The last long run. The last long run before the longer run, anyway. It’s a tester, a test to see if everything I’ve done. To see if I’ve done it right, a test of my body and to see if it can handle it. A confidence thing really.
My first confidence run came from the ‘Barnsley Marathon’ in training, sometime in February. Just a long, lonely run, on my own. Marathon miles, ticking them off, hilly marathon miles. Job done in 2:56. Bit of a confidence builder, done right before my heavy racing weeks.
March came around quick this year. The heavy racing season had begun. 4 events pencilled in, all to be completed hopefully at something like marathon pace. Getting my legs used to the turnover, used to the task at hand and get my legs tired. Getting them used to running tired, simulating those final few miles. When all else is lost and the ache begins to set in. First up was The Norton 9– clocking 49:27, a PB for the distance, feeling strong and comfortable, beating my previous best from 2017 by 3 minutes. Next on the agenda was The Retford Half Marathon– clocking another PB for the distance in 1:11:45. The ache had began to set in, the weather didn’t help the cause; battling strong winds, day after day. Although it could be worse, it could’ve been snow! My third consecutive race came around and my legs had returned on the Friday before. The wind, however, remained! I clocked a 54:21 at The Thirsk 10, another Personal Best for the distance, my 3rd of the month and floating on cloud 9. If my legs could get my there anyway. Mileage crept gradually up, the simulation hopefully achieved on tired legs. Now on the horizon line, we have my 4th race of the month. My 4th consecutive and the longest one yet, without actually doing a marathon. Going into it with 111 miles under my belt since Monday, I’ll be 130+ after the event. That’s if I can get my body across the line! The aim, I’ve not really got one of those, just run as fast as I can, for as long as I can. That’s all I ever try to do, my top speed probably isn’t far off of my marathon pace anyway!
East Hull 20, I’ve run here before. Previously in 2015, 16 and 17. Using it for the exact same reasons then, as I am doing today. 2:10:13, 2:08:50 and 2:02:59 for those respective years. All PB’s and I’ve never done a different 20 miler. 2018, I didn’t enter in time, turns out it was cancelled anyway and moved to a different date. I opted for The Trimpell 20 that year instead, didn’t venture over the Pennines for that because of the bad weather. Messaged Caroline and Gary on the morning of the event and apparently all was fine there, they had stayed over, but I didn’t wanna risk it! Abandoned the idea of a 20 miler that year.
Training like I have said this week has been another good week, with a mixture of speedier and recovery runs. Fit them all in whenever I can, adapted and changed sometimes, just to get some miles in. Some way or another. Parkrun Saturday and the weekend came around quick, legs recovered quickly this week from Thirsk and returned more or less by the time speed training came around on Wednesday night. Probably ran a little quick at Parkrun on Saturday clocking 16:51 for the 3 laps at Barnsley. Worked 10-3 ish, ended up training an Army Reserves team before they played football against the fit reds. Possibly much to their disadvantage with already 2 hours of training under their belt before they started the 90 minutes of football. Fit reds ended up winning 6-0! Ran 5 mile home from work with the rucksack on. Ended up taking Ellie on a trip to junction 32, she bought 6 pairs of trainers! Think she has enough now. Don’t you? Apparently I’m worse, according to her. But you know how it is.
Onto Sunday, the plan was to get a lift through to the race with my Dad and Mum. Easier and means I get to go on a journey in my dad’s new car. About an hour and fifteen from home, so set off around 7.45 and got there just after 9. My dads strategic planning meant that he found somewhere to park, where he could make a quick getaway to then get out and see me on the route somewhere. Got there and made an escape whilst he parked, got my number and toilet stop. Saw Rob Davies and Hannah Butcher, with Shaun and Jack. Along with many others that I said Hello to on the way! Back to the car, got my kit ready, Jakemans in my back pocket and made our way to the start line. A small walk, turned into a bit of a jog for my 1 mile warm up. Joined Alan Ford and Steve Fowler for a little bit. Made my way back to the school, reluctant to go too far. Stood chatting with my Dad and Mum, whilst he figured out how to work the GoPro. Then made my into the starting area. Quick briefing from the organisers, tractor rally on the route. Bloody brilliant! More on that later. Set off on the whistle.
Out and right, quickly broke out and ended up in front. Aiming to run as fast as I can, for as long as I can, remember. Lead biker ahead. Didn’t check behind. Heading towards the roundabout, a little hesitantly, as the cars came flying around and then onto the long road. Hugging the kerbside. Feeling comfortable and running with my head up, hopefully. Probably looked a lot different anyway! 400 splits on my watch again, soon settled down into something more natural and hit the first mile in 5:15. Probably a little too quick. An out and back course at East Hull, pretty much anyway. With a small loop at the end and small loop off at the end. It was clear in the first few miles that we was exposed, as usual. Exposed to the wind, hitting as a cross wind and as a tail wind. Knowing, as usual, a headwind will be forever present in the second half. Not ideal in those final few miles, but I’ve run up a small hill before at the Snowdonia Marathon at mile 20. So surely it can’t be as bad as that. Reflection can be fantastic, sometimes. Steadied by the time mile 2 came around and ran a 5:28. Still looking ahead and hopefully holding my head up. Eventually dropping the St Johns ambulance bike and only having the lead cyclist for company as we went ahead on our journey. Legs began to feel more and more alive, now they had warmed up anyway. Then mile 3 came and a familiar looking trail appeared, along with the first water station. We join the trail in those final few miles, only a little teaser for now though. A little bit similar to the Dunford Express. Sweeper left and then right, straight into the path of some small traditional looking tractors. Kicking a whole world of dust up and into our path. Not pleasant. We punched through them, me following closely to the cyclist. Him constantly checking that I am ok. Some moved out of the way, some unfortunately did not. We got a moment of relief, had a quick chat and regretfully I said, well that was horrible. But it was nothing in comparison to what was around the corner. As we hit a queue of slow moving tractors with tyres as big as the house! On a single track road barely wide enough for a car, never mind a monster! Two cyclists ahead out for a ride and car pulled up on the grass, meant that for a few seconds I was grounded to a walk. In a race. Not good. The lead cyclist doing his best, as they got bigger and bigger! A few swerved away, possibly a handful. It slowed my pace a little. Eventually we was out and free of the tractors. Thankfully! A quick chat again with the cyclist as we both shared our frustrations. Having a giggle to myself though from Bryan’s story from when we did The Hathersage Hurtle a few years ago. He stopped for a few minutes, sat on a rock and snacked on his trail mix; before setting back off! Back into gear anyway and off we went. One quarter of the race down and the 5 mile marker ticked off. 27:20ish. Usually there is a guy there who sits in his chair and lets you know as you go through. Wonder where he was today! Pace had begun to settle for me now, just as the headwind began to show its true colours.
Making my way to most points on the route before any marshalls had the chance to get there themselves, apparently halted by the tractors as well! Meant crossing some roads was a bit of a challenge.
The only hills on the route come between 7 and 10 mile, this 5k loop away from Long Riston and back into Long Riston. Taking each hill as it comes. Just steady away, but not taking them as a continuous effort. In comparison to anything else, they’re nothing really! Then the race changed, mile 9.5. We turned the corner, the corner from previous years. Where I know, you hit a brick wall of wind. Guess what, it happened again. The left turn and halted slightly. Major head wind, not nice, not pleasant. Slowing me in my tracks as the lead cyclist battled himself through it. Wishing he was a lead car that I could sit on the bumper and go for a ride instead! Tough going. Long section as we make our way back to the small village of Long Riston. Seeing everything we’ve got to run ahead and like a mirage, never ever getting any closer! The mile 10 marker was eventually ticked off in the head wind. Going through in 55:21. A little slower than Thirsk, but not bad to say I had battled with tractors and an headwind for half a mile. All the hills were over, apart from the wind. The second half was looking promising. Back into Long Riston now, joining my dad for a little jog. He showed potential!
9 mile to go roughly, as we take the difficult sweep under the under pass, momentarily leaving the lead cyclist behind as he got stuck. Against all the runners who are out on their journey. Ticking it off now and listening to the shouts as I go. Seeing plenty of Yorkshire and local Barnsley runners who are undertaking the challenge. The next few miles felt easy, not so much of a challenge. Mind side tracked by all the runners and faces I recognised, trying my best to shout back! And then we was back onto the familiar looking trail. The trail that feels like the road to nowhere, the long trail. I’m saying long and I’ve run the Dunford express many times! Heading all the way back towards Hull, all the way back towards the finish line. The headwind still relentless, battering against me. Making me sway across the path. Pace had begun to drop slightly, not placing it into the palms of fatigue; instead I’m placing it firmly onto the lap of the headwind. Definitely at fault. Didn’t know how far in front I was, didn’t know quite what I had got between me and 2nd. I was content, content in running my own race. My own event and working at my own level, if someone went on ahead and overtook me. So be it. Eventually left the trail and found the estate, roughly a mile away from the finish line. A small climb to go and then all downhill from there, dodging the pedestrians as I go. Much better than tractors! I held on and crossed the line in:
A personal best for the distance by just over 10 minutes, beating my own senior category club record from 2017, giving my 4th club record in 4 weeks and also setting the overall club record for the club, trumping Keith Davis’s from March 1994, a month before I was born. Also set at The Hull 20, in 1:57:22.
Instantaneously stopped and hung around, speaking to as many people as I could, just as they finished the challenge. Just as they finished their last long run before the longer run.
Listening to people’s stories, finding out their plans and their ambitions for the runs ahead! Found time for a couple of mile leg stretch before coming home and raided the Humber Runner stall in the process.
Can you spot the toughest bit of wind for the race and my tractor fight? All in all, a decent day out at the office and a decent chunk of mile under the belt. Now we breathe a Sunday off of racing coming up, ending my consecutive streak of races; just before Awesome April follows Massive March!
In a bit of other news, Ellie managed her longest run to date today. In one of those new pair of shoes she bought yesterday. Her review of the shoes, they’re so light and springy. It went something like that anyway, so I think she likes them.
Another highlight of this week as well has been the 2 year Birthday of Team Barnsley. Set up and created after the East Hull 20 in 2017. A small extract from my blog from then shows a bit of the early conversation between me and Melvin Wallace.
Barnsley Runners United or Team Barnsley
This week I’ve been thinking, bad for you that, isn’t it, probably inspired a little by me joining Penistone Footpath Runners. Reinforced by conversations with Mel in the car this morning. But wouldn’t it be great if we could as a group of collective runners in Barnsley. Set up a club, whether it be second claim or first. Of Barnsley Runners. Surely it would help running as a whole in the area. We’re pretty much unofficially in that position at the minute. Everyone from every club trains together and supports each other. Mel also mentioned team events, such as the 12 stage relays. Surely it would be interesting and easily possible. Imagine the strength of the team we could get from all the pool of Barnsley runners. But what colour would we run in? Mix of white, blue, orange and black? Just food for thought.
GO TEAM BARNSLEY!
Just Keep Running!