Not always (but usually) the bridesmaid

After a barren spell of blog posts, February is off to a flyer with two within a week. If my Mum is to be believed (and she’s the only person that has ever said this to me, with good reason), then a career in sports journalism beckons, so I should probably get into the knack of writing a weekly column.

I’m not one for writing just for the sake of it, but I did have a couple of ‘races’ over the weekend that I thought might be worth mentioning. After last weekends South of England Cross Country, I had a solid week of training, swimming 5 days out of 5, as well as getting in two decent sessions on the bike and a good progressive run. I allowed myself an easier day on Friday in preparation for the weekend.

I went out for a nice dinner with the family on Friday night after meeting the newest addition to the Bosher clan; despite becoming a new dad just two weeks ago, he can still knock off a 1:14 half marathon off the back of no sleep or training; the guy is a machine. Over dinner, I joked with Dave the Lion that it was going to be a weekend of second places.

Saturday morning I pitched up bright and early at Castle Park parkrun in Bishop’s Stortford (my home town), off the back of a 4 mile warm-up jog. This parkrun has recently relocated from Hatfield Forest to the park in town, which holds fond memories from my youth, as I spent 99% of my time hanging out here, mainly drinking alcohol and generally being an annoying teenager. The only time I’d run would be if the ice-cream van made a rare appearance.

I immediately recognised Mark Spiller at the start, as Bosher and I had run with him on Christmas Day as part of our marathon training run that morning. On that day he was running around with a buggy, but this time we were both on the line fresh, and ready for a good hit out.

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Obviously not during the race, having far too much fun

We set off at a relatively fast pace from the off, and within a kilometre it was just Mark and I left at the front. The course is two laps through the park in town, with trail shoes needed in the winter as there is a fair amount of running on wet and muddy fields. I tried to accelerate a couple of times in an attempt to get a small gap, but Mark clung on to my heels.

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Moving into the second lap, it became obvious that he wasn’t going to move past, content to sit behind and wait until the end to make his move. Not a bad tactic to be fair, but I think we probably could’ve both run a bit quicker if we’d have shared the work load. Moving into the final kilometre, the doubts began to creep in, and sure enough with just 100m to go he moved out and sprinted past me to take the first finisher token.

I was relatively happy with my 17:39 clocking; it’s the fastest I’ve run in quite a while and I’m still just building fitness over the winter. A faster course that wasn’t so muddy would’ve been good for a quicker time, so plenty of positives to take from that. It was good to catch up with Mark afterwards; he’s a lovely guy and a great runner – I was beaten by the better man.

Strava activity 

After spending the day with my feet up watching the rugby, I got an early night as I’d decided to make it a weekend of racing, with a late entry to the Greenwich Park 10km. I thought scheduling a couple of events over the weekend would be a good way to inject some speed into the legs and I’d come away with two solid training runs.

I was thinking of cycling over to Greenwich, but quickly canned that idea when I realised I might lose my hands to frostbite by the time I got there. Instead, I sat in my warm, toasty car, waiting until just 30 minutes before the start before wandering over and collecting my number – always an advantage in these smaller, low-key events.

After a token warm-up I lined up as part of a pretty small field of runners. We were set on our way, with one guy flying off the front looking every bit like he was out for an easy Sunday jog. No one wants to win these things anyway, right?

After about 200m, it was a very lonely, solo 10km time trial, apart from saying hello to the occasional marshal or early morning tourist. I struggled to push myself too hard in this situation, but still wanted to get an honest workout from the race and see what sort of time I could clock on tired legs.

There were a few lung-busting hills to negotiate, which hurt, but with last weekends cross country in mind, I was always telling myself that it’s not even half as bad as what they were like. This was another 2 lap affair and as I passed half-way in 18:30, the leader had cleared off into the distance and there was no-one in sight behind; it was like I was just out for a morning run in the park on my own.

I tried to keep the peddle to the floor during the second lap, and looking at my mile splits, kept it pretty consistent when comparing to the first circuit. I was glad to see the end approaching after the final climb, eventually finishing in 37:06, nearly a minute behind the winner.

Strava activity
Race results

This is over a minute slower than my personal best (which at 35:40, I think is still a bit soft, and a mark I’d like to lower in the near future), but with the hills, lack of company and tired legs, is a result I can’t be too unhappy with. I hung around for a bit after, chatting to some of the other finishers, before hopping back in the warm car for ride home.

I finished off a good weekends training with a 3.5 hour bike ride on the indoor trainer, watching England put in a decent performance in the rugby. I’ll leave you with this gem of a picture, which I believe is from the first ever organised race I took part in, aged 12. As you can see, I had a slightly different build then, and after coming pretty much dead last in this race, I didn’t enter another event for another 6 years; in that time probably only running occasionally during team sports. It’s funny how things turn out, right?

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3 thoughts on “Not always (but usually) the bridesmaid

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