathon at the same time of year two years previous.
And then just like two years ago and last year, four or five days before the half marathon I came down with the first of the winter colds the kids brought home with them from school. To feeling fantastic to feeling lousy in no time at all. Just like last year the worst of the cold had past come race day but I wasn’t feeling by any means fantastic.
As I’d been burnt before by the pre-race traffic jams, like last year I arrived over two hours before the start of the race to ensure a good easy parking slot. I took a little walk around the race village, laughed at the insanely high prices of goods on Sale at the Sweatshop tent, used the toilets a couple of times and went for a one and a half mile warm up along the Trent which was wholly unremarkable except for a very pleasant calf stretch which rid me of the niggly Achilles discomfort for the entirety of the race.
A little fortuitously I bumped into my fellow GRC runners who were having a pre-race photo, and I was able to dive in for one last pic. With that done I returned to my car to have one last swill of drink before making my way to the start. I lined up just behind the elites, of which there appeared to be just two or three – a little disappointing for a race which has the subtitle of the British Half Marathon Championships. I didn’t spot upon the eventual race winner Chris Thompson, who brought a bit of quality to the race as a bonafide worthy recipient of National Half Marathon Champion.
The start was the usual affair of some trying to go off at a steady but brisk pace while those around me either shot off and all around at a pace that would never be sustainable or went so slowly as to strongly suggest they had no place standing so close to the start. The opening few hundred meters are in the heavy shade of tree cover on the Victoria Embankment, it wasn’t long before we turned left onto a wide main road and I could assess the race situation and settle into the run.
In the first mile I closed on and passed the eventual women’s winner Emily Waugh, who looked serene running at 1:16 pace. The Dubai based runner (I soon followed her on Strava) was running with her Rugby & Northampton AC team mate, who shortly after the opening mile (5:42) cruised alongside and past me, wishing me well as he did. He would be the only runner who passed me.
The opening mile and a half is pleasant enough, but as in 2016 it wasn’t long before we were sent off the path of the old course and up past the castle. By no means a savage climb it is nevertheless steep enough to undo all the good work in the opening mile. The second mile was a 5:57 (5:38 on Strava GAP). The next mile and a bit must rank as some of the least satisfying in city marathon history. Of all the comments I read on Strava they all described this section in less than complimentary tones. Rhythm sapping is the most polite I can call it, something like a road based version of a twisty, hilly cross country course, as we tackled numerous short sharp climbs punctuated with sharp descents and tight bends. The course was the same as last year, I had blocked out how bad it is. That said, I fared better than others and picked off a fair few runners en route to a 6:03 mile (5:33 GAP) and an 18:27 first 5K.
As if to apologise for the twists and hills of the past mile and a half, the fourth mile is a mostly flat, fast downhill drop to the University campus. I pulled up to another runner and sat briefly in his shelter before pulling past and clear as the road flattened. A 5:30 fourth mile was followed by a 5:42 fifth mile as the field really thinned out and all I had for company were the odd runner somewhere far in the distance and, it must be said, really good crowd support as they enjoyed the great weather conditions for spectating.
The sixth mile (5:50) was literally a long drag, somewhat spirit crushing as I made my way to and into Wollaton Park and the big hill that I had managed to forget about running last year. I went to take a drink from the pouches handed out, cursing loudly at the uselessness of them as I battled in vain to get any more than a dribble from them. The hill comes after a tight left hand bend, the crowd that lined either side of the climb very reminiscent of cycle fans clamouring to see the suffering on a tough climb. I dug in deep and made my way to the top, happy in the knowledge that, for the most part, the course is much easier in the second half. What was less happy was my stomach, which was rueing the too long queues for the portaloos before the start of the race and beginning to send some ominous distress signals.
I went through 10K in 36:14, laughing again at how the gates for the park exit had again not been opened, forcing us off the path and over some heavily rutted ground thanks to an abundance of tree roots. At least the seventh mile marker was somewhere near accurate – once again the fifth and sixth mile markers were so far out as to be totally useless. For a big city race to not correct on obvious mistakes from the previous year is not acceptable really.
Back on the open road and the seventh mile covered in 5:52, I tried to push on like I did last year. It was made tougher because of the dodgy tummy and the lack of runners to run with (Last year – I got into several useful trains which helped keep the pace ticking). I was though closing and passing runners which kept the incentive to keep pushing high. Mile 8 was 5:37 and now we were running alongside runners heading in the other direction, which I always find inspiring. Mile 9, back through the University and an awkward out and back via a tight hairpin, was a 5:44. I passed a Strava ‘friend’ Craig Taylor, who beat me at the Rockingham Duathlon last year. He would go on to run just under 1:18. Interestingly at the Great Eastern Half a couple of weeks later, he ran 1:14:30 or so. Food for thought as to how slow this course is and what I could do on a quicker course.
The tenth mile has the penultimate drag of the race, I survived that with a 5:45. The last comes when we rejoin the old course. My stomach was at its worse and I went through a little bad patch, but managed to drag out a 5:50. I don’t remember this section last year, but we were pulled off the main road down some quite residential streets to make our way back to Victoria Embankment. Passing another couple of runners as we continued to twist and turn, the twelfth mile was a pleasing 5:36.
The first half of the final mile saw me being inadvertently paced by a car that had found itself on the closed roads (I think it was being guided by an official car out of harms way). I found myself almost on its bumper before it thankfully pulled off the road I was on. Coming into the final stages, like last year, I was reeling in another runner. With the memory that last year I passed the moved up into the third V40 spot with my final overtake, I kept pushing. The last mile was slow at 5:50, but the lure of another position saw me run the final stage of the race (0.3 mile on my Garmin) at 5:15 pace. I left it late but a sprint on the final straight saw me pass the runner who put up no resistance.
I finished in 1:16:43. This is 13 seconds down on 2016,but given the paucity of runners to race with, in many ways it felt a better performance. I rushed through the post race medal and goody bag collection as quickly as possible to find the nearest portaloo. With the relief of a calm tummy I managed a mile warm down. The legs felt good, a sign that perhaps, with less of a tummy issue especially I could have gone quicker.
Knowing that the traffic out of the race can be a nightmare, I didn’t hang around and left not long after my warm down. Later that evening provisional results were posted on the Nottingham Post website. Pleasingly I was twelfth, much higher than in 2016 with a slightly slower time. My suspicions that plenty had shunned the race, either due to the new course, or because no details of any prizes had been forthcoming, were borne out.
A day or two later the provisional results were posted on the website. It confirmed me as twelfth and had me as second V40. I was happy with this, one place better than last year. I also noted that the first V40, Alastair Watson, not only finished over eight minutes ahead of me, he finished the race third overall. I know my races well enough these days that normally if Vet runner finishes in an overall prize giving position, the Vet place rolls down to the next runner. I looked forward to receiving my prize!
Three weeks later and with no confirmation of any prize, I emailed the organisers to clarify the prize structure (Still not made available) and the prize winners. I was swiftly emailed back to be told the results were hopefully going to be made official in the next few days due to issues. A week later the official results were finally posted in Athletics Weekly, complete with fairly damning criticism of the time taken to produce results for a race which was called the National Half Marathon Championships, and a race which still had no team results.
Another week later and I was beginning to give up hope of seeing any prize, when an anonymous looking envelope appeared in the post. Thinking it may be a race number, I opened it immediately to find a letter from the Robin Hood Half Marathon explaining I’d received a prize, with a hand written 1st, V40, scrawled unceremoniously on it. Attached to the letter was a cheque, made out to me for £100! So the longest wait for a prize was kind of worth it as it was the most I’ve received for my efforts.
That said, my patience with the Robin Hood race I think has worn a little too thin. I don’t like the course, it’s not quick, and the length of time to produce results is not good enough (Plus the lack of any details of what the prizes would be). Chances are though, depending on my calendar, I will probably be back to defend my dubious title of National V40 Half Marathon winner!