Race Report – Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon – Sunday 5th March 2017

Returning to the scene of my best ever race (I finished second in 2016), the 2017 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon was an eagerly anticipated affair. Looking at the entry list beforehand I knew the chances of going one better or even equaling my performance were slim as the 2016 winner Adam Holland was back to defend his title, as was 2015 victor Ian Bailey. Still, on occasion, I allowed myself to dream what if they didn’t turn up? what if they had a bad race? Could I possibly win?!

Pre race training was a mixed bag. Beset by a succession of colds and a lingering chest infection that may or may not have been caused or aggravated or prolonged by possible over training, there was a nagging knowing that I went into the race just a touch below 100%. The long runs had been really good, many interspersed with a mid run parkrun, the longest being 24 miles. The marathon paced runs had been reasonable, but they and many of the bike rides I went on felt as though there wasn’t much more to give beyond the Zone 3 HR limits these efforts entailed. Running up hills and cycling up them at any great effort felt particularly arduous.

At least I wasn’t going into the race injured, even if I did try my best slipping on an icy bridge while on an early morning run earlier in the week. The right hip was a bit bruised and sore but didn’t appear to affect my running. I enjoyed something of an easy week, resting up completely the day before the race.

Race day dawned cloudy but the fear was that the weather would take a turn for the worse some time around the planned start time of 10:30am. I enjoyed the luxury of living within a warm up from the race HQ, warming up at home and jogging the two miles to the start. That jog felt easy enough but the heart rate was really high – nerves perhaps. I took that as a positive, proof that I was up for this race. Still dry, if breezy, it felt fairly warm. I opted to jettison the tights, going for shorts, long socks, long sleeved top and gloves combo.

Then, around 45 minutes before the start, the rain began to fall. Icy cold rain. Buckets of it. Relentlessly, driven in by a cold stiff wind. People did their best to seek shelter. It all got quite crowded, so I popped over to the leisure center where I could finish getting changed in the comfort of not that many people being around. I made a last minute decision to add a hat to the apparel. Unfortunately I chose not to put on the tights, a decision I think I came to regret.

Grandstand makes for refuge shelter. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

Ten minutes before the start and there was no eagerness from anyone to head to the start line, the same with five minutes to go. I opted to run around the track and seek shelter in the grandstand, an option that soon became quite popular. The start time came and went, no sign of the starter, runners making their way in dribs and drabs to the grandstand. As I stood shivering with the rain showing no sign of abating, any pre-race nerves were replaced with apathy, a distinct lack of desire to subject myself to a freezing cold soaking. The only solace was that it appeared that no-one else seemed that determined to race, as no-one volunteered themselves to head to the start line until they were ushered to do so by the race starter.

No enthusiasm to join the start line as heavy rain falls. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

Despite lack of enthusiasm I was one of the first onto the race track for the start, lining up on the inside of lane one. The pre-race formalities was mercifully brief save for a countdown that the starter insisted on being from ten to zero, much to the mirth of the drowning rats in lycra.

The start of the 2017 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon. Picture c/o Gordon Geach
The start of the 2017 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon. Picture c/o Graeme Jones

Finally off,  I made a brisk start and, thanks to being on the inside of the bend, briefly led as we exited the stadium, thankful that the rain that had been lashing into our faces on the start line, was now pushing us along as a tail wind.

The start of the 2017 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon. Picture c/o Gordon Geach

That brief moment of euphoria leading the race, as I did in 2016 was even briefer than 12 months earlier and ended in farce. Exiting the stadium we were confronted by two young boys wandering across our paths. In a split second decision, I and a few others chose to veer to the right, while the majority veered to the left. Those who veered left thankfully told those who veered right were heading in the wrong direction! I only lost four or five seconds but it cost me precious momentum and several places.

I didn’t have time to rue the lack of marshaling to prevent such an occurrence, I put my head down and tried to make up the places I had lost. The first mile heading to Barrowby was 5:39 which was pretty much bang on what I was hoping for, but already the first two – Adam and Ian, were well out of sight. A quick count up the road saw that I was sixth. On the second mile heading down the Drift towards the canal I passed the fifth place runner. Into the headwind he latched onto my heels and stuck to them. Into the headwind I was a bit perturbed by this but as we headed to the canal path and enjoyed a tail wind and a lessening of the rain, I was not upset that he didn’t want to help with the pace. The canal path was probably the wettest it has ever been when I’ve run along it, more puddles than solid ground it seemed, and I was grateful to have clear line of sight as I attempted to keep the fourth placed runner in check.

Splashing along the canal path. Picture c/o organisers.
Splashing along the canal path. Picture c/o organisers.

What was obvious to me now was that my heart rate was some way short of where I’d expect it during a half marathon, seeming to settle at or ever so slightly above my marathon heart rate. I was struggling to keep warm – my quads especially cold, I was struggling to maintain enthusiasm for the race and, moreover, the signs in recent training that the colds and chest infection were affecting the top 1% of my fitness were being borne out. The splits was between 5:40 and 5:50, which was okay given the conditions, but a little slower than perhaps I would have liked and certainly much slower than in 2016, when I was edging towards 5:30 on the canal path.

After three miles of canal path we exited at the Dirty Duck pub in Woolsthorpe. This was a key moment as the guy who had stuck to my heels failed to negotiate the treacherously slippery muddy exit around the style. I had learnt my lesson from the icy bridge on Wednesday and took extreme care. He went into the corner a little more aggressively and paid the price – a loud groan and soft thud I heard as he went down – thankfully without damage and without too much time lost. I pressed on, knowing that the first of the course’s main challenges – Woolsthorpe Hill lay just ahead.

Knowing the hill and its profile well I adopted a steady pace and went about getting up it with as little energy expended as possible. As in 2016 I didn’t think I was particularly effective up the hill, but I was able to close down the 15 or so second gap on the fourth placed runner and passed him two thirds of the way up the hill. I also managed to aggravate my left hip flexor, which loosened off a touch on the resultant downhill but never felt great for the remainder of the race.

As in 2016, the normal prevailing wind which blows you most of the way from Woolsthorpe to home was blowing in a near opposite direction, which meant that the normally quick run down to Denton was made much tougher, especially as there was little prospect of sheltering behind another runner. The third placed man was someway up the road, All I had to do was consolidate my fourth place with some steady running, which I did with a set of sub 5:50 miles through to mile ten and the approach to the stiffest challenge on the course – Casthorpe Hill.

Not quite as comfortably fourth as I thought. Picture c/o race organisers.

Before the climb itself there was a large ford to navigate as the road had flooded. I managed to get through unscathed, but the feet once again got a good soaking. I had a quick look back at the base of the hill and realised that the gap from me to those behind was far less than I had expected. Given that the climb of the hill felt truly horrible and an effort to even remain running as I neared the top, I felt sure that I would be caught. As it turned out, however bad I felt, it wasn’t as bad as those behind me for I would end up with the fastest time of the day on the Strava segment for the entire hill (most of the top ten are on Strava).

As I topped the hill and knew it was pretty much downhill all the way from Barrowby back to the Meres Leisure Centre, it was simply a case of ignoring the headwind and keeping things steady to the finish. The climbing of the hill had doubled my gap to the fifth placed runner, there was no chance of him catching me barring disaster. Last year when I entered the stadium I was also fourth, but the closeness of the race meant a sprint finish saw me come home second just behind Adam the winner. This year Adam had long since finished victorious in a big new PB of 1:12, Ian Bailey second in almost exactly the same time I ran in 2016, and David Greenwood was third forty seconds clear of myself, who finished in 1:18:01, a sub 78 clocking missed perhaps courtesy of waving and smiling a bit too much at my family who I spotted at the finish.

Coming into the finish, not really trying too hard! Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Coming into the finish, not really trying too hard! Picture c/o Graeme Jones.

So it was not a podium finish, fourth and the solace of another V40 prize courtesy of the real first V40 finishing third. The race was something of a disappointment, it left some questions regarding my form which I hope are just a temporary blip caused by illness. The 2017 Fraction will not live as long in the memory as the 2016 edition, but, in reality third was probably the best I could have hoped for so it wasn’t a disaster by any means. I’m also feeling a lot fresher than I did after the 2016 race which I hope will see me in better shape come the London Marathon, which is the next target.


2016 London Marathon Training – Week Four (25-31 January)

Following the hard Witham Wheelers ride and brick run last Sunday I rewarded myself with a strong espresso at lunchtime. With no rest for the wicked I had the pleasure of entertaining the kids for the afternoon. Come 4pm I was barely able to keep my eyes open so I took the drastic measure of a third espresso for the day. By 5pm I was wide awake, scarily alert and resigned to the inevitable consequence that sleeping that night was not going to be easy. Lo and behold despite my best efforts to send myself into a coma – the port made an appearance at 11pm, by 2am I was still struggling to get to sleep.

Mercifully I managed to finally drift off, five hours or so later and I was up again. Monday morning session was an hour on the elliptical trainer, completed with no issues other than weariness. The evening’s spin session was in doubt right until the last minute as my wife was working in Cardiff and made it back just in time for me to make it to the gym. I’d every intention of taking the session easy but once Sam, our instructor, eased us into it, I found myself working away and feeling surprisingly comfortable.

It was all good until after a hard sprint effort Sam instructed us to hit the emergency brake button. I did as told, still putting plenty of power through the pedals my right calf cramped up dramatically and very painfully! Looking for a moment like I had been shot, the wave of pain soon past and I was back pedaling, putting in some very high cadence efforts to try and wash away the lactate.

I finished the session, averaging 245 watts. Predictably enough walking was pretty tough with the cramp, but I’ve suffered plenty of night cramps to know that, all things well, the effects are not too long lasting. Tuesady morning saw an hour on the elliptical trainer which had the calf feeling a touch tender but otherwise fine. A couple of hours later and I headed out for the first run of the week. It was meant to be 10 miles with 5 miles at marathon HR, but it didn’t quite materialise. The cramped calf felt fine after a minute or so, but the wind was strong which made pacing hard and, probably due to tiredness, I was finding it hard to get the heart rate up to marathon HR levels. The average pace was 6:21 with a pair of sub 6 minute miles to conclude (albeit wind assisted). Not a bad session considering but not quite what was intended.

Wednesday morning and in balmy conditions (touching 14C first thing) I put in the perfunctory hour on the elliptical trainer. A couple of hours later and I was out for another easy paced 10 mile run, again run in windy conditions. The right calf just ached a touch but generally felt as good as it was before I had the tightening 10 or so days earlier.

That was meant to be it for the day but after I completed the run the wife declared herself unable to go out in the evening, which meant I was free to head out if I wanted. GRC has a Wednesday night session which a fair few had declared an interest in attending, and I thought that an easy paced six or so miles would be a pleasant run and the opportunity to get in some extra miles, especially as I had no long run planned for the weekend.

It was indeed a most pleasant run – around 25 in attendance – as we headed on a 25 minutes out and back course in windy conditions. The pace was comfortable – just under eight minute miles – but the opportunity for a natter was most welcome.

Thursday morning was cold after in comparison to a couple of very warm days, the hour on the elliptical trainer passed without issue. The evening saw GRC’s marathon paced run around town, with five of the eight miles run at or around 7:30 pace. The run itself was easy enough, pacing in the wind proved very difficult, but I was most pleased with the efforts of those running.

Friday morning and once again I kicked off the day with an hour on the elliptical trainer and again there was no issues. The lunchtime run was merely scheduled to be around ten miles with no plans on its structure. It turned out to be a mixed bag in terms of the weather and the run itself. The first few miles were into a strong wind, a little less intense than earlier in the morning but still averaging around 25 mph. Conditions were blustery when I set out, but sunny and quite warm.

I had to stop at the Meres Leisure Center for an emergency pit stop. Feeling rejuvenated on my exit I headed to the A607 where I was aware that on a Belvoir Tri Club Pyramid session on Thursday evening, a runner had taken a segment of mine during one of their efforts, aided by a strong wind blowing behind him. I opted to take advantage of a similar wind and put in a hard two minute effort which I felt sure was quick enough to have taken the segment (It was, by twelve seconds and breaking 5 minutes per mile average!) Rather than make it a blatant steal a segment then take it easy effort, I decided to keep the pace high, running at approximately marathon to tempo heart rate for the final four miles. There was the healthy tail wind for the majority, but the mile splits of 5:34; 5:53; 5:51 and 5:47 were pleasing, especially as in the closing stages of the run the heavens opened and I was soaked to the bone with icy cold rain hitting my body almost vertically thanks to the wind.

Saturday was always going to be a day off as I was off to Doncaster to enjoy part two of my 40th Birthday present – Britain’s Strongest Man. I’ve enjoyed watching the Strongman tournaments since I was a young kid, raised on a diet of Geoff Capes and Bill Kazmaier. I now live just a few miles away from Geoff, although I’ve never met him. I had my chance on Saturday to meet Bill, enjoying my moment of being a fan as we stood together for a photo.

Me with Big Bill
Me with Big Bill

As for the competition itself. Awesome! I’ve seen quite a lot of high profile sporting events and I think think this was definitely one of the best in terms of sporting prowess and the crowd totally getting behind each and every competitor. It will be months before anything is seen on television but I thoroughly recommend it!

Saturday evening and I was at the cinema watching Creed. Another franchise I’ve been a fan of since I was a young lad, this was a brilliant watch, cleverly written – full of references and homage to previous Rocky episodes with a story distinctive enough in its own right to be totally absorbing. With as much testosterone driving the film as I’d witnessed at the strongman tournament I felt inspired that evening to totally smash the ride in the morning and every other session I’d ever do.

Saturday night bravado doesn’t always equate to Sunday morning reality however. The Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride wasn’t quite as satisfying as seven days earlier. The weather was poor with rain falling at times and a wind that always appeared to be a headwind until the final few miles. The numbers were down and I thought I’d try my hand in the quickest group – group five. As there were just four of use we did ten minute efforts on the front for the first hour or so. I assumed my heart rate monitor wasn’t working properly (I’d had to use an old one as the battery had failed on my soft strap and I’m awaiting a replacement) as it was very high from the off, but after an hour I had to conclude I was working hard for little in the way of return.

I struggled on the main climb of the day but stuck in with the other three. I kept with them but could no longer take turns at the front. Ten miles or so from the end pro Karl eased off the front of the group and disappeared into the distance. The other two sat up, I pushed on to the end, cold wet, and a touch miserable. 19.3 mph was the average, disappointed at the time in reflection it wasn’t that bad.

Once home I changed out of my sodden kit and put an excessive amount of running gear on. A mile into my 10k brick run and I was very warm, save for my feet which were still numb. The first 5k was quite hard work feeling dehydrated and tired, but the final 5k was much easier, probably as a result of the post ride slice of flapjack kicking in.

Another week down and some solid work done. Fifty five miles of running, a few more riding, and five or so hours on the elliptical trainer. The legs are feeling strong, but quite fatigued. This is to be expected though given the phase of training so I am not concerned. Next week is probably more of the same, albeit with hopefully the first 20 mile run of the year over the weekend.

Parkrun Report – Belton House parkrun #1 – Saturday 7th November 2015.

A mediocre performance at a free to enter timed 5k run would not normally merit the honour of a rare post on this blog. Belton House parkrun #1, however, was perhaps the one of the more important events I’ve taken part in.

Over a year in the making (and nearer two if you include the previous failed attempts), Grantham finally had its parkrun, albeit as close as it could physically be – technically Belton House being in the small hamlet of Belton on the outskirts of Grantham. Although I was privvy to the details in how the parkrun was founded, I only played a very minor role in its establishment.

Originally it had been suggested that Grantham would have its parkrun at Wyndham Park. As a Grantham Running Club committee member I played a role in dismissing the proposal as I saw the course as overly twisty and narrow in places – with three passes of a footpath known locally as dog shit alley perhaps not conducive to encouraging new runners – part of the ethos that makes parkrun such a success. There were also issues with a cycle path running through the route, a lack of any toilet facilities pre-run and inadequate parking.

Belton House, on the other hand, had almost everything a parkrun could wish for: generous hosts in the National Trust who would provide parking, toilet, and cafe facilities. An almost entirely off road route with some exceptional scenery and the ever delightful herds of deer that always bring a smile with their grace when jumping fences as they flee when you run towards them.

It was many months of negotiation between the National Trust, Grantham Running Club and Grantham Athletics Club, before the go ahead was given for Belton House parkrun. A route was finalised and rehearsed a couple of weeks before the first official run. I was racing on that day, but had the opportunity to recce the route a week before, on a wet and windy morning. I was impressed with the land that had an astonishing draining ability. Local roads were flooded, you would barely know it had been raining for nearly three days solid.

It was a similar story when I awoke for the first Belton House parkrun. Wet and very windy conditions prevailed. For the first time since moving from Coventry to Grantham two a and a bit years ago, I enjoyed the ability to be able to run to a parkrun rather than face a lengthy drive. It was tempered by a lethargic feel and some distinct stiffness in both hips, but all the same I was glad to be out running.

There were plenty of familiar faces at the start line as most of the parkrun volunteers come from Grantham Running Club or Grantham Athletics club and I spent the minutes before the start chatting with a number of them. There were whispers I would be the sure-fire first place finisher but I knew there were at least two other runners who on paper are significantly quicker over 5k than I am.

There were around 200 runners taking part, which is not a huge number, but a manageable amount for a first attempt and impressive given the miserable conditions. The pre-run speech by Event Director Gordon was long and mostly inaudible (He had forgotten his loudhailer) but it was respectfully observed by the field. A few minutes later and the countdown was given and we were off.

The start of the inaugural Belton House parkrun. Picture Courtesy Graeme Reynolds
The start of the inaugural Belton House parkrun. Picture Courtesy Graeme Reynolds

With hips a little stiff I set off as swiftly as I could while not making quite the suicidal start that some around me made. As seen in the picture above, around a minute into the run, I (in the white long sleeve top – no club colours for me at a parkrun (it’s not a race!) was around fifth, with the eventual first place finisher, but not the winner, Jake Richardson on my far right, also making a sensible start. The picture shows clearly the rain that has fallen, it doesn’t illustrate the near gale force wind that blew directly into us for the opening section of the two lap course, before we thankfully turned left and onto the grass section of the lap.

I passed the child who had slipped ahead of me and found myself fourth, running comfortably, but not that quickly. Matt Emery was a clear second halfway around the first lap and the early leader Philip Nind was around 5 seconds ahead of me. The first two were uncatchable with my tight hip flexors. I would normally have settled for fourth but I fancied the distinction of finishing in the top three of the first Belton House parkrun, so I spent the remainder of the first lap slowly hauling in Philip. I caught him as we started the second lap. I thought for a minute about tucking into his slipstream into the wind, but felt the time was right to put in a surge and break his tow, so this is exactly what I did. By the time we passed the golf course for the second and last time I had a clear gap which I could relatively easily maintain.

I had the rest of the lap to try and enjoy the run as best I could – the last remaining deer fled over the fence as I passed, and I began to lap the backmarkers – with far less difficulty than at other venues such as Newark and Peterborough. With not so much a sprint finish but a slight increase in pace, I finished third in 18:44, just under 50 seconds behind Jake in first and 30 behind Matt. The times were not quick but I reckon the wind was worth at least a minute on the final times. A quick handshake with those finishing ahead and behind me and it was off to watch the rest of the field come home.

Passing Belton House. Picture Courtesy Graeme Reynolds
Passing Belton House. Picture Courtesy Graeme Reynolds

I spent the next fifteen minutes or so watching the rest of the runners finish, each passing runner emphasised the overwhelming merits parkrun has in encouraging runners of all abilities. I then jogged home, very slowly as the left groin had tightened significantly and the wind had, if anything got stronger. Happily though the pain was temporary. The first of hopefully many Belton House parkruns was done.


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.


96 Days to VLM – Week One Training Summary

Last week I decided it would be a good time to start my London Marathon training. For last year’s marathon I created a plan – albeit a rather rudimentary one. This year I’ve decided not to. This isn’t to say I haven’t got a good idea of what I hope to be doing and when, it’s more that I’ve looked back at all my distance PBs broken in the past year or so and all bar one was set when I was training on a how I feel at the time policy. The marathon was the only PB set to a plan, but that plan unravelled six weeks out anyway through injury and I, through necessity, reverted to type and trained on a micro level rather than macro.

Week one is all about building mileage, as I’m not yet at a level I’d do on a normal weekly basis, let alone for marathon training. Monday night saw me join the beginners at Grantham Running Club, a rather amusing misnomer as between myself and a few other of the runners there, I estimate there was around 100 years of running experience. It was a gentle paced run with more time spent putting the world to rights. Before I knew it eight and a half miles had been covered, slightly surpassing the sum of my longest run, split into three parts two days earlier at parkrun.

Tuesday was my only true hard session planned for the week. It’s intervals night at the club, but I intend to do marathon heart rate runs until at least March as I think they are more beneficial and something I think I lacked last year come race day. With an eight mile run planned and five miles at marathon HR, I was curious, and a little nervous, at what pace I would find myself running at, bearing in mind my first marathon HR run of 2014 saw me average 6:16.

The first two miles were a warm up and the legs were stiff, the calves remaining fearsomely tight from when they first tightened early the week previous. The transition to marathon pace felt laboured and forced, but after a mile or two I settled into an almost familiar rhythm. The first marathon HR mile was 6:27, then a pleasing 6:09, 6;15, 6:28 and closing with a 6:16. It wasn’t entirely comfortable (especially with a dodgy tummy) and I couldn’t do many more miles at that effort but I was happy to see that the pace wasn’t too many seconds slower than last year, albeit with a HR that was far harder to keep under my 165bpm limit.

Wednesday saw me training once again with GRC, partly because I fancied the company and also because a severe frost that morning had left the roads and pavements treacherously icy, ice that only cleared an hour or so before we set off at 7pm. This was not a run I’ll treasure. Twenty five minutes out and back, the calves were so tight they felt like they’d snap, the pelvis ached and the strong, cold head wind on the way back made the seven miles covered feel laboured and unnecessarily tough.

I was thankful that Thursday (15th Janurary) was a rest day, planned some time ago. It was the first day of rest since January 2nd. Friday was a beautiful sunny, crisp morning and I had it to myself so I opted to make it my long run day – which this week was 10 1/2 miles (The half mile more than ten a historic legacy of one of my favourite runs around Warwick University back when I lived in Coventry – which I always used to commence and conclude my marathon training long runs and measured 10.52 miles). For some unfathomable reason I fancied tackling the most fearsome hill (For runners at least) in the Grantham area, the relatively undiscovered Minnett’s Hill. It was as tough as ever, especially with some ice to add to the equation, but I made it to the top without even considering walking which I was pleased with. I was generally pleased with most of the run, although the pace was a touch slower than I’d liked (Average 7:06 per mile) and the last couple of miles were a tough affair. At least the calves were much improved – thanks to the hanging off the step calf stretch.

Saturday I’d left free to run to feel – be it short, another long run, some tempo or maybe even intervals. In the end it became a seven mile progressive run of sorts. After a gentle opening mile the pace gradually increased despite running up a hill and then facing a head wind. The right hip abductor, glute and groin were not that happy for much of the run. When they eased up in the final couple of miles the pace quickened accordingly, coming down to 6:26, then concluding with a 6:06 mile.

Sunday saw me enter the Clumber Park Duathlon in March – my tentative toe in the water towards hopefully taking part in Triathlons later in the year and beyond. This is why I was once again at the local cycle club, taking part in Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #3. This weekly bike ride is a big diversion from my training of previous years. It’s a risk admittedly, but I’m hopeful that one ride a week won’t hinder the running – it may even help it – and a ride a week is the bare minimum required to be respectable at the Duathlon.

The overnight frost left conditions on the limit in terms of safety for the ride, which took in several of the hills found in the Vale of Belvoir. The start was amended but essentially it was the route as planned and it was more or less safe, save for some ice on the ascent of the final climb, which forced me to stay in the saddle, not an easy task when the ramp is around 14% and you’ve run out of gears. I was happier with this ride than last week’s – I prefer the hills to the flat and rolling roads and the pace was a little gentler too thanks to a merging of groups and the slightly iffy weather conditions.

After a quick sit down for tea, flapjack and some chit chat, I cycled home and quickly put on the trainers and headed out for the 5km (Plus a little bit) run I’ve done for the past couple of weeks as my attempt at training for the demands of transitioning from one discipline to another in Duathlon. The pavements were icy and the running felt ponderous and laboured at times but it was clear from the splits on the Garmin that progress is being made since the beginning of the year. 6:36 for the opening mile, I followed this up with 6;16, then 6 minutes dead, running 5:57 pace for the final quarter mile. I ran 19:25 for the 5k covered, which is a big improvement on previous weeks and left me pleased and encouraged.

For a first week it was generally positive. I’m not at the level I was this time last year but there are signs that the form I had back in September last year is not a million miles away. I also keep telling myself that I most likely peaked at the end of February last year and hopefully this slightly slower build up will see me peak at the right time near the end of April.

This coming week is hopefully a similar tale to last week, albeit with the mileage being upped a little here and there. The weather may have a little say on things but I’m optimistic I’ll have another good week.