For someone who writes about running, loves running, photographs running….. this year I haven’t been doing a lot of running.
Between photography, illness, work and getting this website getting in better shape, running’s not been as regular as I would like. I’m a bad one of regular training sessions, I plan it in my head, then execute as and when I can be bothered.
I turn up to races ill equipped, excelling at suffering my way round and walking like John Wayne for the following week.
So at very short notice, I found myself on the start line for the Greenway Challenge, following a route around Letchworth, utilising a series of fire road tracks, farmers lanes and some urban transitions. With road crossings and kissing gates, combined with the surface, it’s not a course for setting an overall half marathon PB, but this local race still has a sub 1hr 15 min course record.
After a turbulent night where I wasnt sure if I was going to throw up (yet to figure out the cause), I drove over to a farm field, where a registration easy up was errected and numbers were distributed. Giving myself plenty of time, I had an hour to mill, sip on Mountain Fuel and consider if my stomach would hold, would I finish fast?
With relatively few consistent miles in my legs, I knew pushing hard would be a gamble. 10 miles at my plucked from the air pace was doable, considering recent training runs, but eeking out 3 more miles on top of this was a challenge.
Now, among st my many bad habits is putting myself too deep into the starting group. Despite the recommendation of my friend Jim (took 3rd/previous winner for 15/16) to stay near the front, I embedded myself in with slower runs and found for the first my, I ran through the undergrowth on the tracks verge, accumulating a series of nettle stings in the pursuit of getting free of slow movers. Inadvertently, in my haste, I can now see I was pushing at sub 7 min mile pace, as low as sub 6.
I never run sub 6 miles, let alone one or two sub 7!
Pushing on I saw my friend Oli, who was motoring despite a foot issue from London a few weeks previously and rather than look at my watch, I locked onto those in my line of sight. I like to run on feel, as I know where my body can and cant push.
Then again, the data reveals I pushed a little too hard.
The first 8 miles are a series of loose gravel paths, hardpacked, with a few kissing gates and road crossings. The pace was consistent, those who I ran with, stuck with me for the majority of the route. I felt good, strong and had visions of taking 40th…. I have no idea why.
At mile 10, my confidence was stripped away, as a hill, small by mountain standards, sapped the free flowing goodness from my legs, making me feel I was hobbling around. My pace slowed, my gait shortened and the end suddenly felt miles away, not 3.
I’d not taken any energy on throughout the race and taken two quick swigs of water from the two aid stations. Following twisting undulating trails, I was struggling to get back into a rythm, recover and ultimately push on.
I dropped a few paces and knew it would be hard grind to the end, as the route went to roads for the last two miles. Long stretches of nothing later, I was in sight of the finish field, as 3 runners, who’d I’d past earlier cruised past, having run a methodical race, compared to my kamikaze, all or nothing approach (I don’t have the ability of Zach Miller).
As I turned into the field, to be dealt a blow, but having to run the outer perimeter first, a final runner passed, as my top abdominals locked tight. Fuck, my body is shutting down and there’s 200 meters to go. With a small ascent and final turn into the field, I kicked as best I could, as I saw the clock ticking.
I’d told Jim at the start 1hr 40. I hadn’t even checked the pace required nor new knew if I could feasibly get around in the time.
Furthermore, my strange obsession mid race with coming 40th had rang true some how, as, I came 44th. Those 4 people who’d ran past me in the last 300-400 meters we’re all that separated me from this self imposed random target. It’s almost like sub consciously I had some insider knowledge?
Within minutes of stopping, my abs were back to normal and I could feel for the first time I was caked in a thick layer of salt. I’d worked hard. The sun had come out in the final miles and despite it being a mild 14-15°C for many, I was baked.
In many ways the stall of cakes put on my North Herts Runners was harder than the race itself. 30+ homemade cakes to pick from, I was stuck for a good few minutes making that most important of decisions.
Official Time – 1:39:50 | 44th/295
Watch Time started when crossing the start line: 1.39.30
Salomon S/LAB Sonic Road Shoes
Stance Uncommon Solid Crew Run Socks
Inov-8 AT/C Short Sleeve Half Zip & AT/C 6″ Shorts
Julbo Aero Sunglasses
Garmin Fenix 3 watch
1 x Mountain Fuel Xtreme Energy sachet
A great race, well organised and I’ll be back for more next year if I have the weekend free. Now to train and bring that time down.