January review

Wasn’t it only just Christmas? Seems like January has flown by so quickly. However it was threatening to end on a bit of a damp squib when I came down with some sort of virus or bug a couple of days ago which meant I couldn’t run in Sunday’s Canterbury 10 miles. I was really disappointed as it’s nearly always my first road race every year and a course I enjoy running on, but then I had some good news that made up for it. I got a message from my running club that I’d belatedly got a place in the London Marathon! One of the members who’d got a place in our club draw had decided not to run after all, so they had a supplementary draw and I was lucky enough to be chosen.

What that means then is two marathons in three weeks for me now, as I already have the Brighton Marathon two weeks before London, which will be a new experience for me having never done two marathons so close together before. I probably won’t do anything too different with what I’m already planning with my training. I’ll treat Brighton as my main race, and then just not worry too much about pace or time at London and just enjoy (as much as you can enjoy a marathon) the day.

Up until this week I’d been having a good month, with three solid weeks of training. As it happens this week was a lighter week in my plan so I’ve only missed the race and a gym session I had planned. Fingers crossed I’ll be good to go again this week as it’s the start of another three week block.

The highlight of the month was undoubtedly the Benfleet 15 miles. It’s a race I’ve had on my to-do list for a while now but hadn’t gotten around to doing it. It’s a mainly off-road race starting and finishing at Hadleigh Park in Essex, site of the mountain biking during the 2012 Olympics, and taking in either side of the channel that runs between the coast and Canvey Island.

It was a stunning morning, cold but clear with glorious views across Canvey and the Thames Estuary to the north Kent coast. Part of the reason for the view though was that we were very high up, and I was warned by a friend who was running that the last mile was all up as well! Clearly that meant we would go down at the start, but we also went up again during the first mile so that got the pulse racing early on.

What a morning for a run!

This race has a reputation for being muddy, but rather like the cross country races I’ve done this year the mud was in short supply thanks to the largely dry winter we’ve had, and there was more chance of slipping on the frozen ground that any mud. Aside from the start and finish sections it’s a largely flat route as you head out in the direction of Southend, aside from a challenging little climb up to Hadleigh Castle. You then head back alongside the channel that separates Canvey from the mainland before crossing onto the island for a few miles.

Just after you leave the island there was a very short, sharp, steep climb but then it was largely downhill and flat before the final climb up to the finish, with the sting in the tail being a very, very steep climb that was less than 100 metres long but very, very tough! I can imagine it would be even harder if it had been muddy.

In the end I covered the 15 miles at an average of 8:46 per mile for a time of 2:12, faster than I might have expected due to the good underfoot conditions. Unusually my fastest mile (14) of 7:57 was followed immediately by my slowest of 10:00 thanks to the uphill finish. I’d love to go back and do a muddy version just to see what it’s like as I’ve heard plenty of stories about how tough it is, and it’s certainly a race I’d recommend to anyone.

The hilly start and finish, plus the castle climb

Other than that I’ve done my final two races of the cross country season, two of my favourites at Nurstead Court and Minnis Bay. For the latter I got down there a bit early and did 8 miles out and back along the coast to give me 14 miles for the day. There wasn’t much mud but the famous dykes were fuller than I’d expected so I finished looking and feeling a bit mucky!

Before and after the dykes!

It’s been a busy month for racing so I’m dialling it back a bit next month to focus on building up my Sunday long runs, but I’m looking forward to a trip down to Cornwall to stay with my Dad and do a two run Saturday starting with Mount Edgcumbe Parkrun in the morning (4th hilliest one in the UK!) and then some more hills in the afternoon at the Looe 10 miles.

Hopefully this virus/bug thing will disappear ASAP as I can’t wait to get back into training now, I’m really excited by the new challenge that’s presented itself today. Hope everyone’s training is going well and have a great week.