The week started well thanks to the 15 miles banked at the Viper 15 mile trail race and set me up for a much needed big mileage week. In case you some how missed the blog on the Viper 15 and would like to read it heres a link.
Unfortunately Tuesday was another busy day at work which meant I didn’t get home until 6.30. Wanting to see Clare before she went to work for the night, I decided that a run wasn’t a priority and was able to squeeze in a late easy loop of 3.8 miles. Learning from Tuesday’s lack of time and aware of the weather in store for the afternoon, on Wednesday I decided to get my run done before work. A pleasant morning using the 50 minutes I had to complete 7.3 miles with an average pace of 6:53 per mile.
After joining Team Muddy Kit, I have started going back to the gym as much as possible but I have to be honest and running is, and probably always will be, a priority. Along with work mate Jamie Long we utilise our hour break most lunch times to fit in some training at the incredibly convenient and friendly Body Active Gym. Today was no different as we got in some fasted cardio and abs before work then Boxing at lunch with Madra Mor’s Gavin Conway. With the weekend’s Essex way relay looming, club mate Lee Pickering still hadn’t tested his leg so Dan and I decided to join him to learn his route as best as possible. With me and Lee navigating we went wrong a few times within the first couple of miles, leading to Dan taking the instructions and showing us the way. The run was very social and even included a boggy section which me and Dan just found hilarious where I found myself up to my waist in mud and Lee… well let’s just say we almost lost him! The next mile consisted of me and Dan doing what we do best, no not running, laughing. So much so my stomach was genuinely hurting. The run turned into a race against the light in the final few miles as darkness started to descend on us. The enjoyable evening wasn’t about mileage but we banked 10.7 miles at a very leisurely pace, although after a busy day I was pretty glad to get to the end.
Another week flew by and Friday was soon upon us. Unfortunately Clare was working nights so I fitted in a quick 3.8 mile run post work. Strangely at almost an identical pace and distance to the quick run on Tuesday but in a completely different location. After a quick visit to the supermarket to buy the wife some flowers I arrived home to find that I was the one who would be receiving the best present of the day. Welcomed home by Clare and my sister Stacey, the best present that you could buy me was in the oven, food! Stacey had made us a homemade Nando’s which provided enough food for 4 but we saw the lot off with just the two of us.
Saturday arrived and it was back to easily the highlight of many a Saturday morning over the past 3 years – Hatfield Forest Parkrun, where do I start? It really is one of my favourite things about running. A free weekly event, surrounded by amazing people in easily one of best running backdrops around and all on my doorstep. Unfortunately the Parkrun is relocating to Bishop’s Stortford and to say I’m a bit gutted is an understatement, however it is what it is and I will continue to train there weekly and hopefully participate in future events that may be held around the historic medieval hunting ground.
Leaving Clare in bed after a night shift, I made my way to the forest via the road rather the more conventional Flitch Way route due to no other reason than a lack of time. On route I was passed by a few cars containing familiar faces, including Stefan and Sarah Payne who offered me a lift and although tempted I kindly declined. Arriving at the forest it soon became apparent that it was pacer day, something that I haven’t seen at the forest but one I would like to participate in and try and give something back as an active volunteer. Unfortunately I wasn’t needed so I just ran the unfamiliar, but potentially fast, Parkrun route solo. Not feeling particularly fresh but also not wanting to push at all with the following days double on the horizon, I ran a very comfortable 18:24 finishing in 1st place. (Remember it’s not a race though)
Starting nearer the back but looking rather serious…..
After the run I waited to see Stefan and Sarah finish, Stef helping to pace to a time of just over 34 minutes, a great effort in not the easiest conditions. After the race I joined Stefan and his brother Gareth for a social jog back which also included a quick Geocaching experience. I had never heard of this before but I quite like the idea of the real life treasure hunt style game which encourages people to get out and be active.
The Takeley 10k, now in its eighth year, is the most convenient of all running races location wise for me. I was returning to the local race for my third time, previously running the race in 2013 and 2016 finishing 11th and 2nd respectively. Each year a nice programme is published featuring all race sponsors and the names of all runners at the event. A nice touch and something I haven’t seen done in any other race I participated in.
2013 – 11th Place 40:14 Strava & Race Results
2016 – 2nd Place 35:21 Strava & Race Results
Registration was easy in the village hall and was well organised and after a few minutes I was geared up and ready to run. Being a local race there was plenty of familiar faces from Bishop’s Stortford running club, Hatfield Forest Parkrun, long time family friend Mike Johnson and the lovely Jackie Adams of GFDR. Also running was my brother in law Alan, who is in training for his first half marathon later in the year. The race started from the same place as previous years, a short walk from the village hall to the old railway station on the Flitch Way. After a very brief warm up I stood near the front of the race start and was soon joined by another familiar face, that of Paul Newton, brother of Springfield Striders’ star Mark. Both a bit hesitant to start at the front we left a gap that nobody seemed to want to take.
The first mile of the race is mildly downhill on a compact gravel path so it is always quick due to the kind terrain couples with the fact that people undoubtedly set of too quickly. Wary of my race in the afternoon, and the competition it would bring, I promised myself I would only give 80% effort trying to conserve as much energy as I could for my Essex Way relay leg. I would however be lying if I said it wasn’t in my interest to try and win the race, I was there to try and win but I didn’t want to break myself in the process. Heading into the weekend’s races the main aim, over anything else, was to remain injury free. The race begun and although not trying to, I quickly settled in to a reasonable pace that nobody seemed to have an answer to. It was strange as I would have expected company for at least a mile, even from at least one 40 minute runner as their adrenaline propelled them forward in the early stages. It just didn’t happen and even though I was feeling very relaxed I questioned my pace a little but was reassured when I looked at my watch to see it displaying 5:30 per mile, a quick but not ridiculous pace that although I knew I wouldn’t, I should have been able to keep up for the entirety of the race.
The route heads for 2 miles down the Flitch before heading through a gate and into Hatfield Forest. Running almost seven days a week for the last couple of years I have covered almost every route possible around my local area straining my brain as much as my legs trying to keep things interesting. This route was one I have run more than most and although I knew the Flitch and Forest paths like the back of my hand I enjoyed racing around a familiar setting that I call home.
The terrain in the Forest isn’t the easiest but is something I have become accustomed to and relish. The route was soon passing through the Forest’s famous inhabitants, cows. The cattle in an orderly formation allowing a path through the centre, mainly thanks to Simon Cranmer who was on duty rather than any intelligence on the cows part. After a brief “hello” I was heading deep into the forest on my own like many a training run except the pace being slightly quicker while effort levels seemingly lower. That is something I am yet to understand, surely adrenaline alone isn’t accountable for the feeling of a lower perceived effort?
I exited the forest at the 5km and half way point, heading over fields before rejoining the Flitch way for the long slog for home. As I rejoined the Flitch I was tempted to look back for the first time and allow myself to relax further and adjust my pace accordingly. However I felt that this may deduct from my race experience so reminded myself that I was racing and that I should continue to work at the same level regardless of the size of my lead. I did just that and as I continued to pass spectators and marshals I made effort to speak and thank everybody I passed. This helped me ensure my pace wasn’t too quick while at the same time show appreciation where I can’t always give it while racing to the people that make these events possible.
The final part of the route returns back up the Flitch towards the start before turning left up a sharp slope into a housing estate and onto tarmac for the first time. The road section is only about 200 metres long but poses arguably the most complex section of the course. First winding through the houses before having to cross the main road to the village hall and finish. Although potentially a huge hazard and the possibility of scuppering a race in the final stages the crossing was brilliantly marshalled and traffic was slowed accordingly.
I crossed the finish line to a warm reception finishing in 1st place but more comforting was the fact my legs felt fine and I was able to instantly join in conversation rather than the usual huffing and puffing I would associate with a 10k race. I finished the race in 35:35, 14 seconds slower than last year but undoubtedly in better shape. All runners were given a decent quality finishers top this year in a nice simple, but surprisingly unusual, white.
A short video which shows the event in all its glory Takeley 10k 2017
Essex Way Relay Leg 7
After the race there was little time to hang around meaning that, regrettably, I couldn’t stay for the presentation. This was a little disappointing not only for me but I like to support the race throughout the event and I feel the prize giving is a big part of the day and having runners missing detracts from the occasion. Unfortunately we needed to be on the road so all squeezing in to Dad’s new very impractical toy Mustang and we were on our way West along the A120.
Making good time we managed to visit a couple of the legs which were very well supported by all clubs. The team were doing very well thanks to some brilliant efforts throughout the morning and this was backed up once again by one of Grange Farm’s newest members, Richard Mead, finishing strongly in a fantastic 7th place. The Essex way relay is an annual event held on the first Sunday of September every year consisting of 82 miles of Essex way footpaths broken up into 10 stages of varied length and difficulty. All stages are mostly cross country and can be difficult through rough terrain, crops and across ploughed fields. Nevertheless it is a very enjoyable day out which promotes camaraderie within teams in some of the most attractive and rural parts of Essex. The course is not marked making it essential for all competitors to carry instructions or recce their section before the day to avoid getting lost.
Arriving at the start of leg 7 it was clear that the leg was going to be a competitive race with plenty of very good familiar runners in attendance. Kevin Wright got us underway in his usual “when I say go, go” fashion which has caught me unaware many a time in the past but I was ready for it and made my way across the field nearer the front of the 70 runner strong pack.
As I settled in to my stride it was amazingly a runner I didn’t recognise from Mid Essex Casuals who took on the race very early on. Most of the runners around me, knowing what they were capable of I would have made the decision whether to go with them or not but totally unaware of the runners capabilities that took the lead I decided to run my own race and stick to the 6 minute mile pace that felt comfortable.
The route was relatively trouble free in which I spent the majority of the run trailing the lead runner in the company of Springfield Strider’s Antony Goodall. To our disappointment the courses most difficult to navigate sections had been marked with spray paint which took away from the spirit of the race and any advantage we may have had from our previous recce. The race was enjoyable and we managed short conversation which added to the positive race experience and we only become separated on the big hill at around 9 miles where I think my long stride length aided me in accelerating away. In the final couple of miles I tried to pick up the pace to attempt to close the leader and capitalise should he make any mistakes or slow in the closing stages. Unfortunately he was very strong throughout and thoroughly deserved the win and although the gap closed a little it was still a good 30 seconds or so which is a rather large margin in running terms. I finished my leg to a warm reception from the large crowd gathered around the war memorial that marked the finish.
I had finished the 11.5 mile leg in 2nd place in 1 hour 10 minutes maintaining a pace of just over 6 minute miles. Very pleasing on the multi terrain, undulating course after the mornings race.
After the race I jumped in Dan’s car with Jason Wintin to follow the rest of the relay. The rest of the legs continued with the clubs runners doing us proud. We ended up at Harwich harbour lighthouse which marks the end of the Essex way and also time for a well earned fish and chips at the ever popular Pieseas takeaway.
Weekly total – 70.9 miles (8 hours 5 minutes)