Date: Sun 8th March 2015
Distance from Brighton & Hove – 63 miles. Parked on a country road 50 metres from the start line & Race HQ!
Date: Sun 8th March 2015
It’s been a while since I have done a race report although I have been doing some races. However, this race is pretty central to the universe and is extremely welcoming of all walks of running life….even Netty (if you have been following the latest Spen 20 gossip) Plus, I throughly enjoyed it, not something I usually say after a marathon.
So to begin, having come across Dave and Mel Ross (aka Hermes Running http://www.hermesrunning.com/) at many events including most of the Centurion ultras I volunteered my services at the summer version of the Thames Meander last year with no other reason than to want to help out. However, that was before I sat down and worked out my training plan for the 50 and realised a few weeks ago that the race slotted in nicely for my final long push with the instruction from my coach to go out for 5 hours. For volunteering I received a free entry but the race isn’t overly priced like many a marathon.
Having convinced my running buddy Lisa that it would be a good day out we found ourselves ready to go at the start in Kingston. It was a chilly old morning and as usual I overdressed mainly through indecision! Race briefing, following by a quick tune from the bagpipes and we’re off. Thank the lord; the course has slightly altered so that the 2 mile loop to Kingston Bridge and back is done at the start not at the end so no running past the finish and so playing with your mind! Once that is out of the way, I realise I am a little too warm, a quick strip and dispose of a top at the water station we start the chuff up the Thames Path to Putney Bridge.
Apart from the 5 hours on my feet my brief was to not kill myself, to run within myself at all times, fuel well (before, during and after) and execute a walk/run forward progress motion. We agree on 25 min run, 5 min walk, not too long walking to forget how to run or get cold and easy to compute in my brain dead race head.
The miles ticked steadily away and occasionally we roped in a runner, that always bodes well for us propping up the value for money end of the race. The water stations were nicely spaced and well supplied with water, squash, gels, choccy brownies, flap jacks, jelly babies and crisps all of which I took advantage of..well it would be rude not to! Only in an endurance event do I eat jelly babies squashed between crisps! A quick wave at Stephen Whitehurst, a fellow Arena runner, as he ran past on his way down back to the finish…luckily we were in our running phase at the time!
At the race briefing I thought I heard mention of a bike race, as we approached Putney I realised Dave had said BOAT race, boats, oars and women everywhere. Although I enjoyed watching them on the river, there was a slight irritation blocking the pavements of Putney. We battled through without getting embedded on the bow or whacked by an low flying oar made it to the turn and started the journey back to where it all began. I was feeling pretty strong here although slightly wilted by the time we made it back to the water station at around 17 miles. Revitalised with a JB/Crisp sarnie it was off again, down into single figures now but I am sure my Garmin is slowing in the process; those miles are taking a while to click off. Still sticking to the walk/run we continued to reel in stray runners, trying to keep a check on my form too, don’t droop, shoulders back, work those arms a bit. All that lifting heavier weights in the gym seems to be paying off finally, those upright rows, overhead presses etc…. I’m feeling strong!
I’m not usually very chatty during a race, I prefer to get my head down and work but this event was so friendly I couldn’t help but chat to the runners we passed…not sure all of them were happy to see me but most returned with a smile.
Mile 19 and I’m beginning to get a little bored of the view, the river is the river and the houses are expensive even the rowers are thin on the water, mile 20, thankfully we are into the last chunk of the race although I feel like Paula Radcliffe at times, a quick check of my shadow confirms I don’t look like her! Shoulders up Groves! 22 miles, not far to the final water station, 23.5 and we’re at the water station, chocolate brownie and crisps for the rest of the journey and I am quite sure there are a couple of runners ahead that we can reel in….in deed there was and despite an attempt to stick with us we managed to shake them. With 1.5 miles to go we were into a walk break, an executive decision I decided we were only allowed 2 minutes’ walk (especially as we hadn’t quite shook off those two runners) . The last mile seemed to go on a bit but finally we rounded the last little bend and there it was the yellow flags of the finish. Over the line just 6 minutes outside of my planned 5 hours and a whacking great medal placed round my neck, a long way off my marathon PB but that wasn’t the aim of the day neither was this race my goal.
I thoroughly recommend this race and any that Hermes Running put on, the Thames Meander has potential for those aiming for a PB, the trail is fairly firm and some sections are on road. A few rainy days might turn some parts to mud but this weekend it certainly wasn’t a problem, the winner came in at around 2.40 and the last runner around 6hrs.30min. Expect to see a number of 100 marathon club folk and embrace the low keyness of the event, so much nicer than all that corporate trip trap! And for those who prefer something shorter there is a half marathon too.
So all in all a great day at the office, after refuelling on chips and post-race glowness, despite earlier saying I was bored of the river, I find myself thinking about the Triple Crown (August and November versions) or worst the TP100.
Many of you will have hung up your spikes with much relief in mid February after the last Sussex League race at Lancing. For some of us mud lovers the XC season extends until March.
Every year British Masters holds its XC race somewhere in the UK – this is my 5th BMAF XC race and I have run at venues as diverse as Perry Park (near Alexander Stadium, Birmingham), Bath University, a very muddy Herrington Park, Sunderland, a very windy Victoria Park, Glasgow and this year Ruthin, Wales which I had neither heard of nor been to before (it is not far from Wrexham)
I have been building up to this race since early January. This race has been held at Ruthin before and having asked around I was told that the course was flat (or should I say the course used in the past was flat but the one used this year was of the hilly variety which suited me)
There is usually no pre entry list for BMAF XC so you have no idea until the day who is running.
In fact considering the race was held in Wales, competitors had travelled from far and wide – Winchester, Kent, Coventry , Newcastle etc.
The race HQ was in the grounds of Ruthin school and of course we got there ridiculously early which was good because that gave me a chance to walk part of the course and assess the going. I had packed short spikes, long spikes and studs. Surprisingly given the rain the day before the course was mainly firm although there was a Plumptonesque ploughed field, a Plumpton type track and some Welsh cow poo through a farmyard.
During the course recce the race tape suggested that we went through the farmyard but the gates were padlocked. A somewhat irate farmer appeared and said that he was not opening the gates but it appeared that the course was indeed through the farm and the gates were later opened.
I looked at the course map but wasn’t 100% sure of the route – I knew I wouldn’t be leading so it wouldn’t be a problem. Usually BMAF XC is 3 laps x 2k but this time it was 1.5 playing field laps, a long lap including ploughed field and then a shorter lap.
Mark was wearing his Brighton Marathon jacket and many of the competitors seemed to think he was a race official as they were all asking him about the course (which fortunately he understood much better than I did!)
I opted for short spikes which were a good choice. Many people were running round and round but while it is important to warm up it is equally important not to waste energy and to do strides just before the race.
All too quickly it was 11:55 and time to line up in a chilly Easterly wind. I got a good position, the gun fired and we were off. I hit the hilly ploughed field, picked a firm line and pushed up the hill cheered on by a lady who seemed to know me then hurtled down the track at the other side. The farmyard was very manury and slippery so it was a case of slithering through that bit (twice). Mark was on the course shouting the gap to the next V50 lady – this went from 10 meters near the start to a pleasing 90 meters by lap 2. I finished strongly and thought I might be in the medals but didn’t realise until the end that I was 1st V50 and British Masters V50 XC champion. I was 23/88 ladies V35-V75 and it is my best result at BMAF XC (I got V45 Bronze at both Perry Park and Herrington Park)
After the relief of crossing the finish line I got a few layers on, had a chat with a few fellow BMAFers then watched the men’s race. Straight after that we all retired indoors for the prizegiving which was very well attended and which the organisers rattled through rapidly.
All in all a good race, a pleasing result and worth the journey.
I know to the vast majority of Arena members the idea of running a race on a track is a complete anathema. However a few of us do “enjoy” track racing. I had the dubious pleasure of competing in the 1500 metres at the indoor stadium at Lee Valley, North London on 7th March. Being in an indoor stadium is very different to running on an outdoor track; the first thing that strikes you on entering is the noise. The sound of the starting pistol is deafening, and the sound of the crowd is much louder. These sounds make for an interesting atmosphere; the long jump and high jump pits are in the middle of the track so there is always something going on. The track is only 200 metres so the bends are much tighter than on a 400 metre and they are banked so there is a technique to get the best out of them. (Which I have yet to master!) The track surface is also very different to a 400 metre; it’s like a carpet. Most athletes choose to wear spikes. (very short spikes!) The set up is very professional; there is a call room all track runners have to attend before racing. The timing of this is so we have time to warm up either on the outside 400 metre track or on the indoor warm up track track, in a separate area from the main arena. The waiting in the call room is the most nerve-racking of any race I have entered. I was aware the other athletes are the best in the UK and have travelled from all over the UK to compete. There is very little conversation at this stage, people eyeing each other surreptitiously, although some of the athletes have competed against each other for many years; I haven’t as I am relatively new to track running.
Next we are called to the start line like a bunch of schoolboys and given lanes. The gun goes BANG!!!! and we’re off. Knowing there’s a big field of athletes (10) for a small track I try to avoid bumping and barging. After the first lap I find myself in 5th place……and there I stay. I didn’t win a medal this time, but I did a respectable time of 5 min 5 secs. I’m not sure if running indoors is quicker than outdoors; there’s no wind resistance, which is great but you tend to overheat, and the bends are tight so you have to chop your stride pattern.
Any way, it’s all a great experience, you should all try it! (When you’re over 35)
Sunday meant only one thing, the culmination of the reverse-taper week, the Brighton Half. I haven’t run a half since this race last year where I managed just under 1.37. This time I didn’t really have a target though I had sub 1.33 in the back of my mind as something that was possibly achievable. Trevor had mentioned at parkrun that Dorian was going to go for sub 1.30 and was happy to get a pace group together. As I found him in the sub 1.30 start pen with Rick, Mal, Tristan, Tara, Kerry, Rob and Trevor I thought what the heck why don’t I at least TRY and go with him for as long as I can. It worked well when I stuck with Trevor at the start of Chichester so I decided to do the same again. We had a nice little Arena group that stuck together well. So well in fact we got loads of shouts for our “Arena pace group”. Lots of shouts for “Trey” too from people who couldn’t read Trev’s vest properly. As the miles passed I was still with Dorian, Trevor, Mal, Tristan and Rick. Around 9 miles Trevor and Mal dropped back but I just tried to keep focussed and kept telling myself I couldn’t lose it now having come so far. At 10 miles I lost touch with Dorian and Tristan but Rick was still just behind me (I could tell as spectating Arenas kept shouting “go Isobel – go Rick” in quick succession).
The final 3 miles back from the lagoon were in fear of the official blue-flag-wielding 1.30 pacer overtaking as I was running watchless. Dorian was quite far ahead and I didn’t know if he had kicked on or I had slowed down so pacer fear was rampant. No sign of him as I struggled onwards. I could NOT ruin it now. Regardless of still not having seen the 1.30 pacer I was worried that I’d dropped off too much so was now outside 1.30 pace but the beauty of no-watch is I had no idea so my only recourse was to keep running as fast as I could. Finally, finally, I passed the pier and tried to pick it up a bit for the last 500 or so metres. I kept my head down as I didn’t want to see the clock until it was too late to do anything about it. I looked up around 50 metres from the end and was astounded to see 1.29 just rolling around. I even remembered that it had taken us 20 or so seconds to cross the start line so as I crossed the finish line in 1.29.31 I knew my chip time would be closer to 1.29. I caught up with Tristan in the funnel where we were accosted by Meridian TV. I really hope they don’t use the footage as I was a shell-shocked blithering imbecile (not too different to my normal self I know).
I’m not sure it has actually sunk in yet that I have broken 1.30 as it was not something I ever really felt was possible. Massive thanks to Dorian for his brilliant pace group and to Trevor for giving me the confidence to actually stick with the group.