I had a few days off running after the Teddy Hall Relays to give my stiff right quad a bit of a rest and done some cycling and swimming instead, so when I came to warm up for this last pre-London tester it was feeling pretty good.
It was going to be a warm morning, so my new London Marathon-branded vest and shorts got an outing, but I found it difficult to decide what shoes to wear and plumped for an old pair of Asics racing flats which I’d run a marathon in at the Roth ironman. The Gloucester 20 is a fairly old-school event – only about 500 runners, no chip timing, and a race briefing in a car park beforehand, while we all stood about nervously sipping water and wondering how hot it was going to get. I still saw a few runners toe the line in tights though!
After a 5-minute delay we were off with a shout of “3, 2, 1, Go!”, no fancy whistles or horns here. I quickly got into an easy stride, following a group led by some purple-vested “Almost Athletes” and a couple of hangers-on. 7-minute-ish miles felt comfortable, so I stuck with them for the first 3 or 4 miles, out on to the first of three 5.5-mile rural road laps, until I decided that I really ought to back off to my planned 7:05-7:10 pace. I wanted a good run here, but I was also acutely aware that I still had 4 weeks to London and didn’t need to compromise that preparation by running too hard.
It was getting warm, so I was stopping to walk at every drinks station for a cup of water (I’m useless at drinking on the move) and at 8 miles a guy from Stroud & Dist. caught me. We ran together for most of the next lap-and-a-half, him getting away from me at the drinks stations and me slowly reeling him in again. He started to falter at about 15 miles and I was thinking that perhaps I was doing OK by leading him there but by 16 miles we were stride-for-stride and thoughts of “just finishing” were creeping up on me.
I walked up the next railway bridge and let him go. My feet were getting very hot in my skinny racing flats and I’d started running on my heels rather than forefoot to take the pressure off some hotspots. I was also starting to get a bit of cramp in my right foot, which needed a few steps of walking and a stretch every so often. The next three miles were rather slower, more at my usual training pace; I was content just to make it to the finish and very relieved to do so in 2:26:28 (7:19 minute-miling). A couple of minutes off my target, but the heat had really got to me and my feet at the end. For comparison, I went through 20 miles at Luton in 2:23:51. The Stroud runner finished 40 seconds in front of me, and it turned out he was a 3:08 finisher at London last year, so I can’t be too unhappy with my race.
I had a few blisters and my right quad stiffened up quite a bit soon after the finish, but I was OK for a slow drive home after I’d drunk about 2 litres of water. That’s five 20-milers in the bag since the New Year. Just a few more weeks of steady training and I’ll be ready for the start line in London.