Well, I think I can safely say that in over 30 years of racing today I experienced some of the worst conditions I have ever run a race in! It wasn’t a complete surprise but you kind of hope maybe the forecast was wrong, sadly it was pretty much spot on, with horizontal rain and high winds, just what you need on a coastal run. There were a lot comments along the lines of ‘what the f**k are we doing here?!’ as we huddled together on the start line, but it was a case of just getting on with it when the race started.
The Thanet 20 is an old favourite for Kent runners training for a spring marathon. The course was slightly different to previous years, being changed to a 2 lapper, and at least we started with the wind behind us as we headed towards Ramsgate Harbour, although I was already feeling the cold in those initial miles. We got a taste of things to come as we briefly turned into the wind to climb from the seafront up onto the promenade above, but it wasn’t until we turned back towards Ramsgate once we reached Broadstairs that we got the full impact of the wind and the rain! The wind drove the rain into us like little needles as we ran along the promenade above the coast, and it was a case of trying not to expend too much energy fighting the wind.
I had to make a pit stop at 6 miles, which was an interesting experience with cold wet hands that made the *ahem* ‘task’ somewhat tricky, plus I could feel my legs starting to seize up as I was stood still even for less than a minute, so I was glad to get going again. At 7 miles we passed the start/finish line and headed out for a 3 mile loop south of Ramsgate, the final section being across an exposed field with the wind slamming into us from the side.
I’d set off fairly conservatively and as a consequence once I’d managed to warm up a bit and get into my rhythm I was able to push the pace a little as we started the second lap with the wind once again behind us. The good news was that on the second lap the conditions relented a little, the rain stopped and the wind dropped a little, although it was still hard going into it. The sun even made an experience as we did the southern loop the second time around.
It wasn’t until around the 15 mile mark that I started to feel the pace a little, but apart from tired legs I was feeling OK and my main concern was cramp given the cold conditions. However, apart from a twinge of cramp in the left hamstring at 19 miles I was alright, and was able to get up the final climb and get to the finish in a time of 3:06:33, and looking at my splits on Strava it looks like I managed to run the 2nd lap five minutes faster than the first, which I’m pleased with, although I’m not sure I could have run another 6 miles today in those conditions! As I looked back after I’d finished despite the sunshine there was an enormous black cloud looming, and having collected my medal and goody bag I had to run back to my car in a biblical hailstorm! I felt bad for those still out on the course, that must have been very unpleasant to run in.
Upon reflection I’m really pleased with how today went given how extreme the conditions were. I had thought I’d be running at around 9:30-9:45 per mile pace, so it was good to average 9:16, and it means I’m still looking good for a time of around 4:15 at Brighton in 5 weeks time…yes, it’s that close now. I also made it through without a gel, instead making to with an Eat Natural Fruit and Nut bar which I ate in two portions. I was carrying Shot Blox just in case, but I never felt liked I needed them, so that was another pleasing aspect today.
I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone at Thanet Roadrunners for putting on the race, and in particular the marshals who braved the elements to make sure we were safe and going the right way.
I’m away on a short break to Windsor next weekend, so I’ll make this a slightly easier week, then have one final big week the following week culminating in another 20 mile+ run before I start my taper. I’ve found the nearest Parkrun to Windsor is only a couple of miles away, so I’ll do that on Saturday morning, followed by a few miles in the Great Park on Sunday morning. Hopefully the weather will be a little kinder to me next weekend!