Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reading Half Marathon - first decent PB for 3 years

Over the past couple of years, Reading Half has become to establish itself as a Half Marathon that not only attracts over 15,000 runners, but also a good number of those are at the sharp end. Training over the past month has gone well, and my run at last week’s North London Half gave me confidence that a time of 66:59 might well be achievable.

Conditions were good: sunny and only a little wind. The pace off the start line was crazy, however I decided to sit at the back of the lead group to get some shelter from the wind. The climb at 3 miles strung out the lead group and I soon found myself (unsurprisingly) struggling to maintain the sub-5 minute mile, and electing to sit at about 5:10 pace instead. A group of Nick Torry, Dan Thorne, Joe Morewood and a few others formed and that certainly helped me maintain my pace. At 4-5 miles and on the verging of slowing up (thinking I’d gone off too quick), I forced myself to stick at least on the back of the group and maintain the pace a little while longer.

The route continued into the town centre, past a number of bands and a fair number of supporters coming out to watch, and by 7 miles I began to feel good. The odd runner, who'd probably had started a bit more sensibly, would come past our group and then get sucked back in and we were also reeling in a few other runners ahead. Just prior to the 8 mile mark, I hit the front of the group and then up to 10 miles, Joe, Dan and myself switched positions at the front as given the slight head wind.

At 10 miles, Chris Buselaih came past and put in an injection of pace, which also coincided with the course changing direction and being followed by a tailwind. The final run up to the Madjeski Stadium was so contrasting to last year’s massive headwind and dull day, and instead saw a group of group of us eagerly trying to race to that sub-67 time.

Nick Torry just upped the pace at 11.5 miles and went off the front, whilst myself, Chris, and few other guys raced for the end. Disappointingly the clock showed 66:51 as I entered the stadium and so my sub-67 target was out of the question, but I still finished in 67:08 for 20th and gave me a pb that has taken almost 3.5 years to break, so happy with the time.

The men’s race was won by Amos Kiplagat in 63:09 and the women's race by Lily Partridge in 70:32. However it was also good to see the depth of the race with 57 men dipping under 70 minutes.

With 5 weeks to go until the London Marathon, I feel as though I am returning to the form I had in 2012 and I’ll need to make some decisions about the sort of pace to go off on the big day.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Intercounties at Cofton Park marking an end to the 2014/2015 XC season

In a stark contrast to the National at Parliament Hill, the Intercounties XC was held on course with minimal mud and in conditions suggesting that spring may just have arrived. The senior men’s race was run over 1 large lap followed by 3 smaller laps, where the large lap contained pretty much the only significant climb in the race. For anyone that does know, the intercounties XC is where the top runners from each county are brought together to compete against one another and the race is normally used as a selection for the World Cross. Due to funding issues, it may well be that Great Britain sends an incomplete team to China for the 2015 World Cross and so quite the depth that the selectors may look to in the results is to be awaited, but that is something else altogether.

Anyway, back to the race. The start was ridiculously quick as everyone took off at an insane pace in order to get a decent position. After the first mile, I must have been in about 110th and that was despite running a hilly 5:13 minute mile! Once the race settled down, I started to work my way through the field gradually picking off those that went off too quick. The positions were still quite tightly packed even after the first couple of laps. At start of the 3rd lap, my nemesis Chris Greenwood came past and I tried my hardest to stick with him. I couldn’t quite keep up with his pace as he continued to overtake others, however I landed up in a group with Kevin Quinn (Surrey) and Carl Avery (North East) and gradually pushed into the low 40’s. There was little movement in positions over the last lap however it was necessary to maintain a decent pace to avoid slipping back and I finished in 43rd.

Up at the front there was a competition between the individual winners of the Scottish, Welsh and English National XC and they finished in that order respectively with Andrew Butchart taking overall honours. So the spikes are now being hung up until later in the year and the focus for the coming weeks will be on building towards the London Marathon.