March Update

I should have been outside right now, approaching the end of my final long run in the glorious sunshine. Instead, in a situation that’s worryingly similar to what happened prior to Bournemouth last year I’m sitting indoors suffering from a cold and a cough. It’s very frustrating to find myself in the same position and I’m really hoping that this cough doesn’t hang around as that’s what caused me the problem last time. Fingers crossed it won’t, and at least it gives me the chance to catch up on what has already been a busy month, with three races in three weekends to talk about.

Race 1 – SVN Mega Challenge

I’ve been wanting to do a Saxons, Vikings and Normans race for a while. These are organised by Traviss and Rachel, a lovely couple that I’ve known for years as they used to run for the Harriers. They put these events on most weekends and generally they are no-frills, multi-lap events where you can ran as far as you like, usually within 6 hours. This event took place near Ashford and so it was a short trip for me, although unfortunately the weather was cold and wet so not ideal conditions. I knew the course was on dirt tracks through a Forestry Commission site, and as they’d put on an event there the day before I was able to find out from some friends who’d run it would definitely be one for trail shoes.

Each lap was 4.4 miles and the plan was do at least 4, maybe 5 laps. Although I’d seen the course profile I used the first lap as a recce, to see what I would be tackling. The first mile or so was nearly all downhill, then there was a short sharp climb, and another up and down bit that took us to half way. After that the second half was a series of steady climbs and descents back to the start/finish area, where you could fill up your water bottle and enjoy an array of not-so healthy goodies on offer!

I don’t have a proper waterproof top so went with a base layer and a t-shirt, and was pretty damp at the end of the first lap as there had been some steady rain, but after that it did ease off even though it remained damp. Underfoot conditions were good, just a few slippery patches here and there.

In the end I did 5 laps, although I was close to calling it a day at the end of lap 4, most of which was spent deliberating whether to do another lap or not. I was still feeling pretty good so off I went on lap 5, and if it had been dry I would have gone out for a 6th lap, which would have taken me up to the full marathon distance. My concern though was that if I had to walk on that lap I would have got cold very quickly and I didn’t want to risk that, so I settled for a good solid 22 miles.

The downside was that under the terms of the challenge I only got a half-marathon medal, making that the longest ‘half’ I’ve ever run! I knew that before I started, so wasn’t too worried, and the legendary SVN goody bag made up for it anyway.

Race 2 – The Big Half

A week later and this time a proper half marathon. I’m not a huge fan of big city races in general, but I thought I’d give this one a go. Part of the reason is the trouble it takes to get there in the first place if you don’t stay overnight. Bags had to be dropped by 8:20am for the 9am start, and with no trains from Maidstone until 7:45am it meant a 5am alarm call to drive to Dartford for a train at 6:50am.

The weather was still rubbish when I got to London Bridge, wet and windy, so I sheltered and got changed under City Hall before dropping my bag. In amongst all the crowds I managed to bump into some Harriers who were running so we walked together across Tower Bridge to the start.

The race itself went pretty well. As I was going to miss a long run this weekend I did 7 miles on Friday evening followed by 9 miles (including Malling Parkrun) on Saturday morning so I would be running on tired legs. I therefore wasn’t quite sure what to expect pace-wise so I was more than happy with a 1:42 with some consistent splits along the way. The course itself is based around the first half of the London Marathon route and isn’t tremendously exciting, but it was fun running across Tower Bridge (despite the ridiculous cross winds that were almost blowing people over!) and finishing by the Cutty Sark was a nice way to end the race.

Race 3 – Thanet 20 miles

My original plan had been to run the Lydd 20 miles this year, but as it turns out a fortunate date clash with the Big Half meant I couldn’t, given that by all accounts the wind was so strong people could barely move when they tried to run into it! It was back to a race I’ve done several times before, although on the last occasion in 2017 it was in absolutely atrocious conditions, I’ve never been so cold and wet in a race before.

Luckily this year it was dry and bright, and the wind had dropped to just a stiff breeze after a week of gales. Feeling good with how I was going I checked out my 20 mile PB and decided to have a go at beating that. It’s a 2 lap course that’s quite undulating but very scenic as you are always close to the coast line between Ramsgate and Broadstairs.

I went through 10 miles in around 1:27, so on course to get close to my 2:54 PB. I’ve been making an effort to do my long runs on just water and minimal food in an attempt to deal with my marathon stomach issues. At the SVN race I got by on a few jelly babies and small piece of flapjack, this time around it was just a small piece of a cereal bar, so we’ll see how that works out on race day this time around.

I started to feel the pace in my legs a bit more on lap 2, and I knew it was going to be a close thing to get my target time, but I got up the penultimate big climb up from Ramsgate Harbour OK then it was a case of head down and push on. Things got a little interesting in the last couple of miles when the sunshine disappeared and was replaced by an unexpected hailstorm! I managed to deal with that though, got up the last hill and then knew I had in the bag with a good finish, crossing the line just inside 2:54 for a new PB.

This week should have been my final big mileage week, but my illness has put paid to that, and as long as I can get running again by mid-week I’ll aim for one final 20 miler next Sunday and a 2 week taper instead of my planned 3 weeks. I’ve done a 2 week one before so I’m quite relaxed about that.

I’ll be back with a marathon preview in a couple of weeks then. Hope everyone else’s training is going well and you had some great running weather this morning as well.