Race Report – Oundle New Year 10K – Sunday 13th January 2019

GRC runners at the Oundle 10K.

Up until early December 2018 I was very much under the impression that I would be taking part in the 2019 London Marathon, courtesy of the championship place I earned with my 2017 qualifying time. I was going through the process of entering and making double checks when it dawned on me that the same weekend as London featured the F1 Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix, which meant I would be working and there would be no London Marathon for me in 2019. Alternatives were looking thin on the ground, thankfully Manchester on Sunday April 7th was a date free in the diary and so, at great cost, it was entered.

The downside to running Manchester, aside from not being able to run London, was that being three weeks earlier than London it meant that my usual Christmas  and New Year wind down on running which stretched to late January was not going to be a thing in 2019 – which was a pity as I was crying out for a good rest after the Keyworth Turkey Trot! The week following the Trot I was running a marathon in training (2:56 – for no real reason other than I could) in the fen lands of Langrick and Coningsby, the day after finishing first at Boston parkrun. I did at least have a quiet week of running the week before Christmas, doing quite a bit on Zwift instead. Christmas Day I had off before running 17 miles on Boxing Day.

The post Christmas family visits cut the mileage – Minehead parkrun saw me pull off a surprising first place given I was outside the top five at halfway – it also saw a bout of the killer leg cramps which I’ve barely suffered all year, they did again the following day before a pleasant enough last run of the year in Stroud (After an abductor scare) which had me knocking out some sub 6 miles for fun.  And so the first week of January, where I’d normally be running at most 11 miles in one go, had me running 20 miles (with a 17:35 parkrun in the middle) on the first Saturday, in addition to loads of Zwift in a 56 mile opening week.

The following weekend was the Oundle New Year 10K, which was to be my first race of the year and the opening race of the 2019 Grantham Running Club Grand Prix Series. I was the 2018 Champion and so wanted to defend my crown with a good start to the year. It was the first time the Oundle 10K had been hosted but a 20 mile race there the previous March had been well received and I was optimistic of a good event. What I wasn’t doing though was treating it a priority event – I’d run 10 miles the day before including Belton House parkrun at marathon pace. The legs felt okay, I did though have ongoing issues with my left big toe, which would be troublesome for much of the opening quarter of the year (And still continues to be a nuisance).

I think I was the first competitor to arrive in Oundle, although a few others soon followed. Mindful that I was in marathon training I planned to run a longer warm up than usual. As the race was a two lap affair I opted to run a lap of the course, which would give me a chance to see what was on offer. The positives was that it was the type of course I enjoy – mildly undulating with just a couple of short, relatively stiff ascents followed by long slightly downhill stretches. The immediately obvious spanner in the works was that for around a mile we were to have a full on, near gale force headwind on a totally exposed country road, which was also slightly uphill. The real bummer was that as the course was triangular in shape, at no point did we enjoy the full effect of the wind on our backs – at best it was a rear crosswind. The wind was also strengthening all the time, it would be significantly more blowy come the opening lap of the race and even worse on the second!

The start of the race at least was fairly kind, slightly downhill for the opening half mile before a rise and a left turn into the headwind. I soon settled in fourth place – the leader and one other runner pulled out quite a gap, I soon closed in on the third placed runner with club mate Ian Williams a few seconds behind me in fifth. The opening mile was clocked at 5:43, things slowed dramatically as we hit the headwind. Sitting in the third placed runner’s slipstream, I felt the pace slow, I moved ahead and picked the effort up a touch. Feeling the full force of the wind I was unable to pull clear. To try and shake the guy from my slipstream I drifted slowly from one side of the road to the other. Somewhat surprisingly he didn’t follow me but stuck resolutely to the inside of the road. Still unable to pull clear and aware that I was wasting energy,  I then slowed up and went back into his slipstream, hoping he would help take the pace.

I later found out (Because he sought me down on Facebook and messaged me!) that he was a bit irked by my tactics. I had no qualms in doing what I did. Quick times had already long gone out of the window. We were fighting for third place and I was using standard tactics to try and get him to help with the work and to minimise my exposure to the wind.

Anyway, after sitting in and taking a breather in his slipstream for a short while, I sensed again that he was slowing the pace (which is all quite legitimate, or it may just have been getting a greater than usual benefit from tucking in behind someone). I also had club mate Ian closing and so I decided to put in a real surge to pull ahead and clear of both Ian and the fourth placed runner, so they couldn’t benefit from my draft. My tactic worked, although the exuberant acceleration probably didn’t help in the long term. We had a couple more minutes of running into the wind, where I was able to eke out a few more seconds.

Mercifully after an interminably long time we turned left and dropped downhill with a crosswind to neither aid nor hinder us. This quicker section saw the mile two split come in at a semi-reasonable 6:06 – the reality was that it had been much slower for much of the mile. The third mile (5:42) was a more standard affair as we headed back into Oundle and turned left again back towards the start.  I pulled a few more seconds clear of Ian who had moved into fourth place and was beginning to close in on the second placed runner who looked like he was beginning to labour as we passed halfway.

I was running fairly strongly but had an issue with the right Nike Free I was wearing in that the laces were coming undone! By 6K they were near completely untied and although the shoe wasn’t going to come off it was moving around a lot and was not particularly comfortable, especially with the laces slapping against my legs. I did though at this point pass the second placed runner – a mobile phone being held in his hands gave a clue that this was a fairly novice runner with plenty of talent but lacking in race experience. The fourth mile saw the best of any help from the wind and being slightly downhill was the quickest of the race in 5:33.

Mile five was arguably one of the hardest I have ever raced! Back into the headwind at the top of the triangle, trying to pull clear of the two runners behind me, the wind was relentless and I think the strongest I have ever faced in a race. Giving it absolutely everything (more effort than running 5:30 pace) at one point it slowed us to slower than seven minute miles. There was nothing that could be done except dig in and work to the corner where I knew there would be respite.

Once at the corner I knew I couldn’t finish with my trainer undone in its current state without a risk of injury. While running I took off my gloves and tucked them into my shorts, choosing to come to a stop at the bottom of the hill where I could come off the road and onto a path. The stop to retie the laces was quite quick considering it came while I was second in a race and the rapidly beating heart rate with adrenaline coursing through the body. Ian came past me and offered me encouragement as he went by, thinking that I had an injury rather than a mechanical mishap.

Refreshed after the impromptu stop and feeling much happier with a trainer firmly attached to my foot, I recommenced running and very quickly closed down the three seconds or so to Ian. As we approached a bit of an uphill drag I wasted no time passing him and attempting to break clear. This I did, but he never dropped back more than a handful of seconds. This was the first time since I suffered stitch in the Summer Solstice 10K a few years back that I had come under pressure from a fellow GRC runner in a race. On the one hand it was great because I want the depth of the club to grow, on the other I was keen to still beat Ian and also to retain second place!

This I just about managed to do. Having run 6:27 in the mostly wind affected fifth mile, I picked up the pace to 5:46 for the sixth mile and 5:16 for the closing few hundred yards. The time of 36:42 was my slowest since the 2015 Langtoft 10K-  which I didn’t race properly having paced others to halfway. I felt as though it was a bit of a rusty January opener but knew the time was not indicative of the form I was in. It was when I looked at the results and saw that the winner John Uff clocked 35:13 yet had run a full two minutes quicker at the Telford 10K in December that the true effect of the wind was apparent and that Ian Williams’ 36:48 PB was a sign of a runner who could, and would, run much quicker in 2019.

With GRC second and third (the first double podium finish for the club) and Joaquim ‘Flash’ Jeronimo eleventh it was a double trophy to collect as winners of the team prize as well as second overall (I couldn’t claim the V40 prize too, alas). We missed most the prize giving as we had just gone on a cool down, luckily we were there to collect the team prize.

The GRC Men’s Winning team (L to R): Ian, Me, Flash.

With the trophies handed out and marathon training in mind I went and did another three miles cool down to bring the mileage for the week up to 66.  This time I ran a clockwise lap of the course we had raced on. My conclusion, having been blown along the windy section at sub 7 minute miles with almost literally no effort was that it would have been a much quicker race had we been able to run it the other way round!

A weird race this – I should have been delighted with second. I didn’t run badly, yet the result seems a little underwhelming, perhaps the slow time (Which didn’t help my GP Series), perhaps the mechanical with the shoe. Perhaps it was just a fairly low-key race in early January and nothing to get overly excited about. I will remember the race more for the wind than anything else – I hope it will never be that windy in a race again!


Race Report – Stathern Duathlon – Sunday 23rd September 2018

After the Two Counties Half Marathon success I didn’t do a whole load of running – I picked up a few niggles and opted mostly for the safer world of cycling on Zwift, which served a twin purpose as I was set to take part in my first and only Duathlon of the year at Stathern on September 23rd. This was originally scheduled for March but was postponed when Beast from the East II struck the area and made it impossible to run, let alone cycle on most of the local roads.

I went into the race reckoning I had a chance of doing fairly well but knowing that I was a little lacking of Duathlon specific training i.e. I’d done nowhere near as many post ride brick runs as I have done in the past few years. I was looking to rely on my running strength as I reckoned my cycling was a bit down on my best, particularly as I’d not done a whole lot of cycling since the end of July.

(L to R): me with Adam Madge before the start of the race.
Picture c/o race organisers.

The hours before the race were fairly low key and thankfully stress free – my mind wandered back to the Rockingham Duathlon the previous year and the dramas with the punctured wheel shortly before the off. I was one of the first to arrive and rack the bike, I went on a two mile warm up which served to get an idea of the run leg. We then had the pre event brief, a final chance to visit the toilet and before we knew it it was ten am and time to race.

Me and Adam Madge on the start line before the start.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I didn’t know many of the field at Stathern – Adam Madge was a familiar face and at his best someone who could beat me, but his running is not at it’s best this year due to injury, although he is flying on his bike. I recognised a few cyclists trying their luck at Duathlon, mostly finding that running is harder than it looks!

The start (L to R): Tom Marshall; Adam Madge; Me; and third placed Richard Marshall.
Picture c/o race organisers.

From the off for the opening 5K run leg and it was swift, mostly because it was ever so slightly downhill. I sat in fifth before slowly moving to the front of the field to take the lead at around 2/3s mile.

Leading the race just over a mile in on the opening run leg. Race winner tom Marshall chases in second.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I felt good going through the first mile in 5:29, working hard on the quiet country lane to the turn around point, where I would get to gauge the competition. I kept the effort fairly high, running at around 10K HR, the second mile 5:40 and the third mile 5:46 as I began to prepare myself for the run and slowed a touch as we went slightly uphill.

Leading the race just under two miles in on the opening run leg. Race winner tom Marshall chases in second.
Picture c/o race organisers.

My ‘5K’ split was 17:05, but we ran only three miles so it was more like 17:30 – good but not amazing. Transition went fairly smoothly. Mindful of the trouble I had at Rockngham trying to get my feet into the shoes once on the bike, I opted to put shoes on at transition and run in them. This may have cost me a couple of seconds (At 53 seconds it was actually one of the quicker transitions) but 1. it kept my feet dry on the wet grass and 2. It took the stress out of a tricky manoeuvre made doubly so by the tight corner out of transition.

I reckoned I had a 30 second lead as I left transition. I had begun to get a little warm wearing a tri suit with thermal top, temperatures only around 10C, but this soon became feeling very comfortable as the bike ride commenced. The bike leg was just under 11.5 miles, the hardest bit coming right at the start with the ascent of Stathern Hill, which was easier on the road bike with clip on tri bars (I was one of the very few riders to use a disc wheel) that I was forced into using now that my TT bike has been written off. My legs felt fine up the hill, my bigger concern was the Garmin bike unit resolutely refusing to recognise any of my Ant+ devices, meaning the only data I had was GPS speed, distance, and average speed. Having got used to riding to power and always relying on my HR to gauge effort, this came as something of a major distraction and didn’t help my cause. At least my GPS watch was recording the data for me to look at after, although during the ride the information was not available.

Leading the bike leg race at Belvoir Castle with traffic to contend.
Picture c/o race organisers.

Once up the hill it was a gently rolling affair to Belvoir Castle before heading downhill to Long Lane and the long ride along a dead straight road back to Stathern. Being in the lead I gauged my effort as best as possible, waiting really for stronger cyclists to come and catch me. This one of them did as we approached Belvoir Castle, his cause helped by me being stuck behind some slow moving traffic trying to get into a new shopping complex that had opened since the Duathlon course was created. I didn’t know him at the time but the guy who passed me was Tom Marshall – more of whom later.

Leading the bike leg race at Belvoir Castle with traffic to contend. Race winner tom Marshall closes in!
Picture c/o race organisers.

Drafting wasn’t allowed at this race so I gave him the allowable distance and tried my best to hold onto his wheel as we went down Long Lane. We were fortunate this year as this has often been the scene of some very strong headwinds. Today there was virtually no wind and any there was was a side wind and had negligible effect.

By the time we turned left back into Stathern I had been passed by two more riders to sit fourth, but the gap to me and Tom in the lead was only around 30 seconds. I misjudged my effort slightly on the bike, thinking we had further to ride than we did, so could have put a bit more effort into it. The data after the event revealed a 21 mph average @ 246W which is not bad for me off the back of a run (albeit 5K was the shortest I had done in a leg one run at a Duathlon). Perhaps more tellingly at 33:00 I was only four seconds slower than Adam Madge, who was almost a minute quicker than me over 10 miles at the summer Witham Wheelers time trials, and less than three minutes slower than the quickest cyclist (who luckily for me wasn’t the strongest runner).

Me coming into transition at the end of the bike leg, feet out of shoes.
Picture c/o race organisers.

My second transition wasn’t the best, despite having successfully gotten my feet out of the cycle shoes before dismounting. I lost a few more seconds to those around me, especially leader Tom Marshall. Sitting fourth I soon got into my running, another 5K along the same route as the opening run leg. I quickly passed the third and second placed runners, giving me over just over two miles to try and catch Tom. Normally I’m one of the strongest runners on the second run leg of a Duathlon, but no matter how hard I pushed Tom just wouldn’t get any closer.

Coming out of transition on the second run leg in fourth position.
Picture c/o race organisers.

The first mile 5:38, having turned around at halfway it was 5:46. Despite encouragement from those I was passing in the opposite direction there was little more I could do and at two and a half miles I more or less admitted defeat, moaning to myself how the sun had come out on what was meant to be a cloudy day and I hadn’t worn my sunglasses.

Race winner Tom Marshall celebrates at the end of the race.
Picture c/o race organisers.
Me coming home at the end of the race in second position.
Picture c/o race organisers.

With a final 5K split of 17:43 I finished in 1:09:35. This would have won me the previous two Stathern Duathlons (albeit they were held in March in worse conditions) but Tom Marshall was 34 frustrating seconds quicker. We were quick to congratulate each other and analyse our performances. It turned out that Tom was fresh out of Ironman training and racing which what he lacked in outright run speed he made up in great endurance – his second run split was just a second slower than his opening. It also turned out he was a pretty decent runner – he was fourth in the Sleaford Half Marathon where I was second.

Me celebrating with race winner Tom Marshall.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I was nearly two minutes clear of the third placed finisher – Richard Marshall, meaning I was surrounded at the finish by Marshalls! – with my nearest Belvoir Tri Club competition Adam coming home fifth. This meant I was finally the BTC Duathlon Champion! It also meant the beginning and end of my 2018 Duathlon Season – having turned down the opportunity to take part in the European Championships this sport became little more than a footnote, which was a shame because I quite enjoyed my one and only foray in 2018, a little disappointed to have not won it but pleased to be second to an athlete who was simply better on the day.

The top three at the end of the race (L to R): Richard Marshall, third; Tom Marshall, race winner; Matthew Kingston-Lee, third.
Picture c/o race organisers.


Race Report – Sleaford Half Marathon – Sunday 6th May 2018.

With the London Marathon done and dusted attention focused on the Sleaford Half Marathon. I had two weeks to try and recover and prepare for what would likely be my first full gas race of the year after the semi-training run effort of the Keyworth Turkey Trot  and the London Marathon – which although an extremely hard race due to the heat, was ultimately less hard on the legs as it could have been if I’d run it at the pace I’d trained to run at.

Mindful of a calf injury sustained not long after the 2017 London Marathon which may well have been exacerbated by resuming running (at pace) too soon after London, I made a concerted effort to take things relatively easy. The day after London saw an easy hour on the elliptical trainer and a few minutes on my new bike smart trainer which I had treated myself to when it went on an offer that was too good to refuse. I rode the Witham Wheelers TT on the Tuesday, a moderate effort, not too hard on the legs, oddly a slight season’s best. Wednesday saw my first ride in anger on Zwift using the smart trainer and I’ve got to say I absolutely loved it. It brought a new sense of realism to the game – 8% climbs now felt like climbs rather than having to try and simulate it through gear selection, conversely, the 8% descents gave you a chance to try and recover – just as in real life.

Back to real life on the Thursday and the first run since London – eleven miles with GRC. I felt really good, averaged 7:12 but could have gone so much faster were there anyone willing to go with the pace. Friday saw more Zwift and my first training session, which brings in the erg mode element to turbo training, which makes things very interesting! Saturday saw Belton House parkrun and a 17:27 clocking (Which I’ve posted about separately). Loving the smart trainer so much I put in a catch up Tour Of Watopia stage after work in the evening, before putting in another 90 minutes on Zwift on Sunday morning, stopped only by work on the Azerbaijan GP. Monday saw a 10 mile run in the morning, no real effort and 6:37 average but tired quads gave an indication that I hadn’t fully recovered from London. My daughter’s cancelled swim session in the evening meant I got a bonus hour on Zwift. Everything was going great! Then Tuesday happened.

For reasons unknown I wasn’t feeling too fantastic Tuesday afternoon. I considered not heading to the time trial but, after a little rest on the sofa and a leftover slice of the kids’ pizza, I felt a bit better and so got myself ready to ride to the event. I can’t at the moment print exactly what happened, suffice to say that not long after leaving the house and riding to the cricket club, I was involved in an accident that left me on the floor with my bike significantly worse for wear.

After I picked myself up and went through the procedure of sorting out details for insurance reasons, I headed back home, bike unrideable and in a bit of pain with my left calf (I think I irritated the sciatic nerve with an over extension and felt nothing more after a night’s sleep) and a bruised right knee. I was full of adrenaline, so put in an hour or so easy riding on Zwift to try and calm myself down.

A restless night followed however as I mulled over and over the evening’s incident. I had planned to run with Stephen Hobday on Wednesday morning. I was able to run but the bruised right knee became progressively more sore as the run progressed, so I cut short a planned 10 mile run to 7.5 miles. Feeling no discomfort on the bike, I rode a Zwift race in the evening, memorable for it being very hilly and significantly longer than advertised, so much so that at the conclusion, nearly 90 minutes after beginning, the body was totally devoid of any energy whatsoever!

Thursday morning saw 55 minutes very easy on Zwift before a planned GRC run in the evening. Young talent Jake was a guest and it wasn’t long before he and I were off the front of the group running alone. The right knee, which had been a little sore from the off, became increasingly painful to the point where I called the run short at 9 miles in total. I knew that Sunday’s Half Marathon was in real jeopardy so it was a case of two days of nothing but rest and plenty of ice applied to the knee 3 or 4 times a day. This seemed to yield a positive result, by Saturday evening I felt nothing when walking up and down stairs, whereas before it had ached a fair amount. It was though still quite painful to touch.

With the race start at 9:45 am, I was up at 6:30 am to prepare and allow the cereal bar breakfast to digest. In scenes eerily reminiscent of the 2016 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon (where I went in injured, but finished second) I did a short half mile run from home before setting off for nearby Sleaford by means of a fitness test on the crash damaged knee. I could feel a little tenderness but nothing that caused undue concern nor a change in running gait. What was apparent though was the weather. In an almost near mirror image of March’s Beast from the East  and it’s return a fortnight later, the very warm, sunny weather that compromised performance at the London Marathon had returned with vengeance for the Sleaford Half Marathon weekend, with the weekend in the middle frustratingly near perfect for distance racing.

I made it to Sleaford with over 90 minutes to spare, fearing a nightmare with parking that failed to transpire. Given that Sleaford is the nearest town to Grantham I should know my way around it better, but I had to rely on other runners’ knowledge to get me from the town car park to the start venue at the local football club. Pre-race preparation was a fairly standard affair but with the emphasis on trying to keep as cool as possible with temperatures already approaching 20C at 9 am. The warm up was just a mile around the football pitches with one acceleration. The knee felt fine.

The GRC entrants at the 2018 Sleaford Half Marathon. Picture c/o Kirsti Carter.

I sought shade as much as possible, somewhat reluctantly taking part in the rather impressive GRC group photo, before heading back to join a queue for the indoor toilets which killed some time and was cooler than being outside. I deliberated long and hard about what kit to wear – the club vest was a given, then I opted to wear the cap that served me so well at London. Then, at the last minute, I opted to also wear the club coloured Buff (purchased just the day before for such an eventuality) around the neck to try and keep temperatures down on a course which was largely exposed to the sun with little chance of seeking shade. In the 10-15 minutes before the start of the race, I made a point of keeping the cap and buff soaked with cold water. It was pretty cold at the time but I was confident it would help during the race itself.

The pre-race briefing told us to enjoy the lovely conditions, which I think most took to be a little tongue in cheek given we were already all baking in the sun. I had half planned to take it easy with the hot weather, but I knew from prior experience that I could probably plan to run a fairly standard race with the acceptance that the going would get increasingly tough near the end of the race, more than you’d expect if conditions were fine.

We made the short walk from the club house to the start line. We were warned about the start mat covering the entirety of the road so I placed myself dead bang in the middle of the line of the carpet so as to minimise chances of not being detected by the timing chip. We were told that we would start on the whistle and literally two or three seconds later the whistle blew. Nearly all road races have a countdown of sorts, so at first I hesitated, wondering if the whistle was to bring us to attention but, no, that was the starting whistle, and so we were off on our way.

A flat start with a slight breeze at our backs meant the start was brisk. I found myself somewhere around the top ten, before making up a space or three as we turned into a housing estate and began to run into the breeze. Leaving the estate and returning in the opposite direction back towards the start line I closed slowly on the runner in third position.

Third placed Wayne Lathwell leads in the opening mile from Ruslan Seitkalijev, who finished fifth. Picture c/o Race Organisers.

Just by following him I liked his smart approach to racing. As the leaders (and many others), shown in the picture above, stuck to the left hand side of the road, the guy in front moved to the right hand side of the road, where there was a patch of around 200 meters which was in the shade. A marginal gain perhaps over the course of 13.1 miles seeking marginally lower temperatures, but I know from experience these little things can and do add up. I went through the first mile in 5:38, which was a couple of seconds up on the A Game plan, although not as fast as my PB HM opening mile, when I ran 5:28.

The second mile took us past the finish area and off on the long loop that would take us to and through Kirkby La Thorpe, Evedon, Ewerby, Boughton, Howell, Ewerby Thorpe, Ewerby (Again), and Kirky la Thorpe (Again) before returning to the finish at the football club. The wide main road running into Sleaford and towards the A17 was closed for the morning. The rest of the roads were open but were very quiet roads – I think I only saw three or four cars and a whole load of bicycles – but more of them later.

By the end of the second mile I had closed on the third placed runner, who I thought I recognised as someone I raced with at the Thoresby 10, but some detective work reveals I didn’t. It was only after the race that he came to be known to me as Martin Dawson of North Derbyshire Running Club. Clocking a more palatable 5:46 for the second mile. Martin pulled wide to the right side of the road as he let me through to take the pace. There was a headwind at the time – just noticeable enough to be a little effort to run in and also just enough to provide a bit of welcome cooling. Martin’s extravagant pull to the side amused me quite a bit. I kept the pace honest as we passed probably the biggest climb on the course as we climbed up and over the A17.

Any thoughts that Martin was just going to sit on my tail was put to bed as he came past me, clearly willing to help with the pace. Indeed as we went through the first water station, manned by one of my local running rivals Greg Southern of Sleaford/Royal Air Force  at 2.5 miles, he kindly offered me his water bottle. As I had already discarded around 450ml over the top of my head and was feeling suitably refreshed, I declined his kind offer, but knew that this would be someone who would be a help in the race rather than a hindrance.

Martin was keen to share water bottles! Picture c/o Sara Pask.

We went through the third mile together in 5:41 and 5K in 17:42. By now the two at the front of the race who had pulled clear for the opening couple of miles were now slowly, but surely, being reeled in by the slower starting duo of Martin and myself. Lincoln AC man, who had led the race, was now second behind the young man in black, who looked bouncy and strong but who, along with the bigger Lincoln runner, showed signs of beginning to struggle with the heat, which was warm and getting warmer all the time.

Through four miles with 5:43 on the Garmin, it had been was a typical Fens running affair – an unremarkable narrow country lane on flat lands surrounded by fields of crops.  As we approached Everdon there was a rare change in elevation with a slight incline. It was here where Martin and I passed the Lincoln AC runner. The man in black was now just a few seconds up the road and it looked like a matter of when, not if, we would both pass him. This we did shortly after, sharing the lead of the race, continuing to take turns to pace one another. I was keeping an eye on my HR as it crept higher towards the maximum I’d like it to be during a HM. On a cooler day I may have let it past, but I knew with the warmth I couldn’t stretch too far into the red.

Sharing the lead of the race with Martin on the farmers’  track. Picture c/o Race Organisers.

The road had now turned into a heavily potholed gravel track – a private road used with permission from a farmer. The Sleaford Half Marathon seems to enjoy these excursions into the unusual. At its former home at RAF Cranwell there was a half mile or so through a field which, during February when the race was held, was invariably very muddy and slippery. This pot hole ridden track was less of a hindrance, especially as the ground had been baked dry by days of sun, but it demanded full attention to avoid becoming a cropper in a crater.

Former leader of the race Ruslan Seitkalijev, who went onto  finish fifth. I can just be seen in the lead of the race as we exited the farmer’s gravel path.. Picture c/o Race Organisers.

Exiting the farmers path at the beginning of the fifth mile, the Garmin clocked 5:41. As we approached halfway at Ewerby and still sharing the lead of the race, I could just sense that the heat was beginning to take its toll. Speaking to others after the race many felt the same way – that is that it was bearable to halfway, then got progressively harder with a low point around ten miles as we came back into Ewerby.

Leading the race approaching Eweby and halfway. Picture c/o Race Organisers.

The sixth mile was 5:46 and I went through 10K in 35:32. By now parched, both me and Martin were alarmed at the next water station when they appeared to be handing out cups of water. Spotting a crate of water bottles we both shouted ‘Bottles! Bottles!’ to the guys manning the water station. To their credit and perhaps hearing the desperation in our voices, bottles were hastily provided just in time. Thoughtfully once again Martin had taken two bottles in case I had been unable to grab one. Once again I declined his offer of a bottle, he handed it to a spectator to hopefully hand out to runners behind us.

Off now on a near four mile loop before returning to Ewerby, my time at the front of the race would come to an end. With the merest of a slow down, mile 7 being 5:48, it seemed Martin capitalised on this and picked up the pace, not by a huge amount, but enough to create a 20 second or so gap by the time we had run eight miles. Really feeling the heat by now as I clocked 5:48 for mile 8, all I could do was hope that Martin had risked it a little too much by increasing the pace when the body would surely be screaming to slow down. I noted that at around 8 miles, Martin took on a gel. I sensed that today that could have been a great move, especially one with added sodium and other electrolytes – the type I normally take. The possible advantage I had over him, I reckoned, was that the still soaking cap and buff around the neck would hopefully keep me cooler in the later stages, when the heat would likely really start to take its toll.

Turning left at the small village of Howell I was warned by marshals of cyclists approaching the junction. There was the King Edward Sportive taking place that day, which we had been warned about as there was a multitude of arrows at the next junction which would be confusing to a heat affected mind. With odds that must be in the 100s to 1, by pure coincidence the group that came past me was a bunch of Witham Wheelers’ riders, the same group I would have typically ridden with if I had failed the morning’s fitness test and chosen to cycle instead! With plenty of encouragement received I half jokingly instructed them to try and slow down the leader ahead. They did indeed ride up to Martin and perhaps told him to slow down. They didn’t though impede him and that was the last I saw of them as they took part in an activity far more enjoyable than running in the conditions.

That brief interlude of excitement out of the way it was back to the increasingly hard graft. Mile 9 was a 5:49 and mile 10 5:50. I remember little of this part of the race other than finding it increasingly hot and difficult to maintain pace.

Struggling along in the heat at 10 miles. Picture c/o Edina Burns.

At ten miles we rejoined the course already trodden at Ewerby and I was passing runners who would look to run around two and a bit hours for the marathon. I knew the water station would be ahead and was thankful to take a bottle. Once again I took only a small swig of water, making sure as much of the contents as possible went over the head and neck.

Miles 10 and 11 were the hardest yards of the race. At times I felt like my legs were beginning to buckle. Fearing an attack of the Callum Hawkins I made sure I could run a straight line. Thankfully, despite the suffering, I was not yet out of my mind, although I did question this when we passed a random guitarist and partnering vocalist singing Brown Eyed Girl by the side of the country road. Mile 11, despite being partially downhill, was the slowest of the race at 5:52. That I was suffering and tiring but more or less maintaining pace was pleasing. I just had to keep the concentration up. Not only was Martin in front seemingly slowing slightly (Probably an illusion), I had glanced behind on occasion and was sure a Lincoln Wellington runner was closing on me. Fear of losing second rather than the possibility of winning here drove me on.

Mile 12 saw the final water station, another cheer of encouragement from Greg Southern and the final incline of the race as we went back over the A17 and towards the finish. I was pleased to see I had increased the pace to run 5:47 for mile 12 and with less than eight minutes of running to go I put in as much effort as I could, focusing on the limited number of reference points ahead to break down the mile as much as possible and ignoring as best as possible the heat radiating off the asphalt below.

It was at 12.5 miles I looked at my elapsed time for the first time since halfway. It read under 1:12. For a few moments I thought a PB was possible, but the brain had enough processing power to realise that wasn’t possible.  I did though recognise that it could be a pretty decent time and so, despite second place being assured, I put in one final effort to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.

Coming in to finish second. Picture c/o Race Organisers.

Crossing the line I missed the finishing clock, my Garmin suggested I had run 1:16:04 but I knew it would be officially a few seconds quicker. I forgot all about that however as, once stopped, the inevitable heat soak took over my body and I could think of nothing but to seek shade, which I found next to the Muffin Top cake stall by the baggage collection. I spent a few minutes just sitting calmly, cooling slightly, before being joined by the one-time race leader Rusian who shook hands with me before collapsing in a heap!

Being presented with the second placed trophy. Picture c/o Gav Meadows.

After five minutes or so I felt sufficiently recovered and collected my bag to change into dry clothes. For the next 45 minutes or so I stood with club mates and spectated, cheering home the 35+ Grantham Running Club members who took part in the race. Initially it was believed we had won the Team Prize until Lincoln Wellington found a runner to mean that they took the honours. I did though have the opportunity to receive the second placed trophy and a voucher worth £125 for a pair of Mizuno trainers! This prize was given to the first three finishers, which made me wonder whether the effort of maintaining second had been worth it! I was also given my official chip time of 1:15:59, which cheered me up no end!

I also had the first opportunity to talk to the race winner, who revealed that it was only his second half marathon and a three minute PB, clocking 1:15:11. He admitted that he had taken a bit of a risk in breaking clear at 7 miles and just about held on, but it was touch and go in the final miles. His win was well judged and thoroughly well deserved.

Trophy, Shoes, and Prize Trainers.

Grabbing a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders from the Lincolnshire Runner stand, I basked in the heat of the day before heading to a rather lovely barbecue at friends, then GRC’s Beer & Bling evening, where I could add the Sleaford Half Marathon medal to my London Marathon prize. It was only when I awoke in the morning that I was reminded that I had run 13.1 miles on a bruised knee. Virtually pain free during the race, it felt very similar to how it had been soon after crashing the bike. Indeed a pain blighted run a couple of days later meant I was resigned to taking at least a week off running to let everything hopefully heal. I certainly hope so because I am in good shape and have some races coming up thick and fast!

Grantham Running Club ‘Beer N Bling!’
Splits and Map of Course

Race Report – Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon – Grantham – Sunday 13 March 2016.

Those who have read the weekly training log for the week will know there was a real dilemma over whether to race the Fraction or take part in the Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride. I guess the title gives the decision away, but it wasn’t a clear cut decision.

I woke at 7am and headed downstairs to have a coffee and breakfast as I do when I ride. I had a full bowl of cereal, something I wouldn’t do normally when racing, and headed upstairs to get changed into my cycling gear. As I climbed up the stairs I did a set of eccentric calf raises and drops. Since the massage on Thursday I’ve been doing 100+ of them daily as I was trying to do some of the things I’ve done over the past six months that may have helped ease the pain in the calf and help me run. Through Friday and a lot of Saturday when I was doing them I was getting an intense burning sensation running up from the calf, up the hamstring and into the glute. This to me gave an indication that there was some nerve irritation going on, as I was getting no similar sensation in the other calf.

After parkrun on the Saturday I massaged the right hip and glute with a hockey ball as suggested by my massage guru David. Previous to his massage on Thursday this produced little in the way of relief or sensation, but today, probably as a result of the tear inducing work he performed on Thursday night, I was able to get a real sensation of things moving, shifting, releasing, unsticking. That evening when I did the calf raises and drops there was less of a burning sensation than before.

That set of raises and drops on the Sunday morning produced nothing but a deep stretch – just as they should. No burning, no pain. Wondering whether this would translate into a positive feeling when running, I quickly ditched the cycling clothes, grabbed some shorts and a running top, pulled on my trainers (making sure the Garmin was on and satellites locked….) and headed outside for a quick impromptu jog up and down the road. To my surprise there was little or no discomfort in the calf. I did another couple of minutes running. Still nothing. I did another minute or so to make it a mile, picking up the pace to something close to race pace. Zilch. By now it was too late to ride with the Wheelers. There was no pain. It was written in the stars. I was going to race!

Being a 10:30 start and it being a mere couple of miles from home, I now had an hour or so to kill. I spent the time wisely, stretching and some gentle massage. Plenty of positive vibes coming from the calf and hip. I left the house at 9:20 to allow myself an hour before the race. The venue – the Meres Leisure Center – is where I use the gym so it is like a second home. There was to be no stress before the race. Familiar faces as I collected my race number, some surprise from those who I’d told I definitely wasn’t racing.

It would have been easy to have got too relaxed, so I headed away from HQ and did my warm up alone to focus on the race. A mile and a bit of easy running. A slight ache in the calf, but very slight. I trusted the compression socks and placebo tape would hold everything in place when the going got tough. Spotting the queue for the toilets at the track were long, I took advantage of my gym pass to use the deserted ones in the leisure center. I arrived back at the track for a hasty Grantham Running Club team photograph (I would be wearing their top over the Kenilworth Runners T-Shirt in an attempt to show allegiance to both my running clubs), said my farewells to the family, who had come to cheer me on, then went for one more toilet break just to calm the nerves.

Some of the GRC runners before the start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Some of the GRC runners before the start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

I arrived at the start with two minutes to spare – perfect timing. I took my place near the front of the field and waited for the countdown, which were ten of the longest seconds ever counted down.

The start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach
The start of the race. Picture c/o Gordon Geach

The horn sounded and we were off. Full of adrenaline at my home race I went off a little too enthusiastically and found myself leading briefly as we left the stadium. I glanced at my watch and realised I’d set off at sub five minute mile pace. I’m not Aaron Scott so I reduced my effort and allowed the pre-race favourite, Adam Holland, to take the lead. He was joined by James Skinner, a runner I wasn’t familiar with. As we turned left and headed towards Barrowby I sat a comfortable third. The legs, quads especially, began to feel a touch heavy. I lamented that spin / elliptical trainer session I did at the Meres a couple of days earlier. Thankfully after a mile or so the heaviness lifted and I felt full of running, although a little anxious that the watch clocked the first mile at 5:30 pace, more 5-10k sustainable pace than a half marathon.


Adam Holland leading the race. Picture c/o Paul Davidson
Adam Holland leading the race. Picture c/o Paul Davidson

I charged through Barrowby and towards the canal path in third place. The crowds were not exactly huge, more a smattering, but many knew who I was and were cheering me on in person. I cannot express how much of a boost this was. I was the local boy in third place, running for club and town.

Adam Holland leading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.
Adam Holland leading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.

I was running alone, with the leaders drifting ahead. For a minute or two I began to lose concentration, the race appearing as though it would be a typical time trial affair, with wide gaps between finishers near the front of the field. This was reflected in the second mile split – 5:49, although this was mostly uphill.

Heading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.
Heading into Barrowby. Picture c.o Graham Jones.

As we came down the drop at The Drift and onto the Canal Path I was caught and passed by Robert Windard and another runner. Robert was looking strong, especially on the downhill sections.

Robert Windard and others chasing me down. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
Robert Windard and others chasing me down. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

Oftentimes I would let other runners pull ahead and run my own race, often to heart rate. However today, as I glanced at my heart rate and saw it was in the right zone for a HM, I made a concerted effort to pick up the pace and stick on to the heels of Robert. Once there things magically felt easier, we had another Robert – Robert Scothern join us (This reminds me of the Not The 9 O’Clock News Skit about a car factory full of Bobs). I rarely get to run quick in a group, this was my chance, and it felt great! What was even greater was that the lead vehicle, replaced by a lead bike on the canal path, rather than disappear slowly into the distance as I had expected, was appearing to ever so slightly move closer to us.

Adam Holland by now had been caught by James Skinner and they were running together. Adam is a phenomenal talent – especially as an ultra runner. He holds the record for the fastest ten marathons in ten consecutive days, the youngest runner to have raced 100 marathons (He has since raced 244), he holds a treadmill endurance world record, and last autumn he embarked on a 2000 mile continuous run in 20 days, during which he ran a 2:28 marathon at Chester (where I saw him running hours after on a main road as I was driving home!), and later took victories at the Bristol to Bath marathon and the Newcastle Town Moor Marathon.

James Skinner leading the race ahead of a relaxed Adam Holland. Picture c/o Gordon Geach
James Skinner leading the race, ahead of a relaxed Adam Holland. Picture c/o Gordon Geach

I’ve run with Adam at a few parkruns at Newark. I noticed two things about him. One he is the slowest looking quick runner you will ever see, his form is very deceptive as he barely appears to be trying. Second, I get the impression in a race type situation he will typically do just enough to win or finish highly. This may be an incorrect assessment but it appeared to be happening again at the Fraction, he was toying his opposition, waiting to pull well clear at any moment.

Still, as we ran along the three miles of canal path – very familiar to me on my training runs – he was still well in sight and a great rabbit to focus the mind and ignore the pace we were running. I don’t think I really looked at my watch much in that section other than to clock a 5k split and a 5 mile split, but miles 3, 4, and 5 were run in 5:28, 5:31, and 5:34. I passed 5k in 17:11 and 5 miles in 28:10 or so.

Behind Robert in 4th on the Canal Section. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Behind Robert in 4th on the Canal Section. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk

It was just as we were leaving the canal section and into Woolsthorpe where the right calf began to ache. It was the typical gentle ache, not enough to slow me, but enough to make me wonder if at any moment it would develop into something rapidly race ending. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the guys I was racing with if and when it did happen, something like that’s it boys, I’m done, go get ’em! 

Leaving the Canal Path, the right calf giving cause for concern. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Leaving the Canal Path, the right calf giving cause for concern. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

We had a short section of flat before the first of two big hills on the course at Woolsthorpe. The race by now was clearly developing into a highly tactical affair, developments were likely on this half mile plus climb which Strava states averages 6% but is signposted at 12% average. The climb began as we passed six miles, the sixth mile showing little slowing in pace with a 5:37. There was a drinks station where I failed no less than three times to grab a cup of water, to the mirth of Robert Scothern, who received an impromptu shower. On a different, warmer, day I would have been concerned about taking on no liquid. But conditions were perfect for racing at around 9C with early mist and fog gently clearing to reveal blue skies later in the race (Once we topped Woolsthorpe Hill, to be precise). I also normally take a gel during a half marathon but, probably as this is a training route for me, the thought never occurred to carry one. I didn’t seem to miss it.

I’ve had plenty of times to rehearse Woolsthorpe Hill. Right from the foot of the ascent I took to the front of the pack and eased gently ahead of the two Bobs I was running with. I’ve climbed the hill quicker but today I had to pace it carefully, one because I didn’t want to push the heart rate too high, two because my calf was giving worrying aches when I tried to lengthen the stride on the steeper sections, and three my guts were beginning to churn a little with the increased effort – a legacy of the roast dinner the night before no doubt.

I noticed ahead of me the lead vehicle was definitely getting closer. James had pulled a little clear of Adam who appeared to be labouring a touch, but I appeared to be marginally the fastest of the lead five climbing the hill. I reached the summit in third and pushed on without delay. The Lincoln Bob (Robert Windard) was chasing me as we gently drifted clear of RAF Bob (Robert Scothern). I heard a shout out from Grantham running legend Chris Armstrong, who was a very fine runner back in the 1980s and I recalled the clip he posted of his victory at the 1986 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half MarathonI didn’t much fancy being greeted at the finish by bagpipes but I was inspired by the thought of perhaps finishing in the top three. We were halfway through the race, I was third, and, barring injury, there was a chance I could stay there.

The run down from Woolsthorpe Hill to Denton is all downhill, mostly gradual with a fairly steep descent to finish. Adam had retaken the lead of the race but wasn’t really extending the gap – the lead vehicle sometimes coming very close to us as it struggled with some traffic. There was more support from friends – this time on bike and I was beginning to feel very racy. I was fully switched from chasing a time mode to how best to tactically race mode.

The first decision was to let Lincoln Bob catch me and to let him take the pace – we were running into a very slight breeze and I wanted to conserve as much energy as possible. As we dropped into Denton he pulled five seconds or so clear as I couldn’t live with his downhill prowess. He used this skill to catch second placed James. As we turned left in Denton onto the Casthorpe Road I was cheered on in name by some of the council guys in charge of closing the roads. The sense of not letting them down spurred me on. I made a concerted effort to close the gap to James and Bob who were running side by side. On the slight rise out of Denton I managed it and for then next two miles sat firmly in their slipstream.

Miles 7, 8, 9 and 10 were covered in 6:15 (Woolsthorpe Hill included, so 5:33 with Strava Gap incorporated), 5:34, 5:33, and 5:38 – my watch showing ten miles covered in what would be a PB time of 56:44. Adam had not pulled into the distance but I reckoned he had enough of a gap to comfortably take the win.

My strategy was to implement local knowledge and try to break the two I was running with on the second and hardest of the two climbs in the race – Casthorpe Hill – before putting in a flat out last two miles towards the finish back at the Meres. It was a plan I had rehearsed at the culmination of a long 20 mile plus run a few weeks earlier with some considerable success, a pair of Strava segments my reward.

Strava again lists the climb at half a mile long and with a 6% average gradient. In reality it is, in its entirety, a little bit longer, and although may average 6%, the steepest section in the last part of the climb averages 12% with a short section of 14%. I let the pair drift a few yards ahead as we dropped briefly before the start of the climb, recuperating myself for the upcoming effort. There is a long gentle drag uphill where I pulled alongside them, dropped back, then pushed on again, harder and with more determination.

The attack had almost the desired effect and an unintended beneficial consequence. Lincoln Bob couldn’t quite live with the pace as we pitter-pattered up the steepest section of the hill, covered in rain water still cascading down from the surrounding fields after the recent heavy rainfall. James remained on my heels, resolutely unwilling to be broken (Following the race it turned out that he had finished third at the race in 2015 – so was well aware of Casthorpe Hill). We nearly, very nearly, caught Adam. I reckon the gap was down to around 8-10 seconds at the top of the climb.

The lead vehicle at the top of Casthorpe Hill. Me and James just behind it and Adam. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
The lead vehicle at the top of Casthorpe Hill. Me and James just behind it and Adam. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

At the top of the climb James pulled alongside me and we ran together briefly before he edged ahead and Lincoln Bob remained in the wings just behind ready to pass if I faltered at any moment. I had plans to attack immediately at the top of the hill and give it full gas, as I had done on my long run a few weeks earlier. However the cumulative efforts of the race and the subtle, but noticeable headwind we had in the final miles meant the attack never quite materialised (I ran 6:29 (hill included, 5:32 with Strava GAP), 5:33, and 5:41 for miles 11-13, around 10-15 seconds slower per mile than on my training run). As we ran through Barrowby I was pretty regularly being cheered on in person or by come on Grantham! by local supporters and that was enough to keep the desire to ease up and settle for a comfortable fourth at bay.

Me and James Skinner heading towards the finish at Barrowby. Picture c/o Graham Jones.
Me and James Skinner heading towards the finish at Barrowby. Picture c/o Graham Jones.

This year alone I must have run down from Barrowby to the Meres Leisure Center ten times or more yet, weirdly, this last section of the race appeared to be the least familiar. Maybe it was because I am usually running very comfortably along this stretch, but right now, all I wanted to do was stop. The legs were heavy, the calf more than a little achy, the tanks beginning to run empty. James pulled around 5 seconds clear as we approached the Meres, Lincoln Bob a little more behind, Adam still strangely close to us in the lead.

Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Approaching the finish at the Stadium. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

As we entered the stadium a lady who had helped volunteered at parkrun the day before shouted Go on Matt, you can catch him! I didn’t believe I could but was alarmed when I looked around to see that the gap to fourth had shrunk from over five seconds to less than a couple! I was determined to finish in the top three. My strategy as we entered the final 300 meters of the race was to attack for second in the hope that if Robert passed us both, at least I would still be third.

As we hit the back straight I picked up the pace. I could hear the shouts of encouragement from the spectators gathered at the finish line. They spurred me on. The gap to James and I melted. At the top of the bend I decided not to wait and went for all out for the sprint finish, the aim being to catch James unawares and leave him unable to close any gap. It appeared to work as I passed him and eked out a small gap. However, at the start of the home straight, with only around 80 meters remaining, the early sprint took its toll and I began to tire badly. I looked around anxiously, as Mo Farah does at the end of a race, and swore that James and Robert were catching me fast. Willed on by the support at the finish and sheer bloody mindedness not to lose my recently gained second place, I did what Mo does – gritted my teeth and kicked and kicked again – hard all the way to and just past the finish line – not forgetting of course to stop my watch at the finish line (Old habits die very hard).

Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.ukSunday 13 March 2016.
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.ukSunday 13 March 2016.
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk
Sprinting for second place at the finish. Picture by yourraceday.co.uk

No one passed me. I was second!

Crossing the finish line. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.
Crossing the finish line. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.
(L to R): Matthew Kingston-Lee, James Skinner, Robert Windard – second, third, and fourth, at the finish. Picture c/o Penny Hodges.

As I crossed the line there was a broad smile and a small fist pump. Then as I stopped running, the euphoria mixed with a little bit of pain and I looked to the sky before sinking to my knees to catch my breath. Moments later I recomposed myself and was quick to congratulate those I had just beaten.

Genuinely more thrilling than the second position was the manner in which the race had panned out. I’d forgotten about times – it turned out I’d run 1:15:30, my third fastest ever, one second slower than my Power of 10 PB set at Nottingham in 2014 – and run a race full of tactics, changing of positions and uncertain in its conclusion literally until we had crossed the finish line. For the record, I was one second ahead of James and three seconds clear of Robert. Adam had finished fifteen seconds ahead of me, which meant the top four was covered by less than twenty seconds!

I spent a longer than usual amount of time chatting with the guys I’d just raced, including Adam, who was typically unassuming in his victory, totally unaware of his finishing time. I slowly walked to meet my family and then the large contingency of GRC, Belvoir Tri Club and Grantham Athletics Club members and supporters who had congregated at the finish. The number of people coming to congratulate me was heartwarming as was the pleasure of seeing many of my friends coming home with new Personal Bests.

Unfortunately I had to miss some of them as there was the small matter of receiving my prize for finishing second. Still a rare occurrence for myself, I smiled a little uneasily as a small ripple of applause erupted around the room as I collected my wares (A trophy, £60 voucher towards a pair of Brooks trainers and some seeds), proud to have my two daughters alongside me. A virtual tear welled up the next day when my eldest proudly told all she could at school and sports club that daddy had finished second in the running race.

Collecting my prizes. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.
Collecting my prizes. Picture c/o Gordon Geach.

Having had a couple of days to reflect, I don’t think I could have done anything differently on the day to change the result. Had I not the calf issue it is possible I may have attacked a little harder on the hills and perhaps closed and caught Adam. But I firmly believe he would have found a little extra to make sure he would have been the deserving winner.

I am more than delighted with my second position. I ran well in the face of a little adversity and uncertainty. Tactically I played all my cards correctly. I was spurred on by the local support of friends, family, and just locals who recognised the Grantham vest. All in all it’s right up there in my top three best races ever and I really hope the calf injury clears up so I can enjoy some more races like that again soon!