I am now the proud owner of a 20 mile personal best and a blue hoodie. It was guaranteed, being a first time racing the distance, but it’s nice to have got that under the belt. Although I’m not sure what a respectable, approaching 40 year old, is supposed to do with a hoodie! It’s not an item of clothing I’ve ever owned before I started running – and now I have two. I feel the urge to hang about on street corners, drinking cheap cider and getting an ASBO!
Anyway, I was about to regale you with how I acquired this item. In the run up to an April marathon, there are a few 20 mile races about that act as practice marathon runs. It’s a chance to run a long way with water stations, fuel stops, lots of people and the atmosphere of race day – all of which does make a difference to performance. Of those local(ish) to me there are Ashby & Oakley. For a Brighton marathon, the race at Oakley was too late, so I entered Ashby. In fact either of these two races would earn me a hoodie – seems to be the in thing!Ashby-de-la-Zouch is a bit over an hour from home, so for a 10 am start, I set of before 8, having had porridge & coffee for breakfast. The journey was sightly complicated by the closure of the road and an unforseen diversion, but I managed to arrive and park in town. The race HQ was at the leisure centre, with the race start being to the south of the town. I chosen to park between the two, saving me too long a walk at the end. As I was getting myself sorted in the car park, I heard the bells at the church start ringing. Only 5 (they’re a 10), but I decided not to go & help out; if I remember correctly, Ashby are ground floor with very long ropes – and I didn’t need that sort of adrenaline rush ahead of a race!
The weather had been quite grim on the way up, raining and the temperature gradually dropping. I was pleased that in my bag I had a spare long sleeved top, just in case. I made the decision to switch, and had my club vest over the top. Also swapped the baseball cap for the beanie hat – extra warmth for the ears. At the leisure centre I joined the rather long queue for the ladies, changed shirt and got myself dressed. I then retrieved my banana & dropped the bag for transport to the finish. It was a reasonable walk down to the start, during which the banana vanished and we congregated in a rather draughty field. I was seriously wondering if gloves would have been a good idea, but it was a bit late for that. At this point I met up with a few ladies from the RW forum, by pseudonym, DL, Far-Far, Spence & J. It’s a bit strange, this accosting complete strangers in a field, there’s an element of risk that you’ll embarrass yourself, and be looked at sideways by the wrong person. But this bunch identified themselves and we grouped ourselves at the slow end of the corrals.We were called forward to the start and I positioned myself firmly at the back of the pack. As the hooter went off, the entire field seemed to disappear at a million miles an hour: I’ve never seen anything like it! They all shot off like it was a 100 m dash, not a 20 mile race! It was downhill to start, but even so, that seemed extreme. I held back, but even so, started slightly too fast. Within a fairly short distance, I’d guess less than half a mile, I was last; accompanied by a lone lady and 2 slightly elderly gents in front of us. Bless the small number of Pocklington villagers who were stood watching the entire field go through their village for the first time, and cheered and waved us with enthusiasm.
I was happily keeping to a little under 12:00 min/miles for the first 3 miles, all according to plan. However, just before the end of mile 3, there was a downhill, and I’d sped up so that, without really noticing, I was running nearer 11:00 min/miles. This was due to be the pace I picked up to at about 5 miles, but I figured I’d stay there or thereabouts. I passed the two chaps on the hill at 2 miles, and dropped the lone lady when she had to dive behind tree to water the scenery before 4 miles. From there onwards, it was me on my own, gradually catching the people ahead of me. I had to keep the brakes on that, as it’s too easy to be encouraged into going too fast by trying to catch someone and pass them. The pace fluctuated a bit, but it’s not the flattest course, so maybe that’s allowable.
As this is all about practising for the marathon, I had a gel at 5 miles, and was caught by a photographer shortly thereafter. Oh joy! The weather had started to cheer up, such that it stopped raining and the cloud started to break and I no longer was wishing for my gloves. I was nicely on pace, and was at 8 miles in ~ 90 minutes. Unfortunately for my ego, the leader was at 16.5 miles in pretty much the same time – he had a few minutes start on me, but not by much. As ever, I’m in awe of the fast runners. It looks so efficient, almost effortless, until you listen to them and they’re breathing hard, it’s just all so much under control. I applauded, politely, if through gritted teeth. Before we parted and I set off on my second lap, I was passed by the top 7 men. However, the chap in third blew my mind. He not only had the manners and spare capacity to say thanks, he also wished me luck in my run too. Awesome! Mr Ed Banks, of the Birmingham Running and Triathlon (BRAT) Club, take a bow!!
The route, round twice.
Second lap followed much the same as the first, although instead of being last, I was gradually picking people off. Gels at miles 10 and 15 followed, as well as water at the numerous water stations. The weather was still improving and the sun came out, although I’d not go as far as to say it was warm! At about 16/17 miles I passed some of the ladies I’d met up with earlier, and they wished my luck as I passed them and the photographer. That shot’s not one for the album! I just kept to a steady pace, trying not to let the hills get to me. It wasn’t that there was any one big up hill, more that it was continually short ups and downs. The downs were noticeable in two places, but somehow the ups felt more spread out. I’d been told it was hilly, but it was a form of hilly I felt I could deal with – it’s the ones where you can see nothing but uphill for the next mile that make me want to cry.
It was all fairly uneventful, really. Back into Pocklington for one final time, then over the A42 and a hump-backed bridge. Which had grown during the time I’d been out to enormous proportions! I was starting to wish this was all over, but kept my head down and just kept the legs moving. Saw several runners, wearing their hoodies, heading away from the finish, all of them offering encouragement. The last 400 m were across a field, that same draughty field we’d started from. It was still draughty, only now it seemed to be soft and felt like running on treacle. That sprint(ish) finish got sucked out of the bottom of my feet and ended up in the mud. I was slightly distracted to hear my name called as I approached the finish, but managed to keep going, despite the slight surprise.
Facts & Figures:
Distance – 20.03 miles
Time – 3:41:23 (official time)
Average pace – 11:03 min/miles
Split times and figures.
Yes, I know there aren’t 20 split – I like to use manual laps for races and I managed to miss hitting the lap button 3 times. Twice it was at water stations, the third time was just brain fade! But you can see the pace has a bit of a slope upwards through the race, and is fairly even.
Finished and made my way towards the tent where I received my hoodie, in a size that fitted, then the goodie bag, and towards the chaps sat taking chips off shoes. Took me a moment to work out which foot had the chip, then even longer to manage to raise that foot onto the crate provided! The collected my bag & put my prize hoodie on, as it was quite chilly once I’d stopped. I then made my way over towards the finish shute & identified DL as the random voice calling my name as I’d finished.
Where's that ASBO?
I stayed with her until the rest of the girls had finished, and we slowly waddled our way back towards the same car park in town. Through a most inconsiderate hail storm! What the weather was playing at today, I have no idea! After investigating the contents of the goodie bag, I discovered that most of it was edible, and I started making inroads into it before heading off back home.
I am pleased with that performance. I kept to the pace I should have been running, and finished in under my target time. I wanted to finish in 4 hours, with a happy target of 3:45. I took on water and the gels without too much difficulty, and (apart from the odd burp) had no ill effects from them. I’m not sure I could have run another 6 miles at the finish, but I do think that the extra 6 may well be lurking in there somewhere. That’s the last really long run, they’re all shorter now until I get to Brighton – and that’s my next race…