Recovery post-London has been much better than I could’ve ever expected. A small amount of soreness on the Monday/Tuesday but I still managed some gentle running, and by Thursday I was raring to go again, but did the sensible thing and kept it nice and easy for the rest of the week.
A ‘lads’ trip to Mansfield was in the diary (don’t go) on Saturday, which was an absolute binge-fest and we ended up consuming copious amounts of alcohol – I’d probably just about earned it. However, I had itchy feet the following morning so while the others slept I decided to just run without any pace target whilst aiming to keep it nice and easy. The result was 16 miles at 7.10 minute miling, which felt super-easy; unexpected to say the least. An added bonus was that while others were throwing up on the rail-replacement bus service from Mansfield to Nottingham, I was feeling as fresh as a daisy.
Fast-forward to Wednesday and it was Race 1 of 3 in the Wimbledon trail series. It was quite a contrast going from an event like the London Marathon to this – not that this means the much smaller races are inferior or less fun; in fact the relaxed atmosphere and large number of familiar faces arguably means outings like these are much more enjoyable.
I always planned to ‘train through’ the series, just using them as good, hard training sessions. With that in mind, I had a bike session to complete in the morning, 25 miles doing a few laps of Richmond Park with some efforts on the hills. The rest of the day was spent being very sedentary and eating plenty of food, which meant I arrived to register feeling very lethargic and unmotivated.
However, as soon as I saw the vast number of Clapham Chasers present and started chatting with everyone, my spirits immediately lifted and I began to look forward to it in the 15 minutes I’d allowed myself between arriving and the starters whistle sounding (very old school – love it).
After pinning on my number and doing a few token stretches, we were given a quick no-nonsense briefing before being led around to the start-line. I can’t say I was feeling particularly ‘pumped’, instead larking around with other runners and giving Graham Sutherland some abuse for seemingly running away from the start line moments before we were due to get going.
This race was a 5 miler, entirely on the Common, and mostly on narrow, undulating trails. Not a route you’re going to rock up to and run a PB, but a lovely setting for a nice late-spring evening run. Well, it would’ve been if it wasn’t drizzling and cold. However, despite various comments of ‘we could just head straight to the pub’, I donned one of my ridiculous headbands and lined up ready to run hard.
The first mile takes place on slightly wider paths, allowing for the field to spread out a bit before the single-file tracks that come later on. There seemed to be a swarm of Fulham RC guys all around me, a couple of which I knew, so we shared a bit of friendly banter. I settled into a nice rhythm and was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt given my less than optimal (crap) preparation.
We then hit the first of the hills, and I found myself moving well up these (maybe it’s my slightly ‘leaner’ build), and I picked off a couple of guys ahead, figuring I must now be in about 8th. There was a cracking downhill which we tore down in a little group at a suicidal pace – this was so much fun and a reminder of how good it can be to get out on the trails.
Once we reached the bottom section of the course, there was a period of consolidation before the journey back up to higher ground. At some point I went through 5km in around 17.30, so we were running at a decent pace; the ground was fairly hard which meant grip wasn’t too hard to come by. I was still creeping forward in the field, hunting down the Fulham guys one by one.
We head up on a section called the ‘toast rack’. Notoriously draining in the wet and mud, this didn’t seem too bad; a gradual incline albeit a bit gravelly underfoot, which was just slightly annoying if anything. Heading up this I squeezed past Nick Thomas (also Fulham) into 5th, but as we reached the top he bridged the gap back up to me and we were side by side going into the last mile.
We stubbornly ran alongside each other, as the pace slowly crept up with both of us refusing to give an inch. My mind was processing the situation – I don’t think I can beat him in a sprint, so I’m going to have to go early. I started an early kick for home, moving to a pace I knew I couldn’t sustain, but hoping to get a gap I could hold onto. I got the gap and thought I was home and hosed.
However, with 400m to go, I could hear him slowly reeling me in, and my batteries were fading fast. I was using every mental trick in the book to keep the body pushing as hard as physically possible. I knew Katie would be watching at the finish – I thought to myself there was no way she was seeing me lose in a sprint finish! I just about managed to hold on, crumpling into a heap on the floor at the end.
5th place – 28:52 – Race results link
Races like these underline how great the running community is, with so many members of other running clubs I knew coming over to chat to me about my run in London amongst other things. There were an incredible 59 (!) Clapham Chasers present in the 213 strong field, proving once again that we love getting behind these local events and supporting other clubs in the area.
Special mention should go to Carla Molinaro who smashed the women’s course record, combining with Gaby Carnwath and Rosemary Hurford to also take the women’s team honours. The Fulham men had a ridiculously strong team showing, finishing just behind me in positions 6th-10th (I felt like I was being hunted down by a pack of dogs..) to hand them the male team prize.
Despite running away from the start, Graham Sutherland secured a new PB whilst winning the award for ‘runner who looks like they’re hurting the most’ coming into the finishing straight. Phil Logoreci received a hero’s welcome into the finish – much deserved for being such a legend.
I’ll definitely aim to do all 3 races in the series and see how highly I can place. The second comes just a few days after my half-ironman in Chester so we’ll have to see how quickly I can recover from that.