Having enjoyed a relatively easy week (if a 53 mile week can be considered easy in marathon training world) I was nervously anticipating the 20 mile Locke park race on Sunday. For this that don't know its 20 x 1 mile laps which makes for a great carnival of running as you are passing people (or being passed by people) for the majority of the race. You get a real sense of achievement coming through the field as for a lot of people the 20 mile race was either a build up to a marathon or a personal challenge never before attempted.
For me I had two goals that were within my control. The first was to go under 2 hours for the first time if nothing else to have that badge of honour on my Power of 10 profile. The second was to finish the race strongly and not feel like I was just "hanging on'.
As it was a one mile loop the split times were absolutely consistent as it was about passing the chip timing mats every mile. My aim was to set off at six minute miling and then speed up as the race progressed. As I've done very few 20 milers before i don't really have a pace. I think the pace is closer to marathon pace rather than half marathon pace so my aim overall was just a few seconds per mile under marathon pace. Six minute miling would be good....5.59 miling would be better!
The first five mile split was 29.31 (6:02, 5:49, 5:50, 5:53, 5:57). Feeling comfortable at this stage and having run with Alyson Dixon for the first few miles it was Paul Wilson who was providing company at this point but this was short lived as I found myself on my own after about 6 miles. Time to concentrate now on getting the miles in. Miles 6 to 10 completed in 29.24 (5:57, 5:54, 5:53. 5:54, 5:55).
Ive been practising my long runs without gels for a while now and thought this was the ideal opportunity to test myself. I had given one of the marshals a couple of gels to give me if I needed them (we agreed a signal!) but once I was into double figures I felt strong and decided that I would run as long as I could without taking anything. In the next few miles I felt great, consistent pacing and didn't feel the need for anything to help me along. Miles 11 to 15 was covered in 29.35 but in terms of consistent splits was my best period of the race (5:54, 5:57, 5:55, 5:55 and 5:56). The final five miles were definitely the most satisfying of them all as I passed the second place runner (Aly Dixon) who was following a race plan running the middle section of the race at tempo. The last five miles was a consistent 29.33 (5:52, 5:53, 5:54, 5:56 and 5:58). I took a couple of sips of water in this section but nothing else proving that I can run strong and within target time without any nutritional products). There was an interesting debate on marathon talk about this and its definitely worth a listen to. Marathon Talk At this stage I do intend to use gels on race day hoping that the additional boost these will provide will give me that performance edge but I don't feel that I am relying on them to get me round. I'm trying to train my body to be fuel efficient in the race and less reliant on additional ingested energy and more able to use my body's own energy sources to get me through. I listened to that debate and it made perfect sense to me. The more you use these products the greater the body relies on them and the less likely that your body will efficiently utilise its plentiful fat sources.
So I finished 2nd overall in a time of 1 hour 58 minutes and 5 seconds. That is around 2:34/2:35 pace which is a bit quicker than my target marathon pace but it has made me think that maybe just maybe I can get a bit closer to that long term target of a sub 2:34 marathon.
It was a real bonus to have Harry Gamble-Thompson watch the last few miles of the race and then present the prizes. Harry is the Vet 40 and vet 50 club record holder for the marathon with a 2:34.00. I told him I would do him proud this year in the marathon this year. Its five weeks now until Manchester and the 20 was probably my last tune up race before the big day unless we manage to get a team out for the 12 stage relays.
So finally well done to Graham Hall and the Locke Park 20 team of volunteers who put on a magnificent event on Sunday. The support was amazing throughout the event and we even had music on the lake to entertain runners fast and slow!.......meanwhile over in Spen????? Talk about a storm in a teacup!