Shakespeare Autumn Marathon 2014

Date: 15th November 2015

Race position: 1st

Race time: 2 hours 49 mins 31 secs (course record)

 Photo: Sally Evans photography

Less than 4 weeks on from Abingdon and I was on the start line of another marathon.  Abingdon was my big Autumn race which I had trained for 16 weeks for.  After an excellent build up, it all went wrong in the final few days.  I was unable to run anywhere close to my best, and limped home more than 20 minutes slower than I was hoping for.   I was hugely disappointed.

I spent the next week searching for another race which might allow me to get back on track and put Abingdon behind me.  Eventually I stumbled across the Shakespeare Autumn Marathon, near Stratford upon Avon.  It was 8 x 5km laps of an old airfield, now used for drag car racing.  Maybe not the most scenic marathon in the UK, but it was a chance to right the wrongs of my previous marathon outing.

The course was flat, and having run lapped marathons before, I did wonder if a PB was a possibility.  I soon forgot about that when I saw a map of the course.

 

 As you’ll see (above) each lap had 4 u turns on it meaning well over 30 u turns during the race – more than 1 per mile.  It would be impossible to maintain a fast consistent rhythm.  Never mind – all I really wanted was to have a good race, run well and end the year on a more positive note.

Preparation

Training for this didn’t go particularly well.  I rested for a week after Abingdon, and then tried to get in 2 good weeks running before easing off in the week before the race.  However I soon started to pick up little niggles, which was inevitable when trying to run hard sessions so soon after my previous marathon.  I eased off, only running a few times each week.  I had to trust that I would not have lost the fitness and speed from my Abingdon training.  Maybe this approach would even mean I would go into the race more rested than usual (I hate tapering….).

I avoided the mistakes before Abingdon where I strained my side through introducing new strength exercises, and then over ate the day before.  I managed to go to my wife’s yoga class the day before the Shakespeare race – this did me the world of good and put me in a great place, physically and mentally, before the race.

Saturday was an early start – up at 4.30am to get my porridge ready and into a flask.  Then I set off with Matt, about 5.45am, stopping half way through the 2 hour drive, to have my pre-race breakfast.  We got to the airfield about 8am, with 2 hours to the race start.  Plenty of time to prepare and to get the drive out of my system.

It was very bleak!  I walked part of the course, establishing that the u turns were really as sharp as I feared…. There were a lot of people there.  There were also 5km, 10km and half marathon races, so there were over 1000 runners in total.  I was pleased about that – plenty of people to run with, although I’d have to be sure not to set off too fast by following the 5 and 10km leaders….

The race

Even before we started I knew I was in a much better place than at Abingdon.  I felt fresh, calm and focused.  The race began and I couldn’t help but get swept along by the runners in the shorter races.  I was running at sub-6 minute mile pace, but eventually managed to correct myself, clocking a 6.11 first mile in the end.  After that I settled into a nice rhythm, averaging around 6.18 per mile.  I finished the first 5km loop in 19 mins 51 secs – right on plan and feeling good.

Pushing ahead of the 10km runners (Photo: Sally Evans photography)

It was quite hard to work out where I was in the race with over 1000 runners on the same 5km loop, and with the 4 races all starting at the same time.  But eventually I worked out that I was in second place, about 200m behind a Serpentine runner.  He was looking very strong and relaxed.  I decided I would track him, aiming not to let him get any further ahead.  The u turns provided a perfect chance to make sure he knew I was there, close behind him, and I always made sure I was running strongly at these points where our paths crossed.

I continued to run strongly throughout the first half of the race.  The 5km splits at the end of this report show that was running very consistently, managing between 19.48 and 19.56 for all of the first 5 x 5km laps.  I finished the first half marathon in just under 1 hour 23 mins.

I was already aware that there was no chance of beating my PB of 2 hours 45 mins.  The u turns were causing me to slow down each time, and in order to maintain any pace round these bends I was having to take a wide line, which was adding to the overall race distance.  I worked out I was running an extra 80 metres on every 5km lap.  But that was fine.  I was feeling good and really enjoying the run.  Strangely, I was also enjoying doing a race round a circuit.  It was satisfying to tick off each lap, knowing each one was another 5km completed.

Photo: Sally Evans photography

Soon after the halfway point, I noticed that the gap to the Serpentine leader was closing.  I had kept the same 200m margin throughout the first half.  As I passed the 14 mile mark I realised I was definitely getting closer.  I was still feeling strong and I knew I had to seize the moment.  I pushed harder, and the gap got smaller.

Before the 15 mile mark I had just about caught him.  He went round yet another u turn and looked up to see me only 10 yards behind.  I have heard so many race stories about runners overtaking and then putting the hammer down, to ensure their rival cannot come back.  Now it was my turn to do that.  I went past him at pace, no eye contact, just looking straight ahead, staying focused and immediately putting a gap between me and him.  Having slowed to 6.21 in miles 13 and 14, I threw down a 6.17 for mile 15 and then 6.13 for mile 16.  That was enough to finish the Serpentine guy, and soon he was out of sight.

So, there I was, in uncharted territory.  Leading a marathon with just over 10 miles to go.  Still plenty of time for things to go wrong.  I had to stay focused, working hard and maintaining the pace.  I knew another guy in blue was not that far behind me – probably 300-400m and he was looking strong.  I had to make sure that gap didn’t get any smaller.  I was starting to feel it a bit in my legs now.  Miles 17-19 were a bit slower, averaging 6.24 per mile.  But I was maintaining the same lead over the guy in blue, and the end was gradually getting nearer.

I deliberately put in a slower mile, for mile 20.  I picked up my energy drink from the drinks table and consumed that, giving my legs a slight breather, getting ready for the last 6 mile push.  Mile 20 was done in 6 mins 43 secs, but despite that slow down the gap to second place did not get any smaller.  I was encouraged by that and knew it was now time to finish the job.

Despite by tired legs, I picked up the pace to 6.30 for mile 21 and then 6.22 for mile 22.  That was enough to do the trick.  As I went round each U turn I was able to see the lead growing bigger and bigger and by mile 23 the guy in blue was out of sight.  I couldn’t see any other marathon runners behind.  So, with 4 miles to go I knew I just had to hold it together and maintain a reasonable pace.

I realised that I could probably slow a little – a good job as my legs were really hurting now.  It was starting to feel a bit lonely.  With the other races finished there were very few people around other than those racing.  The going was getting tough and my pace was dropping – miles 23 and 24 were done at 6.35 and 6.42 respectively.  But the end was in sight.

With 5km to go, I had the honour of being led through the rest of the race by the Lead Runner’s bike!  My moment in the spotlight!!  Or it would have been had there been anyone left to watch this!  It was just what I needed.  I had been flagging, but the bike gave me something to focus on, and allowed me to pick up my pace a little.

It wasn’t long and I was completing the final 5km loop, and starting the last mini loop of 2km.  I was hurting a lot, but with no sign of anyone behind me, I was determined to enjoy the moment.  I went round the final u turn at the same time as the guy in blue, meaning I was now 2km ahead of him (I didn’t realise he’d now dropped to 4th place).

                

Approaching the line (Photos: Sally Evans photography)

Another 100m further on and I turned right, onto the long home straight.  One final glance behind me, just to be sure, and then I was able to enjoy the last few hundred metres, and soon I was crossing the line with my arms aloft!

I’d won my first race, in 2 hours 49 mins and 31 seconds.  This was never going to be a PB, but with my watch showing a distance of 26.6 miles, I was happy with the time.  I won the race by over 2 minutes and also broke the relatively young course record by 2 minutes.

It’s now one week on, and I’ve still got a big grin on my face!  It’s not often that we club runners get the chance to run in marathons where we have a genuine chance of winning, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to race properly.  Luckily things went well for me on the day.  I felt good from the start, my eating and hydration went well, and I was able to make the right decisions and put down the faster miles at the right times of the race, to see off my rivals.  I suspect days like this are few and far between, which makes this very much a day to be treasured, and one which will live long in my memory!

 5km splits

Mile splits

 

Split

Time

Distance

Avg Pace

1

6:11.1

1.00

6:11

2

6:22.9

1.00

6:23

3

6:18.7

1.00

6:19

4

6:23.2

1.00

6:23

5

6:17.4

1.00

6:17

6

6:12.3

1.00

6:12

7

6:16.8

1.00

6:17

8

6:16.8

1.00

6:17

9

6:18.1

1.00

6:18

10

6:20.3

1.00

6:20

11

6:15.3

1.00

6:15

12

6:15.8

1.00

6:16

13

6:21.0

1.00

6:21

14

6:21.6

1.00

6:22

15

6:17.4

1.00

6:17

16

6:12.6

1.00

6:13

17

6:27.9

1.00

6:28

18

6:24.5

1.00

6:24

19

6:21.5

1.00

6:22

20

6:43.2

1.00

6:43

21

6:29.7

1.00

6:30

22

6:21.9

1.00

6:22

23

6:35.5

1.00

6:35

24

6:42.1

1.00

6:42

25

6:30.1

1.00

6:30

26

6:37.0

1.00

6:37

27

3:36.5

0.58

6:11

Summary

2:49:31.2

26.58

6:23

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