- It was 40 degree Celsius as we climbed the mountains,
- I was unfit, and
- I paced it so badly that I walked bits.
The last two bits are very true. And it was in the high 20s (up to 28 or 29 degrees per some reports). The mountains are a bit of an exaggeration but there were some long hills. And a steep ones too. Last year I did 1:47 and I was disappointed.
Today it was good old fashioned October cold. With foggy. And the late 11am start was very easy on the alarm clock.
As I walked into the stating pen, I saw Patricia. Then, when I found my place to start, there was a bit of a cafaful when a Kenyan runner climbed over the fence of a pub to get to the start. This saved him from trying to go through 1,500 or so people but got someone from the pub quite upset. The Kenyan’s minder got into a bit of an contratante with the man from the pub (who gave the impression he would win any fight, but would not be the first to volunteer to run to one). So while that set-too was happening, I called over the Kenyan lady who was looking on and helped her over the fence. It was very clear that to win a race like this (which they both did) you have to be very light. And the Kenyan couple were.
So, bin bag off, race starts, walk a bit to the timing mat and then run. And then realise that I should have placed myself a bit higher in the field as I had to skedaddle between some of the slower runners. A few minutes later we turned on the road to Cliddesden and I was in a happy place, running along with a few people around me. As I have not done any fast running recently, I was unsure of my pace. A few people came past me, moved further away but everything was hunky dory.
Coming into Cliddesden, I remembered that I liked all the people cheering. The kids who were so chuffed, the parents who were supportive, but wary of their kids being squished, and the grandparents who clapped and cheered like the Olympics had come to town.
The duck pond at Cliddesden (mile 2) is the start of the up hill, gentle at first and then, when it gets to the trees around mile 3 it gets much steeper. I managed my pace well, keeping it down at the start and then a little harder towards the top. One person overtook me looking strong. Another over took and looked strong as he went past some friends on the side, then he started walking. As we got over the top of the hill I felt good. And I knew there were downhills to come.
I gained ground on the steep downhill on a couple of people, only to be caught by one of the guys on the steeper uphill as I managed to keep my pace in check. There is then a long downhill for about a mile and a quarter until mile 6 and so pushed a bit faster and caught a few more people. I had my only gel here. Then a short bit of flat before the next uphill. I now remembered the supporters here, mostly older people, and then on the turn before the uphill there were loads of people.
This hill starts of gentle and gets steeper, and steeper towards the top. You then turn left and it carries on going up a bit more. This is where I think I went particularly wrong with my pacing. So this year, I took it steadier up the start of the hill and ran past the Fox pub (great crowd support) and then someone from Basingstoke’s running club went by (I’d overtaken him on the long downhill) just as we got to the steeper bit. I used that as a signal to increase my pace a bit and stayed with him. He told me about the route and said that he’d been sick twice already. After another 30 seconds or so, he stopped and made that three.
Bedlam Bottom (aka “the big dipper”) came next. It’s a really steep downhill followed by an equally steep up hill. But the fog meant that I couldn’t see much of the uphill. I gained a bit on a couple of people on the downhill and noticed that my feet were slipping forward in my shoe a bit too much. But then it was very steep. I definitely got the pace going up the big dipper wrong last year (trying to impress Fiona and others who were camped out near the top_ and this time I again checked the effort. One of the guys overtook me on the steep uphill, but I soon caught him on the gentle uphill that follows. I then saw a few people I knew: one outside his cottage, another outside her house and then Mark Sherwood from the tri club who was marshaling at mile 9.
From there on in, its (almost) all downhill or flat. Four miles of it. And it starts with a 10 per cent downhill. So I was running very fast down it and that meant my feet were again slipping forward in the shoe. It hurt my tummy going that fast downhill. I looked at my watch and it told me my pace was something like 3:03 mins per km. Sub 5 min mile pace! That might have been the fastest bit, or it may have been my watch getting it wrong, but I was definitely hurting!
As I was going downhill, there were four runners about 50m ahead of me who were running at roughly the same pace as me and they were catching and overtaking people too. One of these runners had a blue t-shirt on. I was in my own world of pacing and so they were just people ahead of me, rather than a target or someone to latch on to. Then it was back to Cliddesden and the fantastic crowd support.
At mile 12, I got closer to this group and just before the park only the guy with the blue t-shirt was ahead of me. I overtook him with about 700m to go and as I went passed I said something that was supposed to encourage him and he turned around and it was Ian Stewart, who is a fantastic runner. I said a swear word out aloud. I have always thought the he was a different class of runner to me, miles, miles better than me and I just could not believe that it was Ian.
Ian ran next to me on the path and we, obviously, both increased our pace around the park. At one stage you go over a muddy bit of grass and around there I remember saying to Ian that I could not keep this pace up and that he should go ahead. I eased off a fraction and he didn’t go ahead. The last couple of minutes now turned into pain. As Ian is such a good runner, I fully expected him to keep pace with me and then beat me on a sprint finish. I worked harder than I could ever have imagined. I didn’t say anything to the wonderful crowd who cheered me on. I was confident that the pain was showing in my face and I made no effort to hide it.
Then it was off the path and onto the grass for the last 100m or so. I went as hard as I could, knowing that I would be overtaken at the finish by Ian. I was in a world of pain. So I even did one of those dips. But I wasn’t overtaken.
I felt like I was a runner. I had just ran the best race that I could have done. And I was elated.
Chip time: 1:32:05. Wow.