I messed up the dates a bit, I planned to do the Gade Valley 17 as a precursor to the Oakley 20 but also entered the Hillingdon Half marathon which I thought was the week before Gade.
Not so. Which is why I found myself the only Strider on a cold bright morning standing at the start line at Brunel University this morning. The others were mostly at Hemel Hempstead tackling the 17 miles and there were a fair few resting up having had the run of their lives the previous day at the National Cross Country Championships, rather them than me!
So here was my first race since October 2016, time to see where I stood on the comeback trail. Talking of trails I had had a lovely mostly trail run the previous day, 7.5 miles of Hertfordshire countryside in glorious sunshine. A steady 10.15 pace meant that I was unlikely to have taken too much out of myself before today.
The start of the race is on the campus of Brunel University, a lap of the campus and then out onto the streets of suburban West London. This is the edge of London, there is greenery west of here, at least until you reach Slough anyway. Two laps of suburbs and then back for a final lap of the campus.
A real plus point of the event is that the race HQ is in the University Indoor Athletics centre and the start and finish line is literally outside. It meant that everyone was able to stay inside in the warm right up until race time. How many times have races meant hanging around in the cold and the rain wrapped in a bin bag waiting for the start?
The downside is that the race route itself is not the prettiest. Also it crosses a lot of roads so there are hold ups while waiting for traffic to pass.
My plan was to keep a sensible pace, around 9 minute miles and hope to have enough in the tank to finish in under two hours. My last half was 1:49:08 and I hadn’t had a year off before that so thought I was in good shape then. (Trawling back on previous posts there is a story there), So anything under two hours was my goal.
I started running, maybe a bit too quickly at first, it’s always easy to get dragged along at the start but settled down during mile 3. My familiar pain in the hamstring announced itself, time to ignore that and keep running. I felt a bit weary passing the 5 mile marker, I thought ‘get past the 6 marker and then take a gel’ to keep myself going. A gloop of orange down my throat and I carried on. Mile 7 passed and I still felt tired, got to mile 8 and decided to take another gel. This time is was raspberry and was actually a nice taste. (As nice as a gel can be, which isn’t particularly nice at anytime).
Puffing a bit I managed to catch and pass a lady at 10 miles, ‘just a parkrun to go’ I said. ‘It’s the wind that’s not helping me’ she replied. The wind was cold and wasn’t pleasant when heading into it. Fortunately the built up area had a lot of buildings shielding the runners from it a lot of the time.
I got back to the campus for the final lap to the finish, I tried to push on but my legs had had enough. I couldn’t quicken enough to pick any runners off in the last 400 metres.
Stopped my watch and was pleasantly surprised to see 1:49:14. My official chip time was 1:49:12 so even better!
It’s time now to concentrate on teaching my legs that they are going to have to do more miles so a longer training run is needed next weekend. Let’s hope that there is no snow to interfere with my plan!
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