Coventry half marathon 1:28:19

Blimey, the queue for the pay-and-display machine was longer than that for the loos! I warmed up in a jacket it was so cold, and then nipped into the leisure centre for a final pee before making my way to the baggage area and race start.

I had a steady start, thinking of a 1h30 finish, not sure how my hip was going to cope after yesterday’s parkrun when it felt so tight at 4:10/km pace but hoped that my nice squishy Hoka Odyssey would do the trick. The 1h30 pacers took off at 3km never to be seen again (!), but I stuck to my plan. I think they finished in sub-1h28, naughty boys.

I found had plenty in reserve for the rolling first half, overtaking all the time from about 8km onwards (a brass band was playing Hey Jude, cool) and stretched my legs out on the gentle descent from 13km onwards. Started to really push with 3km to go, racing the last 5km in around 19:45, a great way to finish.


Feeling so much more confident in my sore hip today. Eight weeks to go to London Marathon is usually the point where my good winter starts to fall apart, so I’ll be keeping a careful eye on every single creak and twinge from now on!


Watford half-marathon 1:31:26

I had hopes of a reasonably quick run today. Although it’s a lumpy course (and there are more hills in the first half, so you can expect to run a negative split), my previous best from 2009 was a decent 1:27:52. I’ve run 330km in January, admittedly quite steady mileage, but I thought it likely I’d get close to 1:28 today. My plan was to set out with 13 minutes for the first two miles and then settle at about 6:45 minute-miles.

It was a nice sunny morning for chatting and I caught up with Matt Molloy (@AhoySavaloy) on the womens/veterans red start. Despite recent tendonitis he was likely to be quite a bit quicker than me so I left him to mosey up to the front ranks while I found a place just in front of the 1:30 pacer.

Straight off the start and in the charge down the park I could feel I was struggling with the fast early pace. I went through 2 miles in 13:04, slightly off target, and it really felt like I was pushing it to stay at that pace so I throttled back – another 11 miles at that speed seemed daunting. I never really seemed to get going and on the hills I just didn’t have that extra gear that my cycling strength usually gives me – I was going backwards on them. On the flatter sections 7 minute miles felt OK, so I stuck with that. Halfway passed in 45:26 and just after this point the 1:30 pacer and his groupetto overtook me. That was a bit of a downer, I was expecting to be a minute ahead of them at this point. My heart-rate graph shows a bit of a dip after this point. Probably because there are more downhills but also mentally I was taking it easier from here on in.

There were some impressive floods on the run back through 9 and 10 miles. My feet were getting a bit hot in my racing flats so it was actually a nice cool relief even if it took half a mile for them to dry out after the last and deepest flood. There was a photographer or two there, so hopefully some impressive photos!

Soon we were on to the drags back up into Cassiobury Park and I managed to get up on my toes for the run to the line, in 1:31:26 (average 6:58 min/mi). Looking at my WAVA score now, this is actually about the same age-performance as my previous 1:27 so although I was initially disappointed not to run as fast as I’d hoped, it’s not too bad at all really. Across the finish I saw Colin Taylor from Watford Joggers handing out drinks (he’s been a club member since my mum was running with them, 20 or 30 years ago) and I went over for a quick chat.

It seems that lots of long, steady, running has turned me into a long, steady, distance runner. No bad thing with London Marathon coming up. Hopefully I can turn some of this endurance into speed in April. I’ve got another 6 weeks of distance work coming up and then the Gloucester 20.

Link to Strava data. Results from SportsSystems

Oxford half marathon

I was a bit unsure of my form going into this one. Originally I’d entered it with Jules, as she was looking for an end-of-summer target (and for me, a stepping stone to a London Marathon good-for-age qualifying sub-3:15 Luton Marathon in a few weeks time), but her shifts changed and she picked up a niggle in her hip which curtailed running for long enough to make the race a no-no. I’d missed quite a bit of mileage over the summer, nursing the achilles niggle I’d picked up after Challenge Roth. And then, 10 days before the race and just as it seemed my preparation was going a little better, I stepped off a kerb towards the end of a harder run and strained a calf. I’d rested it though, and it seemed OK in the couple of jogs I’d managed to fit in before this race.

The Saturday evening beforehand was spent cooking for Jules so she could watch Strictly, while I had the small matter of catching up with the Ironman World Championships, streaming live over the internet from Kona (and catching up with the gossip in the Tritalk chatroom) inevitably, this whole process is made more fun with a few tins of beer on the side. I got to bed not long after the athletes had started on the run and my favourite, Pete Jacobs, was looking on course for the win; I was five tins of beer to the good.

It was a very cold and misty bike ride over to the start, the first frost of this winter! It all looked a little chaotic at the Kassam Stadium and I jumped the baggage queue so I could get a little jog done on my way over to the start. It was already crowded on the startline so I squeezed in as best I could. We had the usual delays and so on while the various dignitaries did their stuff (Sir Roger Bannister was there to sound the klaxon for the start), and then, only 7 minutes late (last year it’d started 15 minutes late apparently), we were off.

I was stuck well down in the bunch, somewhere near the 1:50 pacemaker, and it took me a few hundred metres to get a  bit of clear space, but after that I was more comfortable. I kept a careful eye on my GPS watch (a Forerunner 410), watching the average pace for each mile tick along. I had 6:40/6:45 in mind for these opening miles and apart from a bit of harder pace at mile 3 to catch up with a sizeable bunch, it all went OK. Despite years of experience I usually start off a bit too quickly and pay the price later on, but the watch made pacemaking easy.

Turned out the bunch had the 1:30 pacemaker in it (he wasn’t carrying a balloon like his slower compatriots were). They were blocking the road ahead and anyway, 1:30 was plenty fast enough for me so I jogged along behind them, feeling pretty comfortable. The sun was out and I got a few cheers from various Oxford Tri members along the way. We slowed slightly as we negotiated the narrower gravel path around Christchurch Meadow, but then a slightly faster pace down the next section brought us back onto target.


I was starting to wonder if I’d have enough energy left at the end to speed up away from the pacer, but as we turned on to the ring road he decided that he wasn’t going quickly enough and sped up anyway. I managed to keep with him for a mile or so but he got quicker and quicker and I wasn’t too bothered to catch him up. I knew that due to my slow start from further back I had a minute in hand over him and I could feel a little blister developing on one of my toes.

A last effort along the road back to the Stadium and then I was across the line, just as the finish clock ticked past 1:30. On chip time I’d comfortably beaten it. Provided I can get some longer runs done in the next few weeks, a sub-3:15 qualifying time at Luton looks on the cards.

My Garmin trace is here: MyGarmin, and race results here: RaceTimingSystems.