Race Report – 2015 BUPA London 10,000


I’d entered the BUPA London 10,000 (Which, from now on I’ll just call the London 10K as BUPA have had enough publicity and using 10,000 for a road race just feels wrong – makes it sound unnecessarily tough or self-important – it’s just a 10k) back in March when I was recovering from the second sacrum fracture that forced me to not run for seven weeks. The entry was something of a gamble as I had no idea what form I was likely to be in. Moreover, because it was a championship entry, I had to be picked my Kenilworth Runners team captain, who took something of a gamble in picking me, knowing that my recent injury woes had left me short on mileage.

The build up to the race, since the London Marathon had seen the left hip slowly improve so that by the parkrun last Saturday, I was running virtually pain free, and by the time set there (17:25) a little bit of pace had come from nowhere. The last few days of build up were dictated by  a busy weekend covering the Monaco GP. I did though, thanks to the rain there on Thursday, get out for an unexpected, but welcome 14 mile evening club run. Then Friday morning, with the guys and gals recovering from their hangovers, I was able to put in easy six mile run and eighty minutes on the elliptical trainer. Saturday didn’t go quite to plan – a super busy day meant just three miles of running in the morning, and then Sunday saw an early morning hour on the elliptical trainer followed by 15 hours straight at the desk covering the GP. I didn’t get to bed until midnight. Hardly ideal pre-race prep.

Five hours later and I was awake again.

Race Day Build Up

The five am wake up call hit me like the proverbial brick but there was little time to dwell – Operation Get Out was in full swing. Computer on. Downstairs: cup of strong coffee made. Back upstairs to the computer a little bit of post GP work done and coffee drunk. Shower. Change into clothes. Wake youngest daughter. Get her changed. Hurl everything and everyone into the car. Leave the house. Remarkably this was all done in 50 minutes.

Originally it was the plan to get the train down to London. Then there was the train strike. Then that was called off. I looked at prices but the only affordable train got us into London just a bit too late to be comfortable. So we drove on a blissfully empty A1 all the way down to New Barnet, parking close to where I used to live and just a minute’s walk from the train station. Once Oyster cards were primed, kids tickets bought and not bought, for some of their journey would be free, we were on the seven forty something train into King’s Cross. It was the youngest daughter’s first trip on a train and she squealed with delight at each and every tunnel and bridge we passed under. This much amused doting parents; fellow passengers surely less so.

Once in King’s Cross there was chance for a brief Platform 9 3/4 photo opportunity – our eldest daughter now besotted with all things Harry Potter.

Something Harry Potter Related

That piece of history captured and it was time for the next adventure – first ever tube journey with both kids. Thankfully we had chosen two stations (Kings Cross and Green Park) with lift access and there being no rush hour on the Bank Holiday the trains were relatively empty – so our first trip was pretty painless.

The race village could not have been better located for public transport users – the exit of Green Park led directly into it. We were there by 08:45 – 75 minutes before the race start, it could not have gone any smoother. I enjoyed a queue free trip to the portaloos and began to get changed.

The only kink in otherwise meticulous preparation was that I’d forgotten to put my Garmin foot pod on the trainers I was racing in. Somewhat ridiculously, for a minute or so I genuinely didn’t think I’d be able to run without the knowledge of having accurate instant pace. Not knowing my cadence or steps per mile I could just about live without, but instant pace is a big deal to me. Looking around and failing to see a Garmin stand at race HQ, I resigned myself to being without this data and altered the display on my 910XT to show average lap pace and my speed in mph instead (the last one of no use whatsoever but gave me something else to look at rather than a line in the cadence field which would have served as an irritating reminder of my forgetfulness.

I bid farewell to my family who made their way to the start. I changed fully into my running kit and put my bag in baggage. I then went out for a warm up run in Green Park. Being a British championship race (As well as your standard fare masses race) I felt a little inadequate as I went through my usual routine of a mile very easy and a minute or two of faster running. There were swarms of runners who were going through meticulous warm up routines – strides, bounding, stretching, flexing, sprints and the like. I’d planned to run two miles for warm up but gave up at 1.6, bored of running around in circles.

As usual I needed a last minute trip to the bathroom and as usual queues had multiplied beyond all comprehension in the 45 minutes since I’d last used the facilities. The ones in the race village were so long I couldn’t actually work out where they ended, so I headed to the start, thinking there must be some there. The advertised last toilets before the start had queues almost as long as those at the village. I summised there was no way I’d be using them in time, so instead made my way to the start and hoped they were lying about there being no more toilets.

My gamble paid off. There were small pockets of portaloos stretching along the the start line at The Mall. It was a ten minute wait to have my turn but I never sensed any danger of not being able to take my place somewhere near the front of the field in the championship start pen.

I made it in the hallowed ground seven minutes before the start. I stumbled upon fellow Kenilworth Runners’ Jimmy, Rachel, and Louise. I knew there were others but I’d little chance of spotting them. I wished them luck and made my way somewhere closer to the start, settling somewhere just behind where the really quick looking guys were standing. The anticipation was ramped up a touch when luminaries of the British running scene Andy Vernon and Jo Pavey were announced to warm applause. There was then 30 seconds to the start.

The Race

At ten o’clock exactly we were off. I made it past the start line around 10 seconds after the gun and was quickly into my running. And to my relief everything felt comfortable, indeed it felt a little sluggish but the pace was good, not going off too quickly and allowing the HR to rise gently to my estimated target rate of 175bpm.

A swarm of runners surged towards and through a road block in the form of some pillars in the road which, now looking at the map of the race, was Admiralty Arch. The only real drama of the race came immediately after at the roundabout that followed. With an extra narrowing of the course and a chicane to negotiate there was a faller close to the front of the pack and as runners struggled to hurdle or doge the fallen athlete, I was tripped as the pack condensed and slowed briefly in the bottleneck. Thankfully I was able to keep upright and used a pair of shoulders to maintain equilibrium and resume normal racing.

The race had a feel of it being around 80% of how the Leeds Abbey Dash felt when I ran it in 2013. It was inspiring running with loads of quick runners, but there weren’t as many runners around me as there was at Leeds and I felt though I was running quite slowly, whereas at Leeds I felt like I was running first. I was pleased therefore to cover the first mile in 5:34 and felt my pace increase a touch as we headed towards 3k. The course was also rather eerie. It had pockets of support but in areas it was rather deserted as we ran down what are usually some of the busiest roads in the country. I’m sure we passed a fair few landmarks too but they were wasted on me as I concentrated on following the backside of whoever was behind me.

Garmin, allowing for usual discrepancies and the rather obvious fact we were surrounded by a fair few tall buildings (aka GPS scramblers) had me complete mile two in 5:18. I wasn’t sure whether to trust it, but I was pleased that I was still feeling comfortable and the HR was bang on where I thought it would be. My next concern was, as we headed out on what was quickly becoming apparent an out-and-back course, was whether my swift opening to the race was being aided by a tail wind.

Fortunately as we came to halfway at 5k and turned back towards the finish the wind continued to feel much the same as it had done – I concluded we were enjoying predominantly a side wind. By five KM I was starting to become a little isolated, little pockets of runners ahead, no one obviously behind me (I think it was one of the few races where I never once looked behind me). I looked up at the official clock at 5K and it read 17:10. It took a little while for my clock page to scroll through on the Garmin and it said much the same. I didn’t though clock the distance at the time, which was probably for the best.

It didn’t take too much of my brain power to work out that even going by the official clock, if I matched my efforts over the opening half in the second half I would come in 14 seconds inside my old 10K personal best of 34:34. This undoubtedly spurred me on, but it also became a touch harder as the efforts of the opening miles began to take their toll and the left quad began to ache a touch – thoughts of the cramp suffered at parkrun began to fill my mind.

Unlike at most other races where I prep myself to know what average mile pace will bring me home in, I’d done no such preparation here and so, although I knew what pace I was supposedly running at, had no idea whether it was good enough to bring me in under the old PB. To be honest going into the race the only ambition I’d harboured was to come home in something under 36 minutes – a PB was never a consideration.

After the third mile 5:25, the fourth flashed up at 5:28. I was pleased to be maintaining good pace, but the fifth mile was living up to its reputation as being the toughest mentally, as well as physically. What kept me going was that although I was beginning to suffer and struggle, the pain and suffering was nowhere near as bad as the recent cycling time trials I have subjected myself to recently. Whenever a bad patch swept through my body, I thought about the cycling on a bike and kept on pushing.

The fifth mile was 5:31. I’d forgotten what the fourth mile split was, so was unaware I was slowing. Instead with the lure of a surprise PB a possibility I pushed on in the final mile reckoning it was just six minutes or so of suffering. I pushed on again, vaguely recognising the surroundings of Birdcage Walk – which is exactly where, around a month ago, I was shuffling along in a world of cramp induced misery at the conclusion of the London Marathon. With that thought in my mind and mindful that no matter how much I was suffering now, it was nothing compared to the suffering then, I pushed out on a long sprint for home as the 800 meter marker was passed, and then the 400 meter. At 200 meters I gave it my all as we turned into the finish outside of Buckingham Palace. I glanced at my watch and it gave me 45 seconds to cover 200 meters. I knew I had a PB barring disaster.

In the final 80 meters I spotted my family and gave them a beaming smile. I saw the official clock in the 37 twenties and in a rare gesture of race celebration swung both arms in the air as I crossed the finish line. It took a second or two to stop the watch. The all important time: 34:24! Nine seconds inside my old PB. I was elated!!!

Post race I made my way to collect my T-Shirt and goodie bag. I walked to collect my baggage and stumbled upon McKarkiss Elite Project runners McCarthy and Simkiss, who had finished ninety seconds or so ahead of me. They are clearly good luck mascots over 10k for the last time I’d met them was at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k where I PB’d too. As they headed off for a post race cool down I felt a tightening in my quad and passed up on the offer – I had hours of walking around the Science Museum to face.

A post race meet up with the family, a couple of photos and a swift change and the race was done. Eleven hours later and we were home. The results were (briefly) out and my official time was rounded down to 34:22. A totally unexpected and very welcome surprise, given the lack of running in the past eight months and, aside from a couple of treadmill sessions, a steady 10k, a parkrun, and a half hearted hills session, I’ve done no real speed work at all since April.

Suddenly there is an urge to find races to take part in – but next up something totally different: My triathlon debut!

With the kids celebrating the 10k PB

Split Summary
1) 1m – 5:35(5:35/m) 164/173bpm

2) 1m – 5:18(5:18/m) 174/175bpm

3) 1m – 5:24(5:24/m) 175/176bpm

4) 1m – 5:29(5:29/m) 175/177bpm

5) 1m – 5:30(5:30/m) 175/176bpm

6) 1m – 5:17(5:17/m) 175/177bpm

7) 0.36m – 1:52(5:12/m) 178/179bpm



Promising Times

Following the Time Trial in the last post, I ran an easy 8 mile the following morning and then an hour on the elliptical trainer in the afternoon in between covering the F1 Post GP test at Barcelona. The left hip and groin continued to give concern which continued into Thursday’s long club run with GRC, which saw the hip ache for much of the run. It wasn’t enough to slow me but the ache was similar to what I experienced when the second sacrum fracture occurred, so it wreaked havoc on the mind as I feared the worst with every stride.

Thankfully no ill did materialise and the body was grateful for a scheduled rest day on the Friday. I woke early on Saturday morning to head to Melton Mowbray Country Park for a second stab at the parkrun held there. I arrived a little later than planned and so could only do just over a mile for a warm up. The nagging pain in the left hip was still there; I prodded quite firmly in the lower back and felt a release in the hip area. We were called to the start and was delighted to feel no discomfort at all from the moment we set off.

I was in fourth for the opening 100 meters or so but took first position by the time we reached the narrow bridge and set off up the steep hill for the first time. I formed a group of three who soon split from the rest of the field. The other two were unwilling or unable to take the pace so after the first mile (5:26) I made it my intention to try and make a decisive break so they couldn’t use me as a wind break on what was a fairly windy day.

The Melton parkrun course is a busy, twisty, two lap affair made up of sections of off road, gravel paths and part footpath. It meant there was little opportunity to pour over the Garmin data during the run. So aside from the mile splits and an occasional glance at the (pretty high) heart rate, it was a rare case, for me, of running to feel.

At the start of the second lap I still had my two shadows in tow. As we hit the big hill for the second time I knew that would be my point of attack and I pushed hard. It worked, for by the time I reached the summit I had a four or five second gap. There was to be no more looking back and I pushed on down the gradual descent on the other side.

It was there I suffered cramp in both lower quads. It was a similar cramping to what I experienced on two occasions post Christmas last year. I put it down then to Christmas excess and dehydration. I think I can claim I was dehydrated too at the parkrun. I also noted that on each occasion I’d eaten spicy food the night before, so there maybe a connection there. The pain was quite severe. If I had not been leading or if I wasn’t on for a good time, I probably would have stopped. However the lure of both a first place finish and a good time willed me on. Mile two was covered in a slower 5:46, but I dug deep to keep pushing all the way to the finish, clocking 5:36 for the third mile and crossing the finish line first in 17:25.

To put this time in perspective, it is a course PB for me by 1:29 and is currently the second fastest time run by anyone at Melton. It is my equal third fastest parkrun on any course (My best is 17:20 at Coventry, then 17:21 at Peterborough). Both those courses I consider to be much quicker than Melton, which is hilly, twisty, and half off road. I was very pleased with the time; a little less happy with the cramp in my legs.

This ruined plans of a long warm down, instead it was an effort to walk back to the car, which I had parked in a hurry and couldn’t quite remember where it was. Thankfully by the end of the day the worst of the effects of cramp had worn off and I looked forward to cycling with Witham Wheelers the following morning.

The Sunday morning club ride was a lot of fun. It was a group of around 20 riders and I, from the off, was feeling quite strong, taking turns at the front into a headwind. At around 30 miles I joined a group of four who formed an informal breakaway to the coffee stop. I struggled at times to stay on their wheels, but I was a lot stronger than I was four months ago. Following a tea and Bakewell Tart, the run home began gently enough but soon the pace picked up and I was again comfortable in staying somewhere near the front of the pack and taking turns. At times I could have gone faster but we were under instructions to keep the group together as best we could.

We were split a little by a level crossing, so the final miles I wasn’t in the front group. I saved my efforts for the final hills in the Belvoir area and was pleased to clock the tenth fastest time on Strava up Countesthorpe Hill and the second fastest time on the drop back down into town from Barrowby. Seventy eight miles was covered in a shade under 19mph and I felt as fresh at the end as I did at the beginning, which is very encouraging.

Monday was a bit of a shambles. I was supposed to row, run and swim at the gym, but I was delayed getting there and then forgot my swimming trunks, so could only manage the row and run. The treadmill run though was pleasing – eight miles covered in a progressive manner in 55 minutes, culminating with ten minutes at 16-17 km/h. Not being able to swim (and test my new goggles) is not great preparation for the upcoming triathlon, but at least it is only 400 meters of swimming to be covered, which I should be able to do on a minimum of training. To make up for the lost exercise, I put in an easy 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer in the evening.

Yesterday’s Time Trial with Witham Wheelers also didn’t quite go to plan. It was meant to be a lap of the road race circuit (Around 12 miles), but a lack of marshals (And competitors) meant at the last minute the TT reverted to the usual ten mile effort. I was cold and wet, my feet numb, and I struggled to keep up the heart rate over the course and nearly came a cropper on a couple of the wet bends, both covered in loose gravel. My Garmin time of 26:47 was therefore pleasing under the circumstances, as was the post ride brick run – 5k covered in 20:00.

Following an easy run this morning over some hills and trails, the plan now is to consolidate ahead of Monday’s BUPA 10k in London, which will be quite easy as I will be flat out working for the most part on the Monaco GP, which is always one of the busiest F1 events of the year. I’m hopeful if I can stay injury free and avoid a repeat of the cramping episode I suffered at parkrun, I could put in a half decent performance on Monday. It will be the first time I’ve raced in anger since last September, so it will be interesting whatever happens.

The New Addiction: Time Trialling

Having joined local cycling club Witham Wheelers at the end of 2014, the next progression having joined them on several cafe rides and their Reliability Rides (the same idea but without the coffee stop) was to take part in their weekly time trials. The staple diet of many British cyclists for generations, the once clique, at times secretive (codes for courses) is now happily a much more all embracing pastime, which sees riders of all shapes, sizes, and abilities compete against others, but more importantly, themselves and their previous best efforts.

Witham Wheelers has a summer time trial league, mostly consisting of a weekly 10 mile TT on a rolling course shaped roughly like a drunk stick man. In a world far removed from running, where the only real requisite (for a man) is a pair of trainers (Which can be as cheap or as expensive as you desire, it makes little difference as long as they fit and suit your running style – if you believe the experts) cycling and, in particular time trialing, is a discipline where money can buy you fancy kit and the fancy kit can earn you free seconds, perhaps even minutes. On display at any club TT are a dizzying plethora of aero bikes, aero bars, aero helmets, aero wheels, aero bottles, skin suits, shoe covers and more. It’s a discipline where aero drag is the devil and plenty of power too is a must.

Ten miles on a bike may seem a simple proposition, but when you are racing contre la montre, and you are an instinctively competitive animal, it is as tough as any running race – in some ways harder. The pain is different but it is a painful pursuit. And I am addicted.

My first foray in time trialing was a brief dalliance back in the year 2000 when I was a Leamington CC member for around six months. I took part in two or three of their time trials on the Fosse, raising a few eyebrows with my mode of transport – a mountain bike, and attire – trainers, baggy shorts and, for my first effort, a cotton t-shirt with Kermit the Frog all over it. I think I was not far from last on the flat time trials, but I caused a minor sensation when later in the summer on the hill climb TT at Edge Hill, aided by the purchase of a cycling jersey and shorts, I pedaled my mountain bike up the hill in a time good enough to take third place. The efforts merited attention of the club newsletter (Promising newcomer I was crowned) and there were even mutterings of banning mountain bikes for hill climbs as they could be construed as having an unfair advantage with their more generous compact chain sets.

Over the winter I had a couple of worrying crashes on my commute to work. I then changed jobs which meant long hours and a long commute and cycling all but disappeared from my training regime for five years. In late 2006 I bought my racing bike I still ride to this day. I used it to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, took part in a couple of sportives and a duathlon, but was sparingly used for many years until the end of 2014 when I joined Witham Wheelers.

The bike cost me £1000 which I considered a small fortune for a bike. I now realise there are people I ride with whose wheels probably cost twice that amount. The plan is to upgrade, but for the time being I’m making the most of my slightly overweight, slightly inefficient machine and using the most of my limited financial resources to make marginal gains in other areas.

For my first TT I knew I needed a pair of aero bars. I researched long and hard and purchased literally the cheapest ones I could buy. They are very simple, prone to a little movement unless I tighten them a lot, but for short rides they are doing a decent job of getting myself into a reasonable aero position. I was pretty nervous at the start line, barely able to clip myself in properly despite being firmly held at the start. I shot off and pedaled as hard and fast as I could. Four minutes in and I was shattered, heart rate sky high and with that horrible dead feeling in my legs. And that was on the downhill section! The rest of the ride was a lesson in how not to time trial – unable to sit in an aero position, legs full of lactate, and I came home in 27:25, claiming 22nd position and one precious point. Not as terrible ride as I thought, but there was over four minutes separating myself from the winner.

First Witham Wheelers TT – showing less than optimal aero position.

The second TT I thought I’d be able to easily go quicker by just knowing the course, but was not willing to give it everything as I had a half an eye on running the London Marathon that weekend. I was though a touch disappointed to see I’d managed to go seven seconds slower. This prompted hours of research on the internet on learning good TT technique and, more importantly, the cheapest ways to earn ‘free time’ in the form of aero enhancements. I stumbled upon a website which, although based on an elite rider, gave a good indication of where I should prioritise my budget to get the best bang for my buck. Aero bars came first, followed by skin suit, aero helmet, and shoe covers.

I had the (cheap) aero bars covered. My cycling jerseys are all fairly baggy – a penchant for loose fitting running clothing carried over into cycling. Two days after running the London Marathon I couldn’t face running so thought I’d give the TT another chance. I purchased the closest I can get to a skin suit for now – a Witham Wheelers club jersey, which was a long overdue purchase. Going against my instincts to size up, I got a small which just about fits and certainly doesn’t flap around in the wind.

I then went against all best practice when testing kit for aero improvements – I changed another variable. The previous two attempts at TT’s I’d ridden fairly high cadence – averaging 93 and 96 rpm. Because the legs were pretty worn out after the marathon I tried the old school approach of grinding out a big gear in warm up. Instantly I saw that the pace was as good, if not better, than when I was spinning frantically. I could also stay in the aero position more comfortably with the bike more stable.

So I rode the TT in blustery conditions, riding as best I could with the legs in the shape they were. Whether it was the power (or shape) of the jersey or the change in cadence, against all the odds I rode the course 22 seconds faster than I’d previously done, coming home just outside 27 minute (27:03). As less people had turned up in the windy conditions, I was pleased to finish eighth. It was a pleasant surprise that left me wondering if I should run a marathon every Sunday.

Spurred on, I scoured eBay for second hand aero helmets – the next investment in the pursuit of speed. To my surprise second hand helmets were selling often for not much less than new ones, which ultimately made me opt to go for the piece of mind of purchasing a new one. I went for a Lazer Tardiz in golf ball white – on sale at nearly half price at the wonderfully named Fat Birds (Don’t Fly) cycle shop in Hunstanton. I splashed out on the plastic cover which blocked out the vents when it wasn’t warm enough to merit having them. More seconds saved, perhaps.

The Aero Helmet

Last week I didn’t get to try out my new purchase as gale force winds meant all but the most resilient turned out to ride. I hate strong winds so plodded off to Grantham Running Club for a hills session instead.

Yesterday though things were better. It was still windy enough to be less than ideal, but not, in my opinion, dangerously so. Looking distinctive in my new aero helmet (My two year old daughter called it the airplane helmet) I set off for my fourth effort at the Witham Wheelers 10 Mile TT. My warm up was less aggressive than in previous weeks. Going off number 18, I pfaffed around in the final minutes debating whether to wear arm warmers. With two minutes to go I decided to wear them; with a minute to go and called to the start I decided to tinker with the settings on the Garmin. I finally got my feet in the pedals with around 15 seconds to spare.

The TT began into the wind. Settling briefly into the tuck I immediately noticed the difference the aero helmet was making – I reckon around 2-3mph over the short stretch to the first left turn. The run down to ‘turn one’ was aided by the wind and with the chain in the lowest gear I ground out a super low cadence – probably too low – as I hit 31mph approaching the first hairpin turn.

The Strava segment suggests I took the hairpin quite well. I then faced the reality that the wind had aided me quite a lot as it was now full on in my face and the long drag back was interminably hard. Head wind and 1% gradients are probably my least favourite cycling conditions and once again I lost time. I picked up a bit as we passed through Hungerton and the wind became more of a cross head wind. The long drag the second hairpin took an eternity. All eyes were on the average speed. I knew that if I made it to the hairpin at >21.7mph I was on for a new PB. I clocked 22.0mph as I turned back on myself. Invigorated I settled back into the tuck position and ground the big gear as best I could.

Once again the final mile and a half saw me flag a little. It’s going to take a few more weeks before I have the cycling legs to give it full beans for the full ten miles. Spurred on though by a possible new PB, I pushed hard to the line, shouting out my number and stopping my Garmin. 26:34! Thirty seconds better than last time. The power of the aero helmet! I knew too that my official time would be quicker, and so it was (26:29). What I hoped I may be able to achieve come the end of the summer I’d managed at my fourth attempt.

I was so happy I rode home and tried a brick session run. That too wasn’t a disaster. After a tough first half mile I settled into a steady, if little ponderous rhythm to clock a sub 22 minute 5k.

Thoughts already turn to the next time trial and where to extract more time at minimal cost. Working on optimum cadence is probably key, then working on getting a good tuck position. All good fun, and so far not too expensive. But I am looking at bikes on Ebay…



From London to Langtoft For Their 10k

Running is an amazing pastime, perhaps unique in that one weekend you can be racing in one of sport’s most famous and iconic events – the London Marathon – and the very next weekend you can find yourself competing in the Langtoft 10K – a race that last year had 207 finishers and this year around 27 spectators (Some of those being marshals). When I pulled up with my travel companion Scott, we both were singing what the hell / f**k am I doing here (I was singing the Radio Edit). This is in no way disrespectful to Langtoft, a fine example of a fens village, it’s just that the weather was pretty terrible. Very wet and decidedly windy. The wet we could just about cope with. A windy race is not usually a fun race, especially when it’s taking place on the Fens – a part of the world where the wind speeds feel doubly strong thanks to the flat (some may say featureless) terrain.

What made it even worse was that just a few days ago I’d barely even heard of the race, let alone intended to run it. I heard Scott was planning to run on Wednesday, then on Thursday another club member offered up his race number as he was unable to take part. I let him know I was tempted but wanted to see how our club run went in respect to how the legs were after Sunday’s London Marathon. The 12 miles were fairly tortuous, with the upper glute area (In the right leg especially) which had cramped first in the marathon, aching enough for me to beg Scott for a lift home from the club rather than jog the mile or so back. During the course of the run and the lift home, I went from yes, I am running it,  to no, back to yes, then no, then I left it at maybe.

Friday morning and I struggled out of bed with stiffness but managed the elliptical trainer for ninety minutes. I saw no effects from that and although the right quad ached a fair bit I committed myself to racing on the Sunday afternoon. I took Saturday off entirely to let the leg rest up some more. Come Saturday night and a fair amount of massaging and stretching, the leg felt at around 80%. Sunday morning however saw the right leg feel fine, but the left hamstring near the groin aching, in a manner not dissimilar to how the right leg felt before the Notts AC Five Mile Race.

Coincidentally it was at that race in July last year where I last wore my Nike Lunar Racer 2 trainers (Save for an aborted warm up at the Lincs 5k the following week and at the club handicap race a few weeks after that). They were undoubtedly fast but they wreaked havoc to my Achilles, leaving them with literally bloody blisters. They had been consigned to the great trainer rack in the sky but for some reason or another I decided to give them another chance – albeit with a modification performed by my talented wife, who made several incisions to the Achilles tab with the intention of reducing the pressure it applied.

The Achilles Tab Surgery Applied To My Nike Lunar Racer 2 Trainers.

We arrived at Langtoft an hour before the off. We stumbled upon fellow club runner Stuart and proceeded to collect our numbers from a gazebo which was leaking water at an alarming rate, not only for the well being of the inhabitants but because it was also meant to be doubling up as the baggage area. We opted to use the boots of our cars…

Around half an hour before the off at 11:15 we set off for a warm up  / late fitness test. The left groin / hamstring was stiff and quite sore, but was manageable and didn’t hinder my gait. Happily too my right quad was pain free and the trainers felt great. So the race was on, but I didn’t think that I was quite up for giving it a full out attack. I’d mentioned on Thursday I would be happy to pace some of our runners. We met another club runner Anna on our warm up. She is a relative novice to the sport but has bags of potential to her already considerable ability, as she demonstrated when she seemingly waltzed around to a 3:13 clocking at her debut marathon at Manchester two weeks ago. She had no idea what she could run, but I think she could run around 39 minutes currently. Stuart fancied a sub 38 stab, his best around a minute slower than this.

I was in my usual last minute queue for the Portaloo, making it to the start with a fairly safe three minutes to spare. I hooked up with Anna and Stuart and made a final decision to aim for a 38 minute target, but planned a 6:30 clocking for the opening mile. As the klaxon was fired for the start of the race however this time seemed a little slow for however hard I / we tried, we couldn’t run any slower that 6:05 pace. There’s always a little exuberance at the start, but it seemed that the planned 6:30 mile was going to be thrown out of the window.

Also thrown out of the equation was the much feared bad weather. The rain had stopped shortly before the start, and with the cessation of precipitation also seemingly came a ceasefire in the strong winds. We were faced with a cross wind for the opening kilometre or so and it barely registered, much to the relief surely of every runner.

We went through the first mile in 6:10. Anna was just behind what we thought was the lead lady and fellow club member Will was way up the road seemingly in the first half dozen runners. Anna made it to around 10k but declared the pace a little too hot. We wished her well, she struggled with what is hopefully just cramp in her calf but ran a great debut road 10k in 40:24 to take third position in the women’s race. Stuart looked set to try and stick with the pace, we went through two miles in 6:07 and I tried my best to keep the pace consistent, which was happily relatively easy thanks to the flat terrain and relative non-presence of the wind.

The first inclination of Stuart struggling a touch was at the first water station where he needed to pour a fair amount of water to cool himself down. We went through the third mile in 6:11 and past halfway in around 19:10. 38 minutes was just about on if we could negative split the second 5k. This however was beginning to look doubtful as we hit the only significant climb of note – barely more than a 1% drag, but it was into the wind and slowed us to around 6:55 pace for the first quarter of the fourth mile.

Happily there was a descent to follow that helped us make up some lost time but, for the first time, Stuart was struggling to stick to my tail. We went through the fourth mile in 6:13 and began the opening tenth of the fifth mile in around 6:20 pace, me having to slow a touch to keep Stuart on board my train. I then made a decision ,as we made a turn that saw us head back to the start and enjoy a breeze on our backs for the return, to pick up the pace to what I thought we would need to break 38 minutes. I did this for a couple of minutes, looked around and saw that Stuart had no response.

I then looked ahead and saw Will, who had at one point been well over a minute ahead of us but now was just about within eyeshot and seemingly fading. This, I thought, was hardly surprising as he had run 17:02 at Peterborough parkrun the day before and had completed two speed sessions during the week. Tough going for a seasoned pro, let alone a raw 19 year old.

Feeling like I had a bit of running left in the legs. I began to pick up the pace. I passed a couple of runners as I went through the fifth mile in 5:56 and recognised the road to be the one we began the race on. Knowing we were in the final stages of the race with a fast flat run to the finish, I poured on the coals, running with an abandon I rarely allow myself. I caught and passed the lead lady, who totally unseen by us at the start, had opened a sizeable gap on her rivals. Will was now just 30 meters or so up the road and I doubled my efforts to catch him which I did just as we passed the 9km marker.

The sight of another GRC vest certainly spurred Will on, for he instantly matched my pace and, for a while, increased it. On another day I would have buckled and let him go ahead, but today I was having none of it, and just as I felt he was beginning to slow, I pushed again. The sixth mile was covered just as we turned left into the final twisty section at the finish HQ at Langtoft Primary School. It was a 5:22, one of the fastest miles I’ve ever clocked in a race.

I now had a sizeable gap on Will, which was just as well for I misheard a marshal’s cry of Well Done Grantham! for Hold On Grantham! at a left hand turn just before the finish. Luckily no damage was done for I soon realised the error of my ways and took the correct route to the finish line, clocking a pleasing, given the circumstances, 37:23, and finishing in a respectable thirteenth position. Happily too the modified trainers had been a resounding success, the Achilles unstressed by the modifications and the trainers still structurally sound despite being having several incisions.

Will came home not long after, as did Stuart, who had slipped a touch to finish in 38:54, but this was good enough to claim a new 10k PB. Anna came home not long after and then Scott, who was not that happy with his time, but the year is still young and there is plenty of time to come back into form.

There was no thought of a warm down, the left groin really tight as soon as the race had finished. We hung around to see Anna claim her third place prize, she was in esteemed company as Aaron Scott, who finished third in the Championship race at the London Marathon (with a 2:20 clocking), collected his winner’s prize having just missed out on the course record.

In terms of size, prestige and importance, it was a million miles away from the London Marathon. But, as I mentioned at the top of the report, this is what makes running such a great and unique sport. From ultra professional to grass roots in the blinking of an eye, but with a similar spread of quality and enthusiasm at both events. A very good little event is the Langtoft 10k. 

Langtoft 10k Grantham Running Club Post Race Photo.