Peterborough Green Wheel Relay – Sunday 16th June 2019

After a few years of deliberating Grantham Running Club finally managed to enter a team into the Peterborough Green Wheel Relay – probably the most popular relay race in the region if you don’t include the 24 hour races or their ilk.

I was very much looking forward to  it having spent many years running or supporting the Cotswold Hilly 100 Relay Race which Kenilworth Runners made a highlight of their year and had come to dominate when I was a member. A mix of running and logistics means that not necessarily the quickest team will win (although they usually will). The pressures of ensuring everyone is present for their leg and runs the correct course means that surprises can happen.

The build up was not without its controversy. With only one (male) team entered I was keen to have the strongest possible set of runners taking part – I saw little point in giving up one of my infrequent spare weekends over the summer just to make up the numbers. Others within the club disagreed however, requesting it should be on a first come, first served, basis. In the end we put out a pretty strong team, probably as good as it could have been with the runners available and willing to take part.

My weekend wasn’t completely free of work, it being the Le Mans 24 Hour weekend. For this reason I requested I’d take the opening leg of seven – one of the longer legs at 8.4 miles. The plan was then for team captain Chris Limmer to drive me back to the start at the athletics track in Peterborough for me to ride out to the start of leg 4 where Chris was due to run and I would support him along the way (It is encouraged that runners have a support cyclist on each leg – but it was compulsory for legs four and six). Because of the cycling I was due to do and the tight timescale logistically I opted to race in my triathlon suit with a GRC vest stuck over the top.

A club taking the Green Wheel Relay so seriousy they bought the t-shirts!

Rather than all teams go off at once, the departure times were staggered based on predicted overall finishing times to try and ensure that teams finished at approximately the same time in the afternoon. I went off at 10:15am with two other teams. I think the first groups had gone off not long after 8am and the last groups (Mostly Helpston Harriers and their crack squad of teams) were due off at 11am. Kicking off with a lap of the track I soon pulled well clear of the other two runners and headed off alone out of the stadium for what was going to be a mostly very lonely 50 minutes or so of running.

A group starting off ahead of when I did.

The route was signposted and marked, in places well, in other places not so. I was taking no chances and had mapped out my leg to follow on my Garmin. The benefits of this were apparent when we came to a sharp left turn heading onto the River Nene where I saw a slower group heading straight on having missed the signs. Luckily they were able to hear me shouting ‘You’re going the wrong way!’

Green Wheel Relay direction markers. A better one.

With the wind blowing from the south luckily the two miles along the exposed river were no worse than a crosswind. When we made another sharp left turn off the river I was fortunate to have the wind mostly on my back for the remainder of the run up to Eye. The Garmin navigation was working well, however I’d had it set to auto zoom in and out which was proving problematic. I nearly always have it set zoomed right in to 200ft so as to make when to turn quite obvious. Garmin though had other ideas and would frequently zoom out to 0.5 mile which made such decisions far trickier.

Off the canal path I was briefly on a footpath before a tricky junction and onto a quiet fen land style road, where again I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t faced with a headwind. My map page didn’t have HR so I was running to feel, I did know I was running reasonably well, averaging 5:50 or so per mile and feeling fairly comfortable.

Coming off the road onto a grassy footpath surrounded by crops I spotted my first runner since the opening stages of the run in the distance. Unfortunately coming to a ditch and a crucial turn they were a little too far in the distance to see where they had headed. As feared my Garmin map had zoomed out and, seeing no signs whatsoever, I opted to take a left before crossing the ditch. After around 20 seconds and spotting a footpath heading off over the other side of the water I realised I had turned crucially a few yards too early. Unable to cross without turning back I headed around and retraced my steps before taking the correct path. The whole mishap cost probably around 45 seconds.

Back on the correct path it was a case of making up for lost time as I turned right on to the main road into Eye, turning off the high street and handing over to Sam Jepson-Rivers for his less than half the distance of leg 1 leg 2. My time of 49:10 was the fourth fastest of the day, but four minutes slower than the slowest of the Helpston runners.

With barely a chance to catch my breath I jumped into Chris’ Mini and he drove us back to my car which was parked up back at the athletics track. He then headed off to the start of leg 4, I unloaded my race bike from the back of my car, took off the vest and replaced it with the compulsory hi-vis bib and headed off by bicycle to leg 4.

As I had mapped everything from my car to the end of leg 4 and back to my car onto my Garmin Edge this was a relatively straight forward affair. Well it was until the looming clouds in the distance became ever more imposing and, with around five miles still remaining to get to leg 4, the heavens opened with a thunderstorm of near biblical proportions. Not particularly well attired for such weather I struggled to stay warm as I cycled as best I could on the increasingly flooded paths and roads, trying to make out the way on my Garmin increasingly hard to read with all the raindrops on the screen.

I made it to the start of leg 4 with what I estimated around 10 minutes to spare. Soaked and cold but present and ready to cycle with Chris leg 4. There was just one issue – no sign of Chris! I did find Sam J-R who had driven on having completed leg 2 to pick up Peter Bonner, who was out on the course running leg 3. He hadn’t seen Chris. Between us we put out some distress signals via our Messenger group. After a couple of minutes came the bombshell from Chris that he had somehow got lost and wasn’t able to get to the start of leg 4 and would be heading home! Meanwhile we had Peter approaching us with no-one to hand over to!

At the time things were a little vague but it transpired Chris had opted to park up a few miles from the start of leg 4 and run there as a warm up. Somehow with all the rain and thunder he got himself lost and had ended up doing some form of circle back to his car. 

After a 1984 style two minutes of rage and confusion where Sam, Peter, some marshals and I, wondered what on earth was happening and what we could do, it was decided that Peter would continue running as best he could and Sam, having run around half of what Peter had, would take over later on in the leg when he had changed back into his running kit and caught us up in his car (Or maybe Peter’s – it had got quite complicated!). We weren’t totally convinced this was in the rules. We resigned ourselves to the possibility of being disqualified but reckoned that having made all the effort thus far and with three more runners waiting to complete their legs we should at least try our luck.

So Peter, having given 100% on his leg began again, lamenting the fact he had planned to race a 5K in the midweek and this was doing him no favours. I cycled for the most part just behind him or alongside him offering what encouragement I could.

A couple of miles into the leg and with some good fortune as it was the last opportunity to do so before we headed off on a footpath away from the main road, Sam arrived in the car ready to take over from Peter. The change-over was so swift it could have been rehearsed beforehand!

With Sam running as best he could I again did all I could to encourage, be it with liquid refreshment (It had by now stopped raining and with the sun shining become quite warm) or by sheltering him whenever we had a headwind. Understandably the novice runner tired significantly over the six or so extra miles he ran – the end of the leg never seemed to arrive as we wound ourselves into and through Ferry Meadows Park, but there was never any question of quitting.

Sam deep into his impromptu effort on leg 4.

Mercifully with around 200 meters left to run Peter popped out in front of us to let us know there was very little distance left to run. With one final sprint Sam handed over to Ian Williams who set off to make up for time lost in leg 4. Running late and with the Le Mans race about to finish I wasted no time in cycling back to the start practicing my rarely used cyclo-cross skills on the sometimes off-road cycle paths of Peterborough. Back at the car it was job done and the drive back home.

We ended up, despite all the drama, finishing a highly creditable third Men’s Senior team and fifth overall when a mixed sex Helpston team (Six men and one woman apparently…) and an ‘open’ team were taken into account. To date we haven’t been disqualified for our possible rule transgressions. Having thoroughly enjoyed the experience, despite everything, I very much hope the club can put forward at least one team in 2021 and beyond and perhaps, one day, target victory!

Perkins Great Eastern Run – Sunday 14th October 2018

I left Peterborough at around midday on Sunday 14th October and drove home, cold wet and pretty miserable, caring for little other than a warm shower and to try and move on from what had just taken place over the past one hour and fifteen minutes or so. I should have been close to euphoric. I’d just my second fastest ever half marathon (fastest if you go by what Power of 10 reckons I’ve raced…) and claimed my best ever age grade race result by pretty much one whole percent yet all I could think about was what could and should have been the best race of my life.

The Perkins Great Eastern Run (GER) had been my target race for the autumn pretty much as soon as I’d self inflicted a prolonged summer break from racing with injury at the Woodhall Spa 10K. This half marathon in Peterborough has a reputation for being the fastest in the region; what it lacks in beautiful scenery and rolling countryside it makes up in near pancake flat roads as it takes you through a sometimes dizzying tour out of central Peterborough and to the outskirts of the north of the city and back.

The summer holiday 21 10 mile+ runs had seen me in great shape and ever since I’d clocked a surprise 17:00 at Belton House parkrun it had been a case of trying to just do enough training to prolong the form. As the race approached I felt perhaps I’d lost perhaps just the tiniest amount of pace (Not helped by some tough weekends of F1 work) but still in decent enough shape to be looking to at least crack 75 minutes at the GER and hopefully beat my HM PB (set at Grunty Fen) of 1:14:46.

Given that 2018 has been undoubtedly the year of racing (or not being able to race) in extreme weather conditions, it should have come as no surprise that the GER would be struck with some pretty inclement conditions. Driving down the A1 not long after 7am with the rain battering my windscreen did not fill my heart with joy, especially as the forecast had predicted this weather and was very confident indeed that it would remain wet, at times very wet, all through the morning and well into the early afternoon.

Some people would rejoice at some conditions – the rain after all does do a great job in keeping the body cool so if you are a runner prone to overheating then if you can live with the discomfort of being wet then these conditions could be seen as close to ideal. The wind, although not still and at times noticeable in the race, was barely a factor and the official temperature was 14C, although it was most likely around 10C when the rain fell at its strongest.

History has suggested that I don’t race that well in very wet conditions. I don’t necessarily mind running in the rain – a bit of light drizzle is perfect in my eyes (not literally though, that is a bit of a nightmare). It’s when I am racing and I am struggling to stay warm in heavy rain that I feel I am losing out to the weather, especially when it is cold. The worst case was the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon of 2017, so cold and wet it was that my quads all but locked and led to me now always racing in my compression shorts. Even the race I won in the rain (the Stilton Stumble 10K) I suffered badly from quad cramps, and it actually stopped raining not long after the start.

I arrived at the race venue two hours ahead of the race start. The car parks were already starting to fill. I had a little panic over which car park I was allowed to be in having booked it online. I don’t think it made a difference but the little panic as I moved car parks hoping I wouldn’t violate obscure T&Cs kept my mind occupied for longer than it should have. Walking to the the race village it soon became clear that the race wasn’t really geared up for preparations in heavy rain. There were no official changing facilities, people huddled under any place they could. I, and many others, sought sanctuary in the information tent, where far too many people in too small a space tried to keep warm and / or get changed into their race kit.

Kit changed and the first trip to the portaloos done, I returned to the car to sit around for a bit. I hadn’t seen any of the 40+ Grantham Running Club members taking part in the race, I can only assume that they, like me, and many others, were waiting in their cars until the last possible minute before making their way to the start or a queue for the toilets.

An hour before the start I went for a one and a half mile warm up which did little to warm me up, especially when I was soaked to the bone by a large car that went through a very large puddle at undiminished speed, putting my already questionable mood into a state of near gutter level gloom – gutters that were struggling to contain the volume of water that was falling. Back at the car I stripped out of the soaked tracksuit bottoms and top, deciding as it was still not actually that cold to go with the GRC T-shirt, rather than long-sleeved top, and gloves. I also opted to keep on the racing cap I’d worn during the warm up. The last time I race in this I think it was the last really warm London Marathon (Not this year’s the one before, years ago). I think it was a smart move, although I did struggle to keep it on at times!

I returned to the race village and queued again for the portaloos, shivering quite uncontrollably, spending longer on the toilet than I needed to just because it was somewhere warmer and drier. I then returned to the car (again!) as I’d decided that the gloves I was wearing, now soaked as though they had been in a washing machine that had forgotten to spin, were as useless at keeping my hands warm as no gloves at all. The car park was now fairly flooded, I made my way carefully to avoid the worst of the puddles, which was fairly pointless really as my trainers were already saturated.

I made one very last trip to the toilets, making my way to the start line around ten minutes before the start. I got myself pretty close to the front, not with the elites, who had their own pen to warm up in, but up and close with runners who looked pretty serious in their club vests and very flat racing flats. Me in my Hokas, t-shirt, shivering uncontrollably, could not have looked more out of place, frankly.

Five minutes before the off we were walked to the start line, trying our best to skirt the small pool that covered the road. The start should have been at 10:30 but it was delayed by five interminably long minutes as I assume they were ensuring the roads were closed and cleared. I seem to recall some small talk with a fellow runner who also appeared to be suffering a bit with the cold. I think we said the usual cliche of we’ll soon warm up once we get running, before we were finally called to our starting orders.

I think I made a terrible start, one of the worst I’ve made in recent years. It was terrible in that it was tardy, very slow to pick up the pace, feeling so cold and stiff, then having to work really hard to get into a decent rhythm. Looking back with the benefit of a few weeks’ hindsight, it may have actually been quite a good start, easing myself gently into the race rather than trying to hit race pace from the off. The mile split was 5:48, but given that I was well over six minute mile pace for the opening minute or two it showed I had to run a fair bit quicker than that in the latter part of the mile to bring the split time down.

Mile two was a little better (5:44), but still the HR struggled to get up to what I’d expect it to in a half marathon. I did though benefit from some advice to hug the inside of the road on a never ending left hand bend around Central Park, which saved me several seconds over those who were taking the go-kart line (that’s the outside of the bend) perhaps because it was so wet and rainy.  Mile three I began to get into the race. I’d got into a group of around eight runners, one of whom (Portuguese I think) was keen to get a rapport going between the runners, very eager to have the pack share the pace making, but annoyingly appearing to slow down in front of me when he took the pace.

Mile three was 5:35 and I felt warmed up and ready to race. Not enjoying tripping over the runners in front of me, as we hit a little rise crossing over the A47 (probably the biggest climb in the race), I pushed on the pace to see who would go with me.  Around four did, none of whom were willing to help share the pace. So, having run a 5:34 mile four I deliberately eased up to force someone else to take the pace on. This they did and for another mile or so I continued to run well, strangely enjoying the numerous twists and turns as we ran from one housing development to another.

Mile 5 was 5:39, mile 6 slowed to 5:47, but it was the most uphill mile of the race (Barely uphill though to be honest) and I recall we faced the worst of the headwind as we went along the seemingly never ending Lincoln Road, with the rain falling heavier than ever. As we went through halfway I seem to recall the official clock had us going through just ahead of schedule to break 75 minutes, but a few moments later a runner I was with asked me the question ‘are we on to break 75 minutes?’ My watch (Again running the awesome Peter’s Race Pacer app) said we were due to finish in 1:15:20.

He seemed to heed this warning for as we turned right into David’s Lane (Which felt more like a footpath, covered with fallen leaves) he pushed on the pace a touch, taking with him most of the remainder of the group (including the Portuguese runner). Had I been in a more fighting mood I think I would have gone with them. But I was cold. I was wet. I was looking at my heart rate. The average had barely gone above 168, which is right at the lower end of what I’d expect in a half marathon. It was beginning to drop. Mile 7 averaged 166, then miles 8 through to 12 averaged 165. That’s my marathon heart rate. I can only assume that the cold weather was seeing my body divert resources from the act of running fast to the act of trying to keep warm. As the rain continued to fall hard, there was little I could do but try as best I could and ignore the fact that I was feeling really cold, my trainers were dying, and I was still on target to finish just outside 75 minutes.

Mile 7 was 5:41, miles 8 and 9 5:37 and 5:42. In hindsight these aren’t bad miles but I felt like I should have been running quicker. By now I was more or less running alone, just one guy who I traded places with on a few occasions without actually helping pace one another, who I remember because he was wearing a lurid fluro pink t-shirt for a charity which appeared to have a lot of local support.

Mile 10 was 5:44, mile 11 5:43 – it was here we ran back on the roads we went out on at miles 3 and 4 although I can’t say I really recognised them – there are very few memorable features on this course. The only reason I knew we had run on them was because there were backmarkers heading in the opposite direction, culminating with the sweep vehicles, one of whom almost literally did sweep me up as I took a right hand turn into the path of a street cleaning vehicle.

It was at around this stage that I caught what I believe is the second placed woman, who I quickly made the effort to pass and pull clear of, not because I have any sense of needing to beat a female, but because she had an awkward running style that appeared to have her knees twisting at all sorts of funny angles and given that I’m pretty screamish about knees, I knew I couldn’t stick behind her.

With her passed I set about making it to the finish, constantly looking at my watch which resolutely predicted that I was going to finish in 1:15:20. Mile 12 was 5:40, the final mile appeared to last an eternity as we sploshed through near flooded roads. I latched onto the back of a runner who, wearing a black and white striped vest, I assumed, wrongly, ran for Shaftsbury Barnet Harriers (The colours of the pacers at the London Marathon). He carried me from mile 12 almost to the end, except he was able to put a sprint on from the 400 meters to go sign and I simply wasn’t able to, the problems this time were feet that were beginning to go numb from the cold and a stomach that really didn’t like the cereal that for some unfathomable reason (I have a bad history with cereal and racing) I’d decided to have for breakfast.

I crossed the line in 1:15:17, I made three seconds up on the time my watch had predicted I would finish in since halfway. I must have been annoyed/cold as I totally forgot to stop my watch for around half a minute after I crossed the finish line – the first time I can ever recall doing this (It’s an action more autonomous than breathing). Annoyingly the Portuguese runner crossed the finish line in 1:14:57, I think all the other runners I was with at halfway broke 75 minutes – if only I’d just been able to keep with them at mile 7. I think I would have stayed with them to the end.

I picked up my medal, bag, and other bits and bobs then hot-footed it as quick as possible to the nearest portaloo. From there it was straight to the car and home. I had left before 1:24 finishers had crossed the finish line. I felt bad that I wasn’t around to cheer home the 35+ GRC runners, but I was very cold, very miserable, and wasn’t willing to stand around in the rain for a second longer than I had to. I think I made the right choice to head home – my lips were still purple two hours after I had got home….

A few weeks to reflect has eased the disappointment a touch, but I am still full of what if?  and if only? The fact it was my highest ever age grade (83.92%) eased the disappointment a little but if I’d run what I think I was capable of I think 85% was on the cards. It was my second quickest half marathon but I’ve waited years to be able to run the quickest half in the region and I am still a bit gutted that I couldn’t quite perform to the level I think I was at, possibly because, once again in 2018, the weather has consigned to be against me.

I didn’t have too long to feel down because my next race was in two weeks time – and it was one of my favourites!


Race Report – Nene Valley 10, Bretton, Peterborough, Sunday 6th December 2015.

For the second race in succession, the final decision to take part in the Nene Valley 10 was made very late in the day – this time it was made the morning before rather than the morning of the race. Once again the dithering and non-committed attitude was as a result of niggling injuries that have plagued me ever since I passed the 19 mile mark of the Chester Marathon.

A few days after the first Belton House parkrun I was out for a six mile run when, after four miles, my right calf tightened to the point of it being very painful and barely able to run on. I took a couple of days off running and things felt much better, so I headed to Belton again for another stab at parkrun. There was little amiss in the calf for the opening mile – I ran a 5:28 and was in the lead. I then let a guy behind me take the pace as we approached a section of headwind. Passing Belton House itself, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the right calf as it tightened again. I stopped at the start of the second lap and massaged for a couple of minutes before jogging the second lap and jogging home. Running on the calf was painful but bearable. Still, fearful of something serious amiss, I took two weeks off running and hit the elliptical trainer once again.

Two weeks later I began with a two mile run and over the next week gradually built up the distance, running eight miles on the Friday, two days before Nene Valley and the day after one of the most painful massages I’ve ever endured. The upshot was there were numerous parts of my right leg that was very tight. My right calf was more or less okay after the massage and the run; the bigger pain was in the left groin which appeared to be suffering courtesy of issues with the TFL and most likely the lower back.

My Nene Valley 10 place had been given to me courtesy of fellow GRC runner Scott, who couldn’t take part as he was lead singer at a Christmas party gig on the Saturday night. To add to the dilemma of whether I should race, Scott offered me a ticket to the gig. I was sorely tempted, but a good stretching session on Saturday morning and I decided I’d give the race a go. That said I hardly prepared in the most diligent manner – an hour on the elliptical trainer in the morning, then a few glasses of red wine in the evening and a much smaller pre-race meal than usual. All that and Storm Desmond was sending battering winds through the area that would make racing all but impossible.

Thankfully in the morning the wind was still strong but nowhere near as bad as it had been on the Saturday, and nowhere near the worst I’ve raced in. It was a relatively relaxed affair pre-race – cereal rather than cereal bars for this non-key race. I arrived well ahead of the race start and firstly went about changing my race entry from being a 16 year old to a reluctant veteran runner, courtesy of an administrative issue. I then went for a short warm up run where it was obvious the left groin was going to be a source of consternation during the race. I spent much of the next 40 minutes or so frantically stretching, trying to put off the inevitable pain in the race for as long as possible.

Some welcome relief came in the form of meeting by chance fellow Kenilworth Runner Martin, who I’ve known since I first ran with the club back in the year 2000. A few years older than myself but a consistently fine runner, Martin was my favourite training partner for his innate ability to churn out metronomically paced miles. Having not seen him since moving away from Coventry over two years ago, it was great to catch up with him again.

The Nene Valley 10 is very much a race that would be a good example of how races were put on in the 1980s and that is mostly a good thing. A no-nonsense, few thrills, good value race with the vast majority taking part being club runners. The two lap course is something of an oddity though, for although it is classified as a road race, only around 400 meters of the entire course is run on road.

The remainder utilises footpaths, alleyways, underpasses, parkland paths and pavements. A fair amount of the race even uses trail through woodland. The one section of road at the start and finish was open to traffic, so you had racers in the middle of the road dodging cars (and buses) coming in all directions. This would have been perfectly normal 25-30 years ago but is a more unusual occurrence these days.  There are plenty of twists and turns and finding a rhythm is hard work. That said the course is flat and fairly fast – my 57:20 PB for ten miles was set there two years ago.

The start was a curiously slow affair – perhaps influenced by the man holding the official clock, who nonchalantly strode to the start and plonked it down by the start line with twenty seconds to spare. Despite the field featuring Aaron Scott – one of the quickest runners in the area (and by my reckoning winner of every race except one that I have taken in within a 50 mile radius of Grantham in the past two years) we appeared to almost jog the opening 200 meters or so. Either that or I was feeling remarkably strong – for a moment I thought I may try and take on the pace – just as Aaron remembered he was in a race and buggered off into the distance for yet another victory.

The adrenaline of a race start meant little ached for the opening mile. For the majority of it we had the strong wind blowing us along, so although the 5:33 was quicker than planned, it wasn’t alarmingly fast. I soon found myself isolated and as we turned slowly into the headwind I decided it would be pointless to try and fight the elements alone and so eased up a touch to allow a group of four runners to close. Through mile two in 5:52, we hit the twisty stuff through the woodland and I slowed to allow a runner past, tucking immediately into his slipstream to take shelter from the wind. The third mile was hard work: 5:57 was scant reward for our efforts.

The fourth mile saw us turn and head back to the start line and we had a tailwind again. There were two short climbs as we firstly tackled an underpass, then a footbridge over a busy road. I was the strongest of the four of us on the second climb and decided to push on – breaking decisively the group. The fourth mile was a 5:45; the fifth, despite some severe twists and turns, was exactly the same time. I passed five miles in 28:40, which with my dodgy maths I calculated would mean a PB equaling time if I could match my performance over the second lap.

I knew within seconds of starting the second lap that that would not be possible. One of the runners who I pulled away from a mile or so earlier had passed me and eased away, to be followed half a mile down the road by another. I was able to keep them within spitting distance (with the tail wind, that is) for the rest of the race, but didn’t have quite the muster to reel them back in. It was a combination of lack of running miles in the past couple of months coupled with a left groin that by now was really aching quite a lot and enough to take the edge off my running. The right calf too was now just starting to ache and, unbelievably for December, I was feeling quite dehydrated thanks to it being a balmy 14C and the two drinks stations being all but useless thanks to having no one handing out the water and the drinks tables being literally no more than 50-60 cm off the ground.

The sixth mile (wind aided) was a solid 5:38, but as I turned back into the wind, the seventh mile was 5:55 and the tough eighth mile was a pedestrian 6:08. I rallied for the final two miles when the wind was again a friend, I dragged my tired body through a 5:52 ninth mile and finished with a 5:48 final mile, where I caught and just held off another runner in a sprint finish.

My finishing time was 58:08 which I was really rather pleased with considering the lack of preparation put into the race and the niggles I carried through it. I could though barely walk though after the race with the groin pain and so settled myself near the finish line to watch Martin finish. We chatted for 10-15 minutes before I headed abruptly back – I had a narrow window to collect an eBay auction win.

I found out later I was third veteran finisher, a frustratingly short amount of time behind the second placed vet and the prize money that would have netted me. More pleasingly I found out three days later that the time netted me an age grading of 80.01%, which is most satisfying for a race I all but forgot about hours after racing it.

A possible parkrun or two aside, that’s it now for 2015. It’s been quite a year!


Parkrun Report – Peterborough parkrun #106, Saturday 11th July 2015

The first thing to state is that I’m very much aware that to post a parkrun report in Race Reports is something of a faux pas, the free to enter timed 5k run is very keen to stress that it is not a race – no matter how similar it may feel like being one from the moment you arrive at one to the text message you receive an hour or two after the event telling you your time and finishing position.

From the onset however mentally I was treating my participation at Peterborough parkrun, if not as a race, as a very serious time trial, a serious stab at beating my very old parkrun PB of 17:20, set at Coventry back in 2012. The week’s training had been moderately easy – an 80% effort at an intervals session on the Tuesday, which confirmed I was in good shape and the other session of note a 13.5 mile club run on the Thursday which saw us neck high in crops at one point and then tripping over a poorly dumped roadworks barrier late on in the run.

That last incident very nearly saw me not take part in the parkrun. The Friday saw the right shin quite sore and when that cleared up on Saturday morning I found myself limping a touch with a very tight quad. Thankfully some last minute foam rolling before setting off appeared to alleviate the limp. The drive down to Peterborough was rather blissful, the fact I had the sunroof open and windows down pointed at the temperatures already being warm.

I arrived a little later than planned, which meant after the customary call of nature I only had chance to do a short 1.5 mile or so warm up – which was one loop of the course. The legs felt a bit stiff and the sun pretty warm, but in the last minutes of the warm up I felt the body loosen off and feel ready for the assault.

After the customary parkrun briefing we headed to the start and I made my way to the front, having a final brief chat / excuses tick off with fellow GRC runner Rob. A couple of minutes late and we were on our way. I was pleased to have just in front of me a couple of runners who were willing to take the early pace, and another runner just behind as we eased away from the field. I felt comfortable sitting in third as we completed a mini lap of the lake and headed off on the first of two larger laps. I was chopping the stride slightly but there was none of the inadvertent tripping I was doing at the recent Solstice.

We went through the first mile in 5:10, which is one of my fastest ever miles but felt comfortable – especially as I’d covered 800m earlier in the week during intervals at sub 4:40 pace. We then went over the only real climb on the course in the form of a pedestrian bridge. The climb is just a few seconds but it was enough to cause a slowing on the descent. I decided that this was the moment to push and I took the lead and didn’t look back. We were already passing backmarkers, who had been instructed to keep to the right. Most did but there were occasions when I did have to shout quite loud to get someone’s attention. Thankfully there were plenty of runners who were also shouting to others to keep right, so at no point was I held up.

If this wasn’t a race it still continued to feel like it. The Peterborough parkrun course is held on nigh on exactly the same course as the 5k race held there as part of a summer series, albeit I imagine the parkrun has significantly more crowd support, especially with the enthusiastic cheering of the Peterborough Sweatshop Community Runners, who risked wearing bright yellow t-shirts (And in so doing became a magnet for all sorts of insect life) to give the run a race like feel.

As I completed the first large lap and headed for the final tour, I worked out from the applause of spectators that I had a comfortable gap on the second placed runner – and it was now a time trial to the finish to try and get that PB. Mile two was covered in 5:19 and I still felt fairly fresh. I then hit an exposed bit in terms of the sunshine and wished I’d worn a vest rather than a t-shirt. It was over 20C (40 minutes later when I got in the car the temperature was 23C) and I was having to play mind games to convince the body it wasn’t hot.

The second climb of the bridge numbed the legs and the final mile began to feel like an awful long way. It was here the crowd support and the generous enthusiasm of lapped runners really helped me to the finish. As I took the final left hand bend and began the final 400 meters or so I glanced at my watch and saw it had only recently clocked 15 minutes. I knew a sub 17:20 was assured, it was now a question of how quick I could go. I didn’t register the third mile split at the time (it was a 5:15, but it felt slower) it was an all out effort to the finish chute.

I crossed the line and heard the official shout 16:36 which, to a tenth of a second, tallied with my Garmin time. The tiredness soon flushed out of the body with the elation of a big new PB – 44 seconds for parkrun and 19 seconds for 5k (the Peterborough parkrun course is certified as accurate, apparently).

The fact I finished first didn’t really matter at all – my effort was true to the parkrun ethos that it is a run against the clock and to better yourself rather than necessarily others. That said I couldn’t help feeling that I’d been to many races that felt less like a race than Peterborough parkrun, but today I wasn’t complaining over the rights and wrongs of parkrun. It was a good day.