Race Report – Leeds Abbey Dash 10K – Sunday 4th November 2018

The Leeds Abbey Dash was planned to be the last attempt to peak and have a go at a quick time for 2018. The late decision to enter the Worksop Halloween Half Marathon meant I had just a week to recover from that race and hopefully be in tip top shape for the race. The old running rule that it takes a day per mile raced to fully recover would indicate that this would be a tough ask, but life is short and I wanted to race both – so I did!

The club run the day after Worksop wasn’t the best – the F1 championship being decided in Mexico meant a late night’s work and so was really tired come the evening and although the pace wasn’t quick it felt hard, couple too with some alarming pains in the right Achilles in heel. When a lift home was offered I jumped at the opportunity and Tuesday was a Zwift only day, albeit quite a hard ride on the Tour of New York. Wednesday was the regular town 10 mile run which felt a bit laboured but less painful, the chesty cough still a bit of an issue, but not so bad that I couldn’t then put in 50 minutes on a Halloween themed Zwift in the evening!

Thursday saw more of the same on Zwift in the morning followed by a painful, but effective massage, which cured the issues with the Achilles (unsurprisingly, it stemmed from the calf). The club’s town run in the evening felt very easy, although a touch sore from the massage. Friday saw a day off, then on Saturday I jogged to Belton House to take part in the third anniversary of the parkrun there. In perhaps not my smartest move I had agreed to pace the a sub 20 minute group. There wasn’t many takers and pacing was really hard because of a stiff breeze that made things tricky to judge. I ended up finishing over 20 seconds inside 20 minutes, although I stopped at the line for a few seconds to make the official time seem less bad! I’m not sure whether this parkrun hindered my prospects for Sunday or not. I know many like to do a fairly swift 5k the day before a race to loosen the legs; historically I haven’t and I’m not convinced with reason forays into the practice whether it works for me.

Leeds on a Sunday morning is around 80 minutes away from Grantham – a very simple journey mostly up the A1. I drove up with four other members of Grantham Running Club in tow, none of whom had run the Dash before. I had once, back in 2013 when I had just moved from Cov to Grantham. The race was so memorable I made a point of revisiting the race on this blog when I began Project Sub 2:45. Various reasons had prevented my return in the five years subsequent, mostly work related. This weekend though I was free to race and hoped to make the most of it.

By sheer good fortune we arrived at the same car park within a roundabout that I had parked in five years beforehand. I had wanted to get into this car park as I knew that it was only a couple of minutes walk away from the start. The good fortune was that we calmly exited the ring road onto the slip road to the roundabout at 7:59, literally one minute before they closed the slip road and all surrounding roads, making access to the car park impossible. Considering we hadn’t the foggiest where other car parks were in Leeds, this was a real stroke of luck!

After five or so minutes finding the only working pay booth for the car park and making the judgement that the large group of travellers in the car park didn’t pose that much a risk to life and property, we all walked to the start, taking the slightly long route as the passage of time had seen me forget the convenient side passage that slashed the distance in half. After a few minutes it was agreed we would go off and do our own things regarding preparation – I wanted to use my car as a storage base, the others were happy to use the baggage drop.

Once I’d, changed, visited the portaloos, and dropped my bag in the car there was around an  hour to the start, which meant I could put in a longer than usual warm up of two and a third miles on a simple out and back along the A66 Kirkstall Road the race took us along. The warm up was unmemorable except that it felt unremarkable and any attempts to run at pace felt quite difficult; all I could remember was how good I felt five years earlier when warming up on the same stretch of road.

I used the fact I was close to my car at the end of the warm up to change from long sleeved club top to t-shirt, feeling that it was a bit warmer than planned. I think I even dispensed with the gloves, sunglasses though were kept on even though it was cloudy – the stiffening breeze was wreaking havoc with my tear ducts and I felt that I could do with the protection of lenses to keep eyes dry!

I had feared huge queues for the portaloos, but they weren’t too bad this year and, I found myself lining up in the sub 35 pen 15 minutes ahead of the race start at 9:30. I was calm, if anything perhaps a little too calm, although I was beginning to feel the excitement of runners around me as the tension mounted as race start approached.

With military precision we were called forward with around 90 seconds before the start of the race. Then 30 seconds before the start we were marched forward again. There was little in the way of pre race pomp and ceremony – just a short countdown and a firing horn! Five years ago there was a small amount of congestion at the start but this year, certainly where I was running, most of those around me were not too close to the start for their pace ability, and so we were very soon into our running.

The course is not that inspiring, you run along the A66 (which is mostly dual carriageway) on one side, via a detour through a multiplex cinema car park, towards Kirkstall Abbey (which you don’t really see) before making a U-turn back towards the start, turning off with around half a mile to go up a slip road and over the other side of a roundabout to finish beside the town hall. Some races sell because they are scenic – the Abbey Dash sells because it is a fast course with some very fast runners which will hopefully see you run a fast time. I hoped to get close to my PB of 34:10 and dreamed of perhaps going sub 34. Certainly the intention was to go out in close to 17 minutes at halfway and see what happened thereafter.

My first mile at 5:29 felt very controlled, helped a bit by the tailwind. The second mile took us through the car park, which saw the runners around me spread to mostly single file. This was something of a surprise for I distinctly remember at this point and, indeed, for much of the race being surrounded by runners for most of the race, sometimes three or four abreast. The seconds mile was spot on pace at 5:27 and I was at this point feeling reasonably strong.

It was here when I heard someone on my shoulder say something to me which I couldn’t make out. I said something like ‘excuse me’ and he said again: are you Project Sub 2:45?’ To say this took me by surprise was an understatement. It was the first time anyone even acknowledged to me that they read this, let alone someone I didn’t know and in the middle of a race! I somewhat bashfully replied that I was he and was flattered to hear that this website was something of a source of inspiration for his exploits!

With that impromptu conversation out of the way I forged on, beginning to feel the grind a touch on the gentle incline that comes just before the midpoint turnaround. Mile 3 I clocked at 5:33, I was a bit disappointed to see I went through the official halfway point at 17:20, but knew that the second half is generally more downhill so time, in theory, can be made up.

Miles four and five were not particularly great at 5:35 and 5:34. It was noticeable that the breeze was somewhat stiffer than in the warm up and as a headwind it was definitely hindering progress. I felt quite lethargic, even the act of catching Tom Marshall for a third race in a row didn’t inspire me to pick up the pace.

Mile six was little short of a disaster. Struggling to stay the coattails of ever diminishing pockets of runners ahead of me I was slowing as the headwind made its presence ever more known. My watch, which at one point had me going close to or just under 34 minutes, had by now estimated me coming home at something just over 35. Just before we hit the climb off the ring road Tom passed me. The climb saw me rally a little bit as I struggled less on the rise than others around me. Mile 6 split came up on my watch as 5:45. This was slower than my half marathon pace and I’ve finished marathons quicker!

With just the finishing straight to contend with I couldn’t sprint on as much as those around me, the legs weren’t willing and the stomach wasn’t best pleased with my intentions either. Vince came past me with around 150 meters left to run. I crossed the line with the official time of 34:58, which I knew would see me in Athletics Weekly’s results but, even with my chip time of 34:52, was really disappointing. It wasn’t a PB, not a course PB, not even a season’s best. It was just… meh.

I hung around for the rest of GRC to finish – it was a mixed bag – some coming home with big new personal bests, others, like myself, going home a little disappointed with their results. I did though get to chat to Vince again at the finish which brightened my day – the fact he has gone on to run a fantastic 2:37:02 at the Valencia Marathon on December 2 gives me hope and inspiration that I am not far off being in shape to perhaps do something similar next Spring. After all, with a month of hindsight to benefit from, I probably hadn’t recovered fully from Worksop and there was definitely some illness fighting going on within the body, courtesy this time of the wife and her ailments.

GRC Leeds Abbey Dash 2018. Picture c/o Tracy Rushworth.

Once we had gotten the obligatory GRC group photo and we had found my car, I went on a two and a half mile plus cool down run back along the road we had not long raced on while the others supped on beer in TGI Friday’s. I had a coffee to see me home on the drive back; we were back in no time, still not particularly pleased but a little happier when I found out that at 83.34% in terms of age grade I had apparently just run my second best ever race. The bad races appear to be the ones where I score most highly of late!

Despite my lacklustre race I would still say the Leeds Abbey Dash is still one of my all time favourite races. I just need to go back now and do myself justice!

Race Report – Woodhall Spa 10K – Sunday 3rd June 2018

Following on from the PB at the Lincoln 5K I went into the Woodhall Spa 10K with a sense of optimism that I could attack my 10K PB at a race that is renowned for being capable of some very quick times. The knee pain that plagued me for much of May soon disappeared – I used the Voltarol gel for a couple more runs before it was apparent that it was no longer required.

I was still training very much with running at a minimum. I waited three days before running then again two days later when I went on a 10 mile run to test the new Garmin Forerunner 935 I had treated myself to. The 910XT has served me very well but it is just starting to get a bit long in the tooth – battery life is not what it was and the repeated frustration of a very long reading at the 5K persuaded me to upgrade for a watch that will hopefully see me through another five years of running, cycling, elliptical training and, maybe, just maybe, some swimming. The watch was great, the next day I test an add on called Peter’s Race  Pacer which could be a godsend in longer races especially – more of that later.

What the watch couldn’t stop was some very sore Achilles thanks to some very tight calf muscles. Wednesday’s very wet run was made doubly miserable by the right Achilles aching constantly, as it did after Thursday evening’s post chain gang ride brick mile. I ran 10 mostly off road miles on the Friday, the right Achilles had a dull ache but seemed to be improved with some stretching of the calf muscle, which I was sure was the source of the problem.

Come Sunday morning and the right Achilles was still aching but I was willing to risk it for a stab at a quick time. Before leaving the house I optimistically set Peter’s Race Pacer for a sub-34 minute 10K, which would better my PB of 34:09 by 10 seconds if I managed to pull it off. When I stepped out of the house to get into the car I soon realised that the weather would be perhaps the major limiting factor in any such PB attempt. It was only 8am but already it was 18C+  and humidity was high, already feeling uncomfortably clammy just sitting in the car, let alone running.

I arrived at Woodhall Spa shortly after 9am. With the race not starting until 11:15am it gave plenty of time to prepare and also plenty of opportunity for conditions to heat up! The car was parked around a mile from the HQ so I changed into my kit at the car (It was already plenty warm enough to be comfortable in just a vest) and walked over to the start area. Once there there were some familiar faces from Grantham Running Club, so many in fact that by 10:15 or so we had enough to create a rather impressive group photo!

GRC at Woodhall Spa

With the photo done I ran a near 2 mile warm up, of two loops, the second mile progressively getting quicker. The right Achilles ached a bit but gave no undue cause for concern. The heat and humidity however was troubling, the sunshine, which had not been forecast, was rocketing temperatures well into the mid twenties Celsius which, coupled with high humidity, made running very unpleasant. With little that could be done about it though I set about stretching the calves as much as possible, seeking shade and timing the final toilet stop to perfection.

I made my way to the start with around five minutes to spare. I lined myself up near the front. Any thoughts of a victory were dispelled an hour or so earlier with the appearance of former winner Matt Bowser, who is one of the best runners in the region and has a sub-30 minute 10K on his palmares. I was not that fussed though about a good placing – ideally I wanted a good group of similarly paced runners who would hopefully see me through to a quick time.

The race started on time at 11:15am. As predicted Matt B and one other runner (William Strangeway) were soon disappearing far into the distance. There were around five or six other runners in front of me, the only one I recognised was RAF / Sleaford’s Iain Bailey, who I had raced against several times and had never beaten him. As he pulled 10 or seconds clear over the first mile or so this looked like it would be a repeat performance.

As mentioned earlier, I was using Peter’s Race Pacer (PRP) for the first time. The idea of this app is that you punch in a certain time for a race, e.g. 34 minutes for a 10K and it will tell you whether you are up or down on that target. That element is basically the same as Garmin’s Virtual Partner. What makes PRP pretty cool is that 1. It has all the key data fields required during a race on one page, namely elapsed time, HR, average pace for the run, instant pace, and distance run.  2. It will dynamically update what your finishing time will be. 3. the instant pace is an average of 10 seconds which takes out the discrepancies you can sometime get with instant pace – especially when a foo pod is not being worn (I was wearing one but it, wasn’t working!). 3. The potential killer feature is the ability for the predicted finish time to be adjusted by hitting the lap button when passing course mile / km markers. With half marathons and marathons especially, after a few miles a watch can often be 0.1 of a mile or more out, at the London Marathon I have been as much as 0.5 mile out once GPS has been lost / confused by underpasses and Canary Wharf buildings. Whereas I’ve relied on a little mental maths to try and approximate a finish time, PRP will adjust the distance and predicted finish time accordingly when you hit the lap button when passing a mile marker.

The only issue with testing it at a 10KM race was that the markers were in kilometres which meant I had to use KM splits, which I’m not really familiar with. The watch still showed current pace and average pace in minutes/mile, but I did miss the affirmation of a mile split. I passed the first KM in 3:18 which I carried through to run the first mile in 5:33. For the opening minute or two I was running significantly quicker – sub 34 pace, but I soon settled into a pace which looked like it would bring me in at around about 34:15 pace.

Mile 3 having just passed a couple of runners.

The second mile was 5:34 and for a while things were looking good. I had  closed on and passed a group of three runners, those in the picture above in fact, and was closing down on Iain Bailey, who I passed at around 2.5 miles, and put a few second’s gap on him.

However, not long after passing Iain, the wheels began to slowly, but inexorably, fall off. The sun was well and truly out and it was rapidly becoming very unpleasant to run in. Then there were the rather ominous twinges of tightness and discomfort running from the base of the right Achilles and ankle further up and into the calf muscle. It was not bad enough for it to particularly slow me but it was not confidence inspiring and there was the fear that, at any moment, things could go bang! and it would be game over, not just for the race but for the foreseeable future.

The third mile was a touch slower again at 5:37, going through 5K in 17:20, which was nowhere near where I wanted to be at halfway. With thoughts of a PB well and truly out of the window it was just a case of hanging on and trying to find ways to keep the concentration high and run as fast a time as possible. There was the lure of trying to get a good age grade as this was a club GP Series race where Age Grade is all important. I had a feeling I could be on for a reasonable finishing position with the possibility of being first V40. There was also the lure of claiming the scalp of Iain Bailey, which ultimately would be the driving motivator as the finish line came closer.

Mile 4 was a horrible 5:48, but I was suffering, so clearly was everybody else as those behind me weren’t passing me and those ahead were not pulling too far ahead. The course itself is not entirely flat, no real hills to speak of, but little undulations that seemed to sap the life out of you when they climbed gently upwards, yet offered little benefit when dropping down. It was too a fairly boring course, with little in the way of crowd support or stunning scenery.

By mile 5 I was really questioning why I was putting all this effort in to do something as pointless as running 10K. This is not an uncommon thought during a 10K, it’s a tough distance run very close to maximal effort for its entirety. But with the conditions on this day proving particularly harsh, the wisdom of such efforts were hard to justify. The rot was stopped with a 5:42 fifth mile, although I was getting KM splits during the race that meant little.

What I was relying on was the finish time predictor which was settling at around 34:42. With just over a mile to run I was determined to keep inside 35 minutes, which would be a satisfying return given the conditions. That last mile lasted an eternity. I could tell that Iain Bailey was closing on me, as we returned to the race HQ there were more spectators, many of them appearing to be Bailey fans willing him on to catch and pass me.

I think as we passed the 200 meters to go sign he was within a second or so of me. Determined to not let him pass I put in a sprint finish that I’ve rarely mustered and came home to eventually beat him by a relatively comfortable seven seconds. As I sunk to my knees, I looked at my watch – 34:45 was the time, not quite what I’d hoped for, but it transpired that, with 82.99% age grade, it was, statistically, my best ever race – although it most certainly did not feel like it.

With the flow of adrenaline leaving my body, the pain in the right Achilles appeared to increase. I hobbled over to a tree for shelter, removed my trainers, and spent a good ten minutes watching GRC runners come home. It took some time for me to find out I finished 5th, which I worked out guaranteed me an Age Group prize. I hung around for an eternity for the presentation only for the MC to announce that Age Category prizes would be sent out in the post! Suffice to say, the envelope sent through my door with £20 in it was not as satisfying as actually being able to receive some applause on the day itself.

Holly and me Woodhall Spa – Age Group Winners!

I hobbled back to the car and drove home. Walking the next day was not easy but I was able to cross train, and after a couple of weeks I was able to start running again, albeit still with Achilles issues that I need to get to the bottom of the root cause. Tight calves is the likely issue. Until then running is taking a bit of a back burner to cycling, hopefully I will be fit in time for my holidays!


Race Report – Holme Pierrepont 10K, Thursday 29th June 2017

With the Holme Pierrepont 10K in mind immediately after the Summer Solstice 10K, I was determined to prepare for the race better in the six days I had available than I’d managed for the Long Bennington Race. Work over the weekend meant that I was restricted to a short run on Saturday evening, and a ride on the bike club’s chaingang route on the Sunday morning (with a mile brick run to follow). There was the obligatory jog to the gym, spin, and jog back on the Monday, followed by the other big effort of the week – Witham Wheelers 10 mile TT on the Tuesday evening, which netted a new course PB. Wednesday could have perhaps been a touch easier, but the legs felt good so I went on an easy 10 mile loop on my familiar route, albeit in very wet and unseasonably cold conditions. With no damage done, come Thursday evening the legs felt pretty good!

The Holme Pierrepont 10K was the second in a four race Holme Pierrepont GP Series. The winner is the runner who accumulates the lowest time over all four races – held on consecutive Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. It’s a long established series and is pretty popular, with 285 runners taking part in all four races. Because of work I could only commit to this one race. The event meant a return to the National Water Sports Center, just a few weeks after my first visit for the Notts 10 Mile Race. This race was a lower key event in terms of organisation, but there were many of the same familiar faces around as I warmed up, which would ensure a good, competitive race.

The warm up was unspectacular, two miles in length. As it was up and down the dead straight rowing basin path, I used the opportunity to re-calibrate my Garmin footpod. It measures a KM before performing it’s magic. I was slightly bemused to see me head some way past the 1KM marker, but didn’t think too much of it. On my return I headed to my car to finish changing into race kit, then headed indoors to take some shelter for five minutes or so from the cool, slightly wet conditions. For a late June evening the weather was very disappointing and far cry from the balmy, sunny conditions we enjoyed at the recent Notts 10 mile race at the same venue. Tonight it was very overcast with light rain, only around 14C and a light breeze. For spectators and photographers, the conditions were miserable. For running races though, conditions were nigh on perfect – it would only be that nagging breeze which would perhaps hinder us along the rowing basin coming part way through the opening lap and on the 2km run to the finish line.

Moments before the start of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I made my way to the start just a minute or two before the scheduled 7:15 start. Mercifully the pre-race briefing was short and it wasn’t long before we were sent on our way. Determined to not repeat the mistake of Long Bennington and the too hard too soon approach, I lined myself just shy of the front of the pack, and found myself probably outside the top twenty in the opening minute or so.

The start of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood

At the front it was a familiar face in Ben Livesey leading the field away – which he has done now at my last four races! The other familiar face ahead of me was Ian Boneham, who was making his race comeback after a more than seven year absence. The talented Grantham runner, who has a 29:30 road 10K PB, has trained a bit with Grantham Running Club and members from it, and had donned the green GRC vest for no other reason than he didn’t have another singlet to wear! I knew he was targeting something around 34 minutes and so was happy to see and attempt to track the familiar vest ahead of me.

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

As I’d promised myself I kept my powder dry for the opening mile or so and attempted to keep the effort in check. I was therefore somewhat alarmed when I went through the 1km marker in 2:58 which, even with my dodgy maths, is sub 30 minute pace! A minute or two later and my Garmin clocked the first mile at 5:31, and I was satisfied that the KM markers were perhaps not quite in the right positions. Compared to the opening mile at the Solstice, it was only three seconds slower, but thanks to a slight tailwind rather than a stiff breeze to run into, the effort (perceived and looking at average HR) was significantly lower.

The second mile was run partly into a headwind as we turned at the far end of the rowing basin and came back down the other side. By now I’d picked off quite a few runners who had gone off too exuberantly and found myself behind one runner – who I believe was Matthew Nutt of Holme Pierrepont RC. Employing similar tactics when at the Notts 10 (The wind direction was near identical) I stuck resolutely on his tail. After a minute or two he began weaving from side to side in a clear attempt to shake me from his slipstream. I would have considered helping with the pace, but with the second mile a 5:29, I knew I was somewhere near my limit. The awkwardness of the situation was soon resolved when Matthew shot off with a Kenyan inspired burst of pace to almost literally sprint clear of me and catch a group of three runners who were around 20 meters up the road. Initially I laughed at his folly, but to be fair to him, he stayed ahead of me for the entire race, albeit winding up around the same distance ahead as he was when I tailgated him come the finish line.

Hitting the climb on the start of the outer loop. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

The third mile, at 5:41, was the slowest of the race. Unlike at the Solstice however, this didn’t mark a deterioration in form. This section of the race included the small rise out of the rowing basin and onto the road that took us out of the Water Sports Center for the section along Adbolton Lane – all of it continuing to be into the slight headwind. Mile 4 was the run to the left turn which took us back onto the Canal Basin. Familiar with this section from the 10 Mile race, I pushed on the effort a little. I was feeling good, running alone but with some vests to attempt to chase down, including Mr Boneham’s, who I perceived was coming back to me a little having been around 30 seconds down the road at one point.

The fourth mile was 5:29 and the fifth saw me push the effort again, clocking a 5:24, despite this section being partially on gravel and featuring the second climb of the race, albeit a very small one. Back on the canal path and I was in a very happy place. I love races where I feel stronger the longer the race goes. I was seeing my average pace get quicker and this inspired me to keep on pushing. I think too reverting to the Nike Frees after a couple of races in the Hoka’s helped – they feel just that little bit faster.

Coming around the top of the rowing basin and onto the near 2km dead straight run to the finish, I sighted two runners ahead of me and made an effort to close them down.I clocked another 5:24 for the sixth mile and there was now just the question of the final 0.2 miles to the finish (or 0.3 as my Garmin was overestimating again).

Trying to chase down Matthew Nutt at the finish of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I caught and passed, briefly, Marlon Dunkley and had my sights on the runner ahead who I sensed was the same runner who I’d tailgated earlier in the race (Matthew Nutt).

Sprinting to the finish with Marlon Dunkley. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

Coming into the final 200 meters Marlon came back past me. I could see the finish clock in the distance and it had just clicked past 34 minutes. There would be no PB but a strong finish could see one of best times over the distance.

Sprinting to the finish with Marlon Dunkley. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I didn’t have the sprint in me to get back past Marlon but I was able to follow just behind him as I ground it out to the finish.

Coming to the finish. – who says I never look like I’m trying! Picture c/o John Oldfield.

I was working hard, evidently unusually so, given the pained expression on the photo above! This battle with Marlon allowed us to close on Matthew Nutt, closing the gap to just a couple of seconds. Marlon was a second ahead of me and I came home seventh in 34:33. This meant I’d clocked my third fastest ever 10K, one second ahead of  the time I first broke 35 minutes at the 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash.  I was the first V40 finisher too, To my chagrin there would be no prizes on the night, just for the winners in the series overall. All I had was my good time and a new WMA age grade PB of 82.85% (2010 values) to come home with.

For the record, Ben Livesey came second (again), clocking 31:39, 40 seconds behind Michael Cotherd. Mr Boneham finished fourth in 34:15. Not bad for a near 8 year layoff from running!

As far as my racing is concerned, that is it now until a planned 5 mile race in late August (I’ll be continuing the cycling time trials) with summer holidays and other things to factor. Hopefully I can take this good summer form, both running and on the bike, with me into the early autumn season and beyond!


Race Report – Lincoln Services Summer League 10k, Grantham, Wednesday 9th September 2015

This was a curious little event. A few days before this race, held on the afternoon of Wednesday September 9th at the Prince William of Gloucester Army Barracks in Grantham, our running club received an email from Captain Lepage of Grantham, inviting us to take part in one of the Lincoln Services races. At first I wasn’t too interested in the idea, especially as I’d planned a rare evening out the night before the race where the consumption of (a fair to large volume of) alcohol was a given.

However the day before the race I reckoned a bit of a run out over 10k would probably do my marathon training no harm, indeed it may even help it a little, having not run a great deal at pace recently. I was mindful that I was taking part in the Grunty Fen Half Marathon on the Sunday, so this wasn’t to be a full gas effort, but the plan was to put in a solid tempo effort.

Two hours before the race and I was a bit of a mess – head spinning and pounding, a little bit worse for wear, scrambling desperately for the last remaining Ibuprofen in the house. Ninety minutes before the off and I made a reluctant decision to take part in the race – at least try to run up to the barracks before deciding whether I could actually run.

Thankfully, apart from feeling very dehydrated and the heart rate thinking it was running a 5k, the warm up showed I was okay to race – the head actually grateful for the hangover busting qualities of running. Getting into the army  barracks took a little bit of effort, but I was soon in and in a totally different world to what I am accustomed too. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure what to expect not frequenting myself that often in army camps, but I soon found some familiar faces wearing Grantham Running Club colours, and before long we were introduced to Captain Lepage who offered a warm welcome to his guest runners.

He also gave hands down without a doubt the most comprehensive pre-race briefing I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Short of telling us quite how to run and when to breath I do believe every possible eventuality was covered. That done and it was soon down to racing. A few strides and I felt ready to go.

I found it a touch amusing that having been briefed that the pre-race briefing would be at 14:15 and the race would commence at 14:30 prompt, the klaxon for the race start was actually sounded at 14:27, catching out a few runners who had used the nearby conveniences for a last minute pit stop.

Thankfully I was on the start line and from the off I was running fairly well. After the initial surge I tucked myself on the shoulder of the leader and sensed that the pace wasn’t going to be that fast. After a mile or so I took the lead briefly and tried to slow the pace, keen not to go much quicker than the 5:42 opening mile.

I was soon passed though on a brief section of multi terrain which I struggled on and slipped to third before hitting the familiar surroundings of Turnor Road, an oft traveled section of quiet road for interval sessions at the running club. I pulled in the lead two and for the most part for the next three and a half miles sat on the shoulder of the lead runner.

I was finding the pace comfortable; the heart rate though was a little too high, a legacy no doubt of too many glasses of vino tinto the night before. Miles 2-4, on Strava at least, were a model of consistency, a trio of 5:40 miles. I got the impression the three of us could go faster but had other events on our minds – the two with me were talking of racing the next day, for instance.

The fifth mile saw us tackle again the short section of multi terrain and the other two drifted a few yards ahead of me as I slowed to a 5:44 mile and they increased their pace slightly. I could have gone with them, but as a guest runner and with Sunday on my mind I didn’t feel the need or desire to push, so I let them drift 5-10 seconds ahead in the final mile, which was another 5:40.

It turned out the 10k was near enough spot on six miles, so there the race ended – third, not a bad effort. Six miles in 34:35, which is actually faster than my official six mile PB. I waited for my fellow GRC runners to come in, felt my hangover making an unwelcome return so made my farewells and jogged home. A curious race, but a strangely enjoyable one.


Race Report – 2015 Long Bennington Summer Solstice 10k

Fresh from the Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon I was certainly not in the days following my first ever triathlon. Monday saw a session at the gym on the stepper and the elliptical trainer with an easy paced recovery run in the evening which felt not too bad. Tuesday however saw me by mid-afternoon in a state of near exhaustion (Perhaps slight exaggeration – very tired is closer). I was contemplating doing nothing at all, but with sunny warm conditions and – for the first Tuesday since 2015 time trials began at Witham Wheelers, – there was barely a breath of wind.

Sensing opportunities to ride windless time trials are going to be at a premium I had a strong coffee and lackadaisically headed to first the cricket club to sign on and then onto the TT start. The lure of a PB appeared to do the trick, for although I rode mediocre at best, I came home in 25:41 – a new PB and first sub 26 clocking. Wednesday saw me feel a touch fresher, but still tired on a gentle, mostly off road 11 mile run around the very pleasant Belton House Estate. Thursday was a day off, which would hopefully see me revitalised for the Friday evening race.

Evening races when there is an F1 race on is always a touch of a risk in terms of being able to participate; thankfully Friday was a quiet day in Spielberg which enabled me to arrive in Long Bennington just shy of an hour before the start of the race. Being a member of Grantham Running Club, the hosts of the race, there was no shortage of familiar faces at the race HQ, all doing a fantastic effort to make this one of the slickest and well catered for evening races I’ve ever attended.

Gravity FM were putting on an outdoor disco and warm up show which, I must admit, didn’t think would work, but actually was really uplifting. I left it though to perform my usual warm up – a 1.5 mile out and back affair, with the return being a series of race pace strides. Everything felt good – aside from a touch of hay fever making breathing a little wheezy, and I went about final preparations.

Helping Scott set up his camera.

Jogging to the start line I felt a twinge in my left glute. I tried to ignore it but was a bit concerned – random aches like this have led to sacrum stress fractures in the recent past. I ran a couple of practice starts and the ache appeared to disappear. After helping Scott on the start line with his camera settings I lined up at the front of the race. This time last year I was at the same start line barely caring less how the race panned out – today I had my race face on and I was keen to do well.

Lining up at the start of the race.

The race gun fired at dead on 7:30 and for a few glorious seconds I actually led the race! For a brief moment thoughts of actually winning the event flooded through my brain. Then Shane Robinson of Lincoln Wellington remembered he is a 31:34 10k runner and swiftly disappeared into the distance, setting a new PB and course record of 31:30 in the process.


The start of the race. Image © Graeme Reynolds
The start of the race. Image © Graeme Reynolds

After the initial frantic dash ‘downhill’ where Garmin was throwing up sub 4:40 pace alerts, we collectively settled down into something more realistic. I found myself third, the orange shirted Daniel Page of Clowne Road Runners ten meters or so up the road and Grantham AC’s Adam Madge sitting on my shoulder in fourth, with a gap growing to the fifth placed runner. On the long flat run on Valley Lane out to Grange Lane there was a slight, but definite, headwind, and I didn’t fancy being a wind break for Adam. I did a deliberate pull out and tuck in behind Adam. I stayed in his slipstream for around 30 seconds but twice I clipped his heels, forcing me to apologise profusely and pull out to retake third place.

At this moment second placed Daniel thought he should play the tactical game and eased up to allow us to catch him and sit behind me and Adam. I was now second, and with the first mile covered in a potentially PB shattering 5:18 I decided to scrap the tactics and just run as hard and fast as I could. The second mile was a fair bit slower in 5:34 but it was then as we turned left and towards Staunton I pushed on again in a bid to try and drop Daniel (Adam by now had dropped off our little group and was fading fast). With the wind now more behind us Daniel took the odd turn to take the lead but I repassed him on several occasions. This battle meant we sped up in the third mile (5:24) and as we passed the official 5k marker I glanced at my Garmin, which read 16:47 – inside my 5k PB!

At this point I was still feeling comfortable and felt I had every chance of finishing second with a sub 34 clocking a real possibility. Then the little ache I’d felt minutes before the start in the left glute reappeared and quite quickly became quite a severe ache. It didn’t really slow me but it was disconcerting and, frankly, a little worrying. The discomfort reached it’s peak as we hit Staunton and turned left again to head back towards Long Bennington. The race’s main drag uphill began and it was there that Daniel was able to eke out a small gap on me. I wanted to push on and go with him but the ache in the glute was just too much to do so.

In third place chasing Daniel Page.

What was reassuring was that once it reached quite painful the level of discomfort stabilised and I was able to run at a fairly decent pace. The fourth mile was 5:31, and the fifth, where I had mentally settled for third place and was thinking more about fending off the rapidly approaching fourth placed runner, was the slowest of the race (5:41). As we began the final mile I could see Daniel ahead making more and more turns of the head, an indicator in most races that he was tiring. I picked up the pace, not only to try and catch him, but because there was the small matter of a PB that was still within my grasp.

We came back into Long Bennington (5:28) and as we hit the finish straight I put on as good a sprint I could with the left glute tightening rapidly. Unfortunately for myself Daniel was wise to my efforts and sprinted at least as effectively as myself (probably more) With a final spurt I crossed the line third.

Sprint to the finish – Third and new PB Image © Graeme Reynolds

The official time would take some time to materialise, but eventually it was given as 34:10 – a new 12 second PB! I was thrilled! I also hurt quite a bit and was relieved to see my regular massage therapist David McKee on hand to help release the back, glute, and Piraformis.

He did a good job of averting a full lock up, but there was no thoughts of a warm down. Instead it was catching up with plenty of other runners and waiting for the presentation where I would receive just my second ever prize (My first came at the Taunton Marathon in 2011, where I also finished third). £25 the richer and with a new PB – a very successful evening’s work!

Third place prize, presented by Ruth Dunstan.