Great South Run 2014

Michael Shelley, Andy Vernon, Steve Way… Just a few of the big names towing the start line with us in Southsea yesterday. It was the Great South Run 2014, an event I’ve wanted to do for a few years and it was finally my year.

I love a big event. I love the atmosphere, the buzz, and I love running in a massive crowd. Don’t get me wrong, parkrunning is great but nothing beats being in the start pen with 20,000 people shuffling around. There’s nothing like it.

The morning didn’t start well though. Despite my suggestion we leave at 7.30 I was over-ruled… and we ended up in crawling traffic! And when we were trying to prepare a quick departure I realised I’d forgotten my spibelt! Luckily Simon offered to take my phone and money in his for me. Then when we did eventually park we had no change/time/patience to queue to get a parking ticket, so we used the RingGo service while walking to the start… Not without its own frustrations! And finally Jodie forgot her iPod.

Anyway, the 2 mile walk to the start served as a good warm up and we walked along a couple of sections of the course. We stupidly bypassed some toilets thinking we’d get some near the start… Error! The queues were massive! Simon and I only had 10 minutes or so to get to our pen, but Jodie thankfully had more time. We wished Jodie luck and like the considerate fiancĂ©e I am… Left her in the toilet queue 😀 (we found a convenient tree)

We hopped the fence to get in the Orange start pen. There was plenty of room in there, and we hopped in about a third back from the front. We only had the fast club and elite runners ahead of us, so I hoped there would be limited weaving during the early stages… I was wrong.

Anyway there was a cheesy mass warm up before we were started by the legend that is Jo Pavey. We eventually crossed under the starting gantry, caught by the good people at Channel 5!

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Our race strategy was simple – even splits at 7m/m for a target of sub 70 finish time. The first mile was an utter nightmare. There were people EVERYWHERE. We were weaving around for at least the first mile and it got slightly easier moving into mile 2 and did get progressively better. But it was frustrating and energy sapping. Missed the first split by about 5s so I was determined to catch that up in mile 2. At which point we overtook Eric Pollard off’ve Emmerdale! Lovely man, I said ‘come on Eric Pollard’ to which he responded with a cheery ‘Good Morning!’.

We passed our support crew of Jodie’s parents and sister at about 1.5 miles, I have no idea how they saw me with the number of people running!

The route took us through the docks, passing HMS Victory (which I saluted), the Mary Rose (museum) and some Royal Navy ships. As we reached the 3 mile point I was struggling to keep Simon in touch. I was trying to control my pace but felt pretty good, but He was struggling after running the tough Bupa Great Birmingham Run (half marathon) only last weekend! So I pressed on on pace.

My watch wasn’t very good with its measuring for this race. The mile markers were getting progressively further apart, so I was having to do some quick maths to stay on track. I worked out that on my watch is need to be doing a pace of 6.50m/m to keep on my 7m/m target.

After a quiet 3rd and 4th mile which consisted of a water station, an out and back and a hairpin turn we came back into ‘town’ to mark the halfway point – and the crowds were magnificent! I heard a ‘come on Yeovil!’ which was great motivation. I passed the Lucozade station and didn’t pick one up, which I think turned out to be a mistake. Shortly after I ran through the shower to cool off. It was around here I saw the back of a bleached blonde guy in a McMillan Cancer vest – I’ve seen enough televised mass races to know that it had to be Iwan Thomas, British 400m record holder, Wold Championship gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist! I put in some extra effort to get past him, and with a great deal of pride I overtook him shouting ‘come on Iwan Thomas!’ He looked at me like I was a right nob but was polite 🙂

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Miles 6-8 were mostly residential but still well supported, I started to flag. Watching back the coverage on the TV you can see me crossing the 10k split whilst the race leaders were on the opposite side of the road – I was oblivious to them! I did see Michael Shelley at his 800m to go though.

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I was having to work really hard to hit the pace splits, and as my watched beeped for 8 miles the official mile marker was still 150yds away, so I pressed the manual lap button as I passed it. Looking at the time I passed 8 in just about 56 minutes – I was bang on still but it was so tight.

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Then we turned on to the seafront and the famous ‘Great South Run Westerly Wind’ kicked in. After 8 miles at my top end effort this was a massive kick in the nuts. I tried and tried but I had nothing left. Some supporters were offering Jelly Babies and I grabbed a couple. But I couldn’t chew them, I had no saliva and they were tough to swallow so I just let one melt in my mouth. Crossing the 9m mark I clocked a 7.25 mile. I knew the target was gone. But I could see the finish past the pier and I was determined to go under 71mins so I pressed on.

The crowds were getting better and started passing the masses on their way back. I kept my head down and just gave it everything I had left. The support was brilliant and I crossed the line in 70.27. If it weren’t for the wind I would have made it! But I was still incredibly pleased with my time.

The race had split times every 5k which was good – so when I look at the official results I can see that I really was as consistent as I thought. This alongside my Garmin Activity break it down further, though it looks like there was a fault with my heart monitor – no way it dipped that low for the last 3 miles!

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Analysing the results further I can still see that I over performed. Regular readers know I use the McMillan Calculator to work out target and training times, which is why I knew I had over-performed compared with my relatively recent Bristol Half Marathon time. According to that I should have been outside of 1.12 for this race.  667 overall out of 16,000 runners – whats not to be pleased at with that?! Furthermore when looking at how RunBritain had rated the race conditions, it further cemented that I had done well.

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I moved to the side of the funnel as I thought I was going to vomit and grabbed a sick bag from the volunteers. As I was urging I saw Jodie’s family which was slightly embarrassing, but when I stood up I realised I was in front of a tv camera! Luckily it wasn’t broadcast!

I waited in the funnel for Simon. He took a few minutes as he’d had a tough race, but at least he went for it. Considering he had a half last Sunday he still had a lot to be proud of! We got our goody bags and medals. Note to self – I am no longer a large! Medium is fine. The large tee I got was massive!

We walked past the podium, it looked like the women’s medals had just been given out as Gemma Steel was in the enclosure with 2 Kenyans. We took the obligatory podium selfie! Closest we’ll get to actual medal!

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We then found our support crew and waited for Jodie. They saw her at the same place they saw me and said she looked in control. She was targeting 10 minute miles and we had the race clock on the finish gantry. We were (very proudly) shocked when we could see her and there was 1.35 on the clock! Sister Lauren managed to get this vid of her – mind your ears!

She smashed her target and we all couldn’t have been prouder. After the race she was very pleased with herself too and she enjoyed it – and I love that she enjoyed it too!

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We all had a fantastic day. The weather held off and the organisation was good. The goody bag was full of tasty treats and it was a nice medal. Not sure I’ll do it next year but I do have a score to settle. If I do come back I’ll be starting nearer the front of the pen to avoid the weaving.

Next race: Weston Christmas Cracker!

A tough weekend running – including the Parrett Trail Relay!

Wow, where to start. I’m writing this in the hotel bar (I work away a lot of mondays) drinking a cool Carling, legs feeling battered after an absolutely miserable run. Not that the run was bad (Well, it was quite tough) but the weather was utterly abysmal. I may as well have just got in the shower fully clothed, I came back utterly drenched. I was only meant to do a nice easy run, but with the weather the way it was (And because I forgot my sodding waterproof) I thought I’d better inject some pace – the sooner I finished the better!

The problem is, the pace is off the back of:

So the last thing I wanted to do was cane it around the back lanes of Coleshill at 7.30 minute miling! But I managed it.

The most interesting run was the Parrett Trail Relay. My running club were looking for last minute inclusions to a couple of their 4 teams due to dropouts. Due to my parkrun commitments I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it, but when I found out a vacancy was available at Leg 4 which stated at 11.45, I thought “Why not!”.

The Parrett Trail is a public footpath which runs from the mouth of the River Parrett, back to its source. It has this interesting looking trophy for the winning team!

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The race itself is loosely based upon relay rules. There is no baton, each stage starts and finishes at another start/finish, except each leg is run in its own individual “wave” and the teams combined times make up the final result.

What makes this race interesting is that its entirely self navigated. There are no marshals, no aid stations. Just the start point, the end point, and the expectation you won’t cheat! The majority of the route is well signed, but some areas are distinctly lacking! I plotted my route on Endomondo to try and ensure I didnt get lost – but when you try and find an accurate plotting of the actual parret trail, nothing compares to the route itself! I referenced 3 sources to plot my route, yet still in many place it was just incorrect. The map below references the actual route.

Parrett Trail Leg 4

I went really wrong just the once, and it definitely cost me a couple of minutes. Thankfully many others went more wrong than me! I finished in 6th position, but happily, I was the first finisher from my club out of the four teams we entered! So I was very pleased with that.

The leg itself was pancake flat, following the banks of the Parret. But some of the ground underfoot was treacherous. I nearly rolled my ankle, nearly twisted my knee, and ran through some horrific mud and puddles. My lovely Asics were covered in mud by the end! But it serves me right, I should have wore my trail shoes!

It was a completely different experience for me. My last race was Bristol Half with 11,000 odd people and this one had just 17 teams. SO I was in a race with just 20 people. It was most bizarre. I got chatting to a nice guy called Dan from Maiden Newton Runners toward the latter part of the race, but as it was a race I put a good kick in toward the end to nudge him out by 5 seconds or so.

I’d definitely have a go next year though, and would recommend it. It was a FREE event, and had a goody bag of water, banana, chocolate and a commemorative mug!

Thanks to Crewkerne Running Club for organising it.

 

parkrun turns ten!

What a few weeks in parkrun world.

Firstly, they launch a brand, spanking new range of merchandise through global partner Wiggle. Many questioned why this wasn’t launched through their UK partner Sweatshop. The answer being, that Sweatshop can only distribute to the UK, whereas Wiggle, much ike parkrun, has a global reach. parkrun still maintain a great relationship with founding partner Sweatshop and I’m sure they understand the need to work with Wiggle too.

Then, they go and launch a parkrun wristband through the barcode scanner provider, ERS. These wristbands get printed with your runner barcode, so you can wear it on the run and you won;t lose it, nor will you get it so sweaty that its unscannable!

parkrun is and always will be free, but the fact of the matter is there are so many fans and people that WANT to contribute and “give something back” that something like this was, in my opinion inevitable. Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt and the team at HQ will have gone to great lengths to preserve the ethos of parkrun for both of these arrangements. parkrun is growing at an astounding rate and being able to generate some revenue (though ALL proceeds go back directly to the events – parkrun will forever remain not-for-profit) these products are a fantastic way to support parkrun and contribute to the further growth and sustainability to your free, weekly, timed 5ks.

AND they went and turned 10 years old, and featured on the BBC! There were over 1700 runners at the “home” of parkrun, Bushy Park.

So where were you?

Due to a family party, I had to spend the weekend away from my home parkrun and instead attend my second home, Basingstoke. I’d not run at Basingstone for many months and knew I was in for a big PB. But that was turned to a nervous anxiety abut it when, due to the Basingstoke Half Marathon the following day, the run was switched to its alternate course at Crabtree Plantation. Crabtree is more than a little “Undulating” with an absolute beast of a hill, which needed to be run twice! Jodie was also looking for a big PB and upon learning of the switch to Crabtree had written off the possibility…. but more on that later!

It was however, walkable to the start for us. We made it in time for the run brief, but as we started moving from the brief to the start line the heavens opened. it was like a scene from Noah. Jodie and I were eve tempted to walk home! But we stuck at it and we made a start with the rest of the field.

Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)
Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)

These photos were taken near the start. Thankfully, the rain stopped about 2 minutes after the start and eased into a fine drizzle. Still not brilliant conditions, but they weren’t as horrendous as we feared.

Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)
Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)

I’m not sure why, but the run seemed to fly by for me. Before I knew it I’d done one lap and I was heading up the hill for a second time! I even managed to (Shamefully) lap someone, which is a first in my entire running career. However the poor lady I lapped DID have not only a pushchair, but also a small child who she was running with. I have to applaud her for her commitment and dedication, If I was ED at Basingstoke she’d be the winner of the monthly prize for that achievement alone! An goes to show just what parkrun is all about and what it stands for.

Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)
Credit: Martin Cranshaw (kittensoft_run)

I managed to get the PB that was long overdue and finish in a creditable 21st (top 10%!) which is an overall parkrun PB and my first parkun with a 60% WAVA in 21.36. But the biggest surprise was Jodie! She ALSO set an overall PB! She was just dead chuffed!

Credit: Caz Partner (loveparkrun)
Credit: Caz Partner (loveparkrun)

Though needless to say we are both itching to get back to the main course – we have scores to settle!

Marathon Fever!

Knowing it was “London Marathon Ballot Allocation Week”, as soon as I received this text message I knew exactly what it meant.

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Ignoring the number of kisses we exchange which is a whole other story, I knew this meant that she’d been granted a London Marathon place.

For those that don;t know, the London Marathon allocates its entries for home runners at random. The week after the race, you have to declare your intent for the following year. Then, the first week in October, they pick at random the lucky entrants. They then send a magazine out to everyone. If you are lucky, you get one of these.

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If you aren’t lucky, you get one which just says “Sorry” on the cover. I elected not to take a photo of that as I proceeded to “file” it in the bin.

Jodie has entered the ballot for the last 5 years, and finally got lucky. I am hugely jealous of her as I would LOVE to run London, but more than that I am SO EXCITED! When I read the message, I was in the car and I let out a little girly squeal of excitement!

We had both entered the ballot, but I also signed up for a place in the Manchester Marathon, which takes place the week before London. The idea was, if we both got in I would “Race” Manchester, and run it with her as she is a little slower than me. If I got in and not her, I would defer til next year hoping she’d get in then.

But her getting in on her own is almost the perfect scenario. She gets to run the greatest marathon in the world as her first (And hopefully want to run more!) with all the support, the atmosphere and furore that goes along with it. I get to support her, which is something she has been so good at for me and I am delighted to be able to do the same for her. And, i still get to experience the event without worrying about running back to back marathons.

Words can’t describe how excited I am! I’ve already committed to my training plan for Manchester and I can’t wait to write her a plan so i can fit it in with my own running so we can run together as much as possible. And I just know, when she crosses the finish line, I’ll be prouder of her than I have ever been of my own achievements.