Race Report – Greater Manchester Marathon – Sunday 7th April 2019


Despite Manchester from Grantham being comparable distance to Grantham to London I’d decided fairly early that I wasn’t going to travel on the morning of the race to Manchester from home. I balked at the idea of paying large amounts of money for a hotel room so opted, for the first time, to use the family caravan to stay close to the race and then stay up in the Manchester area with the family for a few days as the race was taking place during the Easter holidays.

We were staying at a Caravan and Motorhome Club site in Bury, which is in the outskirts of the Greater Manchester district and, crucially, on the tram network that I planned to use to get to and from the race. We left for Bury on the Saturday morning and was immediately grateful for Richard at Grantham Leisure Ltd who was able to immediately identify a terrible sounding (but actually relatively harmless) issue with our tow bar that hit us when setting off on our journey that was remedied with some sand paper and brake cleaner that he very kindly let us keep at no cost.

That drama out of the way the journey to Bury was straightforward enough. The site was pleasant enough, set in Burrs Country Park with constant reminders of the area’s industrial past, including a steam train running on a line just behind our caravan, which bought great boyish pleasure! Once set up and lunch eaten most of the afternoon was spent relaxing as much as possible.

Idyllic caravan scene

My pre marathon meal of choice is pizza, which isn’t so easy to cook in the caravan so was relying on takeaway. After googling for Bury’s finest pizza establishments I settled on my first ever Domino’s Pizza. I was impressed with the app and collection procedure; less impressed with the actual quality of the pizza and that they are still texting me six months later in the feint hope I may actually use Domino’s Bury while living in Grantham. I washed the pizza down with a small glass of white wine – the habits of caravan lifestyle proved too hard to resist.

The rest of the evening was spent playing the usual parlour games we play with the kids in the caravan before heading to bed at around 10pm. The beauty of staying in the caravan was that, so long as the weather was not biblically bad, I was almost assured a good night’s sleep in a familiar bed – something that I rarely get when staying in a hotel room.

I woke at around 5am and let the legs slowly come to life as I made the short walk to the site’s washroom facilities. I was sure I’d be the only one who’d hatched the same accommodation plan for Manchester but there were at least two or three others who clearly had the same intentions. After a breakfast of 5 small cereal bars washed down with a large mug of black coffee I got the wife to drive me the couple of miles or so to the main tram stop in Bury. The plan was for her to return back to the caravan for a bit before getting a later tram with the kids to watch the race at various points alongthe course.

Again for some reason I was sure that I would be the only one racing at Manchester who would consider getting a tram from Bury but as it turned out there were already many runners on the platform waiting for the first tram to depart at around 7am. They were mostly from local clubs, mostly far too enthusiastic for six something in the morning, but at least the platforms were not as busy as they are when trying to get to the start of London at Blackheath.

Busier than I expected at Bury Station!

The tram journey took around 45 minutes, including a change in the heart of Manchester when I met Jack Dodwell of GRC, who was racing, and his father, who had driven them from Grantham that morning. Once off the second tram it was a few minute’s walk before we came to the boulevard of Portaloos where I stumbled upon quite a few of the other GRC contingency who were taking part in the race. It was then on to drop off the bag at baggage near the finish line. By now the time was around 8:30 and not too long left before the 9am start. There was time for a quick photo with around half the GRC runners before I made my way to the start.

On one of the last unofficial toilet stops I happened to bump into Vince Riviere who I’d first met at the Leeds Abbey Dash. He’d gone on to have quite a winter with a string of great races including a brilliant low 2:37 at the Valencia Marathon. We wished each other well and I dreamed of whether it would be my day to break 2:40 for the first time.  Working my way through the crowds of runners starting from slower pens, I finally got to the front pen with around ten minutes to spare. I found somewhere where you could lighten the load in relative privacy (albeit with a load of other runners doing the same thing) one last time before making my way to the start line. I looked up to the skies and blessed the weather gods for providing pretty much perfect conditions – cloudy skies, a light easterly breeze and temperatures maxing out at around 11C. I could conjour up plenty of excuses for a poor performance, the weather couldn’t be one of them!

The Race

As the final countdown began and the pre-race nerves around me became almost unbearable it was with great relief that the starting horn was sounded dead on time at 9am.  Despite the large numbers running we were able to run unrestricted from the off and some around me clearly were going off way too fast, almost totally out of breath in the opening couple of minutes. Despite swathes of runners coming past me I stuck as closely as I could to the game plan of max 150 bpm for the opening mile, 155 bpm for mile two, 160 bpm for mile three and a maximum of 165 bpm to twenty miles.

This deliberately easy start meant I felt like I was chomping at the bit, which was potentially a good sign as sometimes the opening miles can feel quite laboured. The opening mile was 6:34 which I hoped would be by far the slowest mile of the race. Mile 2 was 6:15 and  I went through mile 3 in 6:09, which coincided with the course completing its mini loop east before heading southwest towards Stretford, Sale and Altrincham before heading back to the start via Urmston.

The fourth mile was the first where I allowed myself the luxury of getting to 165 bpm and I was pleased to clock a 6:01, which was right at the top end of what I thought I might be able to hit after all the weeks of training at marathon heart rate. Better was to come in mile five when I ran a 5:58 (the fastest of the race) before I ran 6:05 for mile 6. Thereafter the splits to mile 20 were very consistent with only nine seconds covering the quickest (6:00 – mile 13) and the slowest (6:09 – mile 12). The difference in these two miles could be explained in that we climbed the biggest ‘hill’ of the race (no more than a bridge over a railway) in mile 12 at Altrincham and came down in mile 13.

Around mile 8 of Manchester Marathon – looking happy!
Picture c/o Dean Riggall.

Given the consistency of mile splits you may be forgiven for thinking it was plain sailing. Alas this was not the case. All was well until around that bridge at 12 miles. I’d already seen my family out once on the course at around eight miles and taken the first of three gels (SIS that I was using in a race for the first time). Without warning I felt a sharp pain in my left hamstring. At first I thought it was cramp but the pain disappeared as soon as it came. Anxious I wasn’t in the mood for high fiving the Altrincham football club mascot as I passed the family for the third and final time before the finish. Indeed the family were worried I might punch him as he generally got in runners’ way – I was very restrained under the circumstances!

I got through the convoluted Altrincham loop – complete with odd run through what looks like the back of a Boots car park without drama and was hoping that the pain in the hamstring was a one off as I passed through halfway in just outside eighty minutes. However at the next left turn where crowds were perhaps at there biggest, I felt a sharper, longer more sustained pain in my left hamstring. This forced me briefly to a slow jog and, assuming it was cramp, I was already wondering whether it would be a good time to consider dropping out of the race.

Mercifully almost as quick as the pain came on it disappeared entirely. This led me to make some quick assumptions that it wasn’t cramp, wasn’t a muscle pull or tear and was almost certainly some kind of sciatica similar to what had struck my calf muscle at the Retford Half Marathon.  Considering I had slowed for a period mile 14 wasn’t nearly as disastrous as I feared clocking, 6:07. The mind has a neat way of blocking out painful episodes from the memory bank so I can’t recall how often I suffered a repeat of the sciatica pains, but I estimate I had a couple more in mile 15, then perhaps two or three more up to around mile 18. They must have been still troubling me at mile 17 as there was a photo of me uploaded to Facebook shouting at fellow GRC runner and spectator at the race due to injury Dean Riggall that I was suffering from Sciatica.

Mile 17 – Moaning about the Sciatica….
Picture c/o Dean Riggall.

The follow up bursts of discomfort weren’t as severe as the blast of pain that had forced me to slow, indeed they barely caused me to slow at all, they served more to not have me push on quite as much as I perhaps could have, the heart rate veering closer to 160 bpm than 165. One other precautionary tactic was that on all the remaining ninety degree corners, of which there were plenty on this course that uses a lot of residential streets, I made sure I took a very wide, cautious line through the corner, using plenty of road and trying not to force any sharp turns. This may have added a few extra meters per turn but I sensed it would perhaps help minimise any further distress to the leg.

By mile eighteen nearly four miles had passed since the bad pain and I was gaining a little more confidence that I was able to make it at least to the finish. The mile splits were still good, hovering just over six minutes a mile. It was around here I made an adjustment on my Garmin’s race pacer to allow for the distance creep that had built in compared to the official distance markers. The news was positive, I was on course to run just outside 2:40 – a PB was on the cards and if I could muster something special perhaps, just perhaps a sub 2:40 was possible.

The twenty mile marker is a key moment in any marathon, it’s where a race begins if you abide to the famous maxim a marathon is a twenty mile steady run with a 10K race at the end. It’s where at many marathons the crowds are at their deepest and most enthusiastic. At Manchester it coincides with where the race becomes, for a mile or two, its most rural and most sparse in terms of support. For some this is a bit of an issue, to be honest it doesn’t really bother me too much, I quite enjoyed being able to focus on the task in hand of getting to the finish as quick as possible.

Reasonably content that the dodgy leg wasn’t going to get any worse I guzzled down the third and final gel (A double espresso one, which I felt certainly gave a good buzz) and put the gas down at 20 miles as per the best case scenario race strategy. This simply meant I abandoned the 165 bpm max limit and attempted to run as at high a BPM as the body will allow me.

Most times I find this unattainable, today was one of those rare races where I was able to increase the HR to between 166-169 bpm. Having set an alert for the race on my Garmin to let me know when I had exceeded 165 BPM I had planned to switch this off fearing the nagging beep and buzz would get annoying. As it happened the opposite happened and I found the alert a reassurance that I was still able to push the effort.

Because the body was, by now, pretty fatigued the reality was that I wasn’t getting any quicker even with the extra BPM, but crucially I was able to more or less maintain the same pace I’d run the previous seventeen miles at. Three consecutive 6:06 miles saw me pass a lot of runners, many of whom were beginning to see the wheels well and truly fall off.

Mile 23 saw a little blip in the pace as it dropped to 6:14, but this mile contained a quite noticeable climb for part of the mile. Having had no repeat of the sciatica since around mile 18 I’d by now all but forgotten the injury and was giving it everything I could, concentrating on picking off runners and trying to keep my predicted finish time as quick as possible.

Mile 24 was pleasing at 6:03, with mile 25 much the same – another 6:06. The final mile is a bit marmite – some love the ability to see the finish line from nearly a mile away, I found it a bit annoying as it never seemed to get any closer. It became more annoying as I had a runner in front of me who saw fit to have a couple of his friends recording him from a bicycle that was sheltering him from the wind. As I passed him his friends urged him to stick to me and kick past at the finish. This made me doubly determined to ensure it didn’t happen!

A screen grab of the finish at Manchester. Looking suitably worn out!

More annoying still was a giant screen that showed the finish line that from a distance looked just like it was the finish until you realised there was another slight right turn and around a third of a mile to the finish. This produced a protracted and painful attempt at a sprint finish as I made my way to the finish line. I crossed the line tired, but happy in 2:40:47.

With my medal!

I was delighted to break my PB by nearly a minute and set a new club record; a little frustrated that without the sciatica issues there was every chance I could have broken that 2:40 barrier. I must have recovered quite quick as I was soon having a good old chat with the winner of the women’s race, who had set a big new PB. Then collecting my bag a few minutes later I bumped in again with Vince, who had clocked another sub 2:40 time despite suffering a fall and inflicting damage to his Vaporfly 4%s. I looked longingly at his shoes wondering what I may have achieved if I were wearing those rather than my tried and trusted Hoka Cliftons….

With the race done, medal collected, and repatriated with the family, it was just a case of getting the tram back to the Caravan site, treating it as a badge of honour of sorts that I was at the station at the same time as Steve Way, who had collected a considerable number of fans asking his opinion of the race.

Post race ‘Champagne’ in the caravan.

Once back at the Caravan I wasted no time in fulfilling a promise I’d declared on Facebook that I would be back cooking chicken on the barbecue and drinking sparkling wine by 2pm. By 10pm and some drinks later and plenty of hours sitting in a caravan, the hamstring sciatica had turned into a full on case of a locked hip so painful that I almost had to ask to be picked up in the car when I couldn’t get back from the toilet block to the caravan!

Post marathon barbecue by 2pm as promised. The chicken came later….

The next couple of days were spent recovering and enjoying Manchester. I managed a fairly short exploratory run on the Wednesday morning before heading back home – seemingly with no lasting damage done to the left leg.

Having run it twice now (Once in the infamous short course days) I would certainly recommend Manchester as a great alternative marathon to London – it’s flatter, has less crowd support (Which is a perverse positive) and coming early in April is more likely to have cooler conditions. I enjoyed the pre-race caravan experience so much I have decided to do something similar if I take part in the 2020 London Marathon.



Race Report – Keyworth Turkey Trot – Sunday 9th December 2018

There’s not many Christmas themed races that you can stake claim to having taken part in twice in one year, but the Keyworth Turkey Trot Half Marathon is one such race that I and, I assume plenty of others, can claim to have done in 2018. The 2017 race was postponed to February due to snow/threat of snow in the region and I took part in the rescheduled event, finishing 6th overall in 1:18:06 and recipient of a hamper for my efforts.

I went into the 2018 proper version of the race feeling distinctly jaded and glad it was to be my final event of the year. With that said I didn’t make a bad start to the race, with opening miles of 5:42, 5:41 and 5:54 before hitting the first big climb of the race which saw me drop to a 6:04 before recovering with a pleasant 5:36 on a quick section of the race.

The first mile of the race. The most people I’d see in a while. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

The race, for me, was a fairly dull affair. I never found myself in a group, for the most part running alone, never being passed by another runner and the only interaction with other competitors when I passed the occasional athlete who was beginning to struggle. I made a point of trying to stick to around 5:50 miles which I was able to do until the second wave of stiff climbs at mile 11 on a constantly undulating course, which saw the pace dip to 6:14, then 6:08 for mile 12.

I did though catch a couple of younger runners at this point. My presence seemed to spur them into life for they drifted away again on the downhill drop back into Keyworth before I closed in on them again on the deceptively tough last half or mile or so back to the school and the finish line. Alas any hopes of picking off a couple of young scalps receded quickly as they both put in  a sprint finish I had no hope of  matching and didn’t really attempt. It was the end of the year, I wasn’t fighting for a place or a prize and I was pretty jaded.

Coming into the final mile of the final race of the year. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

I crossed the line annoyingly just outside the top ten (11th – I did have something to fight for). The time was 1:17:27, just under 40 seconds quicker than I ran in February and the second fastest trot for me. Maybe it was another underwhelming post race memento (Magnetic race pins – soon lost) or the instant realisation I’d not won a turkey (third V40) but I felt very little emotion after the race other than I was glad it was the last of the year. I could have done with a month’s rest or so but, alas, as I was now down to be running the Manchester Marathon (April 7th) rather than the London Marathon (April 28th), downtime was going to be minimal before the whole process began again.

With some of the GRC Gang.


Thanks to a lovely kind gesture by GRC champion of age grade Julie we did have a Keyworth turkey for Christmas dinner! She had won the V65 category but had already planned on something else for Christmas dinner. So it was that a week or so later a trade was made and I had turkey!

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 – Worksop Halloween Half Marathon, Sunday 29th October 2017

I hadn’t planned on entering the Worksop Half Marathon, I even told several club members as such a week or so beforehand. I’d planned on doing a bike ride with Witham Wheelers to prepare myself for the Rockingham Duathlon, which was a week after Worksop. Somehow though a post on Facebook on the evening after I ran the North MIdlands Cross Country, saying there were less than 50 spaces left for Worksop, I decided for a dramatic change of heart, entering at 00:16 on Sunday 15th October. Thinking back this was after a considerable amount of alcohol had been consumed on a very pleasant evening with family, so the decision may not have been based on sound reasoning.

Because I was somewhat inebriated / tired after cross country, I had forgotten to think about the logistics of taking part in the race and some of the additional reasons why I had originally opted not to race on the Sunday. Fundamental problem number one was that it was the Mexican Grand Prix, one of the busiest weekends of the year for me, even if Lewis Hamilton isn’t winning the World Championship there (which he was) and filled with late nights running into the early morning. I’d already committed to a late night / early morning combo a week before with the Sleaford Duathlon which became a double bill with the Thoresby 10.

Another complication was that I’d booked a few days holiday after the United States GP with the family and had planned to do little other than eat crisps and drink wine. This was unlikely to be ideal preparation for a half marathon.

In the end the biggest challenge was going to be recovering sufficiently from the race efforts of the weekend before, especially as the Thoresby 10 turned into something far harder and faster than originally planned. The Monday after Thoresby I wrote off as a day off. I was working until 2:30 am and was up at 7am, towing a caravan at 10:30am and not finished setting up until nearly 4pm when it was nearly dark and there were crisps waiting to be opened and a bottle of wine already opened.

Tuesday morning and I was ready to join the world of runners once again. I couldn’t drag my ass out of bed at the crack of dawn like I was able to when last on holiday, so the run was limited to just over 10K. It was also the first, perhaps last time I attempted geocaching while running. The first cache was quite exciting, albeit a lot of toing and froing as I relied wholly on GPS in a forest to source the cache.

My first ever geocache found when running!

The next one took me up a hill which was good as it was kind of on the way which I was planning to go. The cache I didn’t find though as it appeared to be in a private garden. The next one I got around halfway to it before I realised that I shouldn’t really be climbing fences marked PRIVATE LAND, so turned back, abandoned Geocaching for the time being and headed back.

A pleasant view on the edge of the Wolds, while attempting to geocache.

Wednesday I was up early and out running, exploring the town of Market Rasen, a town far smaller than I had expected, given I ran most of it in around two and a half minutes. Following Google Maps I got myself a little lost early doors but this actually made for a really enjoyable run across numerous bridlepaths, through woodland and very quite, pretty roads.

A bridlepath used when running around Market Rasen.

Eleven miles was run in total. I do remember early in the run some slight pains in my lower back, on the left hand side. Nothing came of it at the time, but in the days that followed this would lead to bigger issues.

A large ford when running around Market Rasen.

That evening I spent too much time looking on Strava seeing I could nab some sections. This wasn’t particularly easy as Market Rasen appears to have one or two pretty handy runners who enjoy sprinting the segments in and around town. There were though a couple I thought I could have and I even mapped out a somewhat convoluted run. Alas a big meal of fish and chips washed down by lots of wine, crisps, and tortilla chips, meant that when the alarm ran at 7am, it was switched off and the body stayed laid in bed, under the covers, not moving, no matter how strong the lure of a segment may have been.

Not even a repeat of this could get me out of bed.

Feeling guilty for my laziness I ran once we returned from our mini break and before beginning my work for the weekend. I was almost relived that the legs felt dead and pained – Strava segments would have been an impossibility. Both hip flexors were ominously tight, and the back was aching too. Friday morning and I was making up for only running six miles on Thursday by running 10 miles. Probably not the most sensible thing to do two days before a half marathon, but psychologically the 6:40 average mile pace feeling really easy was a good boost indicating that I had perhaps recovered from the weekend before. The left hip flexor remained tight but less troublesome than Thursday; the good news was that the right Achilles remained pain free after the brutal massage a week earlier on the calf muscles – it appears that four months of pain may finally be at an end.

Friday night was a 3am effort working, so any thoughts of a parkrun in the morning were soon put to bed as I used the day as a recovery day. I was back behind the desk that afternoon. Thankfully the timetable in Mexico was kinder than the one in Austin and with the added benefit of the clocks going back that evening, I was tucked up in bed by 11:45, late by my normal standards, but positively early in recent terms.

I was up at just before 7am, making a very strong coffee and leaving the house not long thereafter, opting for a breakfast of cheap cereal based breakfast snacks like I had been doing a while ago before experimenting with porridge and breakfast cereal. For the record I think this worked very well in terms of lack of gastric distress during the race.

I left the house at around 7:30am making the relatively short journey to Worksop, not far from Thoresby Hall, not far from Clumber Park, a very easy journey on a near deserted A1 on a Sunday morning. The very detailed Worksop Half Marathon website lists around ten public car parks to pick from, I took a gamble and opted for one not on the list (the first one I stumbled upon), by my reckoning it was around the same distance as the ones listed which were in the town centre and perhaps already filling up given that it was now just 1 3/4 hours to the start. The tactic paid off, a 15 minute walk to race HQ loosened the legs nicely, the car park was free and sparsely populated.

Being early I was able to collect my race number relatively painlessly and use the toilet facilities without queuing too long. I could sense the HQ filling quite quickly though and, having a school canteen as a base I opted to change into my race gear and put my bag into the baggage hold, which was already showing signs of creaking under the strain of runners keen to deposit their bags. The weather was pretty kind for a late October morning, the sun was breaking through the clouds, temperatures were around 10C (Ideal for my prototype GRC long sleeved top!), the only hindrance was a keen, chilly breeze, which would blow us along at the start, but potentially hobble us in the closing stages.

GRC get into the Halloween spirit, well some of us did… c/o Ros Sadler.

I did my one and a half mile warm up around 45 minutes before the start of the race. I had been very concerned about my left hip, having ached loads on the Saturday and not helped by spending the evening sat behind a desk. Thankfully although it ached for around half the warm up, when I picked the pace up a touch, the discomfort appeared to subside. Warm up done I battled my way through the crowds to queue for the indoor toilets, which were strangely not that busy considering the outside portaloos were very busy indeed. The general scene at HQ was one of queues – queues for race number collection, queues for toilets, queues for baggage, queues for tea and coffee, queues to get in the building, queues to get out of the building. It was 9:45, fifteen minutes before the start of the race and very few of the 2500 odd runners looked like they were anywhere near ready to race.

To avoid a mad rush to get to the start and because the start had appeared to assign a ridiculously small space for sub 1:40 runners at the front of the race (And no space at all for any one quicker than 80 minutes) I headed to the start a little earlier than usual. Not long after I got there came the announcement that the race had been delayed by ten minutes due to queues at race number collection. A small audible groan came, but everyone appeared to remain in good spirits. Had it been cold, wet, and especially windy, it could have been a different matter, but it wasn’t too big a deal to keep oneself warm with some strides and the odd trip to some handily placed trees and bushes to ensure any unnecessary ballast was dispatched with.

Queues to retrieve baggage at the end of the race.

Thankfully there were no further delays and at 10:10 someone official looking had us on our way. It turned out that when I first ran the Worksop Half back in 2015, it was the 34th and last time the original course had been used. The 2016, course, retained for 2017, was much the same as the old course, but began and ended a little further up Sparken Hill than before. The old first mile I remember being particularly tough, nearly all uphill with the steepest, hardest section, coming at the end almost into the second mile of the race. Now the start moving only a few hundred meters or so up the road made the start feel much easier – the steep part of the hill mostly tackled in those early euphoric moments in a race when everything feels much easier than anything that follows thereafter.

As is my wont, I went off at a steady pace, not exactly jogging, but appearing more comfortable than those around me. I made a point of trying to take it easy up the hill, knowing that an early trip deep into the red could lead to major ramifications further down the road. I clocked the opening mile in 5:56, which Strava GAP has optimistically called 5:31. A quick summary of the race positions had me around 12th, but only around 20 seconds down on the lead group, which weren’t pulling away as rapidly as a group of runner would were they running at 70 minute pace, for instance.

The next couple of miles are something of a means to an end. A mostly straight road over some rolling hills to take us to Clumber Park that set the theme for the rest of the race – a course with barely a stretch of flat to be found, but little of it particularly steep. I was in my Nike Frees for the race, they are probably the quickest trainers I currently own, the downside is you do tend to feel the indentations in a worn B-road such as this one. That though was the least of my worries, for not long after the opening mile passed I began to feel what felt like a side stitch on the right side of my stomach. Nothing too severe but a pain that was increasing in intensity to the point that, when we dropped down a hill not long after 3 miles, I did begin to question whether I’d be able to continue running.

Looking back and seeing how my body has reacted since, I think this may not have been stitch but a tight Psoas muscle – a legacy of the tight hip flexors and sore back I’d been suffering for much of the week. Once again I could be thankful, that although annoying and disconcerting it wasn’t really slowing me much. I ran the second mile in 5:45 and the third mile in 5:40, going through 5K in 18:06. I think in the meantime I had picked off a couple of runners to perhaps sit in around 10th position. The fourth mile was 5:39 as we initially dived downhill before turning left into a road I spotted as being the exit from Clumber Park when taking part in the bike leg of the Clumber Park duathlon.

Mile 5 was a real struggle, probably the hardest of the race. The stitch was bothering me, we had turned into a headwind, we were running uphill and one or two runners had begun to overtake me. The Garmin clocked 5:59; I feared a gradual slide in times and positions. I was going  through what Brendon Foster would definitely call a bad patch.

Salvation came in the form of a tight right hand bend which took us off the road and onto the paths in the heart of Clumber Park. The head wind was forgotten and as we ran a fairly twisty section of the race, the pain in my side began to subside. With that I appeared rejuvenated. I swiftly passed the two runners who had just passed me and set about the runners ahead, two of whom I passed before I clocked through six miles (5:42), going through 10K in 35:57. The seventh mile took us back onto the road where I had struggled, but I remained strong, clocking 5:49, despite beginning to climb uphill.

That climb continued for much of mile 8, which I distinctly remembered from 2015 as a bit of a killer. We also had a headwind this year to make it doubly tough. I settled into a rhythm, put my head down, metaphorically speaking, and ploughed on, catching another two runners by the top of the climb, passing mile 8 in 6:06 (the slowest mile of the race). Turning right into a tree lined road I recognised this as my favourite part of the race when I ran in 2015. Slightly downhill for around half a mile before a drinks station there is a succession of around 12 signs stuck roadside, nearly all of them humorous, such as Sheffield AC recommend this race as a fast flat PB course, and birthday wishes to all those who celebrated their birthday on the day of the race. Like many of the race touches it makes the event stand out as one which clearly has a lot of time and effort put into it – I noted that the signs were definitely all different from those that were erected in 2015.

It was a combination of the signs humouring me, the slight downhill, the urge to pull clear of the runners I had just passed and the remote prospect of catching the two runners in front of me, I found myself really putting the hammer down, clocking a 5:35 for mile 9. Mile 10 was another long drag before a left hand turn, where I clocked six minutes dead. This led into another long straight, gently rolling, tree lined road. I remembered this road as the last real test of the race, so pushed on as best I could. I overtook one runner at the start of Old Coach Road, I caught and passed the other at the end of it, this runner being dressed in Halloween inspired garb – an impressive effort to be running at that pace in ill equipped attire.

This is a long road – mile 11 (5:47) only took us half way along it. The twelfth mile saw up peel off the road and into Worksop College. I had been wondering where the race was going to make up the distance that it lost with the new beginning and end. It turned out that a good chunk of it was here. In 2015 we ran in front of the college and straight out. This year we doubled back on ourselves and ran around the back of, and then around the front of the rather grand looking college before rejoining the straight road out of the school and on to the last leg towards the finish. The headwind was much in evidence here as was the rather pleasant autumnal sunshine which made for a pleasant pleasant official photograph. He was in the exact same spot two years ago. I purchased one then, and I purchased another after the race.

Passing the 12 mile marker, photographer in the same spot as last time. Picture by Mick Hall Photography.

MIle 12 was a 5:46. The gap to the ghouish looking runner behind me was safe; the runner in front was nowhere to be seen. With finishing position all but ensured, I left the college grounds fairly relaxed, made the sharp left and immediate right back onto the road we began the race on. The long uphill reversed would, of course, be a long downhill. Usually this would be the source of much joy, but I was mindful that at this race I cramped up badly on the downhill stretch, and did something similar at the Turkey Trot last year. So it was with a little trepidation I made my way down the steepest part of the hill, before relaxing, taking in the applause of the generous crowd, turning into the finish straight and towards the finish.

The last mile was the quickest of the race – 5:30. Strava GAP reckons it was worth 5:31. I reckon the new Strava GAP is broken… I made a sprint of sorts to the finish, crossing the line in a season’s best 1:16:24. I was well pleased with that, considering the lack of sleep, the volume of racing, and the niggles I carried into the event. I immediately made my way back along the course to cheer the next few GRC runners home. By the time I’d gone down to collect my t-shirt from Paul Davidson and Nettie, the results had already been published. I was fifth and second V40! This was a really good result on a course that tends to have a fairly strong field. I was also just over three minutes behind the winner, Harvey Speed of Coventry Godiva Harriers, not a bad effort!

A few yards from the finish. Picture by Mick Hall Photography.

This success meant I had to hang around for over an hour and a half for the awards presentation. I spent some time chatting with club colleagues, fellow Duathletes, and anyone else milling around. Most were trying to get their bags from the baggage hold that was sadly proving woefully inadequate for the volume of runners in the race. This is a really good race but it needs to urgently do two things – 1. Post out its race numbers beforehand rather than insist on collection on the day. This works in smaller races, but they took on the best part of 3000 entries and had over 2400 finishers. This is too much to handle on the morning, as is having baggage reserved to a very small space near the main entrance and exit, manned by a small number of well meaning, but inexperienced volunteers. If race numbers were posted they could use the entire sports hall for baggage and have it much better, more efficiently laid out.

Me with Chris, Peter and Robert, at the finish.

The presentation was an odd affair on the back of an empty Wilkinsons truck, with two who I assumed to be the Mayor and Mayoress of Worksop – but may not have been. First I collected my prize of £40 vouchers for finishing fifth. I thought that would be it but the race decided you could collect more than one prize, so I collected another £30 vouchers for finishing second vet. A good return on a very last minute entry, and better still when I cut a deal with the second placed finisher for his Hoka Hoka One voucher, allowing me to get a pair of brand new Clifton 4s at a very good price.

Collecting my prize!

With that it was straight home, straight to work, finishing work on the Mexico GP at around 3am. Another very long, but successful day!

The hard earned objects won at Worksop.



Race Report – Thoresby 10 Mile Race, Sunday 22nd October 2017

The Thoresby 10 Mile Multi Terrain Race was very much a last minute addition to the 2017 race portfolio. Originally I had been content to concentrate on the Sleaford Duathlon being my main event of the weekend, but it was a call from two of my club mates, Holly and Penny, at GRC to complete a team for the race a week or so before it happened that piqued my interest. The club in 2016 had won the team prize with a relatively modest effort and were keen to repeat the success in 2017. I checked the results online and saw that the individual winning time for the 10 mile race was 1:06 and change. Given that i knew enough about the race that although it was off-road and undulating, it wasn’t that challenging an off road race and in recent weeks I’ve been running 10 miles for fun in under 65 minutes, the lure of a sure fire individual victory and possible team victory proved too great and within minutes of the call out on Facebook, I was signed up and a member of the catchy sounding Grantham Running Club ‘A’ team.

In signing up I’d conveniently forgotten the challenges of this weekend which partly explained why I’d chosen not to race on the Sunday. Not only was I taking part in the Sleaford Duathlon on the Saturday I was working on the United States Grand Prix. Not only was I facing the prospect of finishing after 1am on the Friday night, because they had moved qualifying until later on the Saturday to accommodate, of all things, a Justin TImberlake concert, I was looking a a very late evening’s work – hardly ideal for any race preparation, let alone when I’d already raced in the morning.

And so it was I finished second in the Sleaford Duathlon on less than six hours sleep. I finally finished work on Saturday evening at 2am on the Sunday morning, and so had less than five hours sleep before getting up and blearily getting ready to leave a quiet house, making the coffee as strong as humanly possible without it having an overly devastating laxative effect.

At least the drive to Thoreseby Hall, a little way north of Newark, not too far from Clumber Park, was blissfully easy on a Sunday morning, the loud music in the car being sung along to with much gusto ensuring I stayed awake while driving at least. I arrived an 1 3/4 hours before the start of the race – overkill perhaps, but I do like to ensure preparations aren’t rushed and I don’t have to queue for the essentials such as race number collection and Portaloo inspection. The hardest thing was trying to stay warm. Storm Brian had come and past during Saturday afternoon and evening, what followed was a stiff chilly wind that was something of a shock having enjoyed the balmy 22C at cross country a week earlier. I didn’t want to sit in the car so I changed into my emergency thermals, hat and gloves, and arrived at the conclusion that four layers was just about enough to stay warm.

At around 9:40 I went on my warm up jog of around 1.5 miles. I used the opportunity to check out the start of the course, which was flagged as being amongst the most uneven and potentially boggy in terms of terrain. It was certainly a little rutted, but thankfully not muddy. My Hoka Hoke One Challenger 2 trainers, pair 2 of 4 (!) that were worn for the first time at cross country a week earlier, were perfectly suited to the not particularly challenging off-road terrain. The warm up was very unspectacular, but at least there were no overwhelming aches and pains.

Some of the GRC runners before the Thoresby 10K, 10 Mile, and 5K races. Picture c/o Adam Jacobs.

I wandered around slowly a bit more, finally ditching my clothing in the car to make it to a GRC pre race photo (1 of 2) arranged for ten minutes before the start. I made one last trip to behind a handy tree, before making my way to the start line, placing myself directly at the front with the Canix runners and their dogs, who were wildly excited to the point where it was near impossible to hear yourself think. Thankfully the organisers had the good sense to send the hounds and their owners off on their way a few minutes before our 10:30am departure, so the pre-race briefing could be clearly heard. This briefing did little but leave me more confused as to what the 10 mile runners were actually meant to do, I could do nothing but hope it would be fairly obvious on route.

Lining up at the front before the start of the race.

It was probably rather foolish but all the while I stood on the start line I was utterly confident that I was going to win the race. In my mind, based on the totally fallible reasoning that because last year’s race was won in 1:06, the fastest other runner this year would also run 1:06, I reckoned that I would just need to set of at around 6:10 pace and keep something like that going for a very comfortable multi minute victory.

With the race organiser threatening to repeat the race instructions again to a large audible groan, the race was quickly started. It was a very short dash to the tight first left hand corner before we headed on a rough dirt track on our way to what lied ahead. I was third or fourth into the first corner, before several other runners came shooting past me. Early race over exuberance I reassured myself. After a few hundred meters I saw the lead group split and I made an effort to pass a few who did indeed go off too fast and sat in around fourth position.

As we ran on the slightly rough grass passing a lake, the pace for a few seconds settled. Then a runner in orange visibly picked up the pace and began to pull well clear as we entered the wooded section I ended ventured to on my warm up. From now on it was uncharted territory. Still I was strangely confident as the runner continued to hold his gap with no sign of slowing. Novice who will blow up in a minute or two! I thought to myself as I found myself behind a pair of runners in blue and white vests who both looked familiar, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why they were so.

Alan Ford, Barnsley Harriers, finished fourth, led early, wasn’t a novice…

We briefly left some woodland and took a right onto another dirt track, slightly uphill but easier underfoot. The first mile clicked over on the Garmin – 5:59. A fair bit quicker than the 6:10 I had envisaged, especially considering it was very much multi-terrain and the second half of the mile slightly uphill. Still I felt sure that the pace would soon ease.

Just before we reached a main road, we turned left into more woodland. We were on a muddy path just wide enough to fit two runners, and heading slightly downhill. With oak tree cover it felt very much like we were in a tunnel, and on an act of impulse i picked up the pace, passing the two similarly clad runners ahead of me and rapidly closed on the orange vested runner in front of us. Without hesitation I passed him as we left the woodland and turned left back onto a path, more gravel like this time – clearly more often used by vehicles.

It was here we dipped sharply down and came across the Brighton Beach stones we had been warned about – placed on the gravel path by the owners of the land presumably to try and stop a flooded path during heavy rainfall. As suggested I veered to the right and took to the narrow grassy bank to avoid the ankle shredding stones. It was here we passed the first of the Canicross runners who had set off minutes before us – the dogs far less enthusiastic and seemingly keener to explore potential rabbit holes than take part in a 10 mile race.

We soon turned right and uphill and into a stiff headwind, which until now we had been mostly sheltered from by woodland. As we did the second mile split appeared on my Garmin – 5:45! This was definitely not in the plan – nearly 30 seconds quicker than the pace I’d envisaged when planning on racing twice in consecutive days. I put it down to the downhill nature of the mile and pushed on. With three runners still on my shoulder it would maybe tactically have made more sense to have tried to get the others to share taking the pace especially into the headwind. But I decided that attack may be the best form of defence and opted to make a concerted effort to keep the lead no matter what. Part of that decision was borne from the nature of the terrain underfoot. With the wide variety of surfaces I wanted to be sure of a good footing, and this was easier if I was at the front, not following someone and paying more attention to not tripping over their heels rather than taking care not to trip over tree roots. What made the decision easier to justify was that after around 2 1/2 miles the three behind me, which soon became just the two similarly attired runners seemingly were around a second or two behind me rather than right on my back, therefore not able to enjoy any slipstream benefits.

Steve Dickens, Rushcliffe Athletics Club

The pattern of the race remained static for the next three miles or so. I stayed at the front, with the two runners giving chase just behind me. We were not alone though, passing a succession of Canicross runners and their dogs, and a fair few marshals still making their way to their posts. Mile 3 was 5:57, 5K passed in just over 18 minutes. Mile 4 was a 5:47, despite having the steepest part of the course to navigate. The excuse for the speed of that mile – there was a lovely gentle downhill stretch on a paved avenue totally covered by trees and offering total protection from the wind.

The fifth mile saw the 10 mile and the 10K race split, the signs and some marshals taking us sharp left through a grassy section in the woodland. Footing was a little tricky here, but was easier when we were guided by the signs to bear right – still on grass, but with the trees wider apart, the going underneath less rutted. This initial diversion for the 10 mile runners was less than a mile before we rejoined the main course. This was more woodland, the going underneath was a mix of grass and muddy tracks, nothing too slippery but you had to pick your path carefully to avoid hitting the really boggy and potentially slippery stuff. As the Garmin hit the fifth mile in 5:49 I wondered what on earth I was doing running at this sort of pace that I’d be pleased at when running on flat smooth tarmac, let alone muddy uneven trails.

As we headed gradually uphill we were warned by numerous signs that the 10 mile runners would be heading left and the 10K runners would be turning right. That should have been straightforward enough. However as I approached the junction there was a brief moment of confusion. The two marshals were standing in my path with their back to me unaware that I was approaching as they enjoyed something that was on one of the two’s smartphone. That wouldn’t have been too much of an issue, but for a split second I saw three alternative routes, a right which I knew I shouldn’t take, a slight left and a sharp left, these two I suddenly got very confused over what was the correct route.

‘Which way should I go?’ I shouted to the marshals. ‘Which race are you doing?’ one of them asked. ‘10 Miles’ I shouted in reply, sensing I didn’t really have time for a calm conversation into where on earth I should be going. ‘Left!’ came the reply. ‘Which left?’ I screamed, as the two blue vested runners closed down the 2 or 3 seconds I had eked out on them and turned left just as one of the marshals clearly pointed with her arm which direction we should take.

It then became patently obvious. The tighter left led us to a fairly wide gravel path, the ever so slightly left was heading into woodland through a path that may or may not have actually been an official path (Although in my defence as I approached it, it definitely looked as though it was). As I thanked the marshals for their attentiveness and prompt action in a manner which may have been slightly politer had it not cost me the lead of the race, I sprung from a dead stop into a rage of pace, as I immediately pulled alongside the two now co-leaders and reasserted my authority over the race taking the lead once again.

Marlon Dunkley, Rushcliffe Athletics Club.

As I retook the lead a moment of levelheadedness hit me at just the right moment when a surge of adrenaline had seen me briefly overexert myself. The temptation was to push really hard up the drag that awaited us to reestablish the 3 or 4 second lead I’d had a minute or so earlier. Instead I knew that the best way to tackle the next mile or so was to revert to the level of effort I’d been making up to five and a half miles, trust that this would be enough to break the elastic with the pair behind me and if it didn’t then they deserved to win.

As we went through the sixth mile in 5:55 with the pair still just a second or so behind, the thought running through my head was the charity fight in Rocky III between Rocky and Hulk Hogan playing the role of Hulk Hogan Thunderlips. This is the fight where Rocky reckoned on a bit of friendly jousting and showboating before being either allowed to win or at least draw in a non-exerting manner. Instead he got pummelled relentlessly by Hulk, who hadn’t read the correct script. It all ended amicably enough, but Rocky was pushed far harder than he had wanted to. This was a bit like I felt now. Thoresby was meant to be a bit of fun, a fairly low key race where I turned up, put on a show at a pace I’m comfortable with in training, win by 3 or 4 minutes and return home with a lovely trophy. Now I’d gone through 10K in a whisker over 36 minutes, working far harder than I’d ever intended, with seemingly no let up in the pressure.

At around 6 1/2 miles the ten mile runners rejoined the main course having looped around to approximately the 3 mile marker on the 10K course. This meant we had some mostly familiar terrain to contend with, starting with the short steep drag which this time around had a good number of runners taking part in the 10K race, which started 15 or so minutes after the 10 mile race. On this little steep climb I didn’t give a full look back, but I glanced over my shoulder and just sensed that perhaps the gap had grown to a couple of seconds. I didn’t look back again for another 3 miles. I pushed on, dodging the 10K runners and then dodging the 10K runners and the slower 10 mile runners. This was a bit like a multi-lap parkrun but on steroids, for this was a race where trophies were at stake rather than a free to enter timed run where the only competition is yourself. With most of the paths, be they gravel, mud, tarmac, or grass, only just wide enough for two lines of runners, picking the right route to pass became crucial, like Outrun, but windier. And colder.

Mile 7 turned out to be the slowest of the race at 6:02, but it featured at least two climbs. Mile 8 was back on the nice avenue and was quicker at 5:48. This section saw the second moment of confusion with marshals. They were handling the first section where 10 mile and 10K runners split. As they saw my number they pointed me in the direction of the 10 mile loop. I was pretty sure from the pre-race briefing we were meant to follow the 10K signs on the second lap so I began shouting ‘TEN MILE RACE! LEADER! SECOND LAP!’ I think I said this two or three times before the hand arrows changed from pointing left to right. This section of virgin territory for the 10 mile runners was on grass again but easier than the 10 mile loop. The ninth mile saw the 10 mile and 10K runners rejoin and then split again. The traffic was becoming a real issue as this was the muddy, sometimes boggy section, with sometimes only one clear defined path, and I was having to get quite audible (e.g. Coming through on the left! or coming down the middle!) to ensure that I didn’t end up careering into the back of someone. I thanked those who made space, had sympathy for those who were clearly new to racing and weren’t expecting to be overtaken in such a manner, and scorned those who were wearing headphones and were oblivious to anything and everything around them.

One of the two marshals at the second 10 mile / 10K split, tried to send me on another loop of the race. The other marshal recognised me as the f***er who spoiled their Youtube video or whatever it they were watching and sent me the right way with a comment in passing that I don’t believe was entirely complimentary. A lot calmer than I was 20 minutes or so earlier I gave a cheery wave and pushed on.

As we left the woodland and appeared to run through what may have been a farm yard or a forestry base, the path widened significantly and curved to the right before taking a sharp left. It was here I afforded myself the first big look back since the 6 mile marker. I saw two runners, but they were definitely two slower 10K runners and no the boys in blue chasing me down. I reckoned that even if they were just around the corner out of view I had at least a fifteen second lead, and with just over a mile remaining, victory was now mine barring some kind of disaster, such as heading the wrong way.

The ninth mile was a 5:49. The brain wasn’t working too well, but with the stopwatch still not showing 53 minutes it was obvious I was going a fair bit quicker than 1:02 pace. The last mile initially was a long mostly downhill stretch on a single track road, which would have been lightning fast were it not for the strong cross wind on exposed land that threatened at times to blow us off the road. Thankfully the road headed back into woodland as we approached Thoresby Hall and the finish. I took one last long behind me and to my relief saw no-one in view. I began passing loads of runners now, Canicross runners, 10K runners and I think some 5K runners too. It was quite unlike any other race finish, except for loads of parkrun finishes and the Rockingham Duathlon, which had runners in different races finishing at the same time.

Coming into the finish, chased by a dog.

There was a good crowd coming into the finish, but none were cheering. The finish chute marshal seemed unsure whether to send me to the finish or to send who on earth knows where. With the Garmin approaching 10 miles I knew to take a left and begin a mini sprint to the finish. The spectators and the race official appeared a little bemused when I raised my hands when crossing the finish line, why was I celebrating a 52 minute 10K? they appeared to wonder.

I decided to tell him that I was the winner of the ten mile race, around about the same time as his colleague in the chip timing van tapped him on the shoulder to tell him I was the race winner of the ten mile race. Word soon got around and it was announced a few moments later that the winner of the ten mile race had crossed the line. A belated round of applause followed, which was then followed by a big hug from friend and club mate SJ, who was on massage duty.

I looked at my Garmin – 58:25 for 9.99 miles! Not an officially measured 10 mile course but clearly not far off it – multi terrain, windy, tired, third fastest 10 mile race time! A few moments later (41 seconds to be precise) the second placed finisher crossed the line and the third followed suit 13 seconds later. I went back to congratulate them. The third placed finisher I recognised instantly, Marlon was the Rushcliffe AC runner who narrowly beat me in the Holme Pierrepont 10K back in the summer. The second placed runner I’d definitely recognised but at the time couldn’t quite place him. It was only when I got home and stalked followed Steve on Strava and checked his Power of 10 that I sussed out that he was the Rushcliffe AC runner who finished third at my club’s Summer Solstice 10K in an ever so slightly faster than I’ve ever run before 34:02. They congratulated me on my strong run, pointing out that they both rarely run further than 10K, so simply ran out of steam not long after that point in the race.

Me & Marlon back in July

I was already happy to win; now I was even happier that I’d beaten runners who had beaten me over the summer. Had I known beforehand that they were racing I doubt I would have run with the same confidence I did. I had considered it my race to lose, little did I know I had to work as hard as I did to win.

We had to wait an eternity for the prize giving to take place. This was not ideal as I had work in the afternoon that would stretch until the early hours of the morning and had an early getaway for a short half term break planned the following morning. Finally the prizes were presented. i was the recipient of a rather underwhelming trophy, but the winner of a rather snazzy bobble hat. They didn’t have club colours so I settled for the colours of Austria for reasons unknown.

The podium (L to R): Marlon Dunkley, Rushcliffe Athletics Club, third; Matthew Kingston-Lee, Grantham Running Club, race winner; Steve Dickens, Rushcliffe Athletics Club, second.

The main reason I had entered the race was to complete Grantham Running Club ‘A’. My teammates and I nervously waited, hoping that my winning time and Holly’s podium finish could ensure victory. Alas the telltale blue sweatshirt of a third Rushcliffe AC runner should have been a clue that they anticipated a team victory. And indeed they did with a pretty impressive 3:01:48 for the three strong team, just a minute slower than our own club winning 10K team! I had to settle for second in the team competition, a mere 30 minutes behind Rushcliffe. I did though get to accept the 10K team prize on their behalf as they were nowhere to be seen!

With the Team 10K Prize (Not a member, collecting on their behalf).

With that, the race was over and done and there was nothing left to do but drive home. My second multi-terrain victory and definitely the more satisfying in the manner in which it was won. Off now on holiday and prepare for next week’s race!