Leek Half Marathon

Well the one that should have been…

With a fire in the roaches earlier in the week, the Leek Half Marathon looked to be in doubt. Thought to be a small fire pit that started the fire, started by a group of wild campers. The fire service warned the organisers, walkers and locals not to go up onto the roaches. Being respectful to the fire service’s request, a course change was demanded. Looking highly unlikely the half marathon distance would go ahead. A 10 mile route had been measured by the organisers, awarded a license, apparently and I actually couldn’t find what the route was to be. Lovely surprise for when the day comes..

Anyway the week in build up I’ve only worked 15 hours at work (due to having 175 lieu hours at the beginning of August, and still having my full holiday allowance), so living the life of a pro athlete I could sleep, eat, train and repeat. Double days and plenty of recovery. After Askern last weekend I was planning my first Trunce of the year with no work on the Monday. Making it perfect for once. Love the Trunce just can’t get there enough. Knowledge of the route is quite good, but knowledge of the little, finer details is poor. Such as rocks and boulders, tree stumps and roots to make for a perfect descent. All in all, still enjoyed it. More than ever, might even turn up to the last one if work allows.

26:08 for second place was quite a pleasing time. Tom Saville was nowhere to be seen for the entire race but I enjoyed the run and it felt surprisingly steady!

I actually do think I enjoy off-road more than the road; but I ain’t 100% confident of making the switch just yet.

Tuesday, legs felt fresh. And not working meant I could stretch, roll and look after them a little more than usual. Pro athlete. Two runs again. But feeling fresh, rather than my usual two tired and sluggish runs! Wednesday came around and my only full day at work. Well 9.30-4… speed session planned with ‘The Wall’ group in the evening, I had a steady one in the morning. Worked and then got tired and tired as the day went on. The Wall time and only Me, Charlie, Kieron and Paddy showed. I somehow managed to convince them to do 800’s and they agreed. 10 x 800’s off of 2 minutes rest, walk around, and breathe. A little bit like the Yasso work out (google it), it’s a great marathon predictor. Basically, whatever you can do 800’s in. Is whatever your marathon time will be, do them in 2:30’s, that’ll give you a 2:30 Marathon. 3:00 will give you a 3 hour marathon. So on and so forth. Great session. Think it’s actually my favourite out of all speed sessions I ever do. Ask Paddy, Charlie or Kieron if they think the same…. I averaged 2:35 with a tail wind and 2:42 into the head wind.. which isn’t at all bad.

Thursday came and I felt fresh, 3 run Thursday that is! 10.5, 800ft in the morning (6:45 pace). 3.1 mile in the evening (6:40). 5 mile, with 1.5 to work, 1.5 back and two 1 mile reps whilst I was at work (6:41). So not a bad day at the office. Recovery Friday brought 6 mile and a viewing of ‘The Meg’ in 4dx, imagine Jaws on Steroids, with Ellie at the cinema. It’s actually not a bad film, cheesy, but not bad. 4dx was a nice novelty as well. Parkrun Saturday, brought a steady effort, 17:46, sandwich with my usual 1.5 warm up and my ‘and some’ cool down of 5k. 5 mile, it was meant to be steady at 7:30 pace after the abysmal Barnsley performance against AFC Wimbledon. Just can’t finish and that Brad Potts is something else, but I was actually working and looking after kids as well as watching the game with them. So I can’t complain when it’s work, can I? Anyway the performance left me wanting to run a little more pacey than usual. So I ran a 6:49.

Life of a pro athlete, ish. Week done. Tell you what. Legs have never felt so fresh! Really puts it into context for me, what working and training actually does to your body. Rubbish that we have to work and it’s our choice to train.

I’ve done the Leek Half only once before, in 2017. It’s not a flat course, it’s not a flat area. Staffordshire, surrounded by Buxton, Ashbourne and plenty of the Peak District to go at. Their great challenging courses that I enter mainly for a decent training run. Not a time chaser here, no position chasing. Just part of a long run on a Sunday, somewhere different. Although I did manage a 1:20:28 in 2017, for 3rd place. Not quite managing to pip under the 80 minute marker that I always try to aim for.

With the course unknown and it being the first time they’ve run the 10 mile route, no previous results meant that I didn’t know what kind of effort it would require. Preferring it to be a hilly effort, ideally! I remember last year there being a half a mile climb coming up to the finish. I’d love that challenge again and something even more!

It’s roughly an hour and half to get to Leek, straight across Woodhead and down basically. Through Glossop, Chapel en le Firth and Buxton. Not a bad drive. I set off around 7:15 with the race starting at 10. Get a decent parking spot and giving me time to wake up! Oasis and the Courteeners playlist seen as we’re scooting on the edge of Manchester! Traffic is never usually busy this early on a Sunday morning. So it made a nice drive through.

Got there just after 8.30.

Off to get my number, couldn’t resist a car picture! Got the number, chucking it down here. So took my time pinning up in the car and went out for a steady 2 mile warm up, found the fun run marked out, hoping it definitely wasn’t the race course, cause it was sharp turns and grass. Then off to find the race start, same place as last year. Stood around now, guy on the tannoy started the race announcement, giving information about the particular route. Out and back, sharing a lot of the Half Marathon route. What goes up, must come down. And a fast start, and up hill finish. Love racing in different places, and areas. Don’t recognise anyone and not a clue what other people run. Just a plain and simple run.

Race started around 10. Quick start, and I was off. Neck and neck with another runner. He set off quick. And a little too quick for my liking. Going through the first 400 metres in 60 seconds… not ideal.

So I slowed down and let him go. It’s just a training run! In second place and just running now, he was following the lead car and sat in behind it. I could see him out in front. A quick check of my shoulder, no runners behind. This is going to set up for a great lonely race. After the downhill we started climbing, and you definitely felt it. On your toes job and up. Runner in front about 400 metres, no one behind still. We hit what felt like the top of a climb, dropped down. To run head on into a Dairy truck. Narrow country lane job! Before climbing again, a shorter sharp one this time.

That eventually levelled out to flat. To then what was a familiar part of the route, seeing the lead car leave us and joined by a lead bike on even narrower country roads. Roughly 3.5 mile. Ticking down to the turning point. The guy in front pulling away from me and struggling to see him now. Hitting Marshall after Marshall. Before climbing up to the turn. 8 minute miles up here. On my toes, but catching the guy in front now. A good 500 metre climb up, only to turn around a cone at the top and drop back down. Still not seeing another runner until the bottom of the hill. Where there was a strong pack of 5/6 followed by a steady flow. I was a good 1000 metres in front of them. Out and back, means plenty of company for a good couple of mile now. Going down and up, what we had just gone up and down. Charging back towards Leek and knocking down the miles. 29:45 was my half way time. 10 mile the goal is sub 60. Like the sub 80 Half Marathon base. So I had 30:15 to play with on the way back. But I was feeling fresh and it felt like there was more climbing in the first half, so rolling with the hills I charged back. 1.5 mile was over quick. The lead car returned and the lead biker stopped for a drink before joining me for a bit of company. Thankful for that! Cause it had been lonely and quiet. Sometimes the way I like it.

The lead biker was talkative, giving me a little bit of feedback as I attacked on the way back. The lead runner had pulled a good lead after the descent from the turnaround but I was gaining on him now. My pace, was unknown to me. Running to ‘Map’ on my watch, only really running to feel. Trying to feel what hurts and what I can do. Experimenting and learning about my body again. I haven’t raced much this year, not in comparison to previous years. But the time away from it has been great. All it has done really is rejuvenated my desire and passion for a good old Sunday trek, followed by a good old Sunday race. Putting miles in my legs, somewhere different. Before I knew it the 7 and 8 mile marker had passed. Into the final stretch now. Nearly at the bottom of the final climb. It was a big downhill and flat until there. Loosening my legs and bouncing out. Lead biker encouraging me to take the ‘racing line’ to avoid oncoming cars and also spurring me into the finish. Bottom of the climb. Wow. That came around quick. Up hill struggle, seeing the guy in the lead in front. About 200 metres he had on me. Of the half a mile climb. I attacked the climb the best I could for the first part, charging up it and hoping for the best possible Finish. And secretly hoping I’d land myself anywhere near the Askern 10 mile time from last week of 58:06. This will be about double the elevation and some. And I had 400 metres to go and was entering the 57 minute bracket.

Nearly there.

I managed to hold on. But didn’t close the gap enough to catch him. I finished in:

58:11

2nd place.

I was 20 seconds behind 1st place, and a good 4 minutes+ in front of 3rd place. So made up for quite a challenge, a little bit like an handicap race. In hindsight, I probably could have afforded to set off quicker. But was happy with how I performed the 2nd half and I felt a lot fresher this week attacking the second half, than I did at Askern last week. I enjoyed the run and the route, and actually would love to do the Leek 10 mile race again! But I suppose as a one off replacement it was half bad. I just did a 3 mile cool down to round my morning up to 15 mile for the adventures out Staffordshire land! Cheers as well to the guy on the lead bike, he was ace.

A bonus as well, my watch gave me a new vo2 max. With these fancy looking times as predictions! That would be the dream.

Strava Link

My splits show how much downhill there was on return and also the comparison in pace! A Strava segment for the 1st (Leek to Meerbrook) and last 3.5 mile (Meerbrook to Leek) has me at 13 seconds slower than the winner (Arran) and 22 seconds quicker on the way back!

Official Results

Yet awaiting the official photos to be released, they were taken by Bryan Dale from Race-Photos. Think he is Staffordshire’s answer to Steve Frith because they are free on his website. I’ll probably be able to bulk it out with decent race photos later!

All in all, enjoyed my pro athlete week! Makes me wish I could do it more often and makes you truly realise how recovery is important after a gut busting effort from time to time. It’s ironed out my tight Achilles that I’ve been battling with the last couple of months. So it must be a bonus. Plus I’ve been paid for it because I’ve that much lieu time at work it’s unreal!

Just Keep Running!

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