The strapline for this race goes something like this… ‘Everything changes, nothing stands still’
I think runners today would argue something different, or in previous years in fact as well.
New course, different venue, same country lanes and roughly the same profile. Flat. A few changes, but the story of the day, queues. There were queues!
Here we are anyway, right on the cusp of marathon season. It is literally here and upon us, before we even had chance to blink. The training is pretty much, done. You can’t change much now, although we’ve seen people shotgun them before. It could still happen! It’s the best time of year, it’s the accumulation of your years work and things are building towards this. The most honest sport in the world.
The Vale of York today for me, I was using it as a decent effort, aiming for something like marathon pace. Dream marathon pace or something a little quicker if I could muster it on the day. No dramas if not! I set off around 7.30, joined the queue for the car park around 8.15/20. Then I waited, I edged ever so slightly forward. Listened to a bit of music, moved minimally in the 2 mile left to crawl. Clock watching, watching the time creep up and up. I like to be ‘organised’ and there with plenty of bounce time before races, this wasn’t my ideal prep. But it could be worse! Eventually landing in the car park and switching the engine off at 8.55. Jumped out, ran to the toilet, queued for that. Got my number, I joined the only section ‘C-D’ that had a queue. Then I did a Robert Davies, I lost my car momentarily, forgetting on my departure to look for any landmarks in the rows of all the cars… ooops. Jogging up and down every row, soul searching and having a quiet word with myself. Finally found it, pinned my number on my vest and got undressed. Headed for that start line, no warm up. Not ideal for my head! Hit the line after a quarter mile. Delayed start. 9.40. Bit of breathing space, out and back on the roads.
Chatting to people on the way. A mile and half later, not enough, back on the line. Familiar faces to rub shoulders with. Talking and counting down, plotting the race. Talking about targets and goals. For everyone it seemed to be, THE MARATHON.
Count down from 10, then we was off. Out the blocks, began to make my way around people. Started on the second row in hopes it would give me a slower start. Before I knew it I was out in 2nd place. Behind the eventual winner, Dom Shaw. Nice bit of tailwind for now, reminding us that it’ll be an headwind for the finish. From the off it was clear that it would be a windy and lonely race today. It wasn’t a thick field for runners who could potentially run the time I wanted to run, Scott Harrington, Ben Butler maybe. Dom Shaw and Nathan Harrison would be too far ahead. I had hoped one of the lads from behind was going to surprise me. But with marathons being a target for many, marathon pace was the goal for most. Like me also. 5:08 for the first mile, a bit quick but slower than most of my first miles of late! I was aiming for as close the 5:20 pace as possible, with the benchmark being 5:30 pace for the full thing. I switched my watch screen to count to 400 metres and show my elapsed time for 400 metres. It would then flash up with my 400 time. 5:20 pace is a 1:20… 5:30 pace is a 1:22.50… marginal. I’ve also been aiming to focus on my form lately in training, not worrying so much about pace or heart rate, aiming to focus on lifting my head up. Keeping my body upright, holding a stronger and confident position. Sometimes feeling a bit sluggish and tired, finding myself staring at the floor. Marginal.
Striding it out, feeling comfortable and steady. Nathan Harrison joined me and coasted on by, it wasn’t about position. If that happens, it happens. It’s more about my race and my time today. Sticking to my plan and being focussed on myself, trying not to get caught up with it or carried away. Given my game plan, a PB would be touch and go today. That coming from the Retford Half earlier in the year.
1:11:45, managing a 3rd place that day in not too perfect conditions on a not too perfect course. If we all waited for perfect, it would never happen! The miles today, feeling great. Clockwork and not worrying too much about the outcome, mind focussed away from the end time. Its about the current time and each individual 400m split to keep me on target. 5:25, 5:21… the ‘hills’ were coming in the 4th and 5th mile. They’d break the race up, they weren’t really hills, just railway bridge crossings.. little rises up and over. They steadied and slowed my ship. 5:33, 5:41. Running straight into an headwind, not pleasant, not nice. Halted in my stride by the wind, feeling like it blowing a gale on the open country lanes. Scott Harrington went on by, keeping his tactic and knocking out his own splits. Now back onto the original Vale of York course. Sheltered for a bit by the surrounding trees. I’d had a look at the course today before actually running it, by looking I mean the actual route. I don’t usually do that, I prefer not knowing. But today they had placed an unbelievably pointless out and back on the route to make the distance up. Not a fan. I hadn’t looked at what distance it was coming, so that kept me on my toes. But I knew it was there, somewhere. Head was still up, body was still upright, as I had aimed. Well it felt like that anyway. Looking ahead, seeing Scott Harrington looking strong. Listening to the silence of the surroundings. Headwind, forcing against us. Tailwind with absolutely no benefit whatsoever. The loneliness of the long distance runner. Then came the dreaded out and back. Hitting it and seeing Dom Shaw on his way back, followed by Nathan Harrison, followed by Scott, followed by myself with Ben Butler on my shoulder. Runners when I first started running that I dreamed of racing up against and running around. But I was so far off. Hitting the switchback and seeing everyone else on their way, Gary Briscoe, the fat to thin champion not too far behind, aiming to break 1:15 today for the London Marathon Championship entry. I was trying still to be in control of my body, a master of my pace. Splitting off and now being 2 mile from home. Pace hadn’t dropped but an headwind had halted my progress ever so slightly, so I kicked. 2 mile is just over 10 minutes at this pace, I kept telling myself. Relaxing. Breathing. Just looking ahead. Running passed Naomi and Gail out on a cheer squad training run. Ben Butler still on my shoulder, a runner with a a major finishing kick. I wasn’t worrying about that. Trying not to get bogged down in position or times. If I run, it will happen, eventually. Tailwind, then we found the 12 mile marker. Turned and headwind, Ben went out in front. Striding out, saving himself for the finish. Looking well. Headwind, headwind, headwind. Spotting the blow up finish line in the distance.. tied down, thankfully! Looking ahead towards the line, seeing familiar people stood around at the side of the course. That was it, over the line. Took a glance at the clock..
Exactly the same time as PB, to the second. I was hoping that it would be 1:11:44, like my watch. However it wasn’t to be. The PB gods weren’t on my side today, then I stopped, I turned and began looking. Looking for Gary Briscoe, speaking to Arron Larkin and saying he needs to be at them trees before 1:14. The latest. Then Gary popped up, around the bend, bleeding nipples and all! 1:14:04. Comfortably beating his target, next up for the training group was Michael Grain, clocking another PB of 1:18:24. Joshua Bird not too far behind him, in 1:20:03. Hoping himself to be under the 80 minute barrier. Rob Taylor, Rob Davies, Bryan Harrod, Neil Mower, Tom Lawcock, Faye Williams, Jude Matthews. All runners that have shown their faces at one or two, maybe even more, of the autumn marathon sessions. Fantastic to see their own progress. A standout probably being Faye who PB’ed by 5 minutes; with a 1:38:51. Bryan also running at marathon pace, although I know he can go a lot faster, and using the Vale of York Half Marathon as part of a longer run. With his Mrs Jane, running a shotgun half marathon, those kind are the best!
Quite happy with the splits and felt in control, despite the wind. Could have possible cut another 30-60 seconds off because of it, but that isn’t an excuse. In regards to the new course, I think I prefer the old one. Not a fan of the switchback and this seemed to have more 90 degree turns, but don’t quote me on that, I might be wrong.
Big things in the pipeline. We’ll see what happens and how it all goes. All building towards the bigger picture. I’ll get there eventually!
Just Keep Running!