LWAC 5K Series: Race 1 – Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Hindsight suggests I did too much too soon in the week following the London Marathon. The calves and Achilles in particular didn’t thank me for running 42 miles in the week following the big day out in the capital. I refrained from running for two weeks as I allowed the legs to recover / concentrated on riding the Fred Whitton Sportive.

This activity may have caused issues in itself, the walk up Hardknott in cycle shoes (With cleats) in particular I think may have put great stress on the hamstring and calves. for all three runs in the week before the Lincoln 5k were notable for identical discomfort in both calf muscles. The 17:40 parkrun, wrapped in a 14 mile long run, in particular was very uncomfortable come the run’s end – the Hoka’s I was wearing I decided to blame for the pain, to be replaced by a fresh pair.

With very few running miles in the bank heading to Lincoln on a fairly warm Tuesday night, I was unsure of how the evening would pan out.  This 5k race, the first in a summer series at the back of the main leisure center in Lincoln, was a round of my club’s inaugural Grand Prix series, so there was a larger than usual turn out from Grantham Running Club for this event that in the past has been lucky enough to see one member of the club make the journey.

My warm up was planned to be three miles, the first mile felt fine – 7:03. For the second mile I gradually picked the pace up to 6:20. after around a minute or two at this pace I felt a real tightening in the right calf. I stopped, stretched, and tried to continue. I made it to two miles then called the warm up a day. I spent the next 30 minutes stretching frantically, not just the calf, but the hamstrings, hip flexors, IT band, and Piraformis. My suspicion was that it was a recurrence of the calf tightening incidents that plagued me through Q4 of 2015 and Q1 of 2016 that was finally traced to probable nerve irritation in the glute area.

A few minutes before the off I attempted a few strides to test the calf. There was mild discomfort but I felt that I could try and race and so I lined up for the start. A relaxed affair, the starter arrived a few minutes late and, after observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, we were set off with little fanfare.

Having run this race once before, I knew the pace would be hot at the start and so I started a little way back so as not to get too carried away. True to form I found myself chasing some of my somewhat slower club mates for the first few hundred meters before the adrenaline wore off and I began to move past them. My calf was niggling but was not too bad for the opening mile, My Garmin registered a 5:03 which I took with a huge pinch of salt for I will always remember how it was nearly a minute of running out when I ran here last, and it appeared to be doing the same again (It did indeed end up reckon I ran 3.29 miles for a race that is 3.11…).

Unlike in 2014 where there was a large group of similarly paced runners to cling onto, this year the field was more spread out and I found myself running with just one other runner for the majority of the race. To this extent it was a very uneventful run with little to report on. Mile 2 was apparently a 5:11. As the last full mile began the right calf began to ache quite a bit more. It got progressively worse until, with around half a mile to go I thought I would have to stop. The only thing that kept me going was that I reckoned it was a nerve issue rather than a muscular one so I was unlikely to be doing any real damage. So I pushed on as best I could, undoubtedly slowed a bit by the pain, but not enough for me to cross the finish line with 16:55 on my Garmin (with a 5:16 final mile and 4:59 pace third of a mile (sic) to conclude).

I was pleased with this, it’s the second time I’ve broken 17:00 in a 5K race (Excluding parkrun) and I thought I was just a few seconds outside my PB, which I thought was 16:52. It was only when I got home and checked Power of 10 that I realised my PB was actually 16:55 – so I’d unofficially equaled my PB! A day later when the official results were published I rued my decision to not stand on the start line as a couple of seconds were added to my time (16:57). There was no chip timing, alas, so I’ll have to make do with the knowledge it was unofficially a PB equaling performance.

The calf tightened loads on the way home, I was unable to run for another week, but hopefully things have improved somewhat with no recurrence of the calf pain to date. The run was a positive in the sense it showed I was in good form despite being injured and despite having not run much in May. It was also a bit frustrating as I think that, without the calf issues, I could have gone quite a few seconds quicker. I may have another stab at a 5K later in the year, but for now I will have to be happy with the 16:57.

GRC at the Lincoln 5K

Race Report – Keyworth Turkey Trot – Sunday 11th December 2016

Unless there is a dramatic change of heart, the Keyworth Turkey Trot half marathon will be my last race of 2016. This is a much hyped race, entries opened one morning in late September and all 1000+ places were filled by the same evening. I entered on a whim, confident I could sell my place if I didn’t fancy racing it after all.

As the weeks went by I felt more compelled to give it a go, and so trained semi-specifically for it. I ran three short interval sessions (pretty much the first of the year aside from one at the very beginning) and a couple of quick tempo training runs before committing myself to base training (i.e. nothing hard or particularly fast) in preparation for the London Marathon in April. I’d done a couple of long runs with a parkrun stuck in the middle, a long run on the hilly Newton’s Fraction half marathon course and three Tuesday evening runs containing the same killer hill at Great Gonerby. This was all done with the knowledge that the Turkey Trot is an undulating race with one stiff climb in particular – at around three miles.

Injury wise I was fairly clear of anything major – the left Achilles is still nagging away but continues to show every indication it is a calf issue. I’ve had a problem with a tendon aching on the top of the left foot – caused by overly tight laces on one run. It’s been tricky, but I’ve been able to continue running with some readjustment of laces and sticking with a couple of pairs of trainers that hurt less than the others. The cramp sensations I’ve been suffering at random periods for much of the past two years are much diminished – all but disappeared since I began having some regular physio to establish the cause of them. Early days yet but the suspicion is it is a significant lack of any mobility in the thoracic spine and other issues regarding flexibility in the hip and pelvis area. A daily dose of specific stretches and mobility exercises have appeared to work wonders. So it was I went into the race fairly confident I would last without cramping up or suffering with bad Achilles pain. I was though fighting the inevitable colds that are flying around town and being brought en masse by my youngest daughter. Come race day however I was pretty much bug free.

A pleasant feature of the Keyworth Turkey Trot is the relatively late start – 10:30am. I doubt this is to let runners enjoy a pre-Christmas lie-in. The reality is more likely to give any overnight ice and frost the chance to melt away. Thankfully after a day of heavy rain on the Saturday, Sunday awoke dry and with fairly pleasant temperatures for running – around 8C – albeit with a slightly annoying breeze. I awoke at the normal hour for a Sunday, had breakfast, the coffee, grabbed as much Match of the Day I could before setting off for the 40 minute journey to Keyworth.

I made it to one of three car parks (all with postcodes provided and walking distance to race HQ on the pre-race instructions – a great touch) with over 90 minutes to spare. This guaranteed a seat in the school hall used as Headquarters for the race. I went about preparing for the race, taking a risk with the Nike Frees as the last time I tried to wear them they were too painful on the foot tendon – but today they felt fine. I had the chance to chat with a few guys and gals from Belvoir Tri Club, who had appeared in huge numbers for this race, before bidding adieu and setting off on an uneventful warm up and a queue for the toilets, which was long, but well managed by race crew.

The plan had been for a pre-race Grantham Running Club group photo but this never quite materialised due to people queuing for baggage, toilets, warming up etc. I’m never a big fan of the pre-race photo, I’d rather be concentrating on the race, so ten minutes before the off and with a last minute trip to the loo required, I declared the pre-race photo postponed until after the race. I joined the front of the race with five minutes to spare, the race looked like it was going to go off early until someone on a walkie-talkie reigned in the enthusiasm of the starter and insisted it go off on time.

The start of the Keyworth Turkey Trot, held on Sunday December 11th 2016.
Lining up for the start. I’m behind runner 1112. Photo c/o John Oldfield.

So at the prescribed time of 10:30 we were off. A key feature of the Keyworth Turkey Trot is the lightening fast start. The opening of the race is downhill and regularly sees runners hurtling off way faster than any pace they can maintain. A sting follows almost immediately with a drag uphill of around the same length before the race calms down on a section of flat before another downhill stretch as the local church is passed and Keyworth is departed. Much of the first three miles is downhill, albeit fairly gently. It is usually time to bank some seconds but at the same time being careful to not get too over exuberant and run faster than the descent allows for.

The start of the race.
The start of the race. Photo c/o John Oldfield.

I had a fairly mediocre start to the race. My legs took a few minutes to come to life and a mile or so before the left Achilles stopped aching. The field soon became quite spread out with a rapid bunch of runners quickly disappearing into the distance. I went through the opening mile in 5:38, which I knew was eight seconds down on 2013, when I ran the race for the first and only time. The second mile saw me employ some tactics. We were heading west, into the not stiff, but noticeable breeze. I had two runners behind me who were clearly taking shelter behind me, so I slowed until they were forced to take the pace. I tucked in behind them. This wasn’t particularly comfortable as I was chopping my stride a bit but I reckoned the protection could help later in the race energy wise. I went through the second mile in 5:45 compared to 5:40 in 2013. Back then I was setting off at PB speed, this year I knew I was already a bit off PB shape, but looking forward to another solid race.

At the two mile point we turned left and the headwind was a crosswind negated by tree cover. Instinctively I pulled out from the two in front of me and put in a little surge. One was able to follow, the other began to drift. I knew from experience in 2013 that there would be a pair of hills just before and just after three miles which would further shape the outcome of the race. Not caring about drafting I pushed on and focused on catching the couple of runners ahead of me.

The first hill came at just before the end of the third mile, I felt strong and clocked 5:57, comparing favourably to the 6:09 I set in 2013. Back then at this point I’d began to feel decidedly dodgy and suffered badly on the second hill – which felt as though it was one of the toughest I’d ever encountered. This time around the hill was a challenge but felt relatively easy, certainly easier than the local Grantham favourites Casthorpe and Woolsthorpe. It seems that the three and a bit years of Granthams’ hills have weathered the legs well in coping with elevation. I passed the two runners ahead of me – but was a little perturbed that another runner passed me as we neared the top of the climb.

Chasing the runner who was quicker than me on the main hill.
Chasing the runner who was quicker than me on the main hill. Photo c/o Neil Rabbitts.

The hill came and ended early on during the fourth mile. The pace for that mile averaged around 6:55, so I knew that I’d have to forget about recovery and put in some effort to get that average down. Thankfully that was made easier by chasing down the guy who’d passed me on the hill. Once I caught him we actually worked together for a bit taking the pace. He appeared to be working hard so I reckoned eventually he would tire, but for now he was useful company. The fourth mile was the slowest of the race – 6:03, but that was ten seconds quicker than in 2013.

The next few miles were fairly unremarkable. We passed through a couple of pleasant villages where there was great support, and a few other places with small pockets of spectators, otherwise there wasn’t much to entertain other than the aim of getting to the finish as quickly as possible. The fifth mile was a quick 5:35 (5:45 in 2013), the sixth was slower at 5:55 (6:00 in 2013), but the constant elevation changes made consistent pacing tricky. The seventh mile was 5:51 (5:52 in 2013) and it was here my mind got a little confused as the rolling hills I’d remembered as being at around 10 miles were evidently three miles earlier than the brain had processed them as being. It may have temporarily forgotten two miles or so, but the memory of a very pleasant gently descending stretch of road came flooding back.

Pulling clear of my hill nemesis. Picture c/o Neil Rabbitts.
Pulling clear of my hill nemesis. Picture c/o Neil Rabbitts.

By now I had pulled slightly clear of the runner who’d passed me on the hill and I was chasing two runners in front of me. Mile 8 was 5:45 (5:51 in 2013) and mile 9 was 5:40 (a swift 5:32 in 2013). As we came to a small village where Keyworth Rugby Club were playing, I feared the sight of a whacking great hill. Fortunately we turned right and along a stretch of flat road I knew would lead to a left hand turn and the final hills of the race. As we did I caught one of the two runners in front of me, just as we were cheered on by his (heavily pregnant) wife sporting a helium balloon for the husband who was celebrating his birthday with a rather swift half marathon. Sadly for him I was offering no gifts and I passed him as we turned left, faced the headwind, once again, and began climbing.

The tenth mile was 5:48 (5:45 in 2013). I now began pushing to try and put a gap on the birthday boy who was proving stronger than his slight fade a few moments earlier had suggested. This last hill was a real pain – not particularly steep and with a brief descent in the middle, but seemingly going on forever. Still mile 11 was 5:57 (6:04 in 2013), and I knew that most of the way to the finish was downhill. I pushed on hard, fearful that I would be caught, but now my left hip and groin were giving a few aches, so I was tempered a touch. The 12th mile was another 5:57 (6:02 in 2013). The first half of the last mile was all downhill and quite steep in places. This though was almost a hindrance as it caused a little cramping in the left quad. Thankfully the descent ended and the cramp desisted and I pushed on, still thinking I had a runner right behind me.

The end of the Turkey Trot was a killer in 2013, an ill-timed hill right near the finish put pay to a chance of a PB. This year I felt stronger and knowing there would be a hill, better prepared. I didn’t know it at the time but I climbed that hill only a few seconds slower than the winner which is fairly satisfying. I logged a 5:37 for the final mile (5:41 in 2013), and with a glance at the watch knew I was going to beat 1:17.

On the finishing straight. Picture c/o John Oldfield.
On the finishing straight. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

I crossed the line in 1:16:45, unaware of my finishing position (It was eighth), but made immediately aware that I had won the prize as first veteran finisher! I knew what was coming! First I received my multi-tool medal from Santa himself. I quickly got changed and got out just in time to photo most of the GRC runners coming to the finish line. Star of the day was SJ who knocked an impressive four minutes off her PB. I had little doubt she’d do well having struggled to chase her down on the way to Belton House parkrun a few weeks earlier!

SJ heading to the finish.
SJ heading to the finish.

With all the GRC runners in there was finally chance for the obligatory group photo:

The GRC Group Photo.
The GRC Group Photo.

Then there was a bit of hanging around for the prize ceremony. Kudos to my team mates for hanging around, even if one had to disappear for what appeared an inordinately long time sorting out their dodgy guts! As has been pointed out I’ve received my share of odd prizes recently. This may not quite have topped the slap of stilton, but the frozen turkey is certainly a prize that would be mostly wholly inappropriate at any other time of year – but at this time was most warmly received – Christmas dinner is sorted!

First the glass presented... Picture c/o Neil Rabbitts.
First the glass presented… Picture c/o Neil Rabbitts.
Me and the turkey! Picture c/o SJ Willis.
Me and the turkey! Picture c/o SJ Willis.

With that the day was done and home we headed. All in all a good day’s work. Very pleased to have broken 77 minutes for the half, especially as the average HR was 3-5 beats lower than it usually was. I didn’t push full gas, that’s for sure, yet managed a respectable time. With Christmas fast approaching it’s back to base training preparing for the London Marathon. Next race (Hopefully) the Folksworth 15.

Race Report – Ikano Robin Hood Half Marathon – Sunday 25th September 2016

Certainly my biggest frustration of 2016 has been my lack of racing – mostly though lack of opportunities through clashes with work / holidays etc.. I had been targeting an autumn half marathon ever since March. Ideally I wanted a fast flat race but all the tempting ones clashed with Formula One races, and I was basically left with the Robin Hood Half Marathon.

If the race was held on the 2012-14 course, I would have had no qualms over entering. The course was fast and, save for a couple of minor rises, pretty flat too. The issue for the organisers, so they claim, is that the race wasn’t pretty enough. Runners, it seemed, weren’t enamoured with navigating their way through Boots HQ so, for 2015, the course was changed so, you were led to believe, to bring runners more of the sights of Nottingham.

Apparently those sights were also not that well received, for in 2016 it was announced the course would be changed again. The 2015 course didn’t go down too well, from what I heard, because the fast, flat course had been replaced with a slower, hillier one. Ominously the organisers didn’t promise a faster, flatter course for 2016, just more sights for the runner to enjoy. A quick scan of the course and it was clear to see that the hills remained – especially in the opening few miles. At the end of the day though, if I wanted to enter an autumn half marathon, this basically had to be it. Plus the race had its benefits: it’s close to home; it was awarded the status of being the British Athletics National Half Marathon Championships; and being the fifth time I’ve entered the race, it is now my second most visited half marathon (only Reading, with six appearances, is more popular).

I trained for this race, but didn’t really train in a structured manner for it. I used the three weeks of holiday runs to get some solid mileage in – there was no interval or hill sessions, but there was a fair amount of quicker running and in some parts of the country, certainly some hills to be run up and down. On my return from holiday I shared the running with plenty of cycling, partly out of enjoyment, but also because my left Achilles was beginning to ache during every run. I’m fairly sure it was a legacy of the blistering that occurred during the holidays. I could run through the discomfort, but was aware that it was, in classic Achilles style, just getting a little bit worse with every run.

I had no pre-Robin Hood races to gauge my fitness, but I had the impression I was in pretty good shape. There was a ‘Straight outta bed’ run on a Saturday morning after a hard spin session the evening before, which was ten and a half miles covered in 65 minutes, with the final six miles run at comfortably under six minutes per mile. There was a club 20 minute distance trial where I ran a part solo 17:17 5k on a canal trail path before getting quicker for the final three minutes, and there was the cycling efforts that showed I was doing well in that discipline. There was though a mediocre parkrun where the Achilles pain was too much to extend the run after, and the unavoidable truth that I had to miss ten days of running after the parkrun in the immediate buildup to the race to rest the Achilles. It was only a late fitness test that made me comfortable that I could race with the Achilles aching, in the knowledge I would have to rest and fix it after.

Another slight issue was a little bit of illness in the three days up to the race. It wasn’t enough to see me retire to my sick bed, but enough to fell a little sub-par and reluctant to want to exercise (Which is usually a sign of being ill in my books….) I did consider scratching from the race, but I decided to go along and give it a go, happy in the knowledge I could jog if things felt bad, or even pull out if necessary.

The morning was wet after heavy overnight rain, but by the time I reached Nottingham – over two hours before the start of the race, it was dry, but overcast. With time to kill I had a little walk around the race village, before stretching and heading out on a 1 1/2 mile warm up. Warm ups aren’t always the best indicator of how a race is going to go, but this raised a few alarms: the Achilles was pretty good – just a little ache for a minute before disappearing – but the heart rate was high, and the legs felt heavy, especially when I tried to pick up the pace.

With just over an hour to the start, I made a trip to the Portaloo, then found some Grantham Running Club friends, some who were taking part in the half and in the full marathon. We posed for a photo at 8:45 before I got changed into my race kit and headed to another Portaloo queue. Thankfully this trip was just a nice to have visit rather than a dire necessity, because after 20 minutes of queuing it was obvious I wasn’t going to make it to the start in time if I hung around much longer.

Me, Nick, Andy, and Paul, before the start of the race. Robin Hood Half Marathon, Nottingham, Sunday 25th September 2016.
Me, Nick, Andy, and Paul, before the start of the race.

I jogged over to the start – vaulting the barriers somewhere near the start line to be just behind the elite runners. I had no qualms in doing this – the organisers had made the elite field sub 70 minutes (There weren’t that many of them) then made the next pen 74 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes. I knew that if I started at the back of that pen any chances of a good result would be over, especially as positions for the championship race were to be based on gun position, rather than chip.

It was a long eight minute wait before the start but, on time at 9:30, the horn was fired and we were off. Happily it didn’t take long to get up to speed and dodge the few runners who had no right to be so close to the front. Sadly after less than a minute I knew that my legs were not going to have the best possible day – they were heavy and felt lifeless. Moreover the heart rate was showing some alarmingly erratic figures, some were very high, but not so high as to assume it was a dodgy reading. In hindsight, I think it was just a case of dry, slightly loose strap, as it gave more assuring figures after a couple of miles, but as I went into the race with concerns over carrying a virus of some sorts, it didn’t inspire me with any confidence to want to go out and race hard.

So with less than a mile covered I made the decision I wasn’t going to race flat out. I was to race conservatively and see how I felt later in the race as to whether I would push on. The start of the race was familiar to years past as we skirted the city center. Mile 1 was clocked at 5:46. The second mile saw us leave the course of yesteryear and it degenerated rapidly. We endured a hefty climb containing some wet, slippery, cobblestones where, I’m guessing, we were meant to be enjoying the sight of a castle which couldn’t be seen. The second mile was clocked at 6:04, although Strava GAP states it was worth a 5:44, so steady effort was maintained.

The third mile was quite possibly one of the strangest I’ve ever raced in – certainly in a ‘big city’ race. It was entirely run on residential roads, twisting and turning what felt constantly with no real direction nor purpose. It also did a fair amount of climbing, which dispirited me somewhat, and I know quite a few others too. By now I was past caring what time I was going to run and was just focusing on staying steady and relaxed. The good news was that there was no left Achilles ache at all and the heavy legs were no less or more heavy than when we started. Garmin clicked over through the third mile at a slow 6:12; when Strava adjusts it, it was worth 5:33, so quietly I was working a little harder than I thought.

Mile 4, and at least we were back on wider open roads. We swept mostly downhill in a not particularly pleasing way for someone who was concerned for his Achilles, but still all was good. What wasn’t good was the water that was handed out. The organisers have persisted with the pouches rather than tried and tested water bottles. I think they are next to useless. They are really hard to get any water out of and impossible to pour over your head / wrists / legs etc.. They were lucky it wasn’t especially hot. If Jonny Brownlee were given these at the recent Mexico triathlon rather than water bottles, I fear he may not be around to tell his tale. At the next stop I squeezed the bottle hard to try and increase the flow – it exploded in my hand! Thankfully the runner I was with offered me his.

Mile 4 was a rapid 5:34 (But only 6:01 on GAP). Mile 5 had us running through a university campus and it became apparent we would be running back down the other side of the road in a few miles time. The course was beginning to smack of attempting to minimise the number of roads closed and to use quieter roads whenever possible. This is fine, but when you are paying a premium price to enter a race and it is declared the National Championships, I kind of hope and expect for something a little better, and more interesting.

What also wasn’t good for such a large race was that, had I gone by official splits rather than using my Garmin, I would have covered the fifth mile in a shade under four minutes! When the sixth mile also had us over a third of a mile short, I literally began to question with other runners whether we were taking on a short course. I’d overheard officials before the start stating the course had only just received its measurement certificate and I did wonder with all the twists and turns whether we had been inadvertently sent the wrong way at some point. All this didn’t really help with the concentrating on the race at hand. On my Garmin mile 5 was a 5:42 and mile 6 was a 5:58, but this featured a nice little climb through Wollaton park, which really was pleasant as we were lined by cheering spectators all the way up – cycle race style. The lack of crowd support was a feature of the race, which was a shame, because where there were pockets of supporters, they were loud and appreciated greatly.

I had run the past two miles with just one other runner who was happy to sit on my tail for the most part. We had one more distinctive course feature to navigate in the form of some gates on a path in the park which were locked and we were forced to take to the grass to circumnavigate. Coupled with some low tree branches tree routes, these were obstacles we could have done without, but they were safely passed. The seventh mile saw us leave the park and, thankfully, the official mile splits tallied again with the Garmin, clocking a 5:50. Our group of two caught another group of two and then one more runner so we formed a group of five.

Here I went into full race mode rather than chase a time mode so, when the wind was in our faces I slowed and slipped to the back to take shelter, when we had a tailwind I moved to the front to show that I was helping with the work. Mile 8 was a 5:39, but with mile 9 mostly into a headwind and also with a tight U-turn to tackle, the pace slowed to 5:47. It was here my left Achilles began to ache a bit. It wasn’t enough to slow me, and at times I felt nothing at all. The massage and stretching I’d done since a fairly painful run on the Thursday had done wonders to see no pain at all for 8 miles.

I sat in with the group, running well within myself, the heart rate suggested I was generally around 4-5 bpm below what I’d try and run a full gas half marathon at. Completing the tenth mile (another 5:47) we had another tight hairpin to negotiate.  It was here we could see runners ahead and behind us. I wasn’t surprised to see Adam Holland (Newton’s Fraction half winner (among many other achievements, one of which the Hull Marathon a week before Robin Hood) around two minutes ahead of me. I couldn’t work out if he was running the half or full marathon – it turned out he was running the full marathon, which he won. I spotted a familiar face a minute or so behind me – it was the runner I pipped to second position at the Newton’s Fraction.This actually gave me some encouragement that I wasn’t racing too badly.

What also spurred me on was that, as we began to gently climb, I recognised the new course rejoining the old one. With some mental maths and a little guesswork, I figured that the course would remain the same as it used to, albeit with the loop on the Victoria Embankment cut out. This was confirmed when we hit the top of the rise, ran down a little hill to a familiar roundabout and took a right down Castle Boulevard. Although this mile was actually slightly slower than the past two (5:48), it was sufficient to see me edge away slightly from the rest of the group.

As we took a right into Wilford Street we were hit with another little rise and a headwind. I also had two runners ahead who I was catching. Feeling strong I pushed on again, passing them and setting my sights on some more ahead. Thankfully we quickly turned left after the bridge so we lost the headwind. The twelfth mile was a 5:32, the fastest of the race and what I think was an indicator of the kind of pace I may have been able to maintain had I felt 100% and if the course was fast and flat.

The final full mile saw me pass one more runner early in the mile then it went a bit quiet as we headed back towards Victoria Embankment. As we were guided right to not take the full marathon course I closed on one more runner. He looked a little older than me. I passed him and put some distance on him. I closed on one of the lead female athletes as we turned right onto the grass finish. Mile 13 was 5:45. Happy I wasn’t going to be passed by any runner behind, I held station as we crossed the finish line. I glanced at my watch – 1:16:33. Not my quickest, but as I felt barely out of breath, especially with those who finished around me, I quickly concluded it was probably my easiest sub 1:18 half marathon to date.

My immediate post race thoughts were that I was content with the performance but frustrated with the hilly, twisty course, and not feeling great – especially in the opening miles. I think had these factors been different, a PB could have been on the cards. As it was I quickly returned to my car to partly change, before heading back to the finish to see home my GRC colleagues in the half marathon.

(L to R): Me with Nick and Andy after the race.
(L to R): Me with Nick and Andy after the race.

And with that photo taken I headed home, glad to be missing the traffic out of Victoria Embankment. There was no news of any results until later that evening when the Nottingham Post produced some results – I was apparently 32nd. A little lower than in previous years, but to be expected given it was a championship race.

The next morning and I was just preparing a little piece for the club to send to the local paper. I looked at the official website for the provisional results and they were there. Gun position was an improvement – I was now 29th. Age category: third! That was a complete surprise! I checked the full results to confirm it. The first V40 had run 1:09, the second 1:13. The guy I had passed in the final half mile – he was a V45 and would, I think, have taken my place as third V40 had I not passed him. This made the effort of catching him particularly satisfying! The £50 of vouchers should also be satisfying, if and when I get them!

Future plans? A break from running, likely to be three weeks, to let the Achilles sort itself out. I hope to do at least one Duathlon this autumn and then I’ve entered the Turkey Trot Half Marathon in December. Hopefully I can find one or two other races too, but this is all dependent on fixing the old heel…





Race Report – Summer Solstice 10k – Friday 17th June 2016

This was definitely one of the stranger races I have completed. One for many reasons best forgotten, which is one reason why it has taken over a month to commit my report into words.

Long Bennington’s Summer Solstice 10k has been a bittersweet race for me over the years. It is Grantham Running Club’s flagship race so is a prominent fixture in my calendar. The first year I ran it, two years ago, I probably shouldn’t have and for a while after questioned the whole wisdom of racing. I returned last year, mind refreshed, the body recovering from two serious injuries but in good shape. I finished third with a 10k PB. I was delighted but tempered with frustration that were it not for a niggle in my left glute, I would have almost certainly broken 34 minutes.

The 2016 edition was looking promising off the back of a strong showing at the Duathlon World Championships a couple of weeks earlier. I had the complication that I was working that day and couldn’t guarantee my participation, but in the end I was just about able to make it to the race on time. What wasn’t accounted for was waking on the Thursday morning with severe tightness in my right hamstring. It may have been a delayed reaction from the 25 mile bike Time Trial I’d ridden on Tuesday evening. It may just have easily been a case of sleeping in an odd position Wednesday night and tweaking the back (I think, in hindsight, it was another, short-lived, bout of sciatica). Whatever it was running was out of the question on Thursday and up to Friday afternoon things weren’t looking promising.

At 6:37pm I ran, close to my house, just over a mile warm up as a fitness test. The right hamstring hurt a lot, but my pace didn’t seemed diminished and the pain wasn’t getting any worse. I decided to drive to the race and see what happened. I arrived at 7:10pm, too late to get to the official car park, so dumped the car on the main road and jogged half a mile to the start, when the heavens opened and scattered runners and spectators to try and find cover.

I arrived at race HQ and spotted my massage guru David McKee, With ten minutes to the start, he performed some very quick and pretty painful massage on the upper right hamstring, before sending me on my way to the start line. I got to the start line a couple of minutes before the go, I ran one set of strides to test the leg – no miracle cure, but it was bearable to run on. The rain couldn’t decided whether it was going to persist, the conundrum of whether to go with wearing the sunglasses distracted my attention from the matter of racing.

The race began at 7:30pm prompt. I’d spied Aaron Scott and a few of his ‘mates’ (i.e. quick runners) on the start line, so knew there was no hope of a podium finish, I quickly found myself sixth, leading the second pack, trying to ignore the hamstring tightness that would come and go in waves.

The start of the race - Sunglasses On - For Now. Picture c.o. Paul Rushworth.
The start of the race – Sunglasses On – For Now. Picture c.o. Paul Rushworth.

Despite the discomfort, the poor preparation and rushed warm up, the first mile was quick – 5:21, comfortably ahead of PB pace. Aerobically I was feeling unchallenged so I continued to push on as hard as I could, the discomfort in the right hamstring the limiting factor.

The group soon disintegrated so I was just running with one other runner who I shared the pace with through to 5k. Mile 2 slowed a touch to 5:29, mile 3 was 5:28 and I passed 5k in 16:53, which was essentially the same halfway split I ran in 2015. It was at near bang on 5k I began to get severe discomfort in my stomach, on the right hand side. It had all the hallmarks of stitch. I tried altering my breathing and did a bit of prodding to make the pain go but it rapidly got worse to the point where I found myself slowing uncontrollably and before I knew it grinding to a halt and walking!

Grinding to a halt! Photographer unknown.
Grinding to a halt! Photographer unknown.

I very rarely get stitch and for a while doubted whether it was that or if it was something like a Psoas muscle locking and going into spasm as a result of the hamstring tightness causing issues with the lower back. I had stopped just before the left turn at Staunton-in-the-Vale, a spot where the sparsely spectated race tends to get a few onlookers. I had sympathetic applause from a few, the offer of a lift back to the start from a couple of others. Not quite sure what to do, I politely declined and grabbed a cup of water at the fortuitously placed drinks station.

I spotted club mate Chris Limmer close and past me, along with around ten other runners who had managed to keep going and overtake me. The discomfort began to ease in the stomach and, not fancying hanging around for the broom wagon, I resumed running – a jog at first then quite quickly into something resembling full pace. The stitch had all but gone, the hamstring pain still there but no better nor worse. Sportstracks reliably informs me that the stitch incident saw me walking for 77 seconds, and jogging for 40 seconds more. The four mile split was 6:52, which, in hindsight, is not too bad considering the amount of time not actually running.

With thoughts of a good time and maybe even a PB out of the window, I relaxed and focused on getting to the finish. I also pinpointed club mate Chris who was around 10-20 seconds up the road. In the fifth mile I began to reel him in, I passed him at almost exactly 5 miles (a 5:36 effort). I considered briefly running alongside him or pacing him, as I knew he was close to running a PB, but I felt the best course of action was to push on as hard as possible myself and try and act as a rabbit for him to chase. The sixth and final mile was a 5:27 as I came onto the final straight which, this year, was much improved with the finish line on the main road rather than in a gravel pit just off it.

Not wanting to risk the hamstring I didn’t put in a sprint finish, crossing the line a fairly fresh fourteenth in 35:25. I grabbed a water and walked to some friends who were at the finish. Chris soon came past me, delighted that he had indeed broken his 10k PB. I hung around a few minutes to cheer (Shout) home another club mate Scott, who I was delighted to see break 40 minutes for the first time.

Grabbing the water at the finish. Picture c.o. Paul Rushworth.
Grabbing the water at the finish as Chris finishes. Picture c.o. Paul Rushworth.
Lamenting on what may have been as Chris finishes. Picture c.o. Jaime Garcia.
The exact same moment as above, but from another angle! Picture c.o. Jaime Garcia.

I collected my beer (still not drunk), my half pint glass, printed off my results, lamented with a few runners then limped back to the car, the hamstring feeling very sorry for itself as I nodded to race winner Aaron Scott as he put in a post race warm down. Before I knew it I was home and back to work, finally leaving my desk at 11pm.

Over a month on I still don’t know quite how to judge this race. On one side I was really disappointed that I was clearly in the shape, had I not had the hamstring issue and the mid-race stitch, to break 34 minutes. On the other hand I should be pretty pleased that I walked for over a minute, but still ran sub 36 minutes and thankfully suffered no ill effects from the risky run on the hamstring. I just hope that I have another opportunity to be in similar shape to attack a 10k at similar pace again. For now I lament on what might have been.


Race Report – Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon – Grantham – Sunday 13 March 2016.

Those who have read the weekly training log for the week will know there was a real dilemma over whether to race the Fraction or take part in the Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride. I guess the title gives the decision away, but it wasn’t a clear cut decision.

I woke at 7am and headed downstairs to have a coffee and breakfast as I do when I ride. I had a full bowl of cereal, something I wouldn’t do normally when racing, and headed upstairs to get changed into my cycling gear. As I climbed up the stairs I did a set of eccentric calf raises and drops. Since the massage on Thursday I’ve been doing 100+ of them daily as I was trying to do some of the things I’ve done over the past six months that may have helped ease the pain in the calf and help me run. Through Friday and a lot of Saturday when I was doing them I was getting an intense burning sensation running up from the calf, up the hamstring and into the glute. This to me gave an indication that there was some nerve irritation going on, as I was getting no similar sensation in the other calf.

After parkrun on the Saturday I massaged the right hip and glute with a hockey ball as suggested by my massage guru David. Previous to his massage on Thursday this produced little in the way of relief or sensation, but today, probably as a result of the tear inducing work he performed on Thursday night, I was able to get a real sensation of things moving, shifting, releasing, unsticking. That evening when I did the calf raises and drops there was less of a burning sensation than before.

That set of raises and drops on the Sunday morning produced nothing but a deep stretch – just as they should. No burning, no pain. Wondering whether this would translate into a positive feeling when running, I quickly ditched the cycling clothes, grabbed some shorts and a running top, pulled on my trainers (making sure the Garmin was on and satellites locked….) and headed outside for a quick impromptu jog up and down the road. To my surprise there was little or no discomfort in the calf. I did another couple of minutes running. Still nothing. I did another minute or so to make it a mile, picking up the pace to something close to race pace. Zilch. By now it was too late to ride with the Wheelers. There was no pain. It was written in the stars. I was going to race!

Being a 10:30 start and it being a mere couple of miles from home, I now had an hour or so to kill. I spent the time wisely, stretching and some gentle massage. Plenty of positive vibes coming from the calf and hip. I left the house at 9:20 to allow myself an hour before the race. The venue – the Meres Leisure Center – is where I use the gym so it is like a second home. There was to be no stress before the race. Familiar faces as I collected my race number, some surprise from those who I’d told I definitely wasn’t racing.

It would have been easy to have got too relaxed, so I headed away from HQ and did my warm up alone to focus on the race. A mile and a bit of easy running. A slight ache in the calf, but very slight. I trusted the compression socks and placebo tape would hold everything in place when the going got tough. Spotting the queue for the toilets at the track were long, I took advantage of my gym pass to use the deserted ones in the leisure center. I arrived back at the track for a hasty Grantham Running Club team photograph (I would be wearing their top over the Kenilworth Runners T-Shirt in an attempt to show allegiance to both my running clubs), said my farewells to the family, who had come to cheer me on, then went for one more toilet break just to calm the nerves.

Some of the GRC runners before the start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Some of the GRC runners before the start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

I arrived at the start with two minutes to spare – perfect timing. I took my place near the front of the field and waited for the countdown, which were ten of the longest seconds ever counted down.

The start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach
The start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach

The horn sounded and we were off. Full of adrenaline at my home race I went off a little too enthusiastically and found myself leading briefly as we left the stadium. I glanced at my watch and realised I’d set off at sub five minute mile pace. I’m not Aaron Scott so I reduced my effort and allowed the pre-race favourite, Adam Holland, to take the lead. He was joined by James Skinner, a runner I wasn’t familiar with. As we turned left and headed towards Barrowby I sat a comfortable third. The legs, quads especially, began to feel a touch heavy. I lamented that spin / elliptical trainer session I did at the Meres a couple of days earlier. Thankfully after a mile or so the heaviness lifted and I felt full of running, although a little anxious that the watch clocked the first mile at 5:30 pace, more 5-10k sustainable pace than a half marathon.


Adam Holland leading the race. Picture c/o Paul Davidson
Adam Holland leading the race. Picture c/o Paul Davidson

I charged through Barrowby and towards the canal path in third place. The crowds were not exactly huge, more a smattering, but many knew who I was and were cheering me on in person. I cannot express how much of a boost this was. I was the local boy in third place, running for club and town.

Adam Holland leading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.
Adam Holland leading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.

I was running alone, with the leaders drifting ahead. For a minute or two I began to lose concentration, the race appearing as though it would be a typical time trial affair, with wide gaps between finishers near the front of the field. This was reflected in the second mile split – 5:49, although this was mostly uphill.

Heading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.
Heading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.

As we came down the drop at The Drift and onto the Canal Path I was caught and passed by Robert Windard and another runner. Robert was looking strong, especially on the downhill sections.

Robert Windard and others chasing me down. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
Robert Windard and others chasing me down. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

Oftentimes I would let other runners pull ahead and run my own race, often to heart rate. However today, as I glanced at my heart rate and saw it was in the right zone for a HM, I made a concerted effort to pick up the pace and stick on to the heels of Robert. Once there things magically felt easier, we had another Robert – Robert Scothern join us (This reminds me of the Not The 9 O’Clock News Skit about a car factory full of Bobs). I rarely get to run quick in a group, this was my chance, and it felt great! What was even greater was that the lead vehicle, replaced by a lead bike on the canal path, rather than disappear slowly into the distance as I had expected, was appearing to ever so slightly move closer to us.

Adam Holland by now had been caught by James Skinner and they were running together. Adam is a phenomenal talent – especially as an ultra runner. He holds the record for the fastest ten marathons in ten consecutive days, the youngest runner to have raced 100 marathons (He has since raced 244), he holds a treadmill endurance world record, and last autumn he embarked on a 2000 mile continuous run in 20 days, during which he ran a 2:28 marathon at Chester (where I saw him running hours after on a main road as I was driving home!), and later took victories at the Bristol to Bath marathon and the Newcastle Town Moor Marathon.

James Skinner leading the race ahead of a relaxed Adam Holland. Picture c/o Gordon Geach
James Skinner leading the race, ahead of a relaxed Adam Holland. Picture c/o Gordon Geach

I’ve run with Adam at a few parkruns at Newark. I noticed two things about him. One he is the slowest looking quick runner you will ever see, his form is very deceptive as he barely appears to be trying. Second, I get the impression in a race type situation he will typically do just enough to win or finish highly. This may be an incorrect assessment but it appeared to be happening again at the Fraction, he was toying his opposition, waiting to pull well clear at any moment.

Still, as we ran along the three miles of canal path – very familiar to me on my training runs – he was still well in sight and a great rabbit to focus the mind and ignore the pace we were running. I don’t think I really looked at my watch much in that section other than to clock a 5k split and a 5 mile split, but miles 3, 4, and 5 were run in 5:28, 5:31, and 5:34. I passed 5k in 17:11 and 5 miles in 28:10 or so.

Behind Robert in 4th on the Canal Section. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Behind Robert in 4th on the Canal Section. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk

It was just as we were leaving the canal section and into Woolsthorpe where the right calf began to ache. It was the typical gentle ache, not enough to slow me, but enough to make me wonder if at any moment it would develop into something rapidly race ending. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the guys I was racing with if and when it did happen, something like that’s it boys, I’m done, go get ’em! 

Leaving the Canal Path, the right calf giving cause for concern. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Leaving the Canal Path, the right calf giving cause for concern. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

We had a short section of flat before the first of two big hills on the course at Woolsthorpe. The race by now was clearly developing into a highly tactical affair, developments were likely on this half mile plus climb which Strava states averages 6% but is signposted at 12% average. The climb began as we passed six miles, the sixth mile showing little slowing in pace with a 5:37. There was a drinks station where I failed no less than three times to grab a cup of water, to the mirth of Robert Scothern, who received an impromptu shower. On a different, warmer, day I would have been concerned about taking on no liquid. But conditions were perfect for racing at around 9C with early mist and fog gently clearing to reveal blue skies later in the race (Once we topped Woolsthorpe Hill, to be precise). I also normally take a gel during a half marathon but, probably as this is a training route for me, the thought never occurred to carry one. I didn’t seem to miss it.

I’ve had plenty of times to rehearse Woolsthorpe Hill. Right from the foot of the ascent I took to the front of the pack and eased gently ahead of the two Bobs I was running with. I’ve climbed the hill quicker but today I had to pace it carefully, one because I didn’t want to push the heart rate too high, two because my calf was giving worrying aches when I tried to lengthen the stride on the steeper sections, and three my guts were beginning to churn a little with the increased effort – a legacy of the roast dinner the night before no doubt.

I noticed ahead of me the lead vehicle was definitely getting closer. James had pulled a little clear of Adam who appeared to be labouring a touch, but I appeared to be marginally the fastest of the lead five climbing the hill. I reached the summit in third and pushed on without delay. The Lincoln Bob (Robert Windard) was chasing me as we gently drifted clear of RAF Bob (Robert Scothern). I heard a shout out from Grantham running legend Chris Armstrong, who was a very fine runner back in the 1980s and I recalled the clip he posted of his victory at the 1986 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half MarathonI didn’t much fancy being greeted at the finish by bagpipes but I was inspired by the thought of perhaps finishing in the top three. We were halfway through the race, I was third, and, barring injury, there was a chance I could stay there.

The run down from Woolsthorpe Hill to Denton is all downhill, mostly gradual with a fairly steep descent to finish. Adam had retaken the lead of the race but wasn’t really extending the gap – the lead vehicle sometimes coming very close to us as it struggled with some traffic. There was more support from friends – this time on bike and I was beginning to feel very racy. I was fully switched from chasing a time mode to how best to tactically race mode.

The first decision was to let Lincoln Bob catch me and to let him take the pace – we were running into a very slight breeze and I wanted to conserve as much energy as possible. As we dropped into Denton he pulled five seconds or so clear as I couldn’t live with his downhill prowess. He used this skill to catch second placed James. As we turned left in Denton onto the Casthorpe Road I was cheered on in name by some of the council guys in charge of closing the roads. The sense of not letting them down spurred me on. I made a concerted effort to close the gap to James and Bob who were running side by side. On the slight rise out of Denton I managed it and for then next two miles sat firmly in their slipstream.

Miles 7, 8, 9 and 10 were covered in 6:15 (Woolsthorpe Hill included, so 5:33 with Strava Gap incorporated), 5:34, 5:33, and 5:38 – my watch showing ten miles covered in what would be a PB time of 56:44. Adam had not pulled into the distance but I reckoned he had enough of a gap to comfortably take the win.

My strategy was to implement local knowledge and try to break the two I was running with on the second and hardest of the two climbs in the race – Casthorpe Hill – before putting in a flat out last two miles towards the finish back at the Meres. It was a plan I had rehearsed at the culmination of a long 20 mile plus run a few weeks earlier with some considerable success, a pair of Strava segments my reward.

Strava again lists the climb at half a mile long and with a 6% average gradient. In reality it is, in its entirety, a little bit longer, and although may average 6%, the steepest section in the last part of the climb averages 12% with a short section of 14%. I let the pair drift a few yards ahead as we dropped briefly before the start of the climb, recuperating myself for the upcoming effort. There is a long gentle drag uphill where I pulled alongside them, dropped back, then pushed on again, harder and with more determination.

The attack had almost the desired effect and an unintended beneficial consequence. Lincoln Bob couldn’t quite live with the pace as we pitter-pattered up the steepest section of the hill, covered in rain water still cascading down from the surrounding fields after the recent heavy rainfall. James remained on my heels, resolutely unwilling to be broken (Following the race it turned out that he had finished third at the race in 2015 – so was well aware of Casthorpe Hill). We nearly, very nearly, caught Adam. I reckon the gap was down to around 8-10 seconds at the top of the climb.

The lead vehicle at the top of Casthorpe Hill. Me and James just behind it and Adam. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
The lead vehicle at the top of Casthorpe Hill. Me and James just behind it and Adam. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

At the top of the climb James pulled alongside me and we ran together briefly before he edged ahead and Lincoln Bob remained in the wings just behind ready to pass if I faltered at any moment. I had plans to attack immediately at the top of the hill and give it full gas, as I had done on my long run a few weeks earlier. However the cumulative efforts of the race and the subtle, but noticeable headwind we had in the final miles meant the attack never quite materialised (I ran 6:29 (hill included, 5:32 with Strava GAP), 5:33, and 5:41 for miles 11-13, around 10-15 seconds slower per mile than on my training run). As we ran through Barrowby I was pretty regularly being cheered on in person or by come on Grantham! by local supporters and that was enough to keep the desire to ease up and settle for a comfortable fourth at bay.

Me and James Skinner heading towards the finish at Barrowby. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
Me and James Skinner heading towards the finish at Barrowby. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

This year alone I must have run down from Barrowby to the Meres Leisure Center ten times or more yet, weirdly, this last section of the race appeared to be the least familiar. Maybe it was because I am usually running very comfortably along this stretch, but right now, all I wanted to do was stop. The legs were heavy, the calf more than a little achy, the tanks beginning to run empty. James pulled around 5 seconds clear as we approached the Meres, Lincoln Bob a little more behind, Adam still strangely close to us in the lead.

Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

As we entered the stadium a lady who had helped volunteered at parkrun the day before shouted Go on Matt, you can catch him! I didn’t believe I could but was alarmed when I looked around to see that the gap to fourth had shrunk from over five seconds to less than a couple! I was determined to finish in the top three. My strategy as we entered the final 300 meters of the race was to attack for second in the hope that if Robert passed us both, at least I would still be third.

As we hit the back straight I picked up the pace. I could hear the shouts of encouragement from the spectators gathered at the finish line. They spurred me on. The gap to James and I melted. At the top of the bend I decided not to wait and went for all out for the sprint finish, the aim being to catch James unawares and leave him unable to close any gap. It appeared to work as I passed him and eked out a small gap. However, at the start of the home straight, with only around 80 meters remaining, the early sprint took its toll and I began to tire badly. I looked around anxiously, as Mo Farah does at the end of a race, and swore that James and Robert were catching me fast. Willed on by the support at the finish and sheer bloody mindedness not to lose my recently gained second place, I did what Mo does – gritted my teeth and kicked and kicked again – hard all the way to and just past the finish line – not forgetting of course to stop my watch at the finish line (Old habits die very hard).

Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.ukSunday 13 March 2016.
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.ukSunday 13 March 2016.
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk

No one passed me. I was second!

Crossing the finish line. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.
Crossing the finish line. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.
(L to R): Matthew Kingston-Lee, James Skinner, Robert Windard – second, third, and fourth, at the finish. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.

As I crossed the line there was a broad smile and a small fist pump. Then as I stopped running, the euphoria mixed with a little bit of pain and I looked to the sky before sinking to my knees to catch my breath. Moments later I recomposed myself and was quick to congratulate those I had just beaten.

Genuinely more thrilling than the second position was the manner in which the race had panned out. I’d forgotten about times – it turned out I’d run 1:15:30, my third fastest ever, one second slower than my Power of 10 PB set at Nottingham in 2014 – and run a race full of tactics, changing of positions and uncertain in its conclusion literally until we had crossed the finish line. For the record, I was one second ahead of James and three seconds clear of Robert. Adam had finished fifteen seconds ahead of me, which meant the top four was covered by less than twenty seconds!

I spent a longer than usual amount of time chatting with the guys I’d just raced, including Adam, who was typically unassuming in his victory, totally unaware of his finishing time. I slowly walked to meet my family and then the large contingency of GRC, Belvoir Tri Club and Grantham Athletics Club members and supporters who had congregated at the finish. The number of people coming to congratulate me was heartwarming as was the pleasure of seeing many of my friends coming home with new Personal Bests.

Unfortunately I had to miss some of them as there was the small matter of receiving my prize for finishing second. Still a rare occurrence for myself, I smiled a little uneasily as a small ripple of applause erupted around the room as I collected my wares (A trophy, £60 voucher towards a pair of Brooks trainers and some seeds), proud to have my two daughters alongside me. A virtual tear welled up the next day when my eldest proudly told all she could at school and sports club that daddy had finished second in the running race.

Collecting my prizes. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Collecting my prizes. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

Having had a couple of days to reflect, I don’t think I could have done anything differently on the day to change the result. Had I not the calf issue it is possible I may have attacked a little harder on the hills and perhaps closed and caught Adam. But I firmly believe he would have found a little extra to make sure he would have been the deserving winner.

I am more than delighted with my second position. I ran well in the face of a little adversity and uncertainty. Tactically I played all my cards correctly. I was spurred on by the local support of friends, family, and just locals who recognised the Grantham vest. All in all it’s right up there in my top three best races ever and I really hope the calf injury clears up so I can enjoy some more races like that again soon!