I was about to start this blog with the line 'My relationship with this race isn't great,' but I see that this i.e. exactly the phrase I used last year! So if anyone wants to know why I have issues with this race all they need to do is click that link. Whatever you think about this race, there is no disputing the fact that having a 20 mile road race in the build up to the big spring marathons is a brilliant idea. Running 20 miles on your own is not my idea of fun, but I would struggle to find a training partner who wanted to run at a similar pace to me and fear that I could easily persuade them that it would be a really good idea to stop for a coffee in that interesting looking coffee shop. So, the race entries opened, and I found myself clicking the links, typing in my credit card details and crossing my fingers that there wouldn't be a repeat of last year's ashtray-gate!
I didn't train for this race specifically. My intention was to run it as a training run and see how I felt. This was a good plan, as I'd ended up running a bit faster than I'd wanted to at parkrun yesterday due to a small person being unwell and not being there to slow me down to her glacial pace. It had been cold - so my Garmin was buried under gloves and long sleeved top - I'd planned an easy run, wanting to run 5k in about 27/28 minutes, and I did feel I was running easily - chatting as I passed people on my way round, but finishing in 24minutes 26seconds. Oops. This morning was chilly but sunny - gloves and sunglasses weather - so I decided that I would not look at my watch at any point other than when I passed a mile marker. I reckoned I was running this as a training run so I would run as fast or as slow as felt comfortable.
|Chatting to Mark (photographer)|
We had the, now traditional and frankly one of the best things about Bramley, FetchEveryone meet up at A&G's house near the start. Tea, gossip and proper loos - lovely! A two minute walk saw us at the start line, bumping into various people I knew on the way. The first mile of the run was very congested - someone dropped a gel and ran back to pick it up which added to the melee. The first few miles were crowded and good natured. I ran along chatting to people I knew and enjoying the scenery - a group of 6 horses cantered across their field to have a look at us! A friend commented that he could hear me chatting 'from miles away' and that he thought, as I passed him that he would easily be able to catch me later as I obviously wasn't taking it very seriously and was wasting my energy on talking! (*)
The water stations were frequent and one day I will learn to drink from a plastic cup while moving, the marshals were friendly and encouraging. Special mention must go to the guys marshalling at about 9/19 miles. They were the loudest marshals on the course! At about 4 miles I saw a friend and his son running in the other direction - they'd not managed to get a race place, but decided to run anyway, and it was lovely to see them. I was checking my watch at each mile marker, but not really paying much attention to it, if that makes sense. There is a longish hill that goes up towards the 6 mile marker, it is much shallower on the first lap, I think they crank up the elevation for the second lap, but I was surprised to note that I had run one of my fastest miles on that stretch (8.16). The secret to this was that I was chatting (yes, really, I know you'll find it hard to believe) to total strangers as we slogged our way up it.
The last few miles of the first lap felt quite festive. All the 10 miles finishers are looking forward to the finish, we all know there is a nice downhill stretch ahead. It is hard not to get carried away. I had a giggle at the 3/4mile, 1/2mile, and 1/4 mile to the finish signs - what is 10 extra miles between friends? I got to the 10 mile finish thinking, 'Bother, if I was stopping now I'd be on for a PB!' Only just, but a PB all the same! I did worry about the wheels coming off in the second half, but I didn't really have any option other than to carry on running, so I did.
Given that more people run 20 miles at this event than run 10, it is surprising how empty the roads feel on the second lap. The first mile - until the turn into Folly Lane - involved lots of overtaking of people who had finished the 10 mile race and were going back to the car park! The lack of distraction made it feel a bit harder, although I still managed to chat away quite happily to people I was passing and others who were passing me. The wind had also picked up and we ran the first couple of miles of the second lap into a rather bracing breeze! Slopes that had seemed inconsequential when last encountered now felt like the north face of the Eiger. The hills at 16 and 18 miles were still there - just with few people running up them!
The last three miles were a bit dull. Not many people around, scenery you've seen before, and my confused brain trying to work out if we'd done the last uphill bit of if we still had that to look forward to. At 17 miles I'd looked at my watch and realised that I was on for a PB. In fact, I could slow right down and still get a PB. I didn't slow down though, I just carried on. I was still overtaking a few people, although a couple of people who obviously take this pacing lark seriously did fairly whizz past at 19 miles!
|"I asked for gin!"|
And then we were on the final downhill section to the finish. I was smiling so much and felt as thought I could carry on running for miles! One spectator pointed at me and said 'Look at her - she doesn't look like it was an effort at all!' I threw myself past one last runner as we approached the finish and was over the line and feeling elated! I felt as though I was bouncing up and down with excitement. An 11 minute PB! I removed my timing chip, miracles never cease - I could actually bend over and remove it all by myself! The support at the finish of the 20 mile race is a bit more muted than at the end of the 10 - lots of people have gone home by then, but it was still great to be over the line.
Then, back to A&G's, having collected my medal, for tea, chilli and gossip and to see how everyone else had got on. I had zero expectations of this race when I turned up this morning, but it turned out to be a fabulous day out! I had no idea I was capable of running so well. Thank you to Reading Road Runners for organising the race, and to A&G for their hospitality.
|Keeping Britain/Bramley tidy|
(*) He didn't catch me up. I wasn't unsportsmanlike in my whoop of joy at running faster than him.